There’s an old song lyric that begins “Two different worlds..we live in two different worlds.” At the end of the song, the lovers turn those “two different worlds” into one.
In politics these days, Republicans and Democrats also live in different worlds–but they show little or no interest in merging them, or finding common ground.
Take the issue of personal responsibility, for example. (Invoking the importance of encouraging individual responsibility is the GOP’s standard reason for opposing virtually all government social programs.)
Here’s my question: how do Republicans who want to reduce the size of government until it is “small enough to drown in a bathtub” propose that citizens “take responsibility” for things like the recent West Virginia chemical spill? How, precisely, are individuals supposed to assume responsibility for things like the purity of their drinking water, or for the air they breathe, or the safety of the food they purchase and consume?
Even Republicans who concede that government has a role to play in these matters, however, will insist that individuals are personally responsible for their own economic status.
If you believe that poor people are poor because they don’t work hard (and rich people are rich because they do)– a belief shared by most Republicans, according to a recent poll– do you also blame poor people for failing to take “personal responsibility” for a lack of available jobs? What additional “personal responsibility” should be exhibited by the millions of working poor–the folks working 40 or more hours a week at jobs that don’t pay them enough to get by?
Today’s Republicans and Democrats do live in two different worlds. The Republican world is tantalizingly simple: a place where virtue is rewarded with success in the best Calvinist tradition–a world where those who work hard, attend church and marry someone of the opposite gender will prosper.
Democrats and Independents occupy a messier reality, where luck and privilege explain the gap between the haves and have nots more often than diligence and talent, and where simple explanations–however comforting– rarely tell the whole story.
In the Republican reality, government is unnecessary; in the reality inhabited by everyone else, it’s essential.