What’s the difference?

By: 
Brad Molnar
An opinion

It is common to hear people say, “Republicans and Democrats, there isn’t a nickels difference!” But it is the final product that belies the lack of discernible difference. Witness that Republicans wanting to repeal Obamacare point to the hated “personal mandate” charged if you did not buy insurance. In a recent re-write Republicans inserted that if you let your insurance lapse you must pay a 30 percent surcharge. A $1,000 fine for not buying insurance or $1,000 for trying to reinstate insurance, the difference lacks distinction.
The recent nominating conventions to find champions wanting to replace Ryan Zinke showed that, at the grassroots level, differences and expectations are real. Even how they run their conventions show structural differences. The Republicans were the only party to open their convention with prayer. At a Democratic convention I attended during Schweitzer’s run for governor, the Democrats paused for “a moment of silence to remember all Democrats’ great and small that have gone before us.” All three led the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
Facial hair at the Republican and Democratic conventions was the exception. Six of the seven Libertarian candidates were sporting full beards and mustaches. At the Democratic convention each candidate had a delegate give a nominating speech and another gave a short seconding speech. Each delegate was allowed to say something in favor of their favorite. Then the candidates each spoke about their beliefs and qualifications but never about another candidate. Never was heard a discouraging word. No questions were allowed from any source. This may eventually be their downfall. In the real election process vetting candidates is time honored and not necessarily positive.
Republicans and Libertarians both questioned their candidates. Both were concerned with knowledge of the Constitution and loyalty to the concept of strict construction interpretation versus “the Constitution is a living document that allows changes to follow societal expectations.” At the Libertarian gathering a debate broke out concerning the inclusions of the Fifth Amendment. That candidate lost the debate and was eliminated in the first round of voting. Republican candidates were questioned as to their positions on Supremacy Clause (federal law trumps state law), the 10th Amendment (limits federal power to Constitutional authority), the Second Amendment (gun rights), the 14th Amendment (citizenship) and state nullification of federal laws. A few Democrat candidates mentioned the constitution without specificity.
Libertarian candidates quickly showed they are hybrids of the two main parties. All Republicans said they were against federal legalization of marijuana. All Libertarians favored the legalization of pot stating that even if they did not use cannabis those who did should do so without legal consequences. Democrats stated that our prisons are filled with those convicted of drug crimes with nothing to show for it. They called for an end to the “war on drugs” as a failed venture. All Republicans opposed same sex marriage and all Libertarians and Democrats favored it as a natural right protected by the Constitution. Libertarians and Republicans discussed the $20T federal deficit and current levels of taxation as being an obstruction to personal freedom. Deficit spending never came up at the Democratic convention.
Libertarian candidates and delegates had protracted discussions on the need to allow commercial cultivation of hemp plants to allow farmers to cash in on a $670M market. Republicans and Democrats did not mention hemp. Only Democrats waxed fondly for renewable energy and labor unions. All Democrats were “pro-choice,” all Republicans were pro-life, and though the Libertarian Platform is pro-choice several Libertarians said they split with the party platform and were pro-life.
All three parties presented excellent, knowledgeable, candidates but also had candidates not quite ready for prime time. John Meyer (D) spent a lot of his time at the podium telling why he was wearing the same button down shirt for the second day, “I forgot to pack my other button down shirt and do not want to be thought of poorly for it.” Sam Pasqual Redfern (R) started his presentation at the debate by loudly proclaiming, “I would like to introduce my hottie fiancé sitting in the balcony” and pointed to her. She glared back. If looks could kill, Redfern would have needed a medic. When asked what bill he would like to introduce in congress Chris Colvin (L) responded, “A bill to standardize medical charges. It would be a simple bill that should not draw much criticism. Oh, and I would like to promote internet voting.”
The conventions showed that there are sharp distinctions and blurred lines between candidates and parties. Exploring a bit more and voting for the vision you feel will most positively move our great nation into the future is your right and your obligation.

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