Conventional wisdom is that Democrats are more pleasant individuals than Republicans. In numerous ways, it’s clear and obvious that this adage is true. When it comes to extending Head Start, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, the Democrats pound the Republicans in the empathy game (somewhat of a mixed metaphor).
Turn on the television – oops that’s a disadvantage for Democrats, so many \ boycott the tube in favor of their laptops – but television and computers both show their share of political commercials. Are Democrats less prone to engage in negative advertising than Republicans? A cursory examination as well as statistical analysis show that Democrats deal in the same slime as Republicans.
The two criteria that I am using in measuring consistency in meanness are (1) abusing capitalism by indulging in actions that are clearly unfair and detrimental to the less fortunate in our society and (2) creating and distributing negative political campaign materials. The greater the congruence between these two variables, the more likely the individual reflects the stereotype of a Republican.
For example, Donald Trump has made a career of making money – the kind of money that largely comes from glorifying the superficial. His television shows are rigged in his favor and his edifices pander to the vanities of the wealthy. At the same time, his politics are as confusing as they are despicable. He is one of the few Republicans who is still playing the “birther” game, asserting that President Obama was born in Kenya rather than the United States. What’s clear is that there is considerable consistency between his view of capitalism as a source of taking advantage of the weak and the way in which his politics show disdain towards the less fortunate.
Mitt Romney’s and Donald Trump’s views and practices towards capitalism and politics are surprisingly similar. This was evident in late May when Romney asked Trump to be the main speaker at lavish fund-raiser. Trump, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and others now do much of the shilling for Romney, so Romney can appear to be the civilized statesman –which is hardly what he was during the farce of the Republican debates.
Democrats are not as pure as we would like to think. How can President Barack Obama raise $1 billion dollars (probably less than Romney will) if he doesn’t hobnob with the rich and famous? He seems to have a dual personality, with the ability to be comfortable with middle and low income individuals as well as the wealthy. Romney fits well with only one of those groups.
Most of Obama’s politics are directed towards those in need, but actions such as remaining in Afghanistan well beyond any necessity or cavalierly tossing the public option in the health care bill show a certain simpatico to the wealthy. Most progressives believe that his real home is with them but he has to play the elitist game in order to have the resources to win elections. Let’s hope so.
John F. Kennedy was comfortable in both worlds. His personal wealthy limited his pandering to other wealthy people. As time went on, he became more concerned about the plight of the poor in West Virginia and the discrimination against African-Americans in the South and elsewhere.
Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill seems to function well in both worlds as well. The real key is whether someone truly cares about the less fortunate. I believe that McCaskill does. I have trouble believing that about her Republican opponents.
The nature of politics is a combination of attraction to, or at least acceptance of, excessive money and power. Both of these can coexist with a sense of compassion and concern about one’s fellow citizens. There are some Democrats who seem to be missing that empathy gene, and for all intents and purposes might as well be Republicans. However, it is Republicans who seem to take a crass approach towards the needs of those citizens who are least capable of taking care of themselves. While a grand generalization such as “Democrats are nicer that Republicans” may seem excessive, a thoughtful analysis of the situation seems to indicate that this premise is true. Once Republicans adopt the premise that there are inherent benefits in being sensitive to the needs of others, they will be a more responsible party, and bi-partisanship can once again flourish.
Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.