Just looking at the video images of the two conventions — the Republican one last week in Tampa, Florida, and this week’s Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC — one can see the fundamental contrast between the rank-and-file of the two parties.
They are really and truly different cohorts.
Scanning the Republican delegates and convention-goers in Tampa, one labors mightily to find even one black face, or even an obvious brown latino face or an asian face. It is a white, and predominantly male, crowd that one sees. It is also an angry crowd, cheering at the venom spewed against Democrats, welfare recipients, immigrants and others who are not part of the “real America,” of allegedly self-reliant white men.
Scanning the Democratic convention’s delegates and attendees, meanwhile, one is immediately struck by what an ethnic stew it is, with blacks and latinos, whites, asians and even Native Americans all mixed together, with straights and gays standing side by side. And these people are cheering passionately when speakers talk inspiringly about the need to take action to support those who are less fortunate — the poor, the immigrants who came to the US with their parents as little children, and grew up in the US, who could now be deported to countries of their birth where they may not even speak the language, the disabled, the unemployed.
The big difference between these two groups of people, and the masses of rank-and-file supporters of the two parties across the nation, is clear: Republicans are, by and large, a selfish, smug, and angry group of white people who don’t want anyone cutting in on their turf, who don’t want to have the government do anything to help the less fortunate with their tax dollars, and who, by the way, want their own taxes lowered, but also want all kinds of benefits from the government, like tax credits for their businesses, and to send their kids to private schools. Democrats are, for the most part, a multi-racial group who believe that government should help the less fortunate, whether it’s getting access to health care, paying for food, sending small children to daycare so the parent(s) can work, getting job training, ensuring access to clean water and clean air, or having good schools for their kids. They are generous people who are concerned about others, not just themselves.
What is different about the Parties themselves is also apparent.
The Republican Party, in terms of both its organizational leadership and its elected officials, is closely aligned with its rank-and-file membership. The membership wants immigrants deported and wants a military-style policing of the nation’s borders to prevent illegal entry. Its elected officials also favor such action. The membership wants more military funding and more wars. The elected leaders from that party also want those things. Its members want lower taxes for the wealthy, and that’s what the elected officials in Congress want to give them. There is a strong congruity between what the Republican base favors, and what the elected officials push for in Congress.
With the Democrats, something else is going on.
The Democratic base wants to cut military spending and end the wars, but the Democratic President, Barack Obama, and most of the Democrats elected to Congress, support more war, support a militarist foreign policy, and keep pouring money into the military budget, which is at this point about as large as the rest of the world’s military budgets combined, and consumed half of the tax dollars collected each year, when the cost of military-related debt interest, veterans’ care and benefits, and intelligence costs are added in. The Democratic base wants more funding for schools, action on global climate change, a public jobs program, a national health care program, more scholarship aid for college students, a break-up of the big banks, a strong defense of Social Security and Medicare, new laws protecting and expanding the rights of unions to organize and bargain with management, and other such progressive change, but the Democratic president and Democrats in Congress won’t give them any of that.