Iron County Progressive

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How Virus Politics Divided a Conservative Town in Wisconsin’s North

A lightly populated area in the critical swing state of Wisconsin serves as a microcosm for the way coronavirus politics is worsening partisan schisms across America.


Kirk Bangstad, a Democratic candidate for Wisconsin state assembly, has made little effort to win over voters who aren’t already appalled by Republicans’ handling of the coronavirus.Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Reid J. Epstein

By Reid J. Epstein

·         Oct. 29, 2020


·         MINOCQUA, Wis. — When coronavirus cases began to spike in Wisconsin this fall, Rob Swearingen kept his restaurant open and let customers and employees decide whether they wanted to wear masks.

Mr. Swearingen, a Republican seeking his fifth term in the Wisconsin State Assembly, didn’t require other employees at his restaurant in Rhinelander to be tested after a waitress and a bartender contracted the virus because, he said, nobody from the local health department suggested it was necessary.

Kirk Bangstad, Mr. Swearingen’s Democratic opponent, took the opposite approach at the brewpub he owns in Minocqua, 30 miles away. He has served customers only outdoors, and when a teenage waiter became infected after attending a party, Mr. Bangstad shut down for a long weekend and required all employees to get tested.

Mr. Bangstad has since turned his entire campaign into a referendum on how Republicans have handled the coronavirus. On Facebook, he has served as a town shamer, posting lists of restaurants and stores in Wisconsin’s Northwoods that have disregarded state limits on seating capacity and don’t require masks.

With just days until the election, the contest for Mr. Swearingen’s Assembly seat in this lightly populated area in the Northwoods of Wisconsin serves as a microcosm for the way coronavirus politics are playing out across America. Mr. Bangstad is unlikely to prevail in a Republican-heavy district that covers parts of four counties stretching south from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but his effort to make the campaign a referendum on the virus echoes that of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has sought to make President Trump’s handling of the pandemic the central issue in the presidential contest.

Mr. Bangstad, a 43-year-old Harvard-educated former professional opera singer, moved back to Wisconsin six years ago from Manhattan, where he was a technology consultant and served as the policy director for Anthony Weiner’s 2013 mayoral campaign. Like Mr. Biden, he has eschewed traditional campaigning. He has moved his entire effort online, including in email and on the Facebook page of his brewpub, the Minocqua Brewing Company.

But unlike the former vice president, Mr. Bangstad has made little effort to win over voters who aren’t already appalled by Republicans’ handling of the coronavirus. Many of them, he said, are being duped by false or misleading statements by the president and the conservative news media.

“A lot of them, I feel, haven’t been equipped with the tools of media literacy or critical thinking skills to be able to discern if they’re being told something that doesn’t quite jell or is not true,” he said during an interview this week at his shuttered restaurant overlooking Lake Minocqua.


Wisconsin’s 2020 campaigns are concluding while the state is in the midst of one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. On Tuesday, as the state set records for the most new cases and deaths, Gov. Tony Evers said Wisconsin faces an “urgent crisis” and urged citizens to stay home.

Oneida County, which includes Minocqua and Rhinelander, where Mr. Swearingen operates the Al-Gen Dinner Club and has lived his entire life, has a virus rate nearly twice the state average over the past two weeks.

Scott Haskins, whose wife, Pamela, is a waitress at the Al-Gen, is among the county’s recent fatalities. Ms. Haskins contracted the virus after working a restaurant shift in mid-September and was hospitalized in early October. Mr. Haskins, 63, checked into the hospital with the virus four days after his wife, according to his daughter, Kelly Schulz.

Two days later, Mr. Haskins suffered a stroke and died.

“The day after my dad passed, Governor Evers put in the 25 percent capacity limit, and they weren’t abiding by it,” Ms. Schulz said of the Al-Gen. “People were posting pictures of themselves there on Facebook and it was pretty busy for a Friday night.”

Republicans who control the state legislature this month successfully sued Mr. Evers to overturn the capacity limits on bars and restaurants he ordered. In Oneida County, local sheriffs and town police departments weren’t enforcing them anyway.

Before winning election to the Assembly, Mr. Swearingen, 57, was the president of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, the powerful lobbying group for the state’s bars. He fought the state’s efforts to ban smoking indoors at businesses, lift the drinking age to 21 from 18 and lower the legal blood alcohol limit to drive.

He said his restaurant is not responsible for employees who caught the coronavirus. No one from the local health department ever called with questions, he said, and no contact tracers contacted the restaurant. Mr. Swearingen said he has not had a test himself.

