Jessica’s Note: Do you ever get confused trying to explain the difference between Republicans and Democrats to your children? I took my boys (ages 6 and 5) with me to vote in our primaries. It seemed like a good idea, and plus, everyone on Instagram was doing it. 🙂 They were perfectly behaved until the shade-in-the-ballot part, when they had a rather loud
fight discussion over who got to color.
On the way home, my oldest barraged me with all types of questions. “Mom, who did you vote for? Why? What do the other guys do that you don’t like?” etc. etc.
I consider myself well-infomed, but I found myself a little tongue-tied and confused trying to explain Republicans vs. Democrats to a child. I wondered if any of you felt that way, also?
Whenever I am confused about politics, I go to my cousin Rebecca. Her credentials are impressive – Political Science major, law degree, former prosecutor.
But more than that, she is wise. I remember being a spreading-my-wings teenager when I had an uncomfortable thought. What if my parents’ beliefs are wrong? What does being a Republican or Democrat really mean?
So I asked Rebecca. And two decades later, her words still ring in my ears. I appreciate her wise words, and how she has attempted to remain unbiased as she describes the differences.
How To Explain The Difference Between Republicans And Democrats To A Child
Politics are confusing, even for adults. This year’s political cycle is even more confusing than most. Anything that confuses and parents is sure to raise questions in children.
As the primaries roll on, many children are asking questions about the two major political parties and what all the arguing means. This year’s political cycle is more emotionally charged than most. Those emotions can make it difficult for parents to fairly explain political differences to children. Goodness knows, as an avid sports fan, I could not objectively describe the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
As a public service, I have endeavored to distill the differences between the parties into fair terms that children can understand.
To keep the baseball analogy alive, the two parties are like the American and the National Leagues in baseball. If you have a little sports fan in your home, perhaps this analogy might help. In politics, the primaries are like the early playoff rounds. The parties will pick their winner like the American and National Leagues pick theirs. In baseball, the league winners play in the World Series. In politics, the primary winners will face off in the general election. The winner of the general election becomes President of the United States.
Jessica’s note: Here’s another take on it, in case your kids aren’t eloquent in the language of baseball. 🙂 Imagine the boys and the girls in a class wanted to see who was the best at something. The boys would have a contest to pick their very best boy. That’s like the primary. And then all the girls would pick their best girl. And then everyone in the school would choose between the best boy, and the best girl. The winner over all is like the President.
Back to our baseball analogy. In baseball, there are differences between the leagues. One league has a designated hitter and considers the foul poll “fair.” The other league does not.
There are also basic differences between the political parties.
Because politicians are individuals, it is hard to speak in absolutes. The differences I am about to describe are generalities. They are also based on the modern era of the parties (which begin with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil).
The Role Of Government
In the most general terms, the biggest difference between the parties comes down to the view of the proper role of government.
The Republican party generally believes that it is the responsibility of individuals and communities to take care of people in need. The Democratic party generally believes that the government should take care of people. In general, the Republican party believes that if government needs to do a job then it is best for the local governments like cities and counties to make those decisions. The Democratic party believes that the federal government has more resources and is therefore in a better position to do those jobs.
Practical example for a child: There are a lot of people who don’t have enough food to eat. Republicans believe that people like you and me should help them, and our churches should help them. The Democrats believe that the government needs to spend its money to help them get food.
What Should Laws Be Based On?
In terms of making laws about right and wrong, Republicans are generally more comfortable making laws about families and children based on what is written in religious books. Democrats believe that it is not appropriate for government to interfere with people’s choices about families and children.
Practical example for a child: If your child is old enough, this is a good opportunity to appropriately introduce a concept such as of abortion and/or gay marriage. My oldest is six, and I have not introduced these topics yet. (I’m curious when you all have done so?)
How to Deal With Greedy Businesses
Republicans believe that when businesses are tempted to be greedy then the customers will keep that greed in check. Democrats believe that the government should step in to stop businesses from being sinful.
How To Avoid Wars
One of the most important jobs that a President has is to decide when the country goes to war. Neither party wants America to fight in wars. Most Republicans believe that the best way to stay out of wars is to have a strong army that other people are afraid to fight. Most Democrats believe that the best way to stay out of wars is to be cooperative and not intimidate other countries.
Another important job of the President is to pick Supreme Court justices. Traditionally, Republicans believe that Supreme Court justices should make their decisions based on what the founding fathers originally wrote in the Constitution. Democrats tend to believe that Supreme Court justices should make decisions based on what they think is right or wrong for our country now in modern times.
Although there is right and wrong in the world, it is important to remember that no political party is actually called by God to rule the nation. Neither party is the House of David, and most people in both parties do truly want to what is best for our nation.
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I’d love to know: Do you agree with this analysis? If you don’t, or you’d like to add something, please clarify below!
Bio: Rebecca Wetzel has a B.A. in political science from Grove City College, and a J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law. She is a former prosecutor for over a decade in VA and a founding partner in the law firm of Wetzel and Washburn. In her spare time, she shares totally yummy recipes and thoughtful sports reflections at Banshee Sports.
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