Now that the elections are over, we can once again look at our political beliefs in a more rational manner. What does it mean to be a Democrat or a Republican? Well for some, it might be based on the fact that certain individuals believe in abortion rights or less religious control, or maybe that their parents and friends believe in a certain party and they just go along with it.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I a Democrat?” or “Why am I a Republican?” Well, if you’ve given it some thought and you can’t find a good answer, let me provide some guidelines to uncovering the true core beliefs of each party. Then you can decide, in a rational way, if you are a Republican or a Democrat.

Aside from all of the sub-issues like abortion and stem cell research, the main difference between the two parties is about government and how it should be run. Should it be large or small, more regulated or freer? The Democratic Party believes that the government should be more involved in the functions of life, kind of like a caring parent. You give your money to your parent, and in return, your parent takes care of your needs in healthcare, social programs, etc. The Republican Party believes in smaller government and less involvement, like the parent that teaches you how to pay your bills and then gives the responsibility to you.

Both party ideals make sense. The Democratic way seems easier, since you wouldn’t worry about much. Just give more money to Uncle Sam and he takes care of your healthcare and social services needs and you don’t have to think about it anymore. More money to the government equals better healthcare, more police, more government environmental programs and more programs that would benefit everyone. The Republican way seems riskier, but could also be more fruitful. I take care of my healthcare and social services, and in return I keep more of my money. Sounds good if I am an efficient responsible person that doesn’t mind dealing with potentially stressful issues – but if I’m not, then it’s a bad deal. From my experience, this is the fundamental difference.

My parents were split – Dem and GOP – so I had a chance to evaluate both ideals, and I chose the one that suited me best. From my belief in more freedom and the feeling that I could handle my own problems without Uncle Sam’s help, I chose to be a Republican. I am a Republican because of that core belief, but I am not one of the crazy “right-wingers” who doesn’t listen to reason and instead just goes all-out for everything “conservative.” I know that the two-party system was created for a reason, and I am constantly in awe of its genius. Just think of how bad off the country would be if it was just run by Republicans or Democrats alone. America needs the two parties in order to ensure its survival. The closer the balance, the better off America will be. I was personally glad that George W. Bush was re-elected, but I was sad to see that the Democrats lost even more seats in the Senate and House.

If you are sure about your political beliefs, keep them, but just know that, for the greater good for the country, a perfect balance between the two parties needs to exist – that way the parties keep each other in check. The American political system is kind of like a car: The Democrats are the engine and the Republicans are the brakes. The Democrats want to speed change and the Republicans want to slow it. If we had just an engine, we could lose control, and if we had only brakes, we would never get anywhere. So don’t be mad at your political adversary, but thank them for keeping the balance that has made America the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Michael McClarin is a junior business economics major.