Political parties are something like parents. They shouldn’t be, but they are. We need both parents, but sometimes we need one more than the other. At this time, do we need a Mommy or a Daddy?
Many people see themselves as children, so they feel more comfortable with a Mommy, so they vote Democratic. Mommy makes our meals. She packs lunch for us to take to school. When we cry, she feels our pain. When we skin our knees, she puts on a bandage. She makes sure each one gets an equal share of cookies. She takes care of us in the ways that a small child needs to be taken care of.
But then we become teenagers. We begin to assert our independence. We need less care and more advice. We begin distancing ourselves from our family of origin and preparing to start our own family. There are exceptions, but often Mommy is reluctant to see her baby grow up, while Daddy is more supportive of our maturity.
The first difference, then, is whether we see ourselves as children or as maturing adults. Children need care from Mommy, so they tend to vote Democratic. Maturing adults need advice from Daddy, so they tend to vote Republican.
The second difference is whether the times are ordinary. If they are, we want Mommy to care for us, see that we take our lunch to school, make sure everyone gets an equal share of cookies, and put a bandage on our skinned knees. That is, we want school lunches, a high and progressive tax rate, and national health care.
Single women ‒ especially single mothers ‒ tend to vote Democratic, while married women tend to vote Republican. It is often said that this is because welfare programs take the role of husband and father. But it would be more correct to say that welfare programs take the role of Grandma, who cares for unwed mothers and their kids. Welfare programs do not take Daddy’s place ‒ they provide no family stability, they impose no discipline on kids, they impart no ideal of lifelong commitment, and they supply no positive male role models. In the end, nothing can take Daddy’s place.
If times are ordinary, we want government to distribute everything “fairly,” according to its notion of fairness. We want government to take care of us when we retire, rather than empowering us to control part of our retirement fund. We want government not merely to assure that everyone has access to health care, but actually to provide that care ‒ or not provide it, at its whim. And for all this – or rather for the hope of all this – we allow the government to take much of our money in taxes, make many spending decisions for us, and reduce us to the status of kids on an allowance.
But if times are not ordinary, we need Daddy, so we tend to vote Republican. When we are threatened by bullies, we want Daddy to give us advice, and to handle the bully if we can’t. When darkness falls, we feel insecure until Daddy comes home. When we are under attack by terrorists who use their own young people as explosive devices, we need our leaders to take strong measures. We don’t want government to feel our pain; we want government to give terrorists pain.
We want government to be less concerned with the rights of accused terrorists, and to be more concerned with the rights of citizens to be safe from terrorists. We want government to be less concerned with theoretical fairness, and more concerned with actual safety. We want government to be less concerned with how the economic pie is sliced, and more concerned with freeing us to bake a bigger pie for everyone to enjoy.
True, these are generalizations. There are exceptions. And it is also true that for every advantage there is a disadvantage. Mommy is more caring and nurturing, but she also can be over-controlling, thus smothering our maturation into adulthood. Daddy is stronger and protects us from bullies, but he also can be a bully himself.
We might prefer a government that combines the best features of both Mommy and Daddy. But unless we are careful, we will find ourselves saddled with a government that combines the worst features – an over-controlling mother, and a brutal father. If you doubt this, look at the totalitarian record of Marxists. Look at the all-encompassing demands of radical environmentalists. Look at how oddly similar the two are.
And look at the 2700-page ObamaCare law, which will control virtually every aspect of our lives with the excuse of caring for us ‒ and will be enforced by thousands of new IRS agents. There you have it: over-controlling Mommy plus bullying Daddy. If we do not work really hard until Election Day, Democrats will be returned to office for another four years, and the transformation of America will probably be irreversible.
We have to choose between real alternatives, not some theoretical ideal:
● We have to decide whether we see ourselves as children who need to be cared for, or as adults who stand on their own feet.
● We have to decide whether we want government to provide us with “free stuff,” or whether we want to earn what we get.
● We have to decide whether we will live within our means, or whether we will burden our children and grandchildren with monstrous debt.
● We have to decide whether we will make things better by our own efforts, or whether we will merely whine and blame others.
● We have to decide whether we want gasoline prices to be lowered by increasing the supply through drilling, or whether we want prices to remain high while we blame “speculators,” as Lenin did and Obama does.
● We have to decide whether we need someone to feel our pain, or someone to give our enemies pain.
● We have to decide whether we want leaders who talk endlessly about a “sensitive, thoughtful” war on terrorists, or leaders who actually fight terrorists.
● We have to decide whether we want government to give us all its notion of a fair share, or to keep us safe to enjoy any share at all.
● We have to decide whether we want leaders who have a guaranteed plan for retreat and surrender, or leaders who have an uncertain plan for victory.
If this were a perfect world, we wouldn’t want the government to be our parent. We would want it to be our partner in managing the affairs of our nation. But this is far from a perfect world, and we are far from perfect citizens.
Some of us are emotional children, looking for Mommy to care for them. And others of us are emotional teenagers, looking for Daddy to make things right when they make a mess of their lives. What did we expect? Until we become emotional adults, we shouldn’t be surprised when government morphs into a noxious mixture of Big Mommy and Big Daddy.
If this were a perfect world, we could look for the perfect spouse, the perfect friend, the perfect job, and the perfect car. But in this imperfect world, such perfectionism causes us to end up as unmarried, friendless, unemployed pedestrians. The same principle holds in politics. The Perfect Party exists only in our imaginations. In the real world, we have to choose between the Mommy Party and the Daddy Party. At this time in history, I choose the Daddy Party.
A prior version of this column appeared in 2007. Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.