TheGrio Daily

Why Both Parties Are Not the Same

Episode 165
Play

“Every organization needs to be criticized and should be criticized. But there’s a difference between criticism and false equivalency.”  A common criticism of American politics is that “both parties are two sides of the same coin.” Wypipologist Michael Harriot disagrees and explains that Black people should vote for who they believe represents the aims and goals of the Black community at large. Presuming that both are the same suggests voting doesn’t matter, and if Black people don’t vote, they’re allowing wypipo to make all the political decisions in the United States.

Full Transcript Below:

Announcer: You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.

Michael Harriot: “Man, the Democratic Party is just as racist as the Republican Party. Both parties are just the same, ain’t no difference.” I know you’ve heard it before, but is it true? Well, that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily. The only podcast that’ll explain why both parties are not the same.

I’m world world-famous Wypipologist, Michael Harriot. And this is theGrio Daily.

I’m sure you’ve been the subject of a rescue operation. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sure that many of you have