When I was teaching, my students always complained that there were no differences between Democrats and Republicans.
They said the candidates were just the same old white guys talking about the same old issues. There was no zing in the campaigns, no excitement. The positions of the candidates were always centered around the middle and that was boring. They overlooked one fundamental difference between the two parties.
Governments regulate the behavior of people. That’s what they do. They regulate the health and safety of the community by licensing, inspecting, citations, setting standards.
The entire food chain from field to restaurant to store is regulated to ensure that the food is fresh and edible. The workplace is regulated so that workers don’t suffer from health hazards and unsafe working conditions.
I don’t have to remind you of the various traffic laws that we obey without thinking every day. Governments regulate the behavior of people. The key question is how do they regulate that behavior.
If governments force you to obey laws you had no voice in making or what voice you have is ignored, that’s a tyranny.
If government’s laws reflect your position, even if it doesn’t embrace all of your positions, that’s a democracy.
In a democracy, the enforcement of those laws should be even handed, not favoring or punishing people based on governmental biases. Here is where we have the key difference between the two political parties in America.
Democrats believe that behavior can be regulated through law. Lay down the standards that people must abide by and they will abide by them. Standards should be broad enough to allow for the unexpected but narrow enough to prevent the gross abuses. Once the law is passed, the job is essentially done.
Republicans, on the other hand, believe that behavior is regulated by social pressure, good manners, societal mores. To be effective, government must control the means of socialization-church, school, family. That’s the basis of their preoccupation with the culture wars. Government is merely a means of enforcing social norms.
This also explains their commitment to small government. You don’t need government to do anything but defend the country if government is an instrument of the social order. You might not even need police, like Libertarians claim, because people would police themselves. Ostracism, bullying, the veiled insult, the demeaning laughter, sneers and derision work well to keep people in line.
This strain of American political thought goes all the way back to the Puritans. Hester’s public A was there not so much to identify her as a sinner as to ensure the community had the opportunity to punish her daily. The stocks publicly humiliated the miscreant by singling him out. It also let the community throw garbage and taunt him as well. Conformity enforced by the powers that be ensures a happy and successful life.
Knowing this helps us understand the Texas legislature’s new anti-abortion law.
The Texas legislature has passed a law letting vigilantes sue anybody who helped someone get an abortion after a heartbeat is detected. Anyone. Cab driver, the guy who opened the door for her when she left the hotel, the receptionist at the clinic, the woman who gave her a magazine in the waiting room, her parents who accompanied her, her doctor who counseled her, the man who impregnated her – anybody can be sued by anybody off the street and that person who sues gets paid $l0,000 by the Texas government.
Since enforcement is in the hands of random citizens instead of officially in the hands of government, the Republicans on the Supreme Court have decided to let the law stand unchallenged and unreviewed. (Roberts was the exception but he objected to the slur on the Court that the law represents, not to the law itself.)
It has come to this. Republicans are lighting torches for the villagers to use in storming the castle where the unknown and different lives. Will government turn a blind eye to pogroms and lynchings like they did in the good old days of the l950s?
Letting anybody sue anybody associated with an abortion is the modern equivalent of public stoning. I wonder what my students would think of the two political parties today.
Dr. Jane Elza, Ph.D., retired, is a resident of Valdosta.