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Many of us are confused by the cloudy messages coming from the major political parties. What do they really stand for? What is their position on major issues? Forget what they say. What will they do?

It is easy to identify the extreme fringes of the two major political parties in the United States. Tune in to talk radio and you will likely hear the host warning the listener about the real intentions of those on the extreme left. On Sunday morning television, the hosts and commentators often gang up on the token right-winger. The question is: Where is the mainstream?

The real people who make up the bulk of the electorate are not on the extreme fringes of either political party. These are common folk with genuine concerns on both sides of the political aisle. Where do the sensible Democrats and Republicans stand on the issues? This table illustrates 10 common differences:

Democrat

vs.

Republican

Judicial Activist

vs.

Strict Constructionist

Representative Democracy

vs.

Representative Republic

Active Government

vs.

Limited Government

Regulated Capitalism

vs.

Free Enterprise

Higher Taxes

vs.

Lower Taxes

Left Wing

vs.

Right Wing

Liberal

vs.

Conservative

Pro Choice

vs.

Pro Life

Environmental Protection

vs.

Economic Growth

Public Education

vs.

School Vouchers

At the heart of the difference between these two parties is how they interpret the constitution. Republicans believe the wording of the constitution was carefully crafted by the original architects of the document and that it may only be changed by constitutional amendment. Democrats believe that the Supreme Court should interpret the constitution with a view of modern times and issues in mind. They sometimes call it a “living document” that grows and changes with the nation it was written to preserve.

A common misconception holds that the form of government in the United States is a democracy. It is not a democracy. The majority does not always rule. The United States has a form of government that guarantees representation for all citizens and not just the majority. The Democrat view leans toward the will of the people. The Republican view leans more toward individual liberty.

Democrat leadership generally brings government that is more active in domestic issues than a Republican led administration. Republicans believe in government limited only to areas specifically spelled out in the constitution.

Both parties recognize the freedom to own property and business. The Democrats are more likely to step in and manage the capitalist economy. Republicans, on the other hand, would rather let the marketplace determine the ebb and flow of the economy.

Since Democrat leaders are more likely to invest in social projects, taxes to fund these programs often rise during a Democratic administration. Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely to cut or limit taxes. Critics argue that tax cuts can produce budget deficits. It is a delicate balance.

The Left Wing refers to the extreme liberal arm of the Democrat party. Conversely, the Right Wing refers to hard line conservatives of the Republican party.

The terms liberal and socialist are often used synonymously in error. Liberalism generally refers to the looser interpretation of the constitution. Conservatism refers to the stricter, more literal interpretation.

With only a few exceptions, the parties are generally polarized on the subject of abortion. Democrats are generally pro-choice, while the Republicans are pro-life.

Democrats in power generally regulate in favor of the environment at the cost, sometimes, of economic growth. Republicans, though, usually resist such regulation in favor of the economy. This is a delicate balance which must be maintained.

Finally, the subject of education has divided the country along party lines in recent years. Democrats favor the public school system and want to keep government educational dollars in the system. Republicans favor the use of school vouchers to divert tax dollars to private schools when students attend those institutions.

These political parties are both populated by patriotic Americans who love their country. There are differences on many topics and there is much room for debate. Thankfully, the American people are free to disagree. May the best candidate win.