"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." -- Declaration of Independence
Those words, written by Thomas Jefferson, set forth the foundation upon which 13 struggling colonies declared their independence from England, then the world's preeminent power, and launched the great experiment known as the United States of America.
For centuries the concept of divine right, that basic human rights are bestowed upon us by God, and not derived from government, has been at the core of America's system of government. But now, one political party — the one which ironically counts Thomas Jefferson as one of its founding fathers, has abandoned that philosophy preferring instead to credit government as the source of our rights.
It is a profound paradigm shift, and one that captures in a nutshell the differences between the two political parties competing for control of the federal government this November. We have arrived at a critical juncture, for this election will determine whether the foundation laid by Jefferson, Washington, Adams and our Founding Fathers will continue to undergird the American existence, or whether we will abandon that course for new and uncharted waters.
A recent Lincoln Institute survey of delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions found the GOP continues to adhere to its belief in natural right — that our rights are bestowed upon us by our "Creator," while Democrats view their rights as having been granted to them by government. Ninety-eight percent of Republican delegates/alternates said our rights are God-given, while 71% of Democrats believe our rights are derived from government.
Back in the 1990s there was published a best-selling book entitled Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The point of the book was to illustrate the wide gulf that exists in the manner in which men and women view relationships, and the world at large. Applied to the current divide between the political parties, an apt title would be Republicans are from Mercury, Democrats are from Pluto.
There is little common ground. Further illustrating the divide is the way in which delegates/alternate delegates from the two parties view the role of government in society. Ninety percent of the Republicans surveyed said government is an adversarial force, while 94% of Democrats believe government is a positive force. That theme played out in issue after throughout the survey.
By wide margins Democratic delegates/alternates feel the Obama Administration's policies have made America more secure. By equally large margins, Republican delegates/alternates believe Obama foreign policy has made the nation less secure. The delegations are polarized on the President's handling of the war in Afghanistan, with 83% of Democrats saying the administration is on the right track, and 92% of Republicans saying it is on the wrong track.
The divide between the delegations is wide on the economy. Eighty-eight percent of the Democratic delegates/alternates surveyed say the economy is on the right track, while 100% of the Republicans say the economy is headed in the wrong direction. In terms of expanding the Bush era tax rates, 70% of Republican delegates/alternates want the cuts made permanent for all Americans, 80% of Democrats would let the cuts expire for those earning above $250,000 per year.
Enactment of a Right to Work law produced a rare area of agreement between the two delegations. Ninety-six percent of Republican delegates/alternates support enactment of a Right to Work law, which means that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a union. Fifty-four percent of Democratic delegates/alternates agreed. The two delegations also found common ground on privatization of Pennsylvania's liquor stores with 96% of Republicans and 54% of Democrats supporting such a move.
Finally, the delegations self-describe themselves at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Ninety-eight percent of Republicans classify themselves as conservative, and 2% as moderate. Sixty-seven percent of Democratic delegates/alternates identify themselves as liberal, 27% as moderate and 6% as conservative.
The picture to emerge from the surveys: voters in November will have a crystal clear choice between the two candidates and the direction in which they would take America over the coming four years.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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