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The Difference between Republicans and Democrats

The Difference between Republicans and Democrats

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Together with many of my coworkers, I huddled around the computer screen watching as President Obama took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address. He didn't disappoint—after all, no one ever questioned his oratory skills. One thing, however, was gnawing at me, yet I couldn't put my finger on it. Afterwards I printed out the address and read it, and then it hit me...

Here's a challenge: Read the speech, beginning to end. And find a paragraph or sentence that couldn't have been part of a speech delivered by McCain, had he won the elections. Or even a speech by George Bush, had he somehow been reelected for a third term.

Did you find one? I didn't. And I read it closely a few times.

It's all in how you "sing" the wordsThe story is told about a boy and girl who went out on a date. After the meeting, the matchmaker called the boy's father to find out how things went. Ehr vill zee nisht ("He wants her not"), was the response. A short while later the matchmaker called back. He had just spoken to the girl's parents, and they insisted that it was she who had decided that the boy was not for her! "That's exactly what I said!" the boy's father responded. "He wants. Her, not." (Trust me, the Yiddish is much smoother sounding than the English translation...)

It's all in how you "sing" the words. Which you choose to stress, and which you mumble over...

It seems to me that the difference between the two parties is about the same. I admit that the following assessment is a bit simplistic, but sometimes simplistic gets a point across quite well.

Let's identify the principal sticking issues separating the parties in domestic and foreign policy.

On the domestic front, the Democrats emphasize the value of social programs and the role government should play in ensuring that all the citizens receive basic benefits. Republicans stress the imperativeness of a free market, low taxes and the elimination of unneeded legislation and waste.

When discussing foreign policy, liberals expound on the importance of dialogue and negotiation, while conservative talking points revolve around the importance of a strong military and the readiness to forcefully strike out at evil and those that pose a threat to our national interest.

But ask almost any Democrat whether it is important to preserve the economic private sector, lower taxes, have a strong military, etc., and he'd surely agree.

And you'll be hard-pressed to find a Republican who will say that negotiation, artful diplomacy and responsibility for the less fortunate citizens of the land are not part and parcel of the American ideal.

(Yes, there are some issues, abortion is an example, that seemingly find the two sides of the aisle irreconcilably apart. But I think that these issues are the exception rather than the rule.)

So what is the real difference between the two parties? I'd venture to say that it is mostly a matter of emphasis and application.

The efficient management of a nation requires many – and sometimes contradictory – components. Kindness and discipline. Idealism and pragmatism. Flexibility and rigid commitment to principle. Each party chooses to champion one side of the coin—while not denying the validity of the other.

In this sense, partisanship is not a negative phenomenon. One person (or party) cannot have a passion for two sometimes opposing positions. It is important to have different people championing different platforms.

(In this sense, the American people are not at all "hypocritical" for their vacillations: sometimes voting in conservative candidates and at other times liberal ones. I don't think this represents a real shift in values, I think it's a matter of which values they want to see stressed at a given time.)

In this sense, partisanship is not a negative phenomenonThe real challenge is for the parties to view one another as complementary to each other, rather than opponents. To understand that there is a time and place for everything, and working in harmony, incorporating all the valid viewpoints in both foreign and domestic policy, is the recipe for wise, compassionate and effective governing.


If this is true regarding the political arena, it's also true in our interpersonal relationships—whether they be filial, marital or business.

How much pleasanter and more respectful would our homes and workplaces be if we could view opposing opinions as complementary rather than antagonistic?


Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Michael Greensboro January 2, 2014

In reality, there is no such thing as a moderate. People who flip back and forth from liberal to conservative really have no idea about the philosophical foundations of the two ideologies. If they did then they would never vote for the other side. In short, conservatives believe in freedom more than equality, but in order more than freedom. Liberals believe in freedom more than order, but in equality more than freedom. If you understand these philosophical foundations of these two ideologies then it is impossible to be a moderate. You either believe in freedom: the government not making a private business give a mandated wage to their workers, or you believe in equality where the government should mandate a certain minimum wage. "Moderates" do not truly understand politics, because if they did then the middle class would not jump back and forth between Republicans when they feel "rich," and then to Democrats when they feel "vulnerable" or "poor." A moderate is one who has no foundation. Reply

Anonymous Boynton Beach, FL March 9, 2010

I was disowned by my family for being a Republican. They told me that no Jew should ever be a Republican, let alone vote for one. Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com June 12, 2009

Apologize for my cynicism.

