Why Republicans Are Disciplined and Democrats Aren’t – by Robert Reich

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Source: Reader Supported News

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By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog

25 July 13

or the past five years of the Obama administration Republicans have marched in lockstep to oppose just about everything Obama and the Democrats have proposed. Yet the Democrats rarely march together. Recently, for example, 22 Democrats in the House joined every Republican in voting to delay the individual mandate in Obamacare.

When Republican leaders tell rank-and-file Republicans to call Obamacare’s cost controls “death panels,” or to say the rich are “job creators,” or the poor are “takers rather than makers,” they all repeat the same words. (Frank Luntz, their message consultant, once said: “There’s a simple rule. You say it again, and you say it again and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.”)

Democrats never stick to the same message. They rarely even say the same thing the same way twice. In fact, their messages often conflict.

To be sure, the Tea Partiers in Congress have challenged the GOP leadership. But that challenge is really about who should have the authority to impose discipline over the Party. The firebrands are bucking the old establishment with their own new establishment. Democrats, by contrast, buck their leaders all the time. And they do it as individuals, lone wolves and free agents.

Republican discipline and Democratic lack of discipline isn’t a new phenomenon. As Will Rogers once said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

The difference has to do with the kind of personalities the two parties attract. People who respect authority, follow orders, want clear answers, obey commands, and prefer precise organization and control, tend to gravitate toward Republicans.

On the other hand, people who don’t much like authority, recoil from orders, don’t believe in clear answers, often disobey commands, and prefer things a bit undefined, tend to gravitate to the Democrats.

In short, the Republican Party is the party of the authoritarian personality; the Democratic Party is the party of the anti-authoritarian personality.

In “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics” (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Jonathan Weiler, professor of international studies at UNC Chapel Hill and his co-author, Marc Hetherington, use statistical models to determine whether someone is a Republican or Democrat. It turns out that the best predictor of party affiliation is someone’s score on an authoritarian personality scale that measures many of the traits I mentioned above.

This means Republicans will almost always be more disciplined about voting and messaging than the Democrats. Which gives the GOP an advantage in times like this, when the two parties are at war with each other – and when so many Americans, angry and confused, are looking for simple answers.


Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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9 Responses to Why Republicans Are Disciplined and Democrats Aren’t – by Robert Reich

  1. Robert Miller says:

    Particularly during the post WWII era- We Americans have been taught or more aptly- brainwashed by the system to believe that we actually have a choice in whom we choose to elect as our President. And that if we “don’t get out and vote” we have no right to complain.” (just try telling people you think it’s all a crock and do not bother to vote anymore!). As “good Americans” we want to believe that our electoral process is the best , most fair and open system in the world. We have been told that though there might be ideological differences between the parties, each party is connected to the other, and to the people themselves, by honesty and nobility of character in its respective candidates.
    From a compliant skeptic you might hear “yeah, maybe it’s not a perfect system, but it’s still the best there is”… Really? Once upon a time when presidential canadates were born in log cabins- and the voting public knew that uphill to school was only either coming or going and could not be mislead because most of them also had to walk to school themselves… Once upon a time people had common sense, based in practical life experience, and respect for their elders that had even more of it. Times have certainly changed.

    Years ago as an up and coming mechanical contractor, I, along with a group of other “successful businessmen,” was invited on a 2 day 1 night trip to Nashville. The purpose was to attend a factory tour sponsored by a large privately owned US water heater manufacturer. We flew out from NY early in the morning arriving in Nashville in time for a late breakfast. We were met at the airport by a factory rep and driven to the finest hotel in the “city”. We were given a half hour to “check in” and instructed to assemble down stairs in one of the conference rooms. There was an elaborate breakfast buffet, which included grits. Once everyone was seated, the presentation began. For more than 3 hours we were educated (in some cases reeducated) per the superior design and attributes of this particular water heater. After a brief question and answer period we were ushered off to the factory for our “tour.”
    Our guide was a native Nashvillian and had been a “company” employee for the previous 25 years. It was a non-union shop (of course), but he and all the workers were very happy with their employer. The work was hard. We were shown how the cylinders were stamped from flat sheets of steel using a huge mechanical press then manually transferred to another giant machine, rolled and then hand welded. They were then put on a conveyor belt where at each station another aspect of the design was expertly added. As the tour proceeded from station to station, so did the promotion…”The XYZ company was started in 1947 right here in Nashville by Mr John “Stone Wall” Jaspers at the height of the post war boom. Mr Jaspers a true American, realized the need to make lots of low cost, high quality water heaters to meet the potable hot water demand for the tract home developments for our returning vets and their families”..
    He went on tell us that “Mr Jaspers” cared about his employees, (though the wages were nowhere near union scale) they were given a 1/2 hr lunch w/ (2) 15 min breaks. If anyone was injured on the job “the company” paid all medical bills. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas all employees were given a turkey- and workers with kids got a basket of toys along with their turkey at Christmas. Mr Jaspers owned the local grocery store and employees could go there and buy their families food.
    Toward the end of the tour, the conveyor belt split off into two directions- one leading behind a huge curtain, the other to the automated spay painting booth where from there they would be put in their cardboard boxes- ready for shipping.. (exclusively to plumbing wholesalers and licensed professionals-). I asked our guide what was behind the curtain and why were ½ the boxes being directed there. He heard my question and chose to ignore it, so I asked him again. It was not until I started walking toward the curtain that I got a stiff response. “ You are not allowed to look beyond the curtain- it’s there for a reason.”
    Later that night at the hotel while at dinner with our host (Mr Jaspers who had had a few too many cocktails) I asked him “what happens to ‘the other’ water heaters at that split off to behind the curtain”? Care to guess what his answer was? – That is where they are spray painted a different color, packaged under a different “brand” and shipped off to be sold by a popular mass market retailer!
    The moral to the story and life lesson for me was/is that in reality our political system is no different than the XYZ corporation producing the identically designed water-heaters which package and sell it as something “different.” So long as “we the people” get our paychecks (or food stamps), 2 week vacations to Disneyland and free health care- we should all be happy and never look beyond the curtain or EVEN QUESTION our government. Who by the way is “The scam” -along with the MSM who promote, and are also deeply “in on it.”
    Second lesson is that- there are “professionals” who will argue that XYZ water heaters are better than the same heater sprayed a different color and sold to the public via the mass retailer brand!

