Many political commentators today are perplexed by what seems to be the increasing polarization of the two party system in America, and the rising tensions that have accompanied a rhetorical arms race of inflammatory cross fire.
It is my contention that the Republican and Democratic Parties are not in fact drifting further apart than ever before, but over recent decades have actually become more and more like each other, and that today they are nearly indistinguishable from each other in terms of the substantive policy results each delivers when in power.
It is in fact their unprecedented similarity to each other that has given rise to the need for ever more hyperbolic product differentiation in their branded marketing, or to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare: The parties doth protest too much.
If Coke and Pepsi were actually very different from each other, they wouldn't have to spend so much money (billions of dollars a year each) to keep from losing market share to each other, but in the end– even though they are slightly different– they are essentially the same thing: a cola-flavored, carbonated beverage... and if either one lets up even a little on advertising to convince consumers that it's different and better, it will lose market share to the other.
That's what's happening with the two party system today. The two parties are actually so similar that they have to spend billions each year to differentiate themselves from the competition, but the differences aren't real– they're branded corporate marketing.
And I can prove it, with this list of 50 ways the Republican Party has sold out its own purported values.
When Republicans talk about:
I.) Limited Government II.) Constitutional Government III.) Free Markets IV.) National Defense V.) America First
...it's just talk.
And the policies they actually support end up looking just like the policies of the Democrats they say they're protecting you from.
If you're a Democrat reading this list, please do enjoy it, but don't laugh too hard, because I've also made a list of 50 major ways the Democratic Party has sold out its values.
I. Limited Government
How many times have you heard Republicans say the GOP is the party of limited government? Well here's the truth:
1. The National Debt
The Republican Party's 2016 platform says:
"The President and the Democratic party have abandoned their promise of being accountable to the American people. They have nearly doubled the size of the national debt."
Yet after taking control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, the Republican Party passed another record-setting $4 trillion dollar federal budget for FY2018.
Republican Tea Partiers complained about the new normal of trillion dollar budget budget deficits under the Obama Administration, and many Republicans were happy to get their votes, only to go to Washington and keep trillion dollar deficits under Donald Trump.
3. Debt Ceiling
Republicans complained about raising the debt ceiling when Democrats controlled the Senate, but now that they do, they have continued to raise it, and with Republicans in charge of Washington the national debt is at its highest level in U.S. history.
4. Social Security
Instead of pursuing a free market, constitutional, limited government solution to privatize Social Security, allowing people's retirement savings to earn profits and grow while powering the economy, Republicans endlessly play a game of cat and mouse with Democrats over how to keep that money in Washington's coffers.
5. Department of Homeland Security
So much for limited government. Republican President George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled House and Senate's solution to "streamline" national security was to create an entire new cabinet level department with a multi-billion dollar annual budget and broad executive powers to police and surveil the American people in violation of the 4th Amendment. Very Orwellian.
6. Department of Education
Education is nowhere to be found in the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8, so to a constitutional conservative, as Republicans claim to be, it should be entirely up to states and private institutions to manage education, not the federal government.
But when George W. Bush and the Republicans took power in Washington, they passed No Child Left Behind, an unprecedented expansion of the federal government's role in education.
7. Civil Asset Forfeiture
Civil asset forfeiture, the unconstitutional (because it violates the 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments) police practice of seizing assets from people (such as money and cars) without indictments or even evidence that a crime has been committed, skyrocketed under Obama, and is continuing under Trump.
8. Militarization of Police
The increasing militarization of state and metro police forces in the United States (the use of military weapons and tactics by police departments), is the opposite of limited government and a precipitous move in the direction of a dystopian police state.
It is contrary to the principles of the American War for Independence that created our government, which was fought by early Americans weary of English soldiers conspicuously garrisoned among the American people. It is a trend that continues under President Trump, and the Koch Brothers are warning you about it.
9. Hurricane Harvey Relief
A hurricane is a terrible thing to take advantage of to stuff a federal hurricane relief bill with billions of dollars in pork, and use it as a slush fund for special interest lobbyists.
Washington politicians aren't ashamed to abuse the public outpouring of sympathy for storm victims to appropriate more money from the people and give it to their friends, and that's just as true for Republicans as it is for Democrats.
Immigration is a pet issue of the Republican Party and rank-and-file Republican voters these days, but there's nothing "limited government" about the way ICE polices across the United States.
These are federal police getting involved in state and local crime issues that are constitutionally the prerogative of state and local governments to police. The raids they've conducted on peaceful businesses like 7-Eleven's across America to arrest immigrants who are late on their visa renewals as if they are violent criminals– are heavy-handed, disruptive, intrusive, and disrespectful of these private establishments' right to conduct their business.
II. Constitutional Government
From the 2016 RNC platform: "We believe in the Constitution as our founding document. We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant. We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations."
