The Real Difference Between the Republicans and the Democrats

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


A lot of people feel that say what you want, there is a deep-down philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats. It goes like this: the Republicans believe in "every man for himself," while the Democrats believe "we're all in this together."

Well, let's look at this. First, let's take the Republicans. Do they really believe that every person should "sink or swim" on their own efforts, with no "interference from the government"? They say that; and some may convince themselves that they believe that. But if you judge from what they do, what the Republicans actually believe is that the army, the police, and the courts should be marshaled to enforce and push forward the rules of capitalism and the ruling position of the dominant capitalist class. If you go by what they do, the Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to run amok all over the world, dominating and warping the economies and cultures of other societies. They don't send a bunch of individuals over to do this; they send armies. The Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to lock up millions (yes, millions) of people, the majority of them Black or Latino youth. They are okay with using the force of the state to force women to have children against their will. And let's not even get started with how all these "rugged individuals who are against government handouts" have their snouts in the trough when it comes time to give out the contracts for new defense systems, bigger prisons, etc., or it would take all day.

The utter self-deceiving hypocrisy of this idea is captured in BAsics:

Now, sometimes you see these fools get up, you know, like these ranchers and all this kind of shit... And they say things like "I'm a self-made man. Nobody gave me anything. I did it all myself." Yeah, you're a "self-made man." All the clothes you're wearing, everything you're using is made by other people. The machinery you're driving around, the rifle you own was made by other people. Everything you have and use is made by other people. And right now, you're exploiting Mexican immigrants on your ranch. And you're sitting on land that was stolen from native peoples in the first place. But you're a "self-made man." [1:16]

They have two main points in trumpeting this bullshit. First, they want to insist on the legitimacy of the fact that a relative handful of people (the class of capitalist-imperialists) dominate the means of producing wealth and, on that basis, determine the direction of society to keep all that going. They didn't get it through exploitation and even plunder; no, "I did it myself." And second, they want to mobilize the petite bourgeoisie—or the middle class—around their ideological outlook and political program. The so-called "great middle class" occupies a position between the capitalist-imperialists on the one hand and the proletariat (the exploited, those on the bottom of society who own nothing but their ability to work) on the other. There is a potential basis to win many of these people to the position of making revolution against the capitalist-imperialists, particularly in a situation where there is a revolutionary crisis in society and there is a powerful movement for revolution rooted in the most bedrock, catch-hell-every-day sections of people. So for that reason, and others, it is very important to the imperialists that middle class people see themselves as having common interests with the imperialists who, in actual fact, dominate them. They want them to "buy into," if you will, the notion that they have a stake in keeping those on the bottom down. This is one main way that they keep people on the bottom feeling isolated, and without any alternative.

For all their railing against "big government," the Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to run amok all over the world. Obama and the Democrats pound on the need for America to "be strong," which means continuing and intensifying its military domination of the whole planet. This military domination, in human terms, means the killing of hundreds and thousands of people, including many children, including through the drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration. Above: Homes destroyed by a NATO raid on a village in Afghanistan, June 2012.
(Photo: AP)

The Republicans, in doing this, more or less openly appeal to the most hard-core racists and white supremacists. They openly appeal to those who want to keep women "in their place." They openly appeal to those sections of the middle class that are the most outright jingoist, drooling from the mouth when it comes time to invade and bring down terror on people in other countries. It is very important to the ruling class as a whole, especially right now, that these sections be kept in a feverish state, like Dobermans on a leash, lunging and snapping and barely held back, to intimidate everyone else and to form a ready base of support for whatever outrage they feel compelled to commit.

Now most people who read this paper aren't gonna be voting for Republicans. But some still get swayed by the idea that somehow the Democrats are, well, a little different. So, what about the Democrats? What about what we're told is their philosophy: "we're all in this together"?

First off, let's ask this: who is the "we" that is supposed to be "all in this together"? Does it include the people in other countries dominated by the U.S. capitalist-imperialists? No, it does not. And in fact, every Democratic candidate—and this is a particular thing of Obama's—pounds on the need for America to "be strong." To translate that into reality, "being strong" means continuing and intensifying its military domination of the whole planet. This military domination, in turn, insures the ability of these imperialists to extract super-profits from the peoples and nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and to edge out and intimidate their imperialist rivals. This military domination, in human terms, means the killing of hundreds and thousands of people, including many children, through the drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration; the killing of hundreds of thousands of people through the U.S. war against Iraq and the violent uprooting of millions more; the ongoing concentration camp-like conditions of the Palestinian people, enforced by Israeli arms purchased by the U.S.; and on and on, all over the world. In this, they not only hardly pretend to be different from the Republicans, they often compete to outdo them. If you don't believe this, why did almost every commentator on the foreign policy debate say that the two candidates had a lot in common in terms of actual policies, and why did most commentators say that Obama "sounded tougher" than Romney?