“There’s been no connection to the restaurant to all these cases,” he said during an interview in the dining room of the Al-Gen, which is bedecked with taxidermied heads of deer and black bears. “These people are part-time, coming from different jobs and different things.”

Of all the places where Democrats barely bothered to compete in 2016, Wisconsin’s Northwoods may have been the most neglected. Not only did Hillary Clinton skip Wisconsin altogether, county Democrats in this region didn’t even have yard signs to distribute, not that there was much demand for them.

Mrs. Clinton was a “polarizing’’ candidate, said Matt Michalsen, a high school social studies teacher who ran against Mr. Swearingen in 2016. “Personally, did I support her? No.”

Four years later, Mr. Bangstad has few expectations that he will win. He sees his campaign largely as an effort to increase Democratic turnout for Mr. Biden and cut into Mr. Trump’s margins by focusing attention on the impact of the coronavirus on northern Wisconsin.

Mr. Bangstad wrapped the side of his restaurant in a giant Biden-Harris sign that attracted the ire of the Oneida County Board, which sent a letter informing him that it exceeded the allowable size of 32 square feet. After Mr. Bangstad used the fracas to raise money and get more attention for himself in the local press, the board backed down.

At the same time, the Biden campaign and local Democrats have put far more resources into northern Wisconsin than they did four years ago. There are twice as many organizers focused on the area than in 2016. And though the Clinton campaign swore off yard signs as an unnecessary annoyance, the state party has made efforts to get them in every yard that would take one.

 “We distributed approximately 50 Hillary yard signs four years ago, and we’re at more than 1,200 so far for Joe,” said Jane Nicholson, the party chairwoman in Vilas County, just north of Oneida County.

There’s some evidence that Mr. Biden is making up ground. A poll taken for Mr. Bangstad’s campaign this month found Mr. Trump leading Mr. Biden in the district by five percentage points — a far cry from his 25-point margin of victory in 2016. The same survey found Mr. Swearingen ahead by 12 points, less than half his 26-point margin over Mr. Michalsen four years ago.

Mr. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 23,000 votes statewide. His gap in Mr. Swearingen’s district alone was 14,000 votes.

“If we’re in the low 40s there, that means that we have blocked Trump’s path to pulling in the votes that he’d need to cancel out other areas of the state,” said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

The Assembly race has engendered hurt feelings and worsened political divisions in Minocqua, a town of about 4,000 full-time residents. Down the street from the Minocqua Brewing Company, Tracy Lin Grigus, a Trump supporter who owns the Shade Tree bookstore, shook her head at Mr. Bangstad’s attempts to shame local businesses.

“On his Facebook, he’s calling all of us up here idiots, like a mini Joe Biden,’’ said Ms. Grigus, who doesn’t wear a mask in her store and doesn’t ask her customers to do so. “It’s insulting to people that share the space with him and other business owners. He’s like the only one in this town and surrounding towns that went this far.”

Across Oneida Street, the main drag through Minocqua’s small downtown, Casie Oldenhoff, an assistant manager at the Monkey Business T-shirt shop, where signs instruct customers to wear a mask, said Mr. Trump was to blame for the current wave of the pandemic.

 “He’s just not taking care of us,” Ms. Oldenhoff said. “He doesn’t care about what’s going on with the pandemic.”

Mr. Swearingen said he had little doubt that Mr. Trump would do just as well in the Northwoods on Tuesday as he did in 2016. Enthusiasm for the president is higher, he said, as evidenced by the regular boat and car parades adorned with Trump flags and carrying young men concerned foremost about a Biden administration taking away their guns.

But he said he had never been involved in a campaign as ugly as his own this year.

“We’ve been targeted by my opponent as a den of Covid and all sorts of rumors in Facebook,’’ he said. “I’ve never quite had to fight against Facebook in an election. He went after a couple of other bars in the area, and one of the bar owners was livid that that bar was on the list. It’s like, ‘Well, who are these people? It’s the mask police or something.’”

For Mr. Bangstad, shaming Mr. Swearingen and other Republicans who have fought against public health guidelines is exactly the point.

“If you’re a citizen in this state, and there’s one branch of government that’s trying to keep people healthy from Covid, and you have the legislative branch and the judicial branch trying to stymie him every single time he does it, it’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen,” he said. “As a Wisconsinite, I’m just completely ashamed.”

Andy Mills and Luke Vander Ploeg contributed reporting.



