Not a dime’s worth of difference?


A growing number of “independent” voters hold that there is no meaningful difference between Democrats and Republicans. I disagree. Democrats favor progressive taxation. Republicans favor huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Democrats support Social Security, Medicare, and national health insurance. Republicans want to repeal these programs. Theirs is a faith-based health system, a single-prayer plan.

Democrats are pro-labor. Republicans are anti-union.

Democrats seek to raise the minimum wage. Republicans usually vote NO.

Democrats are pro-choice. Republicans, that odd coalition of the very rich and the religious right, have pledged to outlaw abortion and stem-cell research.

Democrats are friends of the environment. Most Republicans oppose measures to protect the natural world.

Most Democrats oppose the death penalty. Most Republicans support it.

Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats favor a mix of tax extensions and spending cuts to balance the California budget. Every legislative Republican insists on an all-cuts budget, no matter what the cost to schools, parks, roads, cops, and the poor, sick, and elderly.

Most Democrats favor comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship — and they supported the Dream Act. Many Republicans are immigrant-bashers. Pete Wilson and Brian Bilbray come to mind.

In the 1960s, Democratic Presidents Kennedy and Johnson led the charge for black civil rights. Republicans promptly launched a “Southern Strategy,” designed to appeal to disgruntled white people.

As the Great Depression was brought on by the policies of Republican presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, the great recession of our own time was brought on by the policies of Republican president George W. Bush.

Throughout the Great Depression and beyond, voters elected Democrat Franklin Roosevelt four times and gave him large majorities in Congress.

Voters did NOT say in 1936: “Well, FDR hasn’t ended the Depression yet. I guess we should give control of the economy back to the Republicans.”

Consider the company you keep if you believe there is no difference between the parties. George Wallace, racist governor of Alabama and “state-rights” candidate for the presidency, was fond of saying, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.”

Ross Perot made the same claim in 1992, with the unintended consequence of helping Bill Clinton defeat Bush I.

The same argument was made by Ralph Nader, whose third-party run in 2000 cost Al Gore the presidency (despite winning the popular vote) and ushered in eight years of Bush II.

Suggestion (from Andy Borowitz) of a campaign slogan for possible presidential candidate Rick Perry: “What harm could a governor of Texas do?”

Gordon Clanton teaches Sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at gclanton@mail.sdsu.