The Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads over several issues for decades, with each passing year being more polarizing than the one before. Like the American public, both parties continue to grow further apart on top priorities like what is better for the US economy and and let partisan acrimony dictate policy.
Their differences pervade all aspects of life including ideological, social, economical, and even national security. The two just can’t seem to get along.
In this article, we’ve rounded up the seven key areas of dissent that should give you a crash course on US politics.
1. Tax Policy
Put simply, the Democrats want to raise taxes to fund welfare programs, and the Republicans want to lower taxes to help industrialists, businesses, and the wealthy – for the greater benefit of the society at large, as they put it.
The Democrats are proponents of Keynesian economics, or aggregate demand, which posits that when the government funds a program, it injects new money and that is better for the US economy. Provided that prices stay relatively stable, any kind of spending, whether by consumers or the government, grows the economy.
The Republicans are of the opinion that the government should only spend money to maintain national security, protect citizens against criminals, maintain basic infrastructure, and enforce contracts. On paper, the Republicans want to reduce taxes for businesses so they can reinvest on growing their day-to-day operations and hire more employees. This is also known as the ‘trickledown effect’, which states that any money saved will eventually benefit the entire society.
There is some common ground between both parties. For example, both agree that filing taxes is no longer a simple task thanks to the colossal tax code which is a mishmash of regulations, credits, deductions, and other complicated formulas. Both believe in restructuring and simplifying the tax code – but they have their own plans on tackling these challenges.
2. Gun laws
The gun control debate continues to be a flashpoint for both parties, especially when you analyze them in the wake of recent mass shootings. The Democrats support tougher gun laws and background checks, which incidentally echoes the growing public opinion against guns in general. The Republicans traditionally used to maintain a more moderate stance on gun laws and largely opposed any form of regulation.
But shocking back to back mass shootings in Texas, Ohio, and El Paso have forced the Republicans to slightly modify their stance. Now, they want to prevent people with mental illnesses and violent backgrounds from buying guns, especially assault rifles.
Democrats and Republicans have polarizing views on immigration policies. The Democrats believe that immigrants have played a key role in creating new jobs. They fight against deportation laws and seek to welcome more asylum seekers and refugees.
Republican immigration policies believe that mass immigration has taken jobs from the American people and it would be better for the US economy to substantially slow down immigration. Their goal is to protect American industries and workers, largely following economic nationalism. President Trump, for example, is a strong proponent of building a border wall along Mexico. He also seeks to abolish Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as the DACA.
There is a stark contrast between both parties on healthcare. Democrats believe that affordable healthcare is a fundamental right of every citizen. Under Clinton’s presidency, two healthcare reform measures were passed, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, both of which provide subsidized health insurance to children in families that earn too little to qualify for Medicaid.
Then, Obama’s highly divisive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act sought to further reduce the cost of healthcare by covering areas such as preventive care.
The Republicans vehemently oppose universal health care, claiming that Americans should have all the healthcare they can afford, even if they can’t afford much. Under the Trump administration, they have tried to pass four different bills to remove Obamacare, without much success. They would rather let the free market dictate prices for healthcare because it would produce a leaner healthcare system.
5. Global Warming
Although climate change was not initially a partisan issue, things have changed due to increased awareness. Certain businesses with financial interest in limiting government regulation have largely funded groups behind climate change denial, often finding common ground with Republicans. In fact, it is estimated that the oil and gas industry collectively invested over $100 million into Republican presidential campaigns in 2015.
On the contrary, Democrats are taking measures to stop global warming. Obama’s 2011 Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Air Act for greater emission control that cause acid rain and harms public health. The Republicans advocate for government subsidies and tax cuts to support the development of more oil and gas production.
6. National Security
The Republicans are advocates of a strong, powerful military and believe in strengthening the defense system for America. They adamantly believe that the only way to guarantee peace is to increase the defense budget. President Woodrow Wilson started World War 1 while Franklin D. Roosevelt started World War II. Both of them were Democrats.
More Republicans than Democrats are concerned about overseas security threats posed by renegade countries like North Korea. In fact, 9 in 10 Republicans cite ISIS as a major threat compared to only 79% of Democrats. More Republicans favor the use of ground forces to combat Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.
Abortion has been another contentious issue in US politics ever since the Supreme Court upheld abortion rights in the landmark Roe v. Wade case in 1973. The Democrats have traditionally supported abortion and are trying to find ways to codify it so that it stays legal in states even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.
Democrats vehemently oppose abortion restriction. They are of the opinion that women should have the right to make their own decision when it comes to pregnancy and that the government has no role in getting involved.
The Republicans are largely influenced by tradition and religion, as such, completely want to outlaw abortion. Their doctrine states that all unborn children have the fundamental right to live which should not be taken away.