Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ezra Klein on Democrats vs. Republicans

Ezra Klein comments on the difference between our two parties on

Democrats are motivated by specific policy deliverables while Republicans are motivated by broader philosophical principles.

Democrats prefer politicians who compromise, and Republicans prefer politicians who stick to their principles. This is true even when a Republican holds the presidency.

Democratic presidents talk more about policy, propose more specific policy ideas, and pass more significant pieces of legislation. The numbers are stark. Since 1945, Democratic presidents have put forward 39 percent more policy proposals than Republican presidents, and 62 percent more domestic policy proposals."

There is a good reason for this asymmetry," write Grossmann and Hopkins. "Democrats and liberals are more likely to focus on policymaking because any change that occurs is much more likely to be liberal than conservative. New policies usually expand the scope of government responsibility, funding, or regulation. There are occasional conservative policy successes as well, but they are less frequent and are usually accompanied by expansion of government responsibility in other areas."

I've often heard liberals wonder why there's no Democratic version of the Tea Party. I've often heard conservatives complain that their party doesn't spend enough time coming up with serious policy solutions for issues like health care. And, to be sure, there are some liberals trying to popularize Tea Party–like tactics and some conservatives trying to come up with sweeping new health reforms.

But it's hard for these initiatives to succeed. There's a tendency to imagine the parties as mirror images of each other, and thus to believe they can easily follow the other's strategies. But they can't. The parties are good at different things because they really are different.

That difference, however, can lead to deep misunderstandings. Democrats tend to project their preference for policymaking onto the Republican Party — and then respond with anger and confusion when Republicans don't seem interested in making a deal. Republicans tend to assume the Democratic Party is more ideological than it is, and so see various policy initiatives as part of an ideological effort to remake America along more socialistic lines.

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