While there are distinct differences between Democrats and Republicans, that wasn’t always the case.
By examining American political history, one can see that the two parties even had opposite beliefs from those they have today.
Since it’s common for political parties to cannibalize themselves or change over time, it’s important to understand political history to determine the differences between Democrats and Republicans.
Here are the major differences between the Democratic and Republican political parties.
Democrat vs. Republican (Differences Explained)
The path the Democratic and Republican parties took to reach their modern platforms is different for each one.
The Democratic Party, at least in name, is older than the Republican Party.
It can trace its origins to the Anti-Federalist movement early in American history.
The Anti-Federalist Party included members like:
- James Madison
- Thomas Jefferson
- Samuel Adams
The Anti-Federalist Party was formed in protest against the Federalist Party.
The Federalist Party included members like:
- Alexander Hamilton
- John Adams
- George Washington
The Federalists believed in a strong central government to oversee local governmental bodies.
They believed that it was the central government’s job to improve the lives of its citizens and to create and enforce laws to do so.
The Anti-Federalists believed in strong local governments.
They believed that the central government should have little say in the matters of the states.
Instead, each state should determine laws and regulations according to its own needs and the needs of its people.
One might even say that the Anti-Federalists were a precursor to modern-day libertarians.
The Anti-Federalists took on the name of the Democratic-Republican party.
This party would continue in existence for some time although it would ultimately shorten its name to Democrats.
The Republican Party was formed in 1854 by individuals who had an interest in ending slavery.
This version of the Republican Party had one of its most famous members, Abraham Lincoln, become president.
The Division Of The Republican Party
The Republican Party changed following the election in 1912.
In fact, both parties changed.
In 1912, three presidential candidates were running for office.
Woodrow Wilson was running on the Democratic ticket.
Theodore Roosevelt was running on his own ticket called the Bull Moose Party.
Finally, former President Taft was running for election once more on the Republican ticket.
The Bull Moose Party was an offshoot of the Republican Party.
It was more liberal and supported certain regulations like conservation and higher regulations on big businesses.
This was separate from the Republican Party which, instead, wanted to end monopolies but still supported less regulation in the market.
The Democrats at this time were also starting to lean more liberal in their political ideas.
They supported regulation of the market, albeit not quite as radically as the Bull Moose Party.
The result was the victory of the Democrats and the elevation of Woodrow Wilson to the presidency.
Because Theodore Roosevelt, who had been a Republican, split the party, however, two different ideologies formed.
Those who had supported the Bull Moose Party considered themselves progressives.
As a result, they ended up joining the Democratic Party following their loss and threw their support behind more left-leaning policies.
This, in turn, transformed the party into the platform which supports its modern-day beliefs.
The Republican Party, on the other hand, grew more conservative and turned its focus to business interests and economic freedom.
Due to the split in 1912 which fractured the Republican Party, one might even say that the two parties switched their ideologies.
Both were mostly centrist in terms of their ideologies, but the split caused the Democrats to become more left-leaning and the Republicans to become more right-leaning.
Those divisions would only deepen over time.
2. Role In Government
One of the major differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is each party’s approach to the role in government that it has.
The Democratic Party, which now harkens more of a Federalist viewpoint, believes in a strong federal government.
Because it covers a large range of people with different backgrounds, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations, they believe it’s the federal government’s job to ensure everyone receives fair treatment.
Local governments are too small or too skewed a certain way to ensure that fair treatment.
Thus, it’s the federal government’s job to ensure and enforce fair treatment for everyone.
Democrats also prefer a larger federal body.
The more representation the federal government has, the more accurately it can represent the needs of everyone.
Republicans believe in something different.
Their thoughts are more similar to those of the Anti-Federalists.
They believe that the federal government shouldn’t be as strong as it is.
In fact, they prefer to have fewer numbers in the government.
Instead, they believe that the bulk of power should come from local government offices and the states.
Each state should be able to pass and enforce laws according to its own needs and representations.
