Two Political Junkies (http://2politicaljunkies.blogspot.com/) had a post about how the Trib was refuting Arlen Specter's claim he voted with Democrats even before he turned Democrat. That post got me to to thinking about how often in general Republicans vote together, versus how often Democrats do, which led me to this thought:
Suppose you are the canonical space alien who visits earth. You understand English, and you have been told about our political systems. You have also been told that of the two political parties, Republicans value individual freedoms over government control/action, and also believe the free market is a superior economic engine and should be as free of government control as possible. Meanwhile Democrats (who also value individual freedoms in some areas - "reproductive rights") believe that the free market slips in some areas such as pollution, monopolies and even income inequity, and we are a wealthy enough nation we can stand to regulate the market some. Democrats also believe that it is a good idea to address poverty in our country, for short term humanitarian reasons but perhaps more importantly to help poor children do better than their parents (again, there is a component of us being wealthy enough to tax the rich more and transfer some money to the less wealthy).
If you (the space alien) then looked at the behavior of Representatives and Senators in Congress after hearing these descriptions of the parties, you might be forgiven if you thought the party that votes together consistently is the Democrats, while the party that, even though it holds a majority, can not seem to get its members to vote together is the Republicans. I mean, for a party that flirts with claiming the libertarian label (they certainly want the libertarians to vote for Republicans), you might think the Republicans would encourage individualism in their own party. Seems rather the opposite.
Meanwhile, the hapless Democrats seem unable to enforce discipline on their own members. I keep thinking of when the Republicans were talking about themselves as the "Big Tent" party during the early Bush II administration. Now that mantle seems to rest more naturally on Democrats, yet it only seems to have negative connotations.
Is there a point to this little essay? Not really, I just get annoyed when Republicans, who seem to have to vote as a top down monolith, talk about the importance of individual freedoms. I guess their idea of freedom is the "Donna Reed Show" or "Leave it to Beaver" late fifties freedom, when everyone just happened to agree (or at least everyone whose opinion mattered).