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Explaining Politics: United States - Political Parties & Current Politics

In the United States of America, there are effectively only two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, and it has been like that for more than a century. The two parties have traded control of the House, Senate, Presidency and Supreme Court, but for the most part, no other political parties have been able to exert any sort of political power.

Currently, the Republicans have a majority in the House, Senate, Supreme Court and have a Republican in the White House. After this last election, however, the Democrats were able to get a majority in the House, but lose seats in the Senate. 

Though there are some difference, for the most part, Republicans adhere to more conservative philosophy, while Democrats label themselves as liberal.

Republicans

According to the Republican National Committees website, Republicans believe, broadly, in: American exceptionalism, harsher criminal penalties, less taxes, economic freedom, limited government, fighting against terrorism, no statehood for D.C., a strong military, traditional marriage, private healthcare, gun rights, combating corruption, energy independence and an unchanging constitution. Most Republicans would like the Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion in the United States to be overturned and often try to pass laws to limit access to abortion. Among those in the Republican party, there is a greater sense of party cohesion, where there are certain issues, like abortion and religion, that are the most important when voters go to the polls. Republican voters will almost never support a candidate if they falter are specific key issues that those voters value.

Democrats

On the Democrats website, some of what it says that they believe in: ending wealth inequality, increasing the minimum wage, increasing funding for social programs, taxing the wealthy more, investing in clean energy, statehood for D.C., fighting corruption, combating terrorism, addressing climate change and reducing gun violence. While not as united as Republicans on the courts decision about abortion, many Democrats feel the Supreme Court decision that allowed for more unregulated campaign finance laws to exist was wrong and have been trying to make laws limiting its effect. When Democrats go to the vote, they tend to be more selective in who they vote for, prioritizing a variety of issues, and would prefer their candidates to serve many different needs instead of one or two key issues. 

The Republicans platform, along with the Democrats, is altered every four years leading up to the presidential election and as such includes many of the problems Republicans see with the then current Democratic leadership. Inversely, the Democrats platform espouses how great the previous Democratic president, Barrack Obama, was in all that he accomplished.

Both parties believe that the other is intent on ruining the country and it is their job to fix the mess that has been created by the other side. This views is in contrast to the quality of bipartisanship that most agree to be a good value among lawmakers, to be able to reach across the aisle and agree with the other party. 

The voting patterns of both parties differs, but in general there are more Democratic registered voters, but Republicans tend to turn out more reliably during an election, leading to a somewhat even split between representation between the two parties. It is worth noting however, that due to various tactics like gerrymandering and voter ID laws equal representation among elected representatives is not always achieved, tactics that are more common among Republicans than Democrats. Gerrymandering involves proportioning voting districts to give one party an advantage and voter ID laws are about requiring voters to present certain forms of identification at polling stations to complicate voting.

 

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