A political party is an organization that is formed by individuals with specific ideologies. It is formed to address specific issues in a given region. Individuals who are members of political parties defend the party’s values and or platform and also contribute to the party’s welfare (Wordiq par.1).
The two major parties in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There are also other smaller parties which are referred to as third parties. The Labour party, on the other hand, is one of the three major political parties in the United Kingdom. Its rival parties are the Conservative Party, also known as the Tories, and the Liberal Democrats, also known as LibDem These two parties are currently forming the respective United States and British governments. This essay will look at the Democratic Party and the Labour party in detail while comparing and contrasting them, in an attempt to determine whether the Democratic Party can be viewed as the United States’ version of the United Kingdoms’ Labour Party (Democratic par. 3-7).
What is the labor party? The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. The party has several believes such as working as a community towards achieving a common goal is more effective than working as an individual. Working together helps individuals to realize their true potential and hence work towards success. Working together helps create a community in which wealth, power, and opportunity are in the hands of the majority and not the minority. It is a political party in Britain and one of the United Kingdom‘s three main political parties. The Labour party was created to coordinate the support for election candidates who the trade unions supported, in an attempt to get more representation for the working people. The party was formed on 27th February in1990 in London during a conference of the Trade Union Congress and was initially called the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). The party was renamed the Labour Party on 15th February 1906. The first prime minister from the Labour party was Ramsay MacDonald who was elected into office in January 1924. Other Labour prime ministers include:
- James Callaghan,
- Clement Attlee,
- Harold Wilson, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown. In 1997, the party got a landslide victory taking 179 parliamentary seats and Tony Blair was elected as the prime Minister. This was after being branded as “New Labour”.
- Tony Blair was elected as prime minister for two more terms. Before his third term ended, Tony Blair resigned in June 200) and handed over the post to Gordon Brown. He is still the current Labour prime minister. The next general elections are expected to be held by 3rd June this year. Opinion polls indicate that the opposition Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, has a narrow lead over the Labour party (Labour par. 1-10).
History of Democratic Party
What is the history of the Democratic Party? The Democratic Party was formed in the mid-1970s, much earlier than the Labour party. Thomas Jefferson was the founder of the party in 1792 and formed it intending to fight for the bill of rights and also to stand against the Federalist Party. The party was a coalition of different groups that opposed the policies of the current Federalist government led by George Washington. The party was formed in the late eighteenth century and was given the name the Republican Party. The party has been changing names since then wherein 1798; it was called the Democratic-Republican Party. The party was finally named the Democratic Party in the year 1834. Thomas Jefferson was the first president of the democrat party elected in 1800. Other famous Democrat presidents include; Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. In the recent past, the party won the presidency seat with Bill Clinton as the president for two terms, starting from 1993 to 2001. The presidency was then won by the Republicans for two terms under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. In 2008, the Democrats won the general election with Barrack Obama defeating the Republican nominee John McCain to become the 44th American president. Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009, and is currently in office (Democratic par. 1-7).
Similarities between the Labour Party and the Democratic Party
The Democratic Party and the Labour party are similar in several major ways. In regards to their formation, both parties were formed as parties for the “common man”. The people behind the formation of the Labour party wanted to achieve parliamentary representation for the average worker. Labour was formed mainly by trade unions groups and most of its supporters were workers. On the other hand, one of the main reasons behind the formation of the Democratic Party was to create a new party that considered the majority’s view as the founders felt that the Republican Party was for a select few. The Democratic Party is known for the way that it protects and represents the interests of Americans who are working. It is also known for the way it guarantees the liberties of individuals in the United States. The Democratic Party has fought for the interests of laborers, farmers, labor unions, and religious and ethnic minorities. (Labour par. 5-6).
Currently, the Democratic Party led by President Barrack Obama is pushing for healthcare reforms in the United States. “Speaking alongside members of the American Nurses Association, Mr. Obama praised the House committee’s joint proposal, and the bill approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions (Help) Committee”. (BBC news 1) The bill is identified as the Healthcare Reform Bill. It seeks to have healthcare that is universal for all citizens in America. The bill seeks to expand healthcare to all Americans whereby poor families will be offered subsidies to reduce their burdens in their coverage. All Americans are also required to take out some insurance cover so that it is easy for coverage of the services they receive. The bill aims to cover 31 million uninsured Americans and could greatly change the American healthcare system. The bill has however faced great opposition from the Republican Party and some of the Democrats. This has resulted in the bill being watered down and backroom deals being made to get support for it. The bill was passed by Senate last December and has been merged with the one trillion plan approved by the House of Representatives in November. However, the bill has stalled after Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This was after the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts seat which became vacant after Ted Kennedy’s death. The issue of the healthcare bill is probably the reason why the question of comparing the Democrats to Labour is being asked. This is because; the Labour was responsible for the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain (Broder par. 1-6).
The Labour party, like the US Democratic Party, is socialist. It advocates more for government intervention on social and economic matters. Originally, the party was deeply socialist and its description as a democratic socialist was very fitting. However, since 1997 when Tony Blair came up with “New Labour”, the party has embraced free-market economics and has become capitalist, just like the Conservative Party. During its early years, the party was in favor of socialist policies like wealth redistribution government ownership of key industries, government-funded healthcare and education, and government intervention in the economy. One example of this is the National Health Service (NHS). According to labour.org.uk, the official website of the labor party, “The NHS is the Labour Party’s greatest achievement. We created it, we saved it, we value it and we will always support it”. Different stakeholders and the entire community are involved in the development of party policies that enhance the lives of the entire population. According to the labor policies website, “Policy in the Labour Party is made through a process called Partnership in Power which is designed to involve all party stakeholders as well as the wider community in shaping party policy and support the relationship between the party in the country and the party in government” (Labour Party 3). The NHS is a government public-health service in Britain that covers virtually the entire population. It was established in 1946. The services offered include; consultation, dentistry, eye care, general medicare, and so on. The service is primarily financed by general taxation and most of its services are free. Common dentists and practitioners are rewarded per patient recorded with them. In addition, they may attend to their private patients. Salaried professionals in government hospitals are charged with the responsibility of providing specialist services. In addition, child welfare, home nursing, maternity as well as other preventive services are provided by local health services. Another social achievement of the Labour Party is the Minimum Wage Act that was passed in 1998 during the Blair administration. The law created a national minimum wage in Britain (Farley par.2-6).
Labour and the democrats also share similar economic ideologies. The Conservatives Party and the Republican Party favor minimal government intervention in the economy. That is, they support a true capitalist system where only the forces of demand and supply control the economy. Democrats and Labour on the other hand advocate for a mixed economy. This is where the market is driven by demand and supply forces but also involves government intervention to some extent. On taxation, these two parties believe in progressively higher taxation, that is, the rich should pay more taxes. Other recent Labour Party economic policies that are similar to Democrat policies include; establishing a minimum wage, raising more of our tax from income and less from spending, and tackling tax evasion by the rich and business. However, recently, the Labour Party pledged not to raise the top taxation rate. In 2008 and 2009, the Labour and Democratic governments were engaged in the bailout of companies. In 2008, a global recession (a pronounced deceleration of economic activity) occurred that was possibly caused by the so-called “bubble burst” in the housing industry and the mortgage crisis. The bailouts involved lending billions of dollars to companies like AIG (American Insurance Group), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Goldman Sachs in the United States and Barclays bank, Standard Charted Bank, and Northern Rock in Britain.
Moreover, both the Democratic Party and the Labour Party are liberal. The Democratic Party has demonstrated its liberal stance in several ways. It supported the civil rights movement of the 1960s though some of its members were opposed to this move (Farley par. 1).
On current issues, these two parties have the same stand on some issues while they differ on others. Taking a look at the issue of the war against terrorism, similarities and differences in policy arise. For instance, the two parties differed on the issue of the war in Iraq. The war was started by the republican government under George W. Bush. The British Labour government, under Tony Blair, was in co-operation with the United States Government from the start of the war. Though some democrats were in support of the war at the start, others like Barack Obama were opposed to it from the beginning, and later on, there was widespread Democrat opposition to the war. One of Barack Obama’s (the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee) election campaign pledges was to withdraw American troops from Iraq in sixteen months. This issue was one of the main reasons that contributed to the Republicans’ loss of the general elections in 2008. Currently, both governments have been training Iraq troops and gradually handing control to them in readiness for withdrawing their troops. The US administration’s current plan is to remove all US combat troops by 31st August 2010. On the war in Afghanistan, both of these parties have the same stand. Last month, Gordon Brown, while addressing parliament after the growing pressure due to increased casualty numbers of British troops in Afghanistan, reiterated his party’s belief that maintaining British troops in Afghanistan is in the United Kingdom’s security interest. The Obama administration plans to send more troops to Afghanistan as it removes others from Iraq. This is because the number of Taliban in Afghanistan is tending to rise. The president of the United States Barrack Obama will provide the armed forces with the high level of capability required. He will replace essential equipment, and he will ensure that our men and women in uniform get the care and support they have earned (Politifact par.1-7).
The two parties also share stands in several other issues including the concerns about Israel and the Middle East peace process. The two parties support and try to push the slow-moving peace process; they both claim that Israel has a right to self-defense and so on. Current US and British governments which are formed by these two respective parties oppose the enrichment of nuclear material by Iran. Their current proposal on the issue is that Iran should have its nuclear fuel enriched in another country. The two governments are also on the same stand when it comes to calling for sanctions against Iraq in the Security Council meetings. Other areas where they agree include Issues that concern North Korea and Burma as well as the investment in greener energy solutions (BBC news par. 2-6).
However, it should be noted that these are the same stands as those of their respective rival parties. These have more to do with the policies of the United States and Britain and not strictly the Democratic Party’s or the Labour Party’s policies respectively.
This notwithstanding, there are differences between the Democratic Party in the United States and the Labour party. One of them is in the degree of their socialist nature. Historically, the Labour party had been very socialist. The party even had its socialist objectives entrenched in its original 1922 constitution, in what was known as clause four. In this clause, the stand of the party was stated where the party aims to secure full fruits of the citizen’s industry. The party also has a wish to ensure equitable distribution of resources to the citizens using the best system of administration. This was interpreted as public ownership of property, nationalization of the economy e.g. healthcare, telecommunication, and so on, creating a welfare state. In the last couple of decades, the party has been moving from the left towards the center. The party abolished its socialist clause from its constitution in 1996 when it rebranded itself as “New Labour” under Tony Blair. However, even today the party calls itself a socialist democratic party. On the other hand, the Democratic Party does not define itself as socialist, though it has social policies and stands. During the proposal and initial debates of the healthcare reform bill, opponents of the bill were trying to label Barack Obama as a socialist, something that was refuted by the party’s supporters and Obama himself. With America being the biggest capitalist nation in the world, it is easy to see why the party distances itself from links of socialism. The party considers itself socially progressive instead. Other minor differences among the two parties include; the party’s organizations where the structures of the two are parties are different (Diffen par.4-5).
Currently, both in the United Kingdom and the United States there are few differences between the core values of the ruling political parties. These values seem to be dictated by the overall social standards, social norms, and constitutional directives that have been developed over time. The parties have similar aims. Many voters feel that when it comes to policy implementation, these parties are almost the same. It seems that parties are more different on paper than in reality.
On the question of whether the Democratic Party is the Labour Party of the United States. My answer would be yes but not exactly. The Democratic Party and the Labour Party are by loose definition social and believe more in government intervention in social and economic matters. Based on the comparison of each of these two parties with their respective main rival parties, (The Democrats with the Republicans and Labour with the Conservatives), then the Democratic Party can be called the United States’ Labour Party. In the United States, the Democratic Party is the party that is most similar to the United Kingdom’s Labour Party. However, there are Key differences between the Democratic Party and the Labour Party and one is not an exact match of the other. These differences are; the Labour party is much more social than the Democratic Party or the Democratic Party is more right-leaning than the labor party. However, these days there are increasingly more similarities than differences between opposing political parties in both the United States and in Britain.
BBCnews. “Obama applauds health ‘milestone’ ”. BBCnews. 2009. Web.
Broder , David. “Daily View: US Healthcare reform”. BBCnews. 2009. Web.
Democratic, party. “Party History”. Democrats.org. 1994. Web.
Diffen. “Democrat vs. Republican”. Diffen. 2010. Web.
Farley, Robert. “Barack Obama Campaign Promise No. 126.” Politifact, 2009. Web.
Labour party. “Labour’s policies”. labour.org.uk. n.d. 2010. Web.
Wordiq. “Political parties – Definition”. wordiQ.com. n.d. 2010. Web.