Who Says There's No Difference Between Democrats and Republicans?

Before you can fix anything you need to identify the cause of the problem. Whether it’s a car that won’t run or a basement that’s flooded, you cannot solve the problem until you figure out what’s creating it.

When it comes to this nation’s financial troubles, the source of the problem is pretty obvious. But apparently not obvious enough, as even some on the right are having difficulties locating it.

For lack of a better way of identifying them, I’ll call this specific group of free-market advocates the third party crowd.

This particular breed of conservative seems to believe that both parties are to blame for America’s fiscal woes.

Despite the political battles that we have witnessed just this year, these conservatives continue to cling to the view that both groups of Washington politicians are pretty much the same.

Unlike those on the left who have bought into the entire myth promulgated by the liberal establishment that Democrats are good and Republicans are bad, these folks seem to have bought into just the second part.

Sure, it goes without saying some Republicans are corrupt. And some Republicans love big government. But this notion that both parties are the same simply doesn’t hold up to a thorough examination of the facts. Honestly, the oversimplified view that they’re all responsible for this country’s fiscal problems doesn’t hold up to even a cursory examination.

A look at the congressional vote ratings conducted by National Journal and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) clearly shows that these two political parties, at least at the national level, are anything but the same.

First a look at National Journal’s data:

Using a principal-component analysis (done by the Brookings Institution) of key votes, National Journal gives each member of Congress a percentile score along a liberal/conservative spectrum within three issue areas: economic, social, and foreign policy. These issue area ratings are then combined to form a composite rating. The composite ratings are available for each year since 1995 and it’s these ratings that I will be referring to here .

Amazingly, by excluding only 11 senators from this analysis the two parties become entirely separated over the entire 14-year period since 1995 (Jeffords, Hatfield, Heflin, Specter, Hollings, Collins, Snowe, Miller, J. Chafee, L. Chafee, and Ben Nelson). By excluding just six senators the two parties become entirely separated for all but four of these years (Miller, Jeffords, Specter, J. Chafee, L. Chafee, and Ben Nelson). If anything, the two parties are even more separated of late as the exclusion of two or fewer senators per year entirely separates the parties from ’03 to ’08.

In the House, despite the fact that there are over 400 members, the exclusion of 11 or fewer representatives per year entirely separates the two parties from ’02 to ‘08. By simply excluding five or fewer representatives for ’05, ’07, and ’08 the two groups become completely separated.