And if you want to say that "well, they have to say that to get elected, but they're still not as bloodthirsty as the Republicans," then let's recall the interview that the Democratic UN Ambassador (soon-to-be Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright did with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes back when the Democrat Bill Clinton was commander-in-chief. Clinton maintained sanctions against the country of Iraq that, according to the United Nations, ended up costing one million lives, including the lives of 500,000 children. Yes, 500,000! Lesley Stahl asked Madeleine Albright—and you can see this on YouTube—whether the policy was worth it. And Madeleine Albright hemmed a bit and then said yes, it was worth it and a few years later, Bill Richardson, the one-time U.S. Ambassador to the UN and a Democrat, went her one better and put on a Michael Corleone stoneface to say yes, the policy—which, remember, led to the deaths of an estimated ONE MILLION PEOPLE—was justified.

The Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to lock up millions of people, the majority of them Black and Latino. As for Obama, he has used the fact that he is Black—or else he has allowed it to be used—to lend credence to the argument that if people DO get caught up in the bowels of the criminal in-justice system, it’s their own fault—because, after all, Obama made it to the top. Above: Daytona Beach, Florida, 2008.
(Photo: AP)

And what about within the U.S.? Who is the "we" within the country that's "all in this together"? Does it include the 2.4 million people, most of whom are Black or Latino, who have been put in prison by this system—the victims of the "new Jim Crow"? No, it doesn't. This fact—that the prison population has increased tenfold in the last 50 years, that the U.S. "leads" every country in the world in both the rate and sheer numbers of people it has locked down—this fact was not mentioned once in any of the debates, and if you can find any record of any Democratic candidate even paying lip service to doing something about this, well... good luck!

And not only has Obama not even mentioned the people victimized by this new Jim Crow, he's done worse. Like every Democratic president, Obama has made a big deal about how "tough" he is on those who have been doomed to a life of trying to survive on the unforgiving streets of the inner cities, and who often end up either dead or in jail as a result.  And unlike others, he has used the fact that he is Black—or else he has allowed it to be used—to lend credence to the argument that if people DO get caught up in the bowels of the criminal in-justice system, it's their own fault—because, after all, Obama made it to the top.

Does this "we" include the women who are evicted from housing projects, a horror that has been intensifying with little or no mention in the media and absolutely none by the Democrats? Obviously not. Does this "we" include the immigrants, who were driven here in a desperate search for work, risking death and rape, because the imperialists have made it impossible, either through war or through distorting the economy, to survive in their homelands? No it doesn't—for, election-year promises and last-minute, temporary micro-concessions aside, Obama has set the record for deportations, uprooting people from their homes and breaking up families, and going far beyond Bush in this heartless, cruel and intimidating practice. Yes, Obama deported 1.4 million people—1.4 million people ripped from their livelihoods and lives, in many cases away from their families—1.4 MILLION.

Oh, it is said, but the Democrats work stealthily to help those on the bottom. Really!? Just as we did with the Republicans, let's look at what they do, not what they say. What about Bill Clinton, now said to be Obama's best campaigner, who as president totally ripped out the social safety net for the millions of people (mainly women and small children) on welfare, forcing those who could find them to take extremely low-wage jobs while denying them any assistance for childcare or transportation—in other words, forcing them to leave young children at home without any adult supervision, if they could not convince someone to do it for free. And if they didn't do that, then they faced hunger, eviction, and homelessness. How about the way the prison population in the U.S. doubled during Clinton's presidency? How about the way the percentage of Black and Latino people who were in prison went up? How about the way he sponsored, fought for and got bills passed that made it much more difficult for poor people and prisoners to get any kind of legal assistance—including for the express purpose of speeding up executions... at the very time when the fact that many people had been wrongly convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death was beginning to surface? How about the way he proudly styled himself as "tough on crime" to justify all this and to get people to go along with this—who otherwise would not have?

So, like the Republicans, the Democrats in fact carry out horrors and repression against oppressed people in other countries and those on the bottom within the U.S. Yes, they do have some differences with the Republicans over HOW to do this, and some of these differences can get sharp—especially in conditions when society is in deep crisis and millions are questioning things. But when you talk about more or less "normal times," and especially in the context of the numbing ritual of elections, the main difference is that the Democrats go about this differently. They talk about fairness to appeal to those sections of the middle class who want to smooth over the contradictions. They bring forward a few people from the oppressed and train them to be intermediaries—people who are allowed to get and distribute what are essentially crumbs, in exchange for people going along with this. Then, when these people whom they bring under their banner try to protest or raise demands, they point to the racist, fascist, woman-hating lunatic Republicans lunging and barking and essentially say "Sssh! Be quiet, or they'll let their Dobermans off the leash!"

This is much more insidious—it is much trickier and more deceitful and damaging—than the Republicans. This is because many of the oppressed have been made to feel there is no alternative but to go along with this. And even worse, once they are won to that, they are trained to think with the logic of the Democrats themselves—to see things through the eyes of the "nicer, more reasonable" set of oppressors.