Both parties are losers let me put it that way, because in the end it is the elitists that implement the policies by bribing the politicians. Democrats and Republicans do differ even in foreign policies and no wonder we have the turmoil in the ME region. Even the media is swayed in the reporting tactics, because they belong to either parties and create havoc for the world, I should say.

The recent election of Obama was a perfect example of how the dems used big money to buy their positions in various organizations. Obama's rhetoric in Iran and other ME region is a straight shooting out of the dems mouth. Or what do we expect next? Kissinger's famous one world order line of change and that meant, we might dissolve two party system.

Until then, we have an entertainment show with the dems and repubs. Reply

Anonymous Hollywood, Florida USA June 12, 2009

Mostly the left criticizes politics and therefore debate. Conservatives / Republicans being more cognizant of facts, don't shy away from debate. Liberals / Democrats too often idealistic, wish to avoid debate that "bursts their bubble", and therefore are quick to label politics in a bad light =(

In just about everything we read, there is always a bias. Understanding the bias of this author puts the article in a more clear light =) Reply

Ted Bayside, NY June 12, 2009

Israel is an issue for both Democrats and Republicans. President Truman, Democrat was the first to recognize the state of Israel. President Eisenhower, Republican was not a true friend of Israel. President Kennedy was the first to allow the weapons sales of US modern armor to Israel.

Democrats have a vision of social justice. Republicans tend to favor big business and the wealthy. We need a strong government to watch over our complicated society. There is no going back to small government. This recession/depression is a startling reminder. Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com February 3, 2009

You are oblivious. Very few American Conservatives depending on what faith they follow are supportive of Israel than American liberals. If they are American Israelis, not all of them are supportive of Israel, because their one foot is with the Arabs for economical purposes and the other foot is with the Israel. Not all are authentic Jews and some are apostate Jews that are hiding as sheep in wolves clothing.
Time will expose who is supportive or not. Reply

Irving Gainesville, FL February 3, 2009

The claim that American conservatives are more supportive of Israel than American liberals is like saying conservative Israelis are more supportive of Israel than liberal Israelis. Nonsense. Reply

John Berka Grand Prairie, Texas February 3, 2009

A huge difference is that democrats(liberals) are far less committed to support of Israel than are republicans(conservatives).America has long been the friend of Israel against the rest of the world and I fear to see that friendship erroding. Reply

Patti Silver Spring, MD, USA January 29, 2009

In Ethics of my Father I have read over and over, ---"The government is not your friend."
I believe it. Reply

mordechai January 27, 2009

How true. Except for a very limited number of issues there is absolutely no difference between the two major parties. It is like in Israel where Labor and Likud predict disaster if the other one wins. After the election they form a coalition because there is really no difference at all between the two parties. Reply

Esther Hallandale, Fl. January 27, 2009

When I vote for president its usually based on who will be the best for world peace,for Israel and U.S.A (at least in the last few elections) I call myself an independent although most of my views are conservative. Our past presi dent Bush held promise as he wasn't interfering in Israel-etc. etc. ---However maybe through force he did. So now- our new Pres. Obama---we are headed toward a decline of morality,probably too much Gov. control and higher taxes---but whatever their should be checks and balances and we'll get through it. When it comes to peace-will Obama ? (who promises peace for all) finally realize we don't have peace partners with the Muslims in control all over----unless through some miracle the world joins forces in stoping the terrorists threats to the world---Hopefully is heart and mind will work together. But ultimately he's right each one of us can make a difference-and imaybe if we believe peace is achievable we'll make it happen. With G'ds help. Reply

Anonymous Drain, Or January 27, 2009

I've read the comments , and todays liberal is more of a socilalist than one who belives in running the country acording to Torah. I've found no where in Torah that the Governing body on this earth is to provide for everyone, or that the wealthy are to support the poor. The wealthy are to help the poor,and the poor are to help themselves.
Todays Goverment has many programs to help people and most don't do what they are set up to do. Our President both Bush and Obama are printing money and guess who is going to pay it back? YOU the taxpayer and in the mean time the dollar is worth less with each dollar printed.So I ask you what has changed between this President and the last? Reply