  2. Damon says:

    Why keep dividing? Both Republican and Democrat officials are people viewed as having authority, that they do not have. Only individuals have ‘Authority’ over themselves. You are absolutely correct about simple answers – simply quit imagining there are individuals who have non consenting authority, either Republicans or Democrats and the world will sprint towards joyous freedom.. Government that the individual does not agree too is not government – it is an illusion – Inherent Government (Be it Kings, communism, capitalism, or democracy) does not exist, except for in our thoughts. Stop imagining a war mongering, money stealing, rights stomping ‘Official’ has authority, realize they are just the Mafia with a good Public Relations department, and nothing more..

  3. Tom Widlar says:

    Jean, you might be interested in this article, Lies of the Banks Coming Back to Haunt Them, http://livinglies.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/lies-of-the-banks-coming-back-to-haunt-them/

    Now that Federal Reserve is nearly done buying the worthless mortgage bonds, the banks have shown that they are in fact making money hand over fist and the government is feeling less fearful about toppling the financial system with financial regulation. …

  4. Energy Doctor says:

    I trust neither but it isn’t very helpful to get a leftist to critcize a rightist or vice versa.
    Getting caught up in all of this isn’t helpful to your well being.
    All things Are Possible.

  5. Tom Widlar says:

    There is some truth in Reich’s claim that the Republicans are more authoritarian than the Democrats. But that matters little. The problem with the Democrats is that they owned by the bankers as much as the Republicans, they are Republican Lite. The bankers are severe authoritarians just like their Republican backers. But the bankers prefer keeping the public confused and the Democrats’ blather serves that purpose very well. The Democrats seem not as scary as the Republicans. The Democrats have helped Obama serve Bush’s 3rd and 4th term way better than Bush would have. Obama is the worst Republican president ever. (But Romney would have been even worse).

    I had read that Reich was a leader in promoting the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 which repeal caused our economic collapse, but that info seems to have been scrubbed from the nte.

    • Jean says:

      I think Reich’s personal ambitions may have gotten in the way back when the Glass-Steagall was repealed. At any rate, if he had any, they didn’t pan out. My sense is that those who are Republican very often come from situations where doing your own thinking is not highly regarded, and so they tend to like those in authority directing them. the deomocrats, on the other hand, who seem to like to do their own thinking, are all over the place because of this and can never get their act together as a group. . . Does this make any sense at all to you . . . I wonder . .. Hugs, ~Jean

      • Tom Widlar says:

        I agree, people who try to do their own thinking can be all over the place, especially when their thinking is undisciplined and scattered. But well-thinking educated people will tend to collect around sound principles like our founders did. Just because it’s your own thoughts doesn’t make it true. That kind of fuzzy individualism can be controlled and fed to keep you away from sound principles which happens on the right as well as the left and is encouraged by the bankers (e.g., the Tea Party or the hippy movement).

        I had a interesting and dismaying experience at a state level Democratic party open house where a retired respected Democratic state senator and I tried to discuss the evils of the Federal Reserve, the derivatives and hedge fund fraud, mortgage fraud, the high level of crime in financial circles, phony austerity and the fraud CAFRs hide. The Dems did not get any of it. They were not interested in issues, only electoral success.

        • Jean says:

          Not surprising that they didn’t get it, Tom. No one’s required them to get it for a very long time. As a population and for a huge variety of reasons, mostly instigated by the cabal, we simply aren’t informed. Hugs, ~Jean

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