Big Tents Are Good For Circuses

By Mike Duminiak

 Bookmark and Share     Whether it comes from the mouths of Democrats or Republicans, you will hear the same basic statements about their party and their platform. You will hear that it is a “big tent” party with diversity of opinion, but united in wanting to MikeBIGtentmake the United States a better country. That same statement could be used to define everyone as one large group – diversity of opinion, but united in wanting to make the United States a better country. It is, in other words, meaningless.

Once upon a time in America, parties were formed on the basis of ideology. Today parties exist primarily for political power. Social conservatives are in bed with social liberals. Fiscal conservatives are in bed with fiscal liberals. The party to which they belong doesn’t really represent their views, but rather some compromise platform that no one really truly wants. Then each candidate campaigns pretty much independently. Even the Presidential candidates often depart from the party platform. The party is a tool during elections and then a club used to maintain order the rest of the time.

Whether it was Joe Lieberman or Arlen Specter giving their respective parties fits, the fact that people so out of step with the party platform were still counted as members of the party was and continues to be a joke. The Republicans currently consider themselves to be lucky that the Democrats don’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. They don’t? When three Republican Senators repeatedly side with the Democrats, only a fool counts them in his column.

Ideologically there are four major groups when it comes to domestic policy:

1. There are the social and fiscal liberals. They believe in big government social programs and spending. They see government as the agent by which all people in the country can be made equal not only of rights, but also of material wealth. At the extreme, this is socialism. Example: Barack Obama

2. There are the social and fiscal conservatives. They believe in a government that mandates traditional values, but steers clear of social programs and spending. They see government as the defender of traditional social values by law, but not one that controls the economy. At the extreme, this is facism. Example: Pat Buchanan

3. There are the social liberals and fiscal conservatives. They believe that people should be free to do pretty much anything they want in their private lives. They oppose big government programs favoring a private sector approach to problems. They see government as a limited caretaker of mainly international issues, but should be kept out of domestic affairs beyond settling disputes between individuals. At the extreme, this is anarchism. Example: Ron Paul

4. There are the social conservatives and fiscal liberals. They believe in enforcing traditional moral values not only through law, but also through government social programs. They see government as both a defender and a promoter of traditional social values. At the extreme, this is totalitarianism. Example: George W. Bush

These definitions are very generalized, but give the approximation of the major categories. The Democratic Party is made of primarily groups 1 and 3 with some of 4. The Republican Party is made primarily of groups 2 and 4 with some of 3. Where the two party memberships overlap, these are called ‘moderates’. In truth they are not really moderate at all, but rather a whole different philosophy.

The result of these differences is not a stronger, more representative party. It is a circus. The term ‘big tent’ probably wasn’t intended to be so applicable to the circus inside, but it is. Rather than develop a platform based on an ideology that is shared, the two major parties develop platforms based on whatever it takes to hold the disparate groups together. A voter who looks at a party designation and tries to use that to divine the likely actions of a candidate if elected is as likely to be disappointed as not.

Meanwhile in the various State legislatures and Congress, pork spending and other self-serving deals are made to maintain party political power or to break it when what the majority of the party wants and what its disparate members want do not match. The end result is usually bad government at higher cost. If each ideology were independently negotiating, there would be compromise. But since they are locked into only two power structures, instead of compromise we get intrigue. Each side tries to out-bribe the other to capture the votes of those disenchanted with either alternative. Eventually one wins and pushes through a bill the majority dislike that was loaded with pork to make the sell-out worthwhile.

All in all, the people would be better off if the two major parties broke apart and four parties rose in their place. Then people could actually vote based on their ideology instead of for some compromise party in which the person you elect may not even do what they campaigned upon. In the mean time, the two big tents continue to house the political circus run by an overabundance of clowns.

Stars01.gif picture by kempite

Mike Duminiak is a guest blogger for POLITICS 24/7, an active leading Republican candidate on and a Republican candidate for mayor of Port Matilda, Pa.  You can read more about Mike by checking the “About the Authors” section of this blog

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