Not a dime’s worth of difference? — Revisited

Gordon Clanton

North Coast columnist

Editor’s Note:

This column was submitted before publication on July 21 of the letter by Tim Binder. Gordon Clanton will reply in a subsequent column.

In the June 30 column, I challenged the view of some “independent” voters that there is “not a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans.”

I suggested that Democrats want to raise taxes on the very rich; Republicans want to lower them. Democrats are pro-labor; Republicans are anti-union. Democrats support Social Security, Medicare, and national health insurance; Republicans oppose them. Democrats are pro-choice; Republicans want to outlaw abortion and stem-cell research.

That column provoked a rush of e-mail. Thanks to everyone who wrote in.


No one disputed any of the distinctions I drew between the parties. One Republican reader asked how I, as an educator, could endorse Governor Brown’s cuts to public schools and higher education. Only because the all-cuts budget demanded by legislative Republicans would be much worse for schools.

The same reader reported that she and many of her friends believe in the right to choose, stem cell research, environmental protection, and strict gun control. They vote Republican, she writes, because they also believe in smaller government, fewer government employees, and fewer regulations on the private sector.

It must be very stressful these days to be a pro-choice, pro-science, pro-environment, anti-gun Republican.

Another reader suggested that those who say, “There’s no difference between the parties,” are simply making lame excuses for their own willful ignorance and political apathy. They are equally prone to such cop-outs as “You can’t fight City Hall,” “My vote doesn’t count,” and “They’re all corrupt.” These people never contact their representatives, he writes, usually can’t even name them, and they complain about how long the ballot is — all while watching 35 hours of TV a week. Ouch!


Apart from the apathetic center, I suggest the idea that there is no difference between the parties appeals most to people at the far ends of the political spectrum, the outliers from whose perspectives the parties appear indistinguishable.

From the left, one reader wrote: “If you were Big Biz, and you decided you were going to take over the country, would you stop at buying just one party? Hell, there are only two, and they are cheap!”

For some on the Randite Right, including libertarian Republican Ron Paul, neither party really supports individual freedom and limited government.

Meanwhile, another reader linked me to a website that claims the pro-choice view of abortion is part of a genocidal plot to exterminate black people!

Ah, the dialogue of democracy continues . . .

Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at