Comparing the Democratic and Republican Parties
Ralph Nader campaigned for the 2001 Presidency by arguing that there are no real differences between the two major parties. In a broad sense, that statement might seem true. Major political parties play a majoritarian role in an otherwise pluralistic democracy in the United States. They are both majoritarian institutions trying to win control of the government. The differences between the parties lie in each party’s beliefs about the purpose and scope of government.
The United States is a government run by the people and for the people. The whole population may participate in governing through the device of having a much smaller number of people act on their behalf. In a pluralistic democracy, every citizen does not need to be knowledgeable about all politics in general. But a specialized group of citizens need to be especially knowledgeable, in particular, leaders.
“The government operates through competing interest groups rather than public opinion. The competing interest groups represent the people’s interest to government decision makers. Democracy exists when many (plural) organizations operate separately from the government, press their interests on the government, and even challenge the government.” The public is best served if the government structure provides access for different groups to press their claims in competition with one another. A pluralistic model of democracy allows minority interests to organize and press their claims on government freely also.
Purposes of Government
Why do we have government? Government may be defined as a set of institutions that regulate behavior within territorial boundaries thru the legitimate use of force. Government is also the organization authorized to control this behavior and exercise the force needed for such control. All governments require people to surrender some freedom as a part of being governed and people can justify surrending some freedom to this control in order to obtain the benefits of government. Government has always served two major purposes: maintaining order, which is preserving life and protecting property, and providing public goods, such as highways, state parks, etc. Recently, government has pursued a third purpose: promoting equality.
In the United States, the government’s fundamental issues are often defined as freedom, order and equality. How it decides to promote those fundamental issues and how it chooses the proper mix of freedom, order and equality in its policymaking has to do with the process of choice.
Freedom means different things to different people at different times, depending on what political context is being used. The two major senses of freedom are: freedom of and freedom from. Freedom of means freedom to do something. It is the lack of constraints on behavior. Freedom from means immunity from discrimination and it comes close to the concept of equality.