Monday, June 7, 1999

Week of 06/07/1999

Is The Party Over?
The Two Political Parties Have Lost Their Distinct Ideologies
- by David Matthews 2

Quick! Tell me what is the difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties!

Come on… time is wasting.

The Democrats are symbolized by a braying jackass, while the Republicans are symbolized by a fat, bloated elephant? That’s one! What else?

What? The Democrats are for civil rights? Oh really? You mean civil rights like free speech, right? Oh, you meant minority-based quotas and rampant political correctness. I see.

What? The Republicans are for less government? Oh really? How many government agencies have the Republicans shut down? How many laws have been repealed because of the GOP? I haven’t heard of too many, have you? Certainly not recently, when the GOP has had full control of the Congress. Change some regulations, perhaps, and re-write some laws, but in so far as to remove laws and shut down government regulatory bodies? Hasn’t happened yet. Matter of fact, if anything, the GOP has been for MORE laws, and thus MORE government into the lives of ordinary citizens.

Less taxes? Did someone say one of those two parties was for LESS TAXES?? Guess you haven’t looked at your phone bill lately. A sneaky little tax was introduced that would give the FCC more money supposedly to wire schools and libraries to the Internet. You probably don’t see it because Congress and the White House get so upset when the phone companies list that charge on your phone bill. Well, anytime you hear the FCC talk about wanting more money, guess where that will come out of? That’s right, your phone bill! And guess who wrote that little tax in? You guess it, BOTH the Democrats and the Republicans!

Come to think of it, there’s not really too much that separates the Democrats from the Republicans, except for the fact that one is symbolized by a braying jackass and the other is symbolized by a fat, bloated elephant.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. both the Democrat and Republican parties have long since suffered from an identity crisis. Where once the two juggernauts had clearly defined platforms that separated which party was which, nowadays the two have become such a hodgepodge of contradiction and hypocrisy that even with a program its hard to tell which is the jackass and which is the elephant.

The best example of this can be seen in the recent attempts by Congress to institute tough new gun control regulations. The GOP was long since believed to be "bought and paid for" by the gun lobbyists. But in the wake of two school shootings a month apart from each other, politicians from both parties suddenly found gun control much like a death row inmate suddenly finds religion. Suddenly, the party that was supposedly the epitome of the Second Amendment finds itself preaching the joys of gun control.

Needless to say, the sudden lack of a GOP identity does not sit well with many of the party’s die-hard conservatives, who are now speaking of possibly forming their own independent party.

But if the Republican party loyalists are frustrated by the party’s lack of a solid identity, they at least have it easier than their counterparts. The Democratic Party has almost no identity whatsoever. Their mission is simple - hold the line. Keep the welfare system as is. Keep Medicare and Medicaid as is. Keep Social Security as problematic as possible. Keep the payments coming. Keep the programs going. The party that used to be known for shaking up the system is now suffering from the political equivalent of arthritis, if not rigor mortis. Instead of a platform, the Democrats have been putting all of their eggs into the camp of Bill and Hillary Clinton, letting them and the pollsters dictate political policy.

This lack of a party identity has given the politician on both sides of the political isle the leeway to be flexible in their own positions instead of having to "tow the party line." Republican politicians, for instance, can be "pro-choice" on abortion, even through the party’s platform has traditionally been against abortion.

It also gives the politicians the ability to "flip-flop" from one party to the other, thus preserving their position of political power in addition to their seniority. Georgia’s representative to the US House, Nathan Deal, is the best example of this kind of party disloyalty. Deal had just won re-election in 1994 when his party, the Democrats, lost control of the House. He knew that whatever political position as a Democrat would be gone under the young Turks of the GOP. So days after he won the election as a Democrat, he resigned from that party and signed up with the GOP.

This blurring of the political distinctiveness between the two parties has also contributed to America’s voter apathy. Who can the average voter believe when candidates from both dominant political parties sound exactly the same?

If anything, the lack of any solid party identity between the Democrats and the Republicans has done well to serve upstart third party groups like the Libertarians and the Reform Party. Minnesota’s governor, Reform Party’s Jesse Ventura, can credit the lack of identity between these two dinosaur parties as one of the factors for his surprise election, along with name recognition.

But if the two dinosaurs called the Democrats and Republicans are dying in terms of ideology, it is a brain death only. The lifeblood that keeps these two parties going - the campaign funds - has showed no signs of slowing. Sure, whichever party is in power gets the lion’s share of contributions from the special interest groups, but even the fiscally weaker of the two sides still amass far more money to spend than any current third party to date.

And that, perhaps, is the only real reason why these two parties have continued for so long. Their ability to collect large sums of "soft money" for their politicians has been a potent political weapon to shut out serious competition from independents and third parties. This money used to come with a price tag - namely adhering to the party’s ideology. That has changed, and instead of party loyalists, both sides are filled with political mercenaries whose loyalties are only to themselves and the power they gain.

Oh, there are still old party diehards, and they still talk about party loyalties and how their particular party used to stand for something. But right now they are putting their faith in not party ideology, but rather in candidates like Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George Bush. The Governor’s stance against what is supposed to be the party’s platform has yet to be measured. Gore, on the other hand, has shown he can morph into whatever demographic he needs to appeal to - a true political mercenary second only to his boss, Bill Clinton. The loyalists have, in fact, only solidified their own fears.

Maybe this is how dominant political parties are supposed to die out, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Hopefully the 21st century will be the time for the American people to turn out the light on these two parties. Their days in the sun have long since passed.

No comments: