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The US has a two-party political system -- the Republican Party, which was founded in 1854 and is popularly represented by a red elephant, and the Democratic Party, founded in 1824 and popularly represented by a blue donkey. Obviously, there are some core ideological differences between the two.

As a rule of thumbs, the Republican Party follows a conservative policy, while the Democratic Party follows a liberal policy. Although there are groups that maintain differing ideologies within both parties, these generic policies are generally maintained. This is seen in various stances held and maintained by the respective parties.

Republicans and Democrats: How Do They Compare?

♦ Republicans are opposed to abortion. They call it murder of the fetus. This is called the 'pro-life' stance. Democrats support the right of abortion, wherein they argue that women should have a right to make decisions about their own bodies. This is called the 'pro-choice' stance.

♦ Republicans are opposed to same-sex marriage. The more liberal Democrats support homosexual marriages and want to legalize it; Barack Obama was the first American President to publicly support same-sex marriage.

♦ Democrats support stem cell research. The Republicans are opposed to it, citing ethical issues concerning the (faint, but valid) possibility of a fetus being eliminated in the process.

♦ Republicans follow the doctrine of unilateralism, which says that the United States should use military force without any assistance from other nations whenever a threat to its security or welfare arises. Democrats believe that the United States should act in the international arena with strong alliances and broad international support.

♦ Republicans advocate increased decentralization of power in the United States, i.e., more power to the States. Democrats advocate increased federalization of power, i.e., more power to the Federal government.

♦ Republicans largely emphasize the importance of individual citizens and tend to support individual rights. Democrats believe that the community is more significant than an individual, and protect the rights of a community, rather than individuals.

♦ Republicans promote a free market. Democrats advocate a structured market with minimal external influence.

♦ Democrats support progressive taxation (varying taxation according to income). Republicans oppose the idea.

♦ Republicans are skeptical about global warming, whereas Democrats treat it as a serious issue.

Republicans believe that strict environmental standards hurt businesses and hence support reductions in environmental regulations. The Democrats believe that the health of families and the strength of the economy depend on proper governance of the environment. They are committed to fight to strengthen the laws that ensure people have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink. They also are ready to fight to make sure these laws are enforced. They feel that a sensible energy policy is necessary for a strong economy, national security, and a clean environment. The Democrats reject the idea that a healthy economy and a healthy environment cannot co-exist, because they believe that a cleaner environment promotes a stronger economy. They believe that communities, environmental NGOs, and government should work together to protect the resources while ensuring the vitality of local economies.

♦ The Democrats support affirmative action to help certain target groups, such as blacks. The Republicans believe it works against meritocracy and doesn't genuinely benefit the target groups, and are thus opposed to it.

♦ Democrats support the right of privacy for the individual and oppose government monitoring. The Republicans defend government monitoring, maintaining the argument that if vital interests of the nation are at stake, monitoring should be permitted.

♦ Democrats advocate gun control. The Republicans are fiercely opposed to it, and firmly support the right to bear arms.

However, despite the apparent dispute in ideologies, Republicans and Democrats don't always disagree. There are a number of issues where their positions converge. For example, the Democrats have supported the Puerto Ricans for their right to decolonization, mirroring the views of the Republicans on the subject. Also, majorities in both the parties support the death penalty.