People keep telling me the Democratic and Republican parties are “just the same” and  both are “equally corrupt.” That’s a steaming load of BS and here’s why.

I get it. Politicians from both parties seem more in touch with the needs of their rich campaign contributors than their constituents. As an article in Salon written a month after the 2016 election points out, both parties are pushed farther right by their millionaire and billionaire donors. But here’s the kicker. They did an extensive study on politics’ largest contributors, and as Salon succinctly puts it, the “big Republican donors are even more extreme than their party — and they drive its agenda.”

Economic austerity is unpopular with both GOP and Democratic voters. Yet the GOP’s hard-right backers demanded that budget gaps be filled by spending cuts, not raising taxes. This goes a long way towards explaining the epic budget battles.

15 ways the Democratic and Republican parties are absolutely not “the same.”

1. Disaster relief. When disaster strikes in the U.S., Democrats send help right away, no matter what. Republicans only extend disaster relief to those living in their strongholds, as victims of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Maria, and the wildfires raging in California are learning the hard way.

2. Tax “reform.” The Democratic and Republican parties also differ on taxes. The GOP wants to cut taxes for the rich even though it comes out of the hides of Americans who already struggle to pay the bills. Democrats expect wealthy people who’ve done very well by our system — and whose earnings often come from investments, stocks, real estate, and other sources of passive income — to pay their fair share like everyone else. Republicans, on the other hand, want to hand them more tax breaks at the expense of things our country and our people actually need.

3. Healthcare. Democrats want more of us to have access to healthcare and want good health insurance plans we can all afford. The Republican Party wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and supports Donald Trump ending the subsidies that help millions of us afford our premiums. Some Republicans claim they want to fix all the things that are “wrong” with Obamacare. But the main thing people dislike about the ACA is that their health plans are too expensive. Only reigning in our for-profit healthcare industry or funding more cost-sharing subsidies would make plans more affordable for the middle-class families who get little or no help with their premiums. But the GOP won’t do either of those things. If you believe healthcare’s a human right (or at least your right), then the GOP’s not for you.

4. Their donors. Wealthy donors wield far too much influence on both the Democratic and Republican parties and demand the usual tax breaks, contracts, and rules that boost their profits. But the billionaires who bankroll the GOP take this to a whole new level. Fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have spent decades and millions of dollars on a vast network of PACs, think tanks, media, and academic chairs as well as political campaigns in service of their hard-right agenda. In June, they hosted a conference for other well-heeled donors and issued a dire warning to GOP lawmakers: If you don’t get Obamacare repealed and “tax reform” passed, we’re cutting off your cash. When have you ever heard a Democratic donor behave that way?

This goes a long way towards explaining why Republicans insist on pushing the ACA repeal and tax reform even though they’re as deeply unpopular as the rest of the austerity measures the donor class insists on.

5. The minimum wage. For most U.S. workers, wages have barely budged in decades, while the cost of housing, healthcare, and other necessities have gone through the roof. Yet Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage. Some don’t even believe we should have any minimum wage at all. Now GOP state lawmakers are even blocking cities across the country from raising their wages, as furious St. Louis residents have learned the hard way. As the group Fight for $15 told CNN, “Hurting people who have it the hardest isn’t just bad governing, it’s pathological.” Apparently, “states rights” are all about allowing states’ ruling elites to screw their own citizens, not local autonomy. As for Democrats, some support a $12 an hour minimum wage and others think it should be $15 an hour…But at least they agree America deserves a raise.

6. Our social safety net. Both the Democratic and Republican parties want people to work instead of getting help from the government. But Democrats seem to have a better grip on the fact that we need a certain level of help and public services — like food, housing, healthcare, childcare, education, job training — in order for us to gain job skills and be healthy and productive. A good way to keep people off of welfare would be to raise the minimum wage, but Republicans refuse to do that either.

7. Voting rights. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our Democracy. Yet another huge difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is their stance on voting rights. U.S. Supreme Court justices who were appointed by GOP presidents allowed corporations unlimited “free speech” via campaign cash in their Citizens United decision. GOP-appointed judges also ignored countless irregularities in Florida’s election, overrode the popular vote, and put George W. Bush in the White House. They’re also the ones we have to thank for gutting the Voting Rights Act. And then there’s the flurry of voter ID laws passing in GOP-run states that serve no purpose other than making it harder for low-income people to vote. Wisconsin’s voter ID laws kept nearly 17,000 people from casting their ballots in Dane and Milwaukee County alone, and Donald Trump only “won” by 22,749 votes.

8. Women’s rights. Choosing whether or not to carry, bear, and/or raise children is among the most important decisions a woman can make. The Democrats understand this. Republicans, on the other hand,  keep pushing laws that restrict women’s access to birth control and abortion because of “religious values” we don’t all share, and which don’t belong in our government. And if she decides to have that baby, Republicans don’t want to guarantee her and her child access to prenatal care, healthcare, food, housing, childcare, or any of the other things she’ll need to raise a healthy, happy, and productive family. And when she goes back to work, she’ll have no protection against wage discrimination, because Donald Trump repealed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

9. Race. Sorry, I don’t like having to say this, but you don’t hear Democrats calling hordes of neo-Nazis and vehicular manslaughterers “very fine people.” When Democrats are racist, and I’m sure some are, they don’t parade their racism around and illuminate it with their tiki torches. They keep it smothered and buried in the dank, dark netherworld of their cobwebbed basements where it belongs. And it’s not just about Donald Trump. People in the Republican Party refuse to even acknowledge that pervasive racism and bigotry exist, despite a constant barrage of videos starring cops beating, shooting, choking, and killing black people for the slightest infraction or false move. When someone tells you you’re hurting them, you should believe them. Instead, the GOP and their right-wing spokespeople claims all the black people, brown people, LGBT people, and women want “special rights.” Meaning the same exact rights white Christian men take for granted.