Occupy did not “fall apart,” as it is now routinely put. It was brutally repressed—with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, clubs, and tear-gas canisters fired directly at people’s heads. And all of these rampaging police? Who is responsible for that? Those pigs were ordered to do this by the mayors of the big cities, almost all of whom were Democrats. Above: Police pepper-spray Occupy protesters at University of California, Davis, November 2011.
(Photo: AP)

Some people say, "well, maybe some of what you're saying is true—but the Democrats have to at least listen to protests." Some even go so far to say that "the problem isn't Obama, but that there has not been a movement that is able to ‘force' Obama to do what he secretly really wants to do"—which is, supposedly, to make things better for the people. This is a big argument of people on the so-called "left," who claim to be "radical—but realistic." Well, let's look at this "realism."

First off, it is amazing sometimes how quickly people in this country come down with amnesia. It was only last fall when people filled the public spaces of nearly 1,000 cities in America, protesting economic inequality, as well as other injustices and outrages. And what happened then? Let's remember: Occupy did not "fall apart," as it is now routinely put. It was brutally repressed—with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, clubs, and tear-gas canisters fired directly at people's heads.

And all of these rampaging police? Who is responsible for that? Those pigs were ordered to do this by the mayors of the big cities, almost all of whom were Democrats. And these mayors—do you remember that, according to the mayor of Oakland, this wave of repression was coordinated in conference calls? The White House almost certainly played a role in those calls and, even if they had not, Obama could have easily stopped the mayors from coming down with such brutality and violence against the protesters.

And this too is nothing new—it was a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson (whose reputation is also now being "rehabilitated"), who sent in the army when Black people in Detroit rose up in resistance to the ways they were treated.

The Democrats, you see, do not want any protest that they don't entirely control—and sometimes they don't even want that! When the clubs come down, when the prison door clangs, when the police put people on the streets... then "we're all in this together" is nowhere to be found. At that point, there is no "we." It is them, the Democrats, enforcing the dictates of the system against the masses.

Why do the Democrats say "we're all in this together"? They want the very people who are held down and oppressed by this system to feel like they have a stake in oppressing others, all around the world—and in NOT fighting against the oppressors. They want the people they routinely oppress to identify with them—and not with other oppressed people. And then of course when the hammer comes down on the very people who have been led to believe that the Democrats care about them, people feel confused, leaderless and unable to resist. But most damaging of all—they feel as if it is legitimate, because after all there are two parties with two clearly defined different philosophies, and if the Democrats "didn't do right," well, the people just have to hope for better next time (or blame themselves for not getting behind the Democrats enough).

The difference between the Republicans and Democrats? To repeat: on one level, there are in fact real differences—which can sometimes get sharp—over HOW best to expand imperialist predation and capitalist plunder, and how best to maintain the system's legitimacy in doing that. In situations where there is a crisis in society this can get very sharp, and splits at the top between different bourgeois political forces can provide an opening through which mass discontent can erupt and which, if there is a real movement for revolution which has trained people to see the differences between their fundamental interests and those of the rulers, and to see through the tricks—if all that comes together, sharp differences "at the top" can provide an important part of the basis to carry the revolution through.

But in the context of business-as-usual and the narrowing and suffocating confines of the tightly-controlled elections ritual, all this conflict—be it real or pretended—gets channeled into reinforcing the legitimacy of the capitalist-imperialist order and the ruling class—and the legitimacy of both the imperialist parties. Take the question of abortion, which the Republican platform says should be totally illegal, and where some Republican candidates have come out with horrific, male supremacist positions on rape during this campaign. The Democrats may tut-tut about these statements, and play it for advantage within this or that electoral contest, but do they ever take on the vicious anti-woman position on the right of women to decide if and when they want to have a child? Do they ever say that this position is out of bounds and by itself should render the Republican candidates illegitimate? Or do they say that we have to "respect the pro-life position" and cede the moral high ground, politically paralyzing people who DO believe in the fundamental rights of women to control their sexuality and reproduction—while the Republicans continue to go after this fundamental right? And make no mistake, they ARE going after it—in the first six months of 2012, 39 new laws limiting women's right to abortion were passed, on top of the 92 passed in 2011.

All this gets to why so much money, so much energy, so much time is spent in these election campaigns. It is because legitimacy matters to the people who rule this system. Getting people to participate in and endorse their election process matters to them. It is a way that they reinforce the notions that first, nothing else is possible outside of this framework so you have to be part of it, and second, that you yourself have a hand in—and even a stake in—the bad shit that goes down. It is—along with the outright violence and threat of violence of the armies, police forces, courts, and prisons—one important way that they hold onto their power. But them holding on to their power—that is NOT in the interests of the majority of people, nor of humanity as a whole, and we should want absolutely no part of that.

Conversely: the more that this is exposed... the more that people, and especially the most oppressed themselves, are organized and oriented to fight back against the horrors that come down on them, and raise their heads in the process... the more that people connect with the work that BA has done in bringing forward the new synthesis of communism and the real alternative represented in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)... the more that all this happens, together with big jolts in society brought on by the workings of the system itself and in which context millions are raising their heads and deep cracks begin to appear in the ruling structures of society—then the "legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, [can be] called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society" (see BAsics 3:30)—all as part of a whole process of getting to the point where millions, and tens of millions, can actually be led to make revolution.


For more on these points, see BAsics 3:8, 3:10, and 3:11.


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