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What are the differences between Republicans and Democrats?

1. Discipline: Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats are a party that does not work under discipline. Just look at those Republican Lite Senate and House Democratic candidates who tried so hard to run away from President Obama during this midterm election. And even prior to the election, look at those Democratic Congresspeople who toadied up to the NRA, opposing universal background checks. And what about those Democrats who toadied up to the Chiefs of Police when it came to the cowardly Senate rejection of Obama’s appointment of Debo Adegbile to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights division? That Senate rejection involved Democrats as well as Republicans. Those pro-NRA and anti-Adegbile Democrats have forgotten what the other side often does with traitors who cross over to the enemy in warfare. (And make no mistake about it; the class war is on!) The enemy gets what it wants from these traitors and then disposes of them, as has been the case with certain Democrats in this mid-term election. Obviously, there is no sense in running as ‘Republican Lite’ when the real thing is around.

2. Corporatism, Opportunism: Ever since the Clinton administration, which set the tone for Tony Blair’s New Labor, the dominant forces in the Democratic Party have been mostly centrist or right-wing corporatists, opportunists, and politicians with little regard for the people, for truly expanded democracy, for the Commons. Many of these Democrats have been called the Blue Dogs, (merely dogs, in my opinion). That is at least one reason that Howard Dean ran in the 2004 presidential primary as representing the the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Here, I mention such anti-democratic Democrats as; Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, and Ben Nelson—all of whom support NSA spying on the people. And now, Democratic Party leadership is playing the identity politics card by pushing for Hillary Clinton as the 2016 presidential nominee. However, she has deep ties to Wall Street, and the banks, and has shown herself to be a militarist. Clinton is as close to being a neocon in the Democratic Party as can be.

3. Explicit Class Commitment: The Republicans have an explicit ruling class commitment, and they are not shy, consistently expressing it in their ideology and in their practice. The Democrats, despite their progressive sloganeering, have not had an explicit and strong ideological and practical commitment to the working class since FDR, and since Lyndon Johnson.

4. Use of State Power: The Republicans know how to use State power to the advantage of the class for which they work, and for themselves as a party. And, in power, they do so. This was already displayed when the rightist Supreme Court majority, acting as a collective Hindenburg, engineered the 2000 coup that granted George W.Bush the presidency.

Yet, ever since 2008, President Obama has persisted in the foolishness of attempted bi-partisanship.This ‘reaching across the aisle’ has garnered virtually nothing for the people.

Now, with the Citizens United decision, the Republicans and the corporations and billionaires behind them are in a position to fully buy the government. And by virtue of the Supreme Court majority’s voiding of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and by literally suppressing the vote in states under Republican control, rightist social forces have attempted to deny likely progressive voters a voice. Indeed, if they come to completely inhabit Congress and the Presidency at some time in the near future, I would look for at least some Republicans to try to use State power to limit voting even more, particularly for certain segments of working class people, youth, and the elderly, (perhaps they’ll try to introduce property requirements.); and to also intensify austerity and repression.

It seems that the Democrats have been afraid to strongly use State power, (fears that FDR and Johnson did not share). As a political party, the Democrats tend to look to the main chance and hang back. Perhaps they are fearful that they won’t get to “play the game” if Republicans are in power. (Do the Republicans even want them to “play the game?”) Consequently, when Obama was first elected and there was a two-year window of Democratic Party dominance, Harry Reid did nothing about the filibuster. And when he did act, it was not to kill the filibuster entirely, only selectively.

During those first two years, the Democrats could and should have appointed two more Supreme Court Justices. After all, nine SCOTUS justices is only a tradition, not a law, and not in the Constitution. During those first two years, the Democrats could and should have doubled the stimulus, thus bringing many more people back into the labor force. During those first two years, the Democrats could and should have made the government the direct employer in a number of badly needed and national public works, high speed rail, and infrastructure revitalization programs, etc. During those first two years the Democrats could and should have canceled the 10-year pay-in-advance USPS retirement scheme, thus saving the postal service and all those postal workers. During those first two years, the Democrats could and should have created a public health care option within the Affordable Care Act. During those first two years, the Democrats could and should have criminally indicted many bank executives and Wall Street moguls. And during those first two years, the Democrats could and should have closed Guantanamo, and criminally indicted G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, and Colin Powell. THE DEMOCRATS DID NONE OF THESE THINGS!!!

5. Party Unity: The Republican Party is united around the class commitment, elements and themes I have mentioned. But the Democratic Party is actually two parties; progressive and corporatist, the latter currently running the show. Whether the balance of forces in the Party tilts to the progressive side, or whether the Party splits remains to be seen.

6. Summing Up: The Republicans function much as do European political parties—under strong discipline. The Democrats are more like a loosely-linked club of progressives and corporatists. And as between the Republicans and the corporatist Democrats, workers, the poor, and the middle class find themselves respectively between a rock and Jell-O.

Gene Grabiner, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, NYSUT (AFL-CIO)

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