Many of the examples above, showing how the Republican Party has done nothing to limit government and everything to hasten its expansion, are also examples of the GOP playing fast and loose with the Constitution. Well here are ten more, and all of them double as examples of the Republican Party expanding the size, role, and influence of government.
11. Birthright Citizenship
President Trump recently announced he's going to sign an executive order and cancel the 14th Amendment with the stroke of a pen.
12. War on Drugs
When the United States outlawed intoxicating liquors in the first part of the 20th Century, it did so via constitutional amendment. Could there be a clearer precedent establishing that it is unconstitutional for Congress to outlaw narcotics? Yet that is exactly what happened under the Republican administration of President Richard Nixon, and the unconstitutional War on Drugs was ramped up by President Reagan, and continued unabated under Presidents Bush and Trump.
13. Welfare State
Charitable giving to support a social safety net for the disadvantaged and down on their luck is one of the most important things a society can do, but it doesn't have to be a function of the government.
And according to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, together with the 10th Amendment, it's not constitutional allowed to be a function of the federal government. Republicans say they'll reduce the welfare state, but they always expand it.
14. Patriot Act
15. NSA Dragnet
As whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, the Obama Administration was violating U.S. law and the Constitution with its NSA dragnet, illegally spying on the American people en masse, and Donald Trump is a huge supporter of this program.
The Fourth Amendment:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Transportation Security Administration clearly violates the letter of the law in the Fourth Amendment over a million times a day in the United States. Under Donald Trump, the pat down procedures have become even more aggressive and intrusive.
17. Executive Orders
Presidents are permitted to issue executive orders by the Constitution to carry out laws passed by Congress.
But they can't just legislate from the Oval Office and they certainly can't start canceling duly passed and signed legislation with the stroke of a single executive's pen– that's executive tyranny. And that's essentially what Donald Trump called it when Obama abused this power, but look who's doing it now.
18. Signing Statements
On the campaign trail in 2008, Sen. Obama promised he wouldn't use Bush era signing statements as president, and the former Harvard University professor of Constitutional Law explained why too (watch the video). Of course as president, he broke his promise within his first 100 days in office, and Donald Trump continues the unconstitutional practice to this very day.
Even some senior Democrats were saying Obama's "czars" were unconstitutional. And Republicans had a huge problem with it, or at least they pretended they did, because they don't seem to mind Trump's czars.
20. Carpenter vs. United States
The Trump Administration lost this case in a 5 to 4 decision of the Supreme Court, but it sure fought hard to give the FBI the power to obtain cell phone records without a warrant from a judge.
III. Free Markets
In its official platform the Republican Party says:
"We believe political freedom and economic freedom are indivisible. When political freedom and economic freedom are separated — both are in peril; when united, they are invincible. We believe that people are the ultimate resource — and that the people, not the government, are the best stewards of our country’s God-given natural resources..."
"We are the party of a growing economy that gives everyone a chance in life, an opportunity to learn, work, and realize the prosperity freedom makes possible. Government cannot create prosperity, though government can limit or destroy it. Prosperity is the product of self-discipline, enterprise, saving and in- vestment by individuals, but it is not an end in itself..."
Well let's see if they really mean it:
21. Corporate Welfare
Under the Trump Administration corporate welfare is booming, and there's nothing free market, limited government, or constitutional about it. It's the government picking winners and losers. It's wealth redistribution. It incentivizes lobbying instead of innovating. It goes against Republican values, but they do it anyway.
22. TARP Bailouts
The Troubled Asset Relief Program wasn't the free market. It was the government picking winners and losers. The free market would have let those Wall Street finance companies fail, but Washington– with George W. Bush at the helm and with a "Yes" vote from Sen. John McCain, who was the Republican nominee for president at the time– voted to socialize Wall Street's losses and make you pay for them.
23. Federal Reserve
The Constitution gives Congress the power to fix the standards of weights and measures and coin currency, but the Federal Reserve steps out of those bounds and prints money that isn't backed by any commodity, then it gives that money to institutional banks to lend out at a profit. That's not a free market, it is a very rigged one.
Everyone else has to work for their money. America's socialized banking system just gives itself money out of thin air without having to work for it. The Republican Party pays lip service to Fed transparency in its platform, but has obstructed legislation to actually get the Fed's books audited.
24. Middle Class Tax Increase
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) warned the Republican "tax cuts" would actually raise taxes on some middle class taxpayers.
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan promised their tax plan wouldn't, but then admitted it actually would a month later. The Republicans raised taxes on some middle class taxpayers.
25. Green Energy Subsidies
Taxpayer subsidies for "green energy" companies. Something only Democrats like Al Gore and Barack Obama support, right? Something Republicans stand firmly against right? Wrong.
26. Coal Bailouts
Plus an $11 billion annual taxpayer funded coal bailout.