Ephraim Feyertag Milwaukee, WI January 27, 2009

Dear Naftali,

I fear you drank the Kool-Aid. What you are witnessing is the difference between Right-Wing Progressives and Left-Wing Progressives. They might compliment each other in some ways but, their actions are more important than what they say. In reality the ONLY difference between them are whether to speak "softly and carry a big stick". An American nationalist on the other hand understands that first if you are going to have a nation there that to be borders on the citizens behavior. No borders on behavior, no borders for the country. There has to be a culture that emphasizes otherness like Torah or the Sheva Mitzvot. Lastly, there has to be one language.

To summerize: you are watching a tag team with a narrow set of rules for the purpose of entertaining you and misdirecting you from their real purpose.Not going beyond the limits. Study the Torah, The Federalist Papers, the Seven Noahide Laws, David Hamelech, Washington, Lincoln, the the Rebbe: the standard of Leadership Reply

Irving Gainesville, FL January 27, 2009

Liberal ideas such as Justice within the law, due process as a right, taking responsibility for the wellbeing of our neighbors, sharing the wealth with the poor, rights for slaves, using war as a last resort. These ideas were non-existant before Torah and never the basis for a nation's existence before the United States of America. Of course civilization evolves e.g. no more slaves rather than slaves rights and social programs rather than gleanig collections, but the spirit of Torah and America is a liberal spirit. Reply

David Anonymous Berkeley, CA January 27, 2009

Irving doesn't define "liberal". Is it "liberal" to say you shall not steal? To say that gay sex is an abomination? as to "Two documents"; The Declaration of Independece was a polemic devoid of political or legal force. The Constitution, of course, defined a slave as 3/5 of a human being.???Hyperbole, Irving? Reply

Anonymous St Louis, MO January 27, 2009

You had me as long as you were talking about the speech. That's where the similarities end. Speech. The only common denominator between democrat and republican officials is that they'll all say whatever it takes to get elected; but that's where it stops. Just words.

Action is all that really matters.

Of course democrats WANT a strong military. But their actions are to the contrary. Of course republicans WANT a better environment. But their actions are to the contrary etc etc. It seems like the democrats rely on the republicans for security and the republicans rely on the democrats to care for the downtrodden.

The clear underlying difference between democrats and republican is this: Democrats champion equality and republicans champion personal responsibility. Republicans believe you need to earn your keep. Democrats believe we've all earned our keep because, well just because.

We must all get along, but let's not pretend that these differences don't exist. Reply

David Anonymous Berkeley, CA January 27, 2009

whatever government gives, it can take away. Increased dependency isn't freedom, and taking tax dollars from free nterprise isn't free Reply

Irving Gainesville, FL January 27, 2009

The two most "liberal" documents ever produced by G-d or man are Torah and the Declaration of Independence/Constitution of the United States of America. Liberals want to provide a teat for the laziest and least creative amongst us? Hyperbole; not dialogue. Liberals want a weak military? Hyperbole; not dialogue. If we are to ever hope for peace we must dialogue. Nonsense and hyperbole are a rejection of dialogue. Reply

Kelly Dubuque, IA January 27, 2009

Every politician can get the attention of a majority of Americans by talking about liberty & freedom. It's the foundational principle that made the nation strong. But not every policy supports freedom, and not every program encourages liberty. Of course we give and take what is necessary to get along, but there certainly is a differentiation between slavery & freedom, and I do hope "the people" are willing to demand it of those who represent them. If not then those souls no longer represent, but begin to rule, and where is liberty then? G-d help whatever power is in charge from season to season, to discern that they represent a free people. And.may He grant them strength to serve rather than reign. Reply

jerry listokin pompano beach, fl., U.S.A. January 27, 2009

dear natalie
social programs [medicare, head start for children, social security] versus let the free market sort it out. dialogue and the stoping of torture versus unilateral war against the wrong country [saudi arabians hijacked planes and flew them into the world trade centers].find something else to write about. you're way off base on this one Reply

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Naftali SilberbergRabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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