'Where do you live?' Up north DA's race is a tale of two states

Bruce Vielmetti

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Doug Muskett says the first thing many voters asked him when he began running to be district attorney in Iron County was, "Where do you live?" 

Questions of residency have dogged incumbent DA Matthew Tingstad ever since he was elected in 2016. Wisconsin law allows nonresidents to run for district attorney, as long as they live in the jurisdiction if and when they take office.

Tingstad lived and practiced in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, just across the Montreal River from Hurley, and defeated a Hurley native (who's consolation was being named circuit judge a year later) to become DA.

Though Tingstad got a Wisconsin law license after he was electedsome wonder if he's ever really moved to Iron CountyDetractors have found that his dismissed Michigan divorce and property tax records suggest he continued living in the U.P. years after he took office, and the place he lists as his local residence appears to be a pole barn at an oil company lot in Kimbell, Wisconsin.

Muskett, a Wisconsin native with a law office in the U.P. who practices in both states, said he'd been renting in Ironwood but moved to Hurley within a week after he decided to run in the August primary. He needed at least 200 write-in votes in order to get on the Nov. 3 ballot as a Democrat to challenge Tingstad, a former professional snowmobiler, who holds the office as a Republican.

Even with the short notice, he got closer to 300 votes. "Two hundred is a lot of votes in Iron County," he said, where only between 600 and 700 were cast in the primary.

Tingstad, 44, said anyone can question his residency but noted that the state has not because he's "legit," with a state law license, driver's license, voter registration and kids in Hurley schools.

He said he didn't want to give a specific address to protect his wife and children and said he still owns his home in Bessemer, Michigan, as an investment property.

"It's not a contest to see who can live closest to the courthouse," Tingstad said. He considers himself a native of the area, while Muskett moved here from Missouri and decided to run just weeks before the Aug. 7 primary. 

"Is he in it for the long haul?" Tingstad said. "I've been a consistent part of the area about 40 years."

Muskett, 36, already does some public work for Iron County, acting as corporation counsel for civil commitments and guardianships. He said what really convinced him to run was some officials' concerns that Tingstad wasn't devoting enough time to termination of parental rights, or TPRs, and children in need of protective services cases, known as CHIPS petitions, in juvenile court.

Opal Roberts chairs the human services committee of the Iron County Board of Supervisors. She said the committee proposed the county hire a private attorney to handle the TPRs and CHIPS cases.

Roberts said human services felt it would save the county money in the long run, since it must pay to keep children in foster care while their cases languish in court and hold up permanent placements for the children.

But the full county board did not approve the request, instead waiting to see the outcome of the election, as Muskett says he would get those cases done, and it would be covered by his DA's salary.

Tingstad said there've only been three TPRs in Iron County in the last 20 years, and he's done them all, and has more pending.

Muskett said after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about Tingstad in July, people were pressing him to run. The story focused on Tingstad's fraud prosecution of a retired Iron County sheriff's deputy and Hurley firefighter over the use of a credit card, and the defense's claims that Tingstad had acted unethically — even criminally — in pursuing the case.

A special prosecutor has since determined Tingstad should not be charged with misconduct in office, or simulating legal process, and a judge declined to issue a criminal complaint.

The defense still wants Tingstad disqualified, but that motion is pending before a judge from another county, and the underlying case, filed in 2017, doesn't have a current trial date.

The defendant in the fraud case, Darrell Petrusha, had also filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office about Tingstad's apparent continued Michigan residency, with several documents to back his suspicions. But the state declined to investigate, and Tingstad told the Journal Sentinel in July he didn't want to talk about where he lives.

"Not a single person I know believes (Tingstad) lives in Iron County," Muskett said. If you're the DA, he said, "your answer shouldn't be 'I don't want to discuss that,' it should be 'Come on over for dinner.'"

Tingstad said if Muskett is making an issue of where Tingstad lives, he must not have any issues with how Tingstad's performing his job as DA.

Muskett grew up near Manitowoc, went to UW-Eau Claire and got his law degree at Washington University in St. Louis. He practiced a while there before joining his uncle and cousin's U.P. law office where he does both criminal and civil cases in Michigan and Wisconsin

Tingstad was raised not far from Hurley in Bessemer, Michigan,  played junior hockey out west before college at Northern Michigan University, and made enough money as a freestyle snowmobiler to help pay for law school at the University of Wyoming. After graduation, he returned to the U.P. to practice law.

In some rural areas, district attorney is one of the few steady jobs for a lawyer that doesn't involve lots of travel. It pays more than $100,000 a year in Iron County. Across the Michigan border in Gogebic County, with about three times Iron County's 5,600 population, the prosecuting attorney earns less.

