So much is made about the vices and virtues of the candidates running for president that it becomes easy to believe that the American President has more individual power than he actually does. The real power of the president, however is in his administration which can be leveraged for or against the majority holding party in the both House and Senate, and which includes appointments to key positions that can directly affect the way Washington D.C. operates for decades. Often, individuals from the president’s political party fill these key positions. So when you elect a president you’re not only electing a man, you’re selecting a vision for America based on one of two major party platforms.
You can be assured that whoever the president is in the White House, their party’s platform will gain ground and influence economically, socially and politically. Regardless of whether you like or dislike either of the individual candidates for president, it is important to remember that they are just a small part of two much larger, overarching agendas that have evolved in the U.S. as a two-party system.
Republicans, (also known as the GOP) are known for being conservative on matters fiscal and social. The official Republican Party Platform for 2012 focuses on stimulating the economy by giving the private sector fewer economic and regulatory restrictions, exploring domestic fossil fuel-based energy, and re-enforcing traditional interpretations of marriage and family. Republicans place a strong emphasis on American Exceptionalism and the idea that fierce competition is healthy for individuals and communities.
Democrats, on the other hand, are known for progressive social ideas and stable economic growth built on strong government regulation that ensures fair, equitable business practices. The official Democratic Party Platform for 2012 seeks to protect citizens from predatory big business practices, limits the damage done to the environment by both private and public entities, and ensures a high standard of living for the greatest number of families in America with economic policies designed to promote a strong middle class.
In the past decade, a number of third-party candidates have also begun to gain widespread attention. Most of these ‘third parties’ are at least partially opposed to things that both of the major parties seem to agree on. However, few of these ‘third parties’ are currently representative of enough citizens to have a real chance at their candidates being elected to the nation’s highest office. People who do choose to vote for a third-party candidate for president may still do so on the principles of the candidate’s platform, or because they believe neither of the major party candidates are qualified to lead.
Interestingly, while candidates for state and local offices usually belong to one of the two major parties, it is worth noting that most of them have individual platforms that blend the ideologies from both camps. Don’t assume that just because a candidate for a local or state election is a “Republican” or “Democrat” that they stand behind the national party platform 100%. You may be surprised to find out that some candidates find ways to combine the best of both parties and come up with creative ways to solve problems.
That’s why it is truly important to spend time researching candidates for your city, county and state to find out what each one really stands for. The non-partisan organization League of Women Voters often issues voter guides that give fact-based descriptions of candidates and propositions prior to an election. It is worth investing a couple hours to read through the material to make an informed decision, especially when it comes to local elections that affect your child’s education, your property values, and other issues that will directly impact your daily life.
This article is part of the “Election 2012 – American Muslims VOTE!” series, which is running on Altmuslim at Patheos, Altmuslimah, Illume, and Aziz Poonawalla’snews and politics blog on Patheos. Click on this special topics page to view all articles in this series and add your comments. Tweet your thoughts on this article, on the series, and on the 2012 elections at #MuslimVOTE.
Amanda is a freelance writer, professional blogger and community activist in Austin, Texas.