Both Parties Are NOT the Same
These days, much is said about differences between the Democrats and Republicans being minimal at best. Often, it may be difficult to predict how government will be conducted based on party affiliation alone. In extreme cases, it’s easy to tell who is in charge of state and local governments based upon legislation and regulations being enacted in them. Hot-button, high-profile issues are often decided differently in states controlled by conservative Republicans than they are in those controlled by liberal Democrats or those closely contested between the two.
Minimum wage laws, laws governing working conditions (pro-worker vs Right-to-Work, for example) as well as laws regarding divisive social issues (LGBT rights, marriage equality, pro-choice or forced-birth and other reproductive health care issues, etc.) tend to vary radically based on our traditional Red State/Blue State political dichotomy. Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is a good case in point. Initially, many Red States refused to expand Medicaid to aid lower income people in finding affordable health care – harming both their own citizens and their own budgets in the process.
Sometimes, however, the results achieved in elections for federal office in particular may result in questions regarding who exactly elected officials think they are supposed to be representing. We are currently in the eighth year of a Democratic Presidential Administration which has seen minimal or no gains for workers alongside huge economic and political gains for the very wealthy. Wages at or near the bottom of the pay scale have stagnated while corporate CEO’s and other executives have seen huge gains as the economy improved during the lopsided recovery from the recession inherited from the previous Administration. The Federal minimum wage itself has not budged in a decade, leaving many now working fulltime for poverty wages. Many states and localities have managed to raise their minimum wages (thanks largely to Democrats controlling state legislatures), but the right to a living wage should not depend on the political vagaries of where one happens to reside.
True, the U.S. House has been under GOP control since 2010, and the Senate since 2014 (along with enormous foot-dragging allowed by Senate rules before then). The President has, to his credit, taken some actions he could to improve conditions for federal employees through executive action. The recent rule change raising the threshold for overtime pay is another move in the right direction – as long as the Congressional GOP don’t figure out a way to block it. He has also made annual State of the Union addresses which have prominently mentioned initiatives aimed at alleviating economic inequality and improving conditions for impoverished people – but most of those came to nothing legislatively.
There are a significant number of Democrats in Congress who belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. They annually compose a budget proposal that they present to their respective bodies. Usually, these proposals would accomplish much along the lines of improving the economy, creating good jobs, and increasing economic, educational, health care and general opportunity for people who have fallen into the immense cracks in our system that have developed since the advent of Trickle-down voodoo Reaganomics in the 1980s. These proposals ultimately, without exception, get voted down overwhelmingly, not even garnering majority support among members of their own party. At this point, the dominant force in the Democratic Party, at least in Congress, seems to lie among the members who answer most loudly to corporate interests who help to provide campaign cash for maintaining their positions, while working for what they see as incremental improvements on the status quo which are more likely to see legislative success.
In the current Presidential sweepstakes, the most stark contrast between the establishment-backed Hillary Clinton and the insurgent Bernie Sanders can be seen in their approaches to improving the lot for those they seem to say they want to help the most. The Sanders Revolution seeks to alleviate problems like shortcomings in the new health care system, exorbitant debt incurred by those seeking higher education and general fiscal difficulties being faced in maintaining/improving the social safety net by bold action. Switching to a Medicare For All style of single-payer universal coverage health care system and creating a tuition-free college educational system are but two of the proposals put forth to accomplish some of this. The Clinton camp sees such proposals as too ambitious, too costly and impossible to get through Congress. One funding mechanism would be a Wall Street transaction tax which, naturally rankles the financial sector (a key component of many GOP and Democratic politicians’ fundraising).
Be that as it may, the entire political scene in this country has been radically reformed in favor of the moneyed interests by the SCOTUS de-fanging of campaign finance laws with the Citizens United decision. One-person-one-vote is no longer (if it ever was) the case in our electoral system. Increased voter suppression of targeted groups by state and local governments is taking hold. Restrictive voter ID laws, along with increased gerrymandering of districts enabled by both sweeping midterm electoral victories most everywhere except for the last two Presidential elections and the gutting of key provision of the Voters Rights Act by SCOTUS are combining to ensure that equal political rights among us all – our Democracy – is rapidly being usurped by corporations an the rich folks who run and own them. The main beneficiaries of these moves have been Republicans, who are able to gain and maintain power over more people with the approval of an ever-smaller minority of people served.
Fighting against these trends for true Democracy and a government which serves all of the people and not primarily the privileged has become akin to bucking the NRA on gun control issues. Either course of action can be detrimental to a continued political career. The NRA may go about its business of eradicating opposition in elections more blatantly than the power brokers of our overall economy do, but I sincerely doubt that the legislation passing (or not) in Congress and many state legislatures these days is designed to better fulfill the needs and desires of the vast majority of our citizens.
More voters currently self-identify in their voter registration as Independent than either Democrat or Republican. Increasing numbers of people do not feel that either party governs in our interests, yet when we go into voting booths, their candidates are often the only names we see on the ballot. If not, they are certainly usually the only names we may recognize from campaign literature or televised political advertisements. Getting rid of the gridlock in DC and effecting change for the better at the national, state and local levels is badly needed as soon as possible. Democrats generally talk a better game than the GOP does regarding government in the interests of the people vs the autocrats, plutocrats and big business. Taking away some of the recently imposed obstacles making their doing so more difficult is essential. If this can’t be done, the current parties need to make way for others more willing to fight harder for a more just society instead of just maintaining a grossly unfair and unjust status quo.
Fight for the rights of all people to vote and live their lives as they choose, so long as doing so doesn’t harm others. Bigotry and discrimination, religiously-based or otherwise, has no place in a just civil society. Self-governance of, by and for equal peoples, not rule over inaccurately perceived inferior others, should be the aim. Our two main political parties may not be the same, but they are currently NOT serving the interests of most of the people who they are being elected to govern. They need to reach out and start to do so, if they intend to survive. Seen any Whigs lately?
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