There are no TV ads and little news coverage about the race, and with COVID-19, not even much traditional door-knocking going on in the campaign. A week from the election, an estimated 1,400 votes of an expected 3,500 or so have already been cast, said Iron County Clerk Mike Saari. 


Donald Trump tried to attack Former McCain Campaign Strategist Steve Schmidt (a
lifelong Republican) on Twitter and, in his reply, Schmidt didn't hold back:
>> “You’ve never beaten me at anything. This isn’t our first dance. Did you like, Covita? We are
so much better at this than your team of crooks, wife beaters, degenerates, weirdos and losers.
>> You are losing. We heard you loved Evita. You saw it so many times. Where will you live
out your years in disgrace? Will you buy Jeffrey Epstein’s island? One last extra special deal
from him? Or will you be drooling on yourself in a suite at Walter Reed? Maybe you will be in
>> I bet you fear that. The Manhattan US Attorney may not be around to cover for you or your
crooked kids anymore. Eliza Orlins doesn’t believe in different sets of rules for the Trumps.
What about the State Attorney General? You know what you’ve done.
>> Oh, Donald. Who do you owe almost $500 million in personally guaranteed loans to? It's all
coming down. You think you and your disgusting family are going to be in deal-flow next year?
Are you really that delusional?
>> You are lucky Chris Wallace interrupted you after Joe Biden said you weren’t smart. You
started to melt down. That’s the place that hurts the most. Right? Fred Sr., knew it. You’ve spent
your whole life proving it. You aren’t very smart. You couldn’t take the SAT on your own. What
was the real score? 970? We both know you know.
>> Are the steroids wearing off? Is the euphoria fading? Do you feel foggy? Tired? Do you
ache? How is the breathing? Hmmm. Are you watching TV today? We will have some nice
surprises for you. Everyone is laughing at you. You are a joke. A splendid moron turned deadly
>> Did you watch Senate candidate Martha McSally in her Arizona debate against American
hero, fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly? She is so embarrassed by you. She is
ashamed and full of self-loathing for the choice she made in following you over the cliff. She is in
free fall now. She will lose, like most of them, because of you.
>> We hear from the White House and the campaign everyday. They are betraying you. They
are looking to get out alive and salvage careers and their names. It’s Ivanka Trump and Jared
Kushner vs. Donald Trump Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle on the inside. They are at war over
scraps and who gets to command what will be the remnants of your rancid cult.
>> It’s almost over now. You are the greatest failure in American history. You are the worst
president in American history. Disgrace will always precede your name. Your grandchildren and
great-grandchildren will grow up ashamed of their names.
>> One day, I suppose there will be some small and not-much-visited library that bears your
name. It will be the type of place where a drunk walks by, staring at the wall for a minute, before
deciding it is beneath his dignity to piss on. That’s what is waiting for you.
>> Joe Biden is a better man. He’s smarter. He’s winning.
>> Do you remember when you didn’t want to name Donald Trump Jr., Donald because you
were worried about him being a loser named Donald? You were right about that. He is.
>> But it is you who will be remembered as America’s greatest loser. You will be crushed in the

Prestigious medical journal calls for US leadership to be voted out over Covid-19 failure

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN


(CNN)In an unprecedented move, the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday published an editorial written by its editors condemning the Trump administration for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic -- and calling for the current leadership in the United States to be voted out of office.

"We rarely publish editorials signed by all the editors," said Dr. Eric Rubin, editor-in-chief of the medical journal and an author of the new editorial.

The editorial, which Rubin said was drafted in August, details how the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths. So far, more than 7.5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and more than 200,000 people have died of the disease.

"This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy," the editorial says.

It does not endorse a candidate, but offers a scathing critique of the Trump administration's leadership during the pandemic.

"Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment," the editorial says. "When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs."

The New England Journal of Medicine began publishing in 1812. There have been only four previous editorials collectively signed by its editors in the recent past: one in 2014 about contraception; an obituary that same year for a former editor-in-chief; an editorial that year about standard-of-care research and an editorial in 2019 about abortion.

"The reason we've never published an editorial about elections is we're not a political journal and I don't think that we want to be a political journal -- but the issue here is around fact, not around opinion. There have been many mistakes made that were not only foolish but reckless and I think we want people to realize that there are truths here, not just opinions," Rubin said.

"For example, masks work. Social distancing works. Quarantine and isolation work. They're not opinions. Deciding not to use them is maybe a political decision but trying to suggest that they're not real is imaginary and dangerous," he said. "We don't have the right leaders for this epidemic. I think we need better leadership."