10. LGBT rights. One big difference between the Democratic and Republican party involves the GOP’s obsession with tormenting LGBT people. Even when many top Democrats didn’t support gay marriage, they didn’t go around actively bullying them and trying to make their lives miserable. You’d think a party that’s all about getting “Big Government” off our backs would be more laissez-faire. Instead, they pass laws forcing transgender people to use the wrong bathroom and elect a vice president who believes in “conversion therapy,” a form of psychological, emotional, and often physical torture as a young person is told they’re vile and sinful and forced to “pray away the gay.” And, as with their trying to force women to have babies they don’t want, Republicans claim it’s all about the Bible and “family values” and protecting children.

11. Separation of church and state. While plenty of Democrats are Christians, since the 1980s, fundamentalist Christianity has grown more and more influential in the GOP to the point where they’re basing their platform and their agenda on a cruel, narrow-minded, and often dangerous set of beliefs that are not shared by a majority of Americans. Just last weekend, Donald Trump — a sitting U.S. president — addressed the “Values Voters Summit,” a right-wing event hosted by the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-gay hate group. Things like separation of church and state, climate change, and gun violence shouldn’t even be partisan issues. Yet here we are.

23. Climate change. When people used to compare the Democratic and Republican parties, the Democrats were seen as soft-hearted idealists while Republicans were seen as pragmatic, hardnosed realists. Now the Democrats are the ones who live in a fact-based world while GOP leaders deny climate change is being caused by human activity and burning fossil fuels. The rest of the world’s lowering their carbon emissions, but the GOP’s president’s doubling down bringing those non-existent coal jobs back. The GOP’s climate change denial isn’t just outrageous, it’s flat-out dangerous. While climate scientists remain hesitant about linking specific extreme weather events to climate change — like the wildfires blazing in California or Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria — they admit a disturbing pattern is starting to emerge.

Meanwhile, this map from the World Economic Forum shows how dramatically the average temperature in more than half of the U.S. has changed since before the turn-of-the-century in 2,000.

13. Gun violence. If the 20 children and six adults who died in the Newtown massacre had died because the school’s roof collapsed, we’d be taking a long hard look at how school roofs are built. If the 58 people dead and 546 injured in the Las Vegas shootings had all gotten sick after eating at the same all-you-can-eat buffet, the restaurant owner or his suppliers would be in serious trouble and the U.S. Dept. of Public Health would be inspecting the place and the facilities that had processed the food. But when a mass shooting happens, we get nothing but a wringing of hands and empty “thoughts and prayers.” In 2015, 49 GOP senators and one Democrat (Heidi Heitkamp from N.D.) voted down not one, but three bills that would have addressed gun violence. And this is no coincidence. As of 2016, just 10 GOP senators alone got $42 million from the NRA over the years.

The difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is that Democrats recognize facts and create legislation and policies based on them. Meanwhile, Republicans deny the prevalence of guns in this country plays a role in these deaths. In this case, the map below (via Byline) shows how many more people we lose to gun violence than in countries.

14. Good governance: There are so many times I’ve screamed at the TV as a newscaster reported on yet another failed attempt by President Barack Obama or some other hapless Democrat who tried to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. It’s a lot like Lucy snatching away the football as Charlie Brown prepares to kick it, but the Democrats can’t help it. Politics is supposed to be about the art of compromise and working together to serve their constituents. And while we’ve had our share of evil, self-aggrandizing people in politics, there were still customs and basic standards of civility and courtesy in place. That all went out the window when then-House Speaker John Boehner, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and their fellow Republicans vowed to block everything and make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton reached out to Republicans in hope of averting the looming constitutional crisis that is Donald Trump in the White House. When push comes to shove, Democrats want to make a deal and keep the government running at all costs. Meanwhile, Republicans have over and over again proven themselves willing to sabotage the U.S. government just to deprive a child of her school lunch or take health insurance away from a guy with cancer.

Meanwhile, Republicans have over and over again proven themselves willing to sabotage the U.S. government just to hand more tax cuts to the rich and still balance the budget. Who cares if working families are struggling to keep food on the table, they just want to stick it to the black guy.

15. Immigration. We used to have a fair number of Republicans who wanted immigration reform with tougher border laws but a path to citizenship for those already here. Now, that’s gone out the window. Yet few of us thought Donald Trump would end the DACA program.  Dreamers are among the most sympathetic of undocumented immigrants.  These young people were brought here illegally by their parents as young children, but have played by the rules, achieved, and are working or in school. In the past, even Donald Trump once said he has “great love” for Dreamers. But now he’s asked Congress to pass a law protecting them, and the likelihood of that happening is not very high. Already, those whose paperwork has expired cannot reapply.  It’s hard to imagine Democrats doing something so casually cruel and capricious as what’s coming out of the

It’s hard to imagine Democrats doing something so casually cruel and capricious as what’s coming out of the White House these days. And while many Republicans don’t see the president as representative of the GOP, they’re the ones who nominated him.

If I’ve left anything out, please mention it in the comments below. I’ll likely be adding to this.

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