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The party of “We” versus the party of “Me”

April 21, 2012

Generally speaking, I hate generalizations. I usually prefer to attempt to distill concepts down to their irrefutable, fundamental truths. But, sometimes there are concepts or perceptions that resist the boiling process and must remain generalizations. Such is the case with trying to characterize Republicans and Democrats. There are no fundamental truths with either population so maybe the best we can do is ask a few questions and speculate as to how a member of each party might respond.

Who is more likely to say:

Democrats

Republicans

“Most can get ahead if they work hard”

X

“U.S. stands above all other countries”

X

“Defense spending should be cut”

X

“We should change Social Security”

X

“The UN is a valuable institution”

X

“The US should have a stronger relationship with China”

X

“Islam encourages violence among believers”

X

“I oppose gay marriage”

X

“Government should play a role in fighting childhood obesity”

X

 “I’ve got mine now you go get yours”

???

The first nine are actual question asked by the Pew Research Center in their 2011 Political Typology Callback Survey. The last one I’ve left unanswered because it’s clearly an opinion. What would you say? For me, that is the seminal question and from my perception the answer is unquestionably “Republican.”

Try coming up with your own questions and see if any characterizations emerge. Which party is eager for war? Which party is against immigration? Which part wants to cut Medicare? Which party didn’t want to save General Motors? After considering your speculative answers to your questions, do any patterns emerge? They did for me. People most likely to put their own interest before the interests of society are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. Could that be why Republicans tend to be wealthier than Democrats? Does the following graphic capture this relationship?

I’ve thought about those questions and unshackled by the need for definitive proof or irrefutable facts my conclusion is that there are two political party poles on the scale of altruism, the party of “We” and the party of “Me”. The sweet spot is in the middle where there is party overlap and “We” balances “Me” but I fear the ellipses are migrating toward the extremes to the detriment of all.

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