What Truly Differentiates Republicans from Democrats?

(Posted 7/14/2006) - In today's politically charged environment I read daily rants from Republican and Democrat icons and lessor beings. Eliminate the hyperbole and rationalizations and what remains are two different world views.

I'd like to share an hypothesis that with three simple questions one can detect an archtype for either party affiliation. Take the test and see how you fare!

Please answer without too much thought and record your response (Yes/No) to each question. Answer all three questions before reading why I think these three questions are good predictors of party affiliation.

Question 1: Do you have a strong empathy (actual visceral feelings) for pain or joy experienced by people of different cultures or races relative to yourself?

Question 2: Do you believe in a God which intervenes in your daily life and can be petitioned with prayer?

Question 3: Do you feel most people would cheat to advantage themselves at the expense of others if they could get away with it?

Response Keys:

  • You are likely an archtypical Republican if you answered No, Yes, Yes.
  • You are likely an archtypical Democrat if you answered Yes, No, No.
  • You may be a Republican if you answered No, No, Yes.
  • You may be a Democrat if you answered Yes, Yes, No.

Based on hundreds of opinion editorials I've read crossing the political spectrum, I've reached the following conclusions:

Empathy Levels Vary:
People who tend to become Republicans have significantly lower empathy for anyone outside the circle of people they've adopted. They find it easy to say "I don't care about them" when confronted with things happening to folks outside their circle.

I believe empathy extended to all cultures and races is stronger in some folks than others. Democrats tend to think of how people outside their circle feel about things that America does (or doesn't do). Republicans call this the Liberal bleeding heart syndrome. In my opinion it is more a product of differences in the inherent empathy levels of the individuals making up the parties.

Formal Religion:
Folks who follow a formalized theistic religion believe in a God that can and does intervene in daily life by answering petitions for specific actions.

These folks generally want everyone to toe the line of their world view and such institutional religions continue to organize politically. Currently, the Republicans have become the "big tent" for all theistic religion's activist agendas.

Views on Human Nature:
Folks who join the Republican party are much more likely to call themselves pragmatists and realists. They believe that given the opportunity most individuals will cheat, that government oversight opens too many doors to corruption and self-serving management to be trusted. The private sector is seen as a better solution to all social problems because it is profit motivated and driven by markets that are believed to be self correcting and efficient (even though there is strong evidence that this is not always true).

Republicans are much more likely, as pragmatists, to use tactics that involve manipulating the system to the edges of legality to achieve their goals. They see Democrats as egg-heads, as weak and indecisive; as obstructionists who complain about the rules instead of looking to the results.

So, are you a Republican or a Democrat, or something in between? This little essay isn't meant to say which set of traits is inherently good or bad. I do believe there really is a gulf between the two parties which flows from the way we humans perceive the world and build our values around it.