Created August 6, 2021
Good-natured rivalries are a constructive force for the betterment of all concerned. Unsportsmanlike vicious bitter feuds bring down all concerned.
The state of play at the moment between the two U.S. political parties is at the worst extreme observed in my lifetime. That can’t be a good thing. A house divided against itself, cannot stand. Who said that? Abraham Lincoln, one of the country’s first Republican party presidents, and one of the greatest of all of our presidents.
In this post I am setting out to document that the two political parties form a natural complementariness. That would not be the case with any two political parties. If, for an extreme example, our two parties happened to be Communism and Fascism, they would not complement one another nor work hand in glove together, because oil and water do not mix.
On the other hand, Republicans and Democrats names both mean almost the same thing: Res Publica in Latin means “public affair” and is usually taken to be a synonym for “commonwealth” (generally defined as “an independent community founded for the public good” and used as a synonym for “republic”); and Demokratia in Greek means “the people rule”.
However, Democracy specifies that the people call the shots, whereas a Republic exists for the public good but does not require that all the people together constitute the rulership.
This is not a fine point, it is the whole basis for the dynamic between the two parties.
The Democratic party takes the position that people should be able to reach decisions together by majority voting. That The People can be trusted to reach the right decisions.
The Republican party takes the position that The People are not always wise, they can be swayed by persuasion to make horribly wrong decisions, and must be protected by wiser heads.
No one can deny that there is truth and value in both of these opposed positions.
Especially today, when social media exposes how rampant madness is.
And social media probably adds to the madness.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guardians – the wiser heads – in the republic? That is the key to the success or failure of a republic – the people trusted to make the decisions. Solomon, Socrates, Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, FDR, Walter Cronkite… we’re probably all in good hands. Most human beings who come to mind are not quite as rock solid.
The Founders were aiming for something optimized by combining Democracy and Republic, checks and balances everywhere. The U.S. Constitution they created established the principle that the power to rule comes from the people who invest that power in their chosen representatives in the U.S. system, a representative democracy and a democratic republic.
The Constitution didn’t mention political parties, and George Washington quit 20 years down the pike when political parties erupted on their own in 1796.
Yet our two parties, balanced as they are around a question of responsibility – can the public be trusted to have total responsibility, and if not, what is the proper interaction between the public and government itself, to achieve the optimal results? – have spontaneously evolved and their respective ideologies are extremely similar. If we had to have parties, these two are the perfect ones, on the face of it.
And one is conservative (in most cases) while the other is more progressive (in most cases). The Republicans coming from a place of getting people to stand on their own two feet, where the Democrats sympathize more with those who have fallen off their feet. The balance between these opposing Goods is where the greatest Good lies.
We need a degree of conservatism more than we ever needed it before, simply because we have been printing money to the extent that many economists fear a hyperinflation that could lose the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency and have global economic effects possibly worse than the Great Depression.
Both parties have been taking advantage of the printing money alternative, and so we are under-representing the conservative ideal. It would be good to see us able to balance the budget and pay down debt. Both sides have good creative ideas and it’s a shame that filibuster prevents or delays debate which could lead to synthesis that is satisfying to both sides and to most citizens. At least let’s modify filibuster to require debate aimed at such synthesis, even if we retain the 60% supermajority requirement to pass a bill.
Let’s get back to using each other’s complementary skills and viewpoints to reach even better decisions and creative ideas than ever before.
The other party are not bogeymen. They are us, Americans, with very slight differences in point of view which are valuable, because they cause us to think, and the combination of two viewpoints causes a synthesis that is more perfect than either of the two original viewpoints.
Although the Founders did not visualize this taking place as two parties, they definitely foresaw that debate was going to be the modus operandi for the infant democratic republic. So let’s debate! The more we debate in a cooperative manner the quicker we shall unearth creative solutions for win/win. It makes no sense to delay debating, it is delaying the creative process the Founders invented.
We can carry on the work of America by simply ratcheting up the cooperation and winding down the rancor. Please give it a chance.
We can all act like children some of the time. Let’s not let ourselves do that all the time.
Two Sides to Every Story
To set us off on the right foot, let’s begin by acknowledging the good that has been done by the rival party. Here is a compilation of my subjective top ten accomplishments of Republican and Democratic presidents over the past 30 years. I left out many others worthy of inclusion in a longer article, and provided a bibliography for serious students. Because I set out to help bring us all together, please let’s not get into knocking any of my specific choices below, that wouldn’t do any good. The main reason I put these lists below together is simply to demonstrate that regardless of party, we have in general chosen well, that our recent presidents have all strived to do the best job they could, and that nothing irreparable has been done to damage the U.S.A. or to prove that our system is no longer functioning.
Bill Clinton (Democrat)
- Presided over longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history
- Unemployment dropped from 7% to 4%
- Poverty rate dropped from 15.1% to 11.3%
- Federal investment in education and training doubled, 3000% increase in educational technology funding, Internet-connected schools increased from 35% to 95%
- Largest crime bill in U.S. history caused crime rates to decline for eight years in a row and in 2000 were at their lowest levels since 1973
- Made approximately 300 free trade deals
- Helped end the war in Bosnia
- Helped negotiate the Oslo Accords between PLO and Israel
- Reduced the deficit for the first time since Truman was president, and reduced inflation
- Led the fight to pass GATT which lowered tariffs on manufactured goods by more than one third
George W. Bush (Republican)
- Withdrew from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, ending the Mutual Assured Destruction era
- $1 trillion tax cut
- Established Homeland Security
- Targeted Osama Lin Laden for 9/11 and sent troops to Afghanistan breeding grounds for similar events in future
- Took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in order to prevent more than half of America’s mortgages from going under
- Signed No Child Left Behind Act
- Signed Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia
- Instituted new penalties for corporate fraud while proposing other reforms to “demand corporate responsibility and integrity without stifling innovation and growth”
- Department of Justice guideline prohibiting racial profiling in federal law enforcement
- Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes tax credits for wind and other alternative energy, identified ocean energy as a renewable technology
Barack Obama (Democrat)
- Signed into law the largest annual increase in research and development funding in America’s history
- Ended the 2008 recession: his last three years in office saw annual average growth of 2.3% in U.S. Gross Domestic product (GDP)
- International Climate Change Agreement
- Modernized the auto industry, raised fuel efficiency standards, and lowered carbon emissions
- Reformed health care
- Regulated the big banks
- Eliminated bin Laden threat and withdrew troops from Iraq
- Put 10 million people back to work
- Established a new cybersecurity office, appointed a cybersecurity czar, ordered first nationwide cybersecurity assessment
- World’s largest free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Donald Trump (Republican)
- Abraham Accords: the 2020 Agreement among Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain encouraged similar pacts with Morocco and Sudan
- Space Force: recognized that a new branch of the military is now a necessity
- More efficiency in striking down terrorists: continued the use of missiles and drones to kill key terrorists without putting Americans in harm’s way
- Historic peace deal with Taliban in Afghanistan
- Degrees of improvement in relations with most difficult countries such as Russia and North Korea
- Called out China’s currency manipulation, product dumping, industrial espionage, and lack of trade reciprocity
- Contributed $483 million to the development of Moderna, $456 million to the development of the J&J vaccine, and up to $1.2 billion to the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine through Operation Warp Speed
- His first three years in office (before pandemic) saw average U.S. GDP annual growth of 2.5%
- Record highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average
- Prior to pandemic, achieved the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years
Joe Biden (Democrat)
- Quadrupled the level of vaccinations per week
- Most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history
- Rejoined the World Health Organization
- Rejoined Paris Climate Agreement
- Bolstered U.S. manufacturing of semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, and other cutting-edge technologies
- Provided a comprehensive plan for Covid relief and support
- Proposed an Immigration bill that provides a path to citizenship and protects Dreamers
- Brought troops home from Afghanistan
- Restored relationships with allies
- Gave fair warning to Russia and China regarding cybercrime and aggression
Interestingly, most of the Joe Biden accomplishments listed above were drawn from Fox News’ Leslie Marshall’s March 11, 2021 opinion column. The full bibliography of sources for this presidential review is included below.
We’re not as far apart as it seems. Sometimes we get good ideas from each other. Let’s stop the silly squabbling and “put the Beatles back together”.
Best to all,