Sunday, April 2

The Difference Between Republicans and Democrats

From "Issues in Kansas" by Lance Kinser

For those of us who spend a good part of our time and energy engaged in
the political life of our state and nation the apparent apathy of some
toward all things political can at times be a source of frustration.
While there are numerous reasons that people recoil from political
involvement one significant factor is the sense that such involvement
has no real connection to day to day life. Indeed, there is a feeling
among many that no matter who is elected, be they Republican or
Democrat, things will pretty much go on as they always have because at
root all political parties, and by extension all politicians, are
largely the same.

With this in mind one of the chief tasks of those who are politically
active must be to articulate the reasons why politics matter. From my
perspective as a Republican this includes helping to uncover the core
presuppositions that distinguish us from Democrats. Of course with any
entity as large and diverse as political parties, hard and fast rules
are difficult to apply. That having been said it is my belief that one
core distinction that makes a difference between Republicans and
Democrats is a differing understanding of the concept of community. The
desire for community is common to the human race; we all desire the
sense of purpose, membership and continuity that comes from living in

The crucial question from a political perspective is where we go to
find the source of community. In my experience the different ways in which
Republicans and Democrats tend to answer this question marks a
significant point of distinction between the parties. In particular
Democrats are inclined to follow any mention of the term community with
a discussion of the importance of the role of government as the focal
point for community action and identity. In taking this approach
Democrats have infused the State with roles and responsibilities once
inherent to families, churches and voluntary associations. For
Republicans community is the product of deeply enmeshed bonds of
interpersonal connection that develop naturally within society from the
bottom up. From this perspective the role of government, while vital,
is also limited. A crucial aspect of this limitedness stems from the
fact that true community can not be imposed from the top down.

These differing perspectives on the nature of community have
significant practical importance. In particular, the 'Republican" view of
community provides policy makers with a natural check against the fallacy that
every good idea can be made better by turning it into a government
program. Rather, Republicans understand that community building
institutions must be left to operate with substantial freedom within
their proper spheres, less they become brittle and anemic. Even the
best intentioned government actions can have negative social impact if
they serve to hobble the bonds of true community that are so necessary
to a vigorous, diverse and humane social order.

The differences that matter most between Republicans and Democrats are
then quite fundamental. They involve a different conception not merely
of mundane political questions, but of the very role and purpose of
government and its connection to those institutions most necessary to
nurturing a life well lived.

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