The New England Journal of Medicine is not the only medical or scientific publication to take a political stance amid the pandemic and ahead of this November's presidential election.

In September, the magazine Scientific American announced it was endorsing former vice president and Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Trump, who it criticized for dismissing science. That announcement marked the publication's first endorsement of a presidential candidate in its 175-year history.


Levin Report

Trump Casually Confirms Medicare Is on the Chopping Block

From “I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid” to hell yes I’m coming for your social safety net.

By Bess Levin

Something you’ve probably noticed about Donald Trump by now is that the man is a full-fledged pathological liar. Whether it‘s big lies like “imminent” attacks on Americans or small lies like the number of people at a Beto O’Rourke rally, if there’s an opportunity to lie, the 45th president of the United States will jump on it like a spread of fast food laid out on the White House’s finest china. For Donald J. Trump, no lie is too ridiculous, as evidenced by the claims that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama, that Ivanka Trump has created 14 million jobs, and that he, Donald Trump, “saved” the pre-existing provision in Obamacare. Some people collect stamps or take up Jazzercise—Donald Trump lies.

And while many of Trump’s lies are stupid and pointless and have little effect other than to potentially drive a person to scream “Jesus Christ do you ever tell the truth about anything you unrepentant lunatic,” other lies very much impact people’s lives. For instance, the one he told on the 2016 campaign trail about how he will never touch Medicare (or Social Security, for that matter), which he basically admitted on Wednesday was another one of his patented whoppers. (Without actually admitting it, of course; the Second Law of Trump Lies is to never, ever cop to the fact that he’s completely full of shit, even if there is literally audio or video proving as much.)

In an interview with CNBC, Trump was asked, “Entitlements ever [going to] be on your plate?” To which the man who said “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid” responded, “At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I—it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a big percentage.”

Asked specifically about Medicaid, Trump told host Joe Kernen, “We’re going to look” and then launched into a typical speech about how he‘s done so much for African Americans, who despise him, and failing to give his predecessor any credit whatsoever for the numbers.

That Trump would lie about a plan to slash “entitlements” obviously comes as little surprise, given that lies for him are like oxygen for other living things. Also, there was a hint about it last August, when Senator John Barrasso told the New York Times that Republicans had brought up the prospect of gutting “Social Security, Medicare and other contributors” to the budget deficit to the president, who reportedly “talked about it being a second-term project.” So this must be very exciting for them.

What is your vote plan?

Wisconsinites can now cast their ballot in-person starting today (October 20) during the early voting period.

Voters can request and vote an absentee ballot in-person in their municipal clerk’s office or other designated early vote location possibly through November 1, 2020. Office hours vary by municipality. Some municipalities may not offer weekend in-person absentee hours. Contact your municipal clerk for absentee voting hours.

There’s no time like now to cast your ballot for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and all labor-endorsed 2020 candidates on the ballot this fall. Help us turn out the union vote. Join our virtual phone banks to union families at If you have requested an absentee ballot by mail, track your ballot at Check to make sure your ballot is processed.

Joe Biden has a plan to create millions of good-paying, family-supporting union jobs, promote worker safety, and put working people first during this unprecedented economic downturn. Biden respects the dignity of work and is proud to support working people, our unions, and our middle class.

Use your power. Use your voice. Be a 2020 voter.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Bloomingdale, President

Dennis Delie, Secretary-Treasurer

Democratic vs Republican Stand on Controversial Issues*

The Democrats and Republicans have varying ideas on many hot button issues, some of which are listed below. These are broadly generalized opinions; it must be noted that there are many politicians in each party who have different and more nuanced positions on these issues.

   Social Programs

   Democrats across the board believe that government should run such  programs

   as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment benefits, and

   programs that support seniors and people in need. They believe more tax dollars

   should be funneled into these programs.


   Republicans question the need for these programs and want to abolish many of

   them, favoring private businesses to take over select ones.

Tax Policy

   Both parties favor tax cuts, but each party takes a different view on where those

   tax cuts should be applied. The Democrats believe there should only be cuts for

   middle- and low-income families but believe that taxes should be higher for

   wealthy individuals and corporations. The Republicans believe there should be

   tax cuts but only for those in the higher income brackets and corporations.


   Democrats support progressive taxes. A progressive tax system is one where

   high-income individuals pay taxes at a higher rate. This is the how federal

   income tax brackets are currently set up. For example, the first $10,000 in

   income is taxed at 10% but income over $420,000 is taxed at 39.6%.

