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Looking to the United States from Europe, it seems that there is a lack of distinction between the partisan and ideological motivation of members of Congress in policymaking. Assuming this is true, it seems natural to think, at least from here, that this depend on the narrow focus of public policy.

Am I under the wrong impression? Or, do the aforementioned lack depend on other circumstances which are difficult to see if you don't understand how the U.S. policy system works?

If the latter, what are these circumstances?

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    I do not understand what the question is – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Aug 29 '13 at 16:17
  • @Sam Is there a lack of distinction between the partisan and ideological motivation of members of Congress in policymaking? (Yes) | (No) – Yves Dubois Aug 29 '13 at 16:21
  • @Sam (Yes) --> What are the reason? – Yves Dubois Aug 29 '13 at 16:22
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    "lack of distinction between the partisan and ideological motivation of members of Congress in policymaking sounds like word soup to me. Can you rephrase it in more simple terms? – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Aug 29 '13 at 16:23
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    Are you asking if the parties claim to stand for something, but they don't actually do it? – o0'. Sep 28 '13 at 16:29
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As best as I can tell, you appear to be asking about what the difference between the political parties is.

  • The Republicans tend to be the conservative party.
  • The Democrats tend to be the liberal party.

  • Democrats tend to be in favor of higher taxes and more government programs(like welfare and public health insurance).
  • Republicans are in favor of lower taxes and fewer programs.

  • Democrats are in favor of more industry regulation.
  • Republicans are in favor of less industry regulation.

  • Republicans are in favor of traditional values over new ones. (gay marriage is an example)
  • Democrats are in favor of newer values over traditional ones.

  • Republicans want to be more strict with immigration laws.
  • Democrats want to be more lenient with immigration laws.
  • What are they mean "tend", "in favor" and "to be more"? – Yves Dubois Aug 29 '13 at 16:33
  • @YvesDubois "tend to be" is a synonym for "normally are": for example "The Republicans normally are the conservative party" – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Aug 29 '13 at 19:52
  • @YvesDubois to be "in favor of" a thing means that you think that that thing is good: Fore example "Democrats think that higher taxes and more government programs are good" – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Aug 29 '13 at 19:55
  • @YvesDubois and think of want to be more strict as want to be strict. Not want to be more – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Aug 29 '13 at 20:08
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A saying in Washington is 'where one stands depends on where one sits'. Say that, in general, Democrats tend to favor unions and environmental regulation, unless you live in a coal mining state like West Virginia. In that case, 40% of the voters voted for an inmate imprisoned Texas rather than the incumbent president as a protest against Democrat environmental policies.

If the voter turnout in party primaries (where each party selects their candidates) is low, voters tend to be 'ideological' - therefore social conservatives against abortion and gay marriage vote for 'hard right' Republicans and labor union members and environmental activists vote for 'progressive' Democrats. 'Middle of the road' voters don't show up until the November general elections, at which point they are left to choose between 'hard left' and 'hard right'. The current system has tended to exclude 'moderates'.

Most of the US political establishment is now focused on domestic matters, including unemployment, education, health care, and regulation, where partisan divides are stark. How certain international adventures work out is a different matter - it will be interesting to see if consensus forms around actions relating to Syria, for example. At present, the US isn't paying much attention to Egypt, for example, where policy is still on automatic pilot. This is something that 'should be' addressed, but will probably wait until budgets are passed in the next month or so.

  • An imprisoned Texas Republican? Could you please cite a reference for that? – Affable Geek Sep 2 '13 at 11:37
  • Also, WV is an historically very conservative state- even if it voted D for a while - that was more a legacy of the Democrats being the more Conservative party. My own VA had the same legacy, and my brothers to the west always are a little slow. (Sorry, couldn't resist!) on all seriousness, though this answer makes a lot of unsupported claims that I personally think off base. – Affable Geek Sep 2 '13 at 11:41
  • "At present, the US isn't paying much attention to Egypt" - wrong. They are, just the wrong kind (cozy cozy with Brotherhood, cold and disapproving with people who threw Brotherhood out) – user4012 Sep 28 '13 at 3:50
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This occurs when a lawmaker's personal ideology differs from that of the party.

The late Senator H. John Heinz (the first husband of Thereas Heinz-Kerry) was a member of the (richer) Republican party only because he inherited the Heinz ketchup fortune. Otherwise he was ideologically liberal, almost to the degree of Senator John Kerry (the second husband), and voted with the Democrats on a number of issues. Basically, Heinz ended up in the "wrong" party (for him) because of an accident of birth.

On the other hand, one example of Congressmen voting for their party against their own ideologies or personal beliefs took place when the vote tally in Congress for the passage of Obamacare was 220-215. A handful of Democrats who disagreed with the bill were nevertheless persuaded to support it because of party pressures relating to their re-elections (every two years). Senators are alloted six year terms, in part to insulate them from such pressures.

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