27. Dept. of Health and Human Services
The health care sector in the United States is one of the most tightly federally regulated, controlled, and subsidized industries in the world. When Republicans get in power, instead of working to privatize it and allow free market incentives and competition to drive down prices, they continue to expand the size, role, and influence of the federal government in health care.
The Republicans' Medicare Modernization Act under Bush was the largest expansion of the federal government into medicine in U.S. history until ObamaCare came along. The individual mandate, the aspect of it most derided by Republicans, was first passed in Massachusetts by 2012 Republican presidential contender, Mitt Romney. He got the idea from the Heritage Foundation.
28. The Border Fence
There's no way businesses operating on the free market could get willing customers to voluntarily pay for this socialist government make work program disguised as a national security project.
In fact, by employing the immigrants that cross this border, selling goods to them, and leasing them places to live, the free market is clearly in favor of border crossers.
The current explosion of pork barrel spending in Republican-controlled Washington may set records.
The draconian restrictions on immigration that many Republican leaders favor interrupt the operation of the free market and actually result in worse economic outcomes for Americans and for the world.
IV. National Security
The RNC platform states:
"Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 23 that the first of the 'principal' constitutional obligations of the federal government is to provide for the 'common defense' of the United States..."
But instead of the common defense of the United States, the following are just a few examples of how the Republican Party has used the U.S. military to police the world and pick sides to fight on in foreign civil wars in which neither side is threatening the American people. Unfortunately, these actions actually make America less safe by resulting in what the CIA has termed "blowback."
31. Operation Cyclone
During the Reagan Administration, the CIA began pouring first tens of millions, then hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year worth of weapons, financing, and military training into the war torn regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The weapons, money, and training went to some of the most violent terrorist groups the CIA could find, hoping to stir up trouble for the Soviet Union, but they inadvertently created the terrorist networks that the United States is fighting today.
32. Saudi Arabia
Although Saudi Arabia is a prolific state sponsor of terrorism, the United States government, under Republicans as well as Democrats continues to send the oil rich country millions of dollars in foreign aid and sell them billions of dollars worth of military weaponry...
...while also supporting Saudi Arabia's crimes against humanity in Yemen, as the U.S. military helps Saudi Arabia fight against the Arab Spring Houthi revolution there just as the Houthis were beginning to get control over Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Pakistan is another prolific state sponsor of terrorism that is flush with American taxpayer dollars that flow out of Washington's coffers regardless of which party is in power. It's just another way that Republican policymakers as well as Democrats support endless U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts as the world's policeman, even if it's not making Americans any safer, even if it's stoking violence abroad and making Americans less safe.
In a surreal turn of events, the war in Afghanistan, now the longest running war in U.S. history, has dramatically changed from the War on Terror, a reprisal against the regime that harbored Osama bin Laden, to a literal battlefield in the U.S. War on Drugs: an endless fight against the cultivation and trade of opium. Donald Trump has escalated this misuse of the U.S. military as president.
George Bush Sr. took America to war against Iraq when it posed no threat to the United States back in 1990. This was a police action, Washington taking sides in a foreign conflict, not national defense.
Many Republican leaders continue to push for escalated tensions with Iran, even though this would commit America to another costly foreign military intervention with no national defense interest at stake, just big profits for defense contractors.
39. F-35 Fighter Jet Program
The F-35 fighter jet is a $1.5 trillion boondoggle, and Donald Trump, who said he would make sure the American people stop getting raw deals, has praised the program, revealing that American combat readiness for a reasonable price tag is not his top priority, and that protecting defense contractor profits is more important to him.
40. Veterans Suicides
Military veterans commit suicide at a markedly higher rate than the general population, and are more likely to die from suicide than in combat, yet Republicans continue to play politics with the mental and physical health of the ones they have asked so much from to fight wars of aggression and police the world.
V. America First
This has been a theme of the Republican Party since Donald Trump took it over, but is the GOP really putting America first in its policies?
It's easy to pass tariffs off as "America First" policy making, but tariffs redistribute wealth from some Americans to others. It's not America First. It's special interests first.
42. Foreign Aid
Foreign aid, the practice of sending money from poor people in rich countries to line the pockets of rich people in poor countries, has continued unabated with Republicans in power.
The Republican leadership has for many years put favoritism for Israel ahead of America's best interests at home and abroad.
44. Saudi Arabia
Is the arms deal with Saudi Arabia more about putting America First, or really more about putting defense contractor profits first?
As a candidate, Donald Trump proposed to end the U.S. defense umbrella for South Korea, China, and Japan, against North Korea, which would put America first and make these foreign powers foot the bill for their own diplomacy and defense, but as president he continues to commit American tax dollars to foreign powers.
With Republians at the helm, Washington continues to give your money to Egyptians.
47. Trump First
How can Donald Trump put America first as president while accepting gifts from foreign governments?
This appointment evidences that Republicans under Trump are still not as serious about putting America first as they are about sending trillions of your tax dollars overseas to destroy and then rebuild half of Africa and the Middle East.