Some Republicans are proponents of a "flat tax" where all people pay the same percentage of their income in taxes regardless of income level. This would result in middle- and low-income earners paying the same tax rate as wealthy individuals. 

Minimum Wage

Democrats favor an increase in the minimum wage to help workers.

Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage claiming it hurts businesses.


Democrats support a woman’s right to choose and keeping elective abortions legal and safe.

Republicans do not believe in a woman’s right to choose and believe abortions should not be legal and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Gun control laws

Democrats favor preserving the Second Amendment while adopting gun controls laws that require strict background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.  They believe this will help prevent massacres like those that have occurred in the nation’s schools. 

Republicans oppose gun control laws.


Democrats are reluctant to using military force against countries like Iran, Syria, and Libya.

Republicans have a more hard line stance against countries like Iran, with a higher tendency to deploy the military option.

   Energy Issues and the Environment

   There have always been clashes between the parties on the issues of energy and

   the environment. Democrats believe in restricting drilling for oil or other avenues

   of fossil fuels to protect the environment while Republicans favor expanded

   drilling and dismiss the idea that it has a negative environmental impact.

   Democrats support alternative energy solutions, such as solar and wind power,

   while the Republicans favor allowing the market to decide which forms of

   energy are practical. Republicans also deny that there is a climate warming

   problem which threatens future generations. 

   Crime and Punishment

   Democrats are progressive in their views, believing that crimes which do not

   involve violence, such as using drugs, should have lighter penalties and

   rehabilitation. They are also against capital punishment.

   Republicans generally believe in harsher penalties when someone has committed

   a crime, including for selling and the use of illegal drugs. They also generally

   favor capital punishment.



   The parties have different views on the education system of the country, but

   both agree there needs to be change. Democrats favor more progressive

   approaches to education, such as implementing the Common Core System,

   while Republicans tend to favor more conservative changes such as longer hours

   and more focused programs. They are also divided on student loans for college,

   with Democrats favoring giving students more money in the form of loans and

   grants while Republicans favor promoting the private sector giving loans.


Foreign Policy

U.S. foreign policy has traditionally been relatively consistent between Democratic and Republican administrations. Key allies have always been other Western powers like the UK, France. Allies in the middle east were—and continue to remain—countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

Nevertheless, some differences can be seen based on the Obama administration's handling of relations with certain countries. For example, Israel and the U.S. have always been strong allies. A major contributor to tension has been the Obama administration's Iran policy. The U.S. tightened sanctions on Iran in Obama's first term but negotiated a deal in the second term that allowed international inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. and Iran also found common ground against the threat from ISIS.

 Republicans in Congress opposed the Iran deal and the easing of sanctions against Iran. 

Another country where the Democratic Obama administration reversed decades of U.S. policy is Cuba. Republican Rand Paul supported the unfreezing of relations with Cuba but his opinion is not shared by a majority of Republicans.  Republicans like presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have publicly opposed the normalization of relations with Cuba.


Politicians from both parties are often heard saying that "The immigration system in this country is broken." However, the political divide has been too wide to let any bipartisan legislation pass to "fix" the system with "comprehensive immigration reform."

Undocumented immigrants

In general, the Democratic Party is considered more sympathetic to the immigrant cause. There is widespread support among Democrats for the DREAM Act which grants conditional residency (and permanent residency upon meeting further qualifications) to  immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were minors.

Republicans have been opposed to the act.

Legal immigration

Republicans favor legal immigration to be "merit-based" or "point-based". Such systems allow entry visas only to individuals with in-demand skills who can contribute to the economy. The flip side of such a system is that not enough visas may be available for family-based immigration.

A merit-based system is also the opposite of the what the Democrats profess: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." 

Civil Rights

Abraham Lincoln belonged to the Republican Party, so the roots of the party lie in individual freedom and the abolition of slavery. Indeed, 82% of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while  69% of Democrats did, but that was because the then strong Southern wing of the Democratic party was vehemently opposed to civil rights legislation.

In any case, the present dynamic is that minorities like Hispanics and African Americans and are much more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. There are prominent African American Republicans like Colin Powell who have now said they will vote democratic.

Voter ID laws

Democrats criticize the GOP for pushing for voter ID laws.   They believe that these laws disenfranchise senior, black and Hispanic voters who tend to be poorer and unable to obtain ID cards

Republicans believe these laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud while it has been proven that voter fraud is virtually non-existent.

*Compiled from several published articles.