It’s because of this belief in the role of the government that you see a lot of opposition on certain issues.
It all has to do with the government’s role in the day-to-day lives of the American people.
Democrats and Republicans are different because Democrats believe in a large and powerful federal government whereas Republicans believe in a small and weak federal government with strong state governments instead.
A hot-button issue that both parties have differences on is the military.
Republicans tend to favor a strong military.
Because of that, they’re among those who support military funding increases.
They’re also more willing to go to war, especially in countries in the Middle East.
Some of this may have to do with their supporters being mostly business owners.
Since Republicans like to consider themselves the party of business, they recognize the profit in war.
Any time the country goes to war, it puts people to work.
Guns and ammunition need to be manufactured and shipped.
Food rations need to be grown, harvested, and processed.
Clothes and uniforms and body armor also need to be produced.
Then there’s the military, itself.
People without a job, without direction in life, or those who are looking to improve themselves, protect their country, or receive free secondary education can find employment in the military.
Some may even find a lasting career.
Because war is profitable for America, many Republicans support it.
Democrats, on the other hand, are less likely to support war and thus don’t support the military as much.
They prefer a smaller military force and thus tend to promote cutting the military budget.
They believe in using that budget for bettering domestic society.
Democrats are less likely to go to war with Middle Eastern countries.
They instead prefer to use diplomacy, trade embargoes, and other tactics to prove points or to weaken an enemy.
That’s because Democrats tend to see themselves as the party for the people.
They look at war as a moral problem rather than something from which to profit.
The loss of life isn’t worth the money that the country can make off of it.
Democrats and Republicans are different because of their stance on the military.
Republicans prefer a strong military and more funding for it whereas Democrats prefer a smaller military and less funding for it.
4. Gun Control Laws
Perhaps one of the biggest issues that sees a distinct difference between Democrats and Republicans is their stance on gun control laws.
Republicans tend to support individual freedoms.
That means they believe that citizens can make their own decisions about guns.
In particular, they’re strong supporters of the Second Amendment which covers the right to bear arms.
It’s also why many gun makers that form the NRA tend to endorse and support Republican lawmakers.
They know that the Republicans will fight against gun control laws in Congress and ensure they’re able to keep doing business.
Besides individual freedom, this again shows the Republican Party’s preference of being the party for business owners.
They want to ensure that businesses have the freedom to sell their products without much regulation from the federal government.
Republicans also tend to support the right to carry concealed weapons.
This also falls in line with their support of individual freedoms.
They believe that it’s down to the individual gun owner, if not the local government, to do what is necessary to ensure they’re owning a gun safely.
That includes locking it up properly and only using it in appropriate circumstances.
Democrats take the opposite stance.
They prefer strong gun laws that make owning certain weapons illegal.
In particular, they’re against owning guns that can quickly cause severe damage to large groups of people.
These guns tend to be assault rifles that are military-grade and not intended for civilian use.
Their platform comes from a stance on the betterment of society as a whole.
Because there have been frequent shootings, particularly school shootings, with the use of assault rifles, they believe that it should be illegal to own them.
Since these types of weapons don’t tend to be used for hunting or other recreational activities, there isn’t a need for a civilian to own one in the first place.
These types of rifles are specifically made for use in the military.
They also don’t support concealed carry.
They instead prefer weapons to be in the open.
This ensures that everyone, including law enforcement, is aware that an individual is in possession of a gun.
As a result, it’s less likely that the individual can use that firearm to cause severe harm before they’re apprehended.
Gun control laws are a serious hot-button issue between Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans tend not to support gun control laws because they believe it interferes with individual freedom and gun-making businesses.
Democrats do support gun control laws because they want the general public to feel safe in the open and at school without the risk of a shooting.
Removing certain types of guns from the market can make it more difficult for mass shootings to happen in the first place.
Republicans and Democrats also have strong differences on abortion.
Although Republicans tend to support individual freedom, they part with that stance when it comes to abortion.
Instead, their connections to various Christian churches prompt them not to support abortion.
That’s because the church, in particular Catholic, Baptist, and similar faiths, see abortion as murder.
Since the Bible considers children to be especially close to God, the choice of aborting them is in line with murder.
They do not support scientific evidence that suggests otherwise and insist that a soul enters the baby upon conception.
Anything with a soul that is then killed is murder in their eyes.
While the Constitution specifically states that there should be a separation of church and state, religious attitudes have always pervaded politics.
That’s because, for many people, religion is as inherent as their political identity.
One of the reasons that the Republican Party gained the support of evangelists is the Cold War.
During the Cold War, the government needed to ensure that their own people held to a strong, American, identity that was anti-communism.
One of the features of communism was the abolishment of religion.
To counteract that, the government pushed for an increase in the popularity of religion and started to lay the foundation for a connection between politics and religion.
Certain terms occurred more frequently when used in the political sphere like thanking God, calling Americans Christians, and other related terms.
They were pushing the national identity of Americans as Christians.
Following the Cold War, this identity continued.
Although both sides of the aisle have Christian and religious supporters, it was the 1960s that saw the Republican Party start to gain support from white evangelists.
During the 1960s, there was an increase in support for the gay community and women’s rights.
This challenged certain ideas about the nuclear family and a man’s responsibility in a heterosexual relationship.
Those concepts stem from a biblical understanding of what a family should be.
As Democrats supported gay rights and women’s rights, those with strong religious ties looked to the Republicans to fight against these ideas.
The Republican Party did and gained the support of white evangelicals, in particular.
Since then, there has always been a strong relationship between white evangelicals and the Republican Party.
Even when certain members of the Republican Party clearly did not live a very Christian lifestyle, they still manage to gain their support.
Because the Republican Party is reliant on religious individuals, particularly those in the Southeastern part of the United States, they also shoulder the responsibility of representing them.
That means they’re not as likely to support certain laws that defend abortion.
Doing so would make their religious followers leave them.
The Democratic Party, on the other hand, does support abortion.
That’s because, as the party of the people, they believe that an individual has the right to make decisions about their own body.
In particular, they believe that society is a better place when families choose to have children as opposed to having children forced on them.
It also decreases the number of children in orphanages and allows families to focus on themselves financially first before approaching the idea of having children.
Republicans also tend not to support laws that have to do with contraception.
In particular, they’re usually against laws that require employers to provide for their employees’ contraceptive coverage in their insurance policies.
This means that they have to choose an insurance policy that covers contraceptives for their employees.
Republicans believe that employers shouldn’t have to find insurance that includes that because contraception goes against God’s plan.
Democrats do support employer-paid health insurance to cover contraception because it betters society as a whole.
With fewer people needing to give up their dreams of a career to focus on their children, it means more people are able to find financial success and improve society along with their success.
6. LGBTQ+ Rights
Due to their connection to the religious right, the Republican Party largely doesn’t support the rights of the gay community.
This is a stark difference from the Democratic Party which does tend to support the gay community.
This is also another instance in which the Republican Party, which considers itself the platform for individual freedom, does not support the individual freedom to love who you wish to love.
The stance that Republicans take on the LGBTQ+ community stems from its ties to the religious right.
Its Christian members turn to the Bible to determine who a man and woman should love and marry.
According to the Bible, that means a man and woman can only love and marry one another.
However, according to the law, there is a separation between church and state.
As such, the Bible’s standard for marriage should apply to American citizens or be the foundation of a legal marriage.
However, the Republican Party continues to use this as a means to fight against certain laws that support the gay and queer community.
Besides not supporting gay marriage, Republicans also tend not to support the idea of a gay couple raising or adopting children.
That’s because they believe in the idea of a nuclear family.
That means only a husband and wife, a man and a woman, can raise a child.
Democrats believe in the opposite.
Since they tend to prefer the separation of church and state, they’re less bound by religion and are able to reflect the opinion of the people instead.
Although the LGTBQ+ community is a minority, there is widespread support for the community across majority lines.
In response, the Democratic Party endorses support that benefits the community.
That means they support gay marriage and gay adoption of children.
It was under Democratic President Barack Obama that we saw the official legalization of gay marriage.
Although gay marriage had already been legalized in several other developed countries, America had yet to follow in their footsteps.
Legalizing gay marriage allowed couples throughout the country to finally have the same protections and benefits as heterosexual married couples.
However, since gay marriage, the battleground over the LGBTQ+ community has shifted to other issues.
In particular, the rights of transgendered people have been in the crosshairs of both Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans tend not to support certain laws and protections for transgendered people, especially transgendered youth.
One such issue is the right to use the bathroom that falls in line with gender identity.
Another issue is certain insurance plans covering hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery.
Republicans believe that insurance policies shouldn’t cover these costs since they’re “cosmetic” rather than necessary.
Democrats believe in something different.
Since they believe that the transgendered community needs hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery for their own mental health and protection, they believe insurance should cover the cost.
They also believe that the transgendered community should be able to use the bathroom according to their own gender identity.
This belief stems from the fact that, at the end of the day, there is always a transgendered individual in the bathroom regardless of what bathroom it is anyway.
When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, Republicans lean on their religious backgrounds to block support whereas Democrats, driven to improve society, support the community.
Another contentious battleground and difference between Democrats and Republicans are taxes.
Republicans believe that taxes should be the same for poor and rich alike.
In reality, they tend to put the bulk of their taxes on the middle-class.
However, Republicans also believe that to keep taxes limited, they need a smaller federal government.
By reducing the government, they’ll require fewer taxes to operate.
That means that certain governmental programs, usually social in nature, will receive severe cuts.
They see taxes that are strictly placed on the wealthy citizens as a form of class warfare.
Since they represent the business class and the religious sphere, Republicans want to ensure that business owners are able to enjoy their wealth.
They want to protect the rights that the business owner or wealthy individual has to do what they want with their own money.
Democrats, on the other hand, believe in a progressive tax system.
The current division of taxes in the American government currently uses this system.
It charges an American household that earns $10,000 a year 10% of their income.
As the household earns more money, they pay more taxes.
The belief is that those who are wealthier can afford more taxes than those who make less money.
Democrats want to maintain a higher tax rate to provide social programs that can benefit society.
Social security and unemployment wages are two such programs.
During any election, one of the hot-button issues you’ll see discussed often is taxes.
Republicans prefer to keep taxes the same for everyone and limit government spending in response.
Democrats prefer to tax wealthier individuals who can afford it to support society as a whole through several different social programs.
8. Minimum Wage
One final difference between Democrats and Republicans is how they approach minimum wage.
The concept of minimum wage is a Democratic one.
It ensures that every individual receives a basic wage that ensures their livelihood.
Without it, business owners looking to earn profit through unscrupulous means might pay their workers barely anything.
Such was the case during the Industrial Revolution.
Democrats believe that the current minimum wage should be $15.
They also believe in enforcing it to ensure that every state pays their employees at least $15 an hour.
For many individuals who receive pay below that amount, it could take them out of poverty and allow them to participate in the economy more readily.
The belief is that it will improve society.
Republicans do not support an increase to $15 an hour.
They believe that raising the amount to that level will harm business owners.
They’ll have to take on fewer workers which means the economy will slow.
They also believe that a better approach is to let the states determine their minimum wage amounts.
The amount of $15 an hour, they believe, is too high for some states.
Minimum wage is another common battleground between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats support increasing the minimum wage to better society.
Republicans don’t support increasing the minimum wage since it may be detrimental to business owners.
Democrats and Republicans differ based on several philosophies.
Democrats believe in bettering society through a strong government.
Republicans believe in individual freedom and economic freedom while maintaining a Christian spirituality in the American government.
As new ideas and beliefs emerge, these two political parties will likely each experience their own splits and new parties will form as a result as has happened in the past.