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Politics Explainer: American Political Parties

January 24, 2019

 Visual courtesy of Elena Koskinas

 

Like in Australia (with the Labor and Liberal parties), the US has two main political parties. You've probably heard of them already - the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There are also three major smaller parties in the US that you may not have heard of - the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party. This explainer will only cover the two main political parties, but contact us if you'd like to have the other three explained.

 

Before we start, a brief note about American politics: for the last couple of years, the lines between Democrats and Republicans have been very confusingly mixed. In particular, during the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump opposed some traditional "Republican" values, while Hillary Clinton went against some traditional "Democrat" ones. This explainer will tell you the more traditional views that the Republicans and Democrats take, but keep in mind that these seem to be shifting. 

 

 You finding out that the lines between the Republicans and the Democrats have been blurred

Republican Party

 

The Republican Party is in government in the US right now, headed by President Donald Trump. The Republicans are generally more socially conservative and economically liberal (like the Australian Liberal Party currently led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.) However, to make it less confusing, the Republicans are generally known as the more conservative party.

 

 

Here's a rundown of the generally Republican, or conservative, approach to America's main issues today. 

 

Social - Immigration

A lot of the time when the word "immigration" comes up in US politics, it's referring to illegal immigrants (people who are living and working in the US without the appropriate visa or permission from the government.) As you may know, Donald Trump promised a very severe approach to illegal immigration in his campaign, and it's true that many Republicans want illegal immigrants to be deported. However, some also take a softer approach, and think that illegal immigrants should be given the chance to apply for legal status (meaning they can stay and work in the US legally). 

 

Social - Abortion:

Republicans generally see abortion as a life issue - which is where the term "pro-life" comes from. They believe that the foetus is a living being with rights to live, and so they are generally against abortion laws. 

 

Social - Guns:

You may have heard of the Second Amendment before, which is a section of the American constitution guaranteeing Americans the right to "bear arms" (in this case, meaning the right to own a gun.) Because Republicans are generally conservative, they believe in the freedom of the individual and a less powerful government, meaning that the right to own a gun is also an important personal right or freedom. 

 

Economy - Taxes and Regulation:

A Republican approach to the economy means a freer market (where the government has less of a job.) One of the key jobs of the government is collecting tax, so again most Republicans want lower taxes - meaning more (economic) freedom for the individual and less power for the government. 

 

Economy - Trade Deals: 

Remember when Get With It covered free trade and also Donald Trump's trade policies? And remember what I said at the beginning of this explainer, about Trump going against traditional Republican views? Here's a classic example of that. 

 

 

Traditionally, Republicans are more open to trade deals with other countries, because free trade means less government power and more freedom for the individual. In fact, free trade is often closely linked to the word "liberal." (And remember that the Republicans are economically liberal). However, a lot of Trump's political campaign was about blocking free trade (especially from China) to "protect American jobs." And weirdly enough, this idea of stopping trade deals goes against a usual Republican attitude. 

Democratic Party

 

The Democrats are generally more socially liberal and economically conservative (like Australia's Labor Party). *Note: the word "liberal" in this explainer refers to a more left-wing approach to politics, like the Democrats or the Labor Party. Not to be confused with the Liberals, meaning the Australian Liberal Party.*

You trying to learn the difference between Liberal and liberal 

 

Also to make it less confusing, the Democrats are generally known as the more liberal party. 

 

Social - Immigration

The Democrats have a softer attitude to illegal immigration. This means that, instead of being deported straightaway, more Democrats than Republicans prefer that illegal immigrants were given a chance to apply for legal status. 

 

Social - Abortion:

Democrats see abortion as a choice issue - hence the term "pro-choice". Instead of choosing to see the foetus' life as the priority (like the Republicans do), Democrats see abortion as primarily about a woman's choice - a woman's choice about her own body. So many more Democrats support abortion laws. 

 

Social - Guns:

Democrats believe that a lot of the crime and mass shootings in America are due to their comparatively very relaxed gun laws. To a Democrat, the safety of society is more important than individual rights. For this reason, Democrats support stronger gun control. 

 

Economy - Taxes and Regulation:

Democrats usually take an economically conservative approach, meaning more government power and less individual financial freedom. This means higher taxes (and more government spending on public services and social welfare). Individuals and businesses have less control over their own finances, and there is less free trade. 

 

Economy - Trade Deals: 

You may know that the Australian Labor Party has a strong history with trade unions and protecting workers. The American Democratic Party used to be like that too, and so it opposed globalisation and free trade with other countries, because that would mean the loss of middle-class and lower-class jobs. However, due to Donald Trump's odd stance on trade deals, recently the Democratic Party has also had to swap its stance. Strangely, in terms of free trade and trade deals, the Democratic Party now has a more liberal view than the Republicans.

 

They always have to make things more confusing for us, don't they?

So there you have it - the two main American political parties and where they stand on today's main issues. Let us know if you'd like to hear about the three smaller major parties!

Sources

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-us-government-and-politics/american-political-beliefs-and-behaviors/ideologies-of-political-parties/v/ideologies-of-political-parties-in-the-united-states

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEmOUHxessE

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/10/25/role-reversal-democrats-and-republicans-express-surprising-views-on-trade-foreign-policy-and-immigration/

 

 

  

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