2016/06/07

Democrats vs Republicans, any real difference?

Okay, so I was challenged to come up with a list of differences between the two major parties so as to prove they’re not just one party with two names. Here’s the opposing list of where there’s not much difference between the parties:

War

Brutal sanctions preceded the Iraq War, but Democrats left the actual military invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan up to Bush. Yes, Obama reinforced the Iraq War and then carried out the Bush plan to pull out by the end of 2011. In contrast to Republican charges that came out after Daesh (ISIS) appeared, the Obama Administration tried very hard to remain in Iraq longer, but neither the Iraqi nor the American public wanted any such thing to take place. 

the Democrats' support for NAFTA, TPP
Formally and officially, Hillary Clinton opposes TPP, but a major criticism of NAFTA was that labor and environmental groups were heard from as an after-thought. If Clinton had truly learned from NAFTA criticism, those groups would have been in on the ground floor for TPP.
 
bank deregulation

True, but Dodd-Frank has had a modest effect on restraining “too big to fail” financial institutions. Not a major effect and not right away, but “what is clear is that Dodd-Frank sent notice to banks and other financial institutions that they couldn’t continue with as little scrutiny and oversight as they had in the past.”

welfare "reform"

Yes, a very bad move on Bill Clinton’s part.

social security "reform"

Bill Clinton was planning on major “reform” but thanks to Monica Lewinsky, he wasn’t able to. The Simpson-Bowles “Cat Food Commission” certainly tried to “reform” SS, but Rep. Paul Ryan thought it wasn’t destructive enough and Rep. Jan Schakowsky thought it went too far, so there was no consensus report, just the recommendations of Simpson and Bowles to gut SS. So not really sure what’s meant by that.

NSA spying

Yep, definitely a bipartisan thing.

corporate welfare for the insurance industry - aka Obamacare (originally a right wing thinktank policy first implemented in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney)
Actually, many people have interpreted that as a clever move by Obama. By going as far to the right as was possible and still having a workable system, that left the Republicans with nothing to recommend in its place. The new Governor of Kentucky ran on dismantling the ACA/Obamacare, but found that he had no way to do so without throwing 300,000 citizens off of their health plans and thereby directly causing 300,000 people to become loyal, committed Democrats, so he backed off on that.
Also, the Democrats did have a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, but they had to keep right-wingers like Senator Joe Lieberman and others aboard, so the set-up had to be kept modest. We can’t blame the right-wing Democrats entirely. there’s evidence Obama wanted to blame Lieberman for his dropping the public option and that Lieberman agreed to be the scapegoat, but that Obama was really the one that wanted to drop it. 

bailing out the banks in 2009 but not Main Street

Yeah, Obama wasn’t in office yet, but he signed off on that.

refusal to fight for serious campaign finance reform
Another bipartisan thing.

refusal to tax the rich
Obama raised taxes on the wealthy a bit, but yeah, we could return to the Kennedy-era 70% rate without damaging the economy at all.
 
or cut the military budget
I’m personally disappointed Star Wars/SDI/Missile Defense is still being researched. Complete boondoggle. The A-10 “Warthog” attack plane simply doesn’t need replacing. Nor does the B-52, for that matter. Both planes are extremely well-designed for their function. The F-35 is another complete boondoggle that’s good for putting money into defense contractor pockets  and not much else. From 2011 to 2014, that is, from the pull-out from Iraq to the appearance of Daesh, US military spending went down a few hundred billion (it went back up again), but yes, way too much being spent.
 
refusal to prosecute makers of illegal wars and torture
Again, yup. Obama made a deliberate decision not to prosecute.

So what can we list as being real differences between the two parties?

Legislation. Enacted laws went from 460 during the last term under G.W. Bush, to 385 under a period of Democratic control of both the House and Senate, but also when Republicans got more and more filibuster-happy. Was at 284 and 296, then crashed to 165 (so far as of June 2016) when the GOP took over the Senate. Speaker Paul Ryan, formerly the Republican Budget Director, can’t seem to pass a Budget Resolution that’s, by the way, required by law. There’s no filibuster in the House and Republicans have a solid majority, so Democrats get zero blame for that. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell regards a Trade Promotion Authority bill (One of those bipartisan things listed above) and a bill concerning the Obama Administration deal with Iran as his two biggest accomplishments of the current Senate. Not really sure what the latter bill did as it would have canceled the deal with enough votes, but they didn’t get those votes and it’s not at all clear that the critics of the deal got anything else out of the bill. 

Republicans just don’t seem to like passing legislation as much as Democrats do.

Zika. After sitting around for two months and essentially twiddling their thumbs, the House finally decided to take money out of the response to Ebola and put it into Zika. Problem is, the fight against Ebola isn’t over. Neither Congress nor the Senate has voted on a bill that gives the Administration the full amount it’s requesting. And Congress left town in late May without doing anything to fix the problem. “Dozens of Democrats staged a media event on the steps of Capitol to decry the Republicans who control the House and Senate for leaving for the week-long break with what Democrats argued was so much unfinished business.”  How serious is Zika? Very!

Republicans just don’t seem to like fixing problems.

Abortion. One of the effects of Zika is that it affects babies in the womb, causing them to be born with microcephaly. That is, their brain is much smaller than normal because it hasn’t developed properly. One would think that, being allegedly very, very deeply concerned about babies in the womb, that anti-choicers would be all over this issue. They aren’t. Problem is, Zika and the called-for response contradicts the anti-choicer crusade against Planned Parenthood that was kicked off by a series of highly edited, misleading videotapes released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Studying fetal tissue could help combat the effects of Zika, but the issue of women who have abortions and then donating fetal tissue is what’s at the heart of the CMP videos. A fourth federal committee was established (a dozen states had already investigated Planned Parenthood and exonerated them in every case) to further investigate Planned Parenthood to “find the truth.” As of June 2016, the committee has turned up zip. 

Conducting ideological crusades appears to take priority over solving real-world problems.

Holding up nominations. The Supreme Court nominee blockade, the blocking of any person nominated by the current president to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia is utterly and absolutely unprecedented in American history. Just as an example of the grossly excessive blocking of legitimate nominations, Senator “Tehran” Tom Cotton put a block on “Obama's ambassadorial nominations in order to pressure him to do something about the leaks coming out of the Secret Service. Eventually, that issue was resolved, and Cotton lifted all of the holds except [Cassandra] Butts'. When she met with him to ask why the hold remained on her nomination, Cotton told her "that he knew that she was a close friend of Obama’s — the two first encountered each other on a line for financial-aid forms at Harvard Law School, where they were classmates — and that blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president."

Shorter Senator Cotton: “I’m holding up a legitimate appointee because, fuck you, that’s why!”

Priorities.  Senate Majority Leader McConnell was asked about Donald Trump’s racist attack on a judge and responded “I think the Party of Lincoln wants to win the White House.” In other words, yeah, yeah, attacking a judge strictly for his ethnicity is, y’know, maybe not so great, but hey, winning is all that matters!

Winning is more important than maintaining basic decency.


No, I’m sorry, the two parties are not as different as I’d like them to be, but they are indeed different. It does make a difference whether you vote or whether you blow off the voting booth. It does make a difference whether you vote for the Democrats or for a third party.