Friday, June 01, 2007

Thinking Like a Republican

Someone told me yesterday, with a sly grin, that he didn't know I could think so much like a Republican. I was taking a surprisingly pro-management view in our discussion. So, I took his comment as the compliment he intended. But I must say, tho' I joke about it, I'm not as rigidly partisan as some Democratic colleagues might wish. In the spirit of open mindedness and a serious effort not to overgeneralize, I respect many Republican individuals and policies, tho' I often disagree with them.

I think about differences between Democrats and Republicans a lot. Nobody has enough time or resources to work on all the issues that matter to our communities. I often wonder how people chose what to care about. So, here are a couple of huge generalizations.

Republican rhetoric about small government only applies to economic issues. As Stephen Colbert once explained: if it's about what you can do with your property, we're for small government (less regulation); if it's about what you can do with your body, we're for big government (more regulation.) Think about it.

On the local level the small government/big government dichotomy turns out to mean: if you ask us a question, we'll eventually come up with an answer. But we don't have time for much long range planning or going out and finding the questions that need to be answered.

But on a global level, where I really depart from Republican rhetoric is personal responsibility and authoritarianism. Personal responsibility seems only to mean we don't want tax supported programs to help people who can't earn enough money to support themselves or their families. It doesn't extend to personal ethics in business - recently particularly in banking and environmental protection.

And finally, authoritarianism. I value loyalty very highly but I will never understand blind loyalty. I'm happy to see that many Republicans also question this. But there seems to be a parallel with a religious paternalism that clings to rules and authority figures no matter how absurd. It's easier to follow rules than to think through decisions based on personal ethics. And it's easier to issue directives to constituents (or children) than to educate them to make good decisions. And I admit that sometimes I want to fall back on "Because I'm the Mom." But it's short-sighted in the extreme. We really must make the effort to have the conversations that lead to decision making by consensus.

In short:

A gathering of Democrats is more sweaty, disorderly, offhand, and rowdy than a gathering of Republicans; it is also likely to be more cheerful, imaginative, tolerant of dissent, and skillful at the game of give-and-take. A gathering of Republicans is more respectable, sober, purposeful, and businesslike than a gathering of Democrats; it is also likely to be more self-righteous, pompous, cut-and-dried, and just plain boring.

CLINTON ROSSITER, Parties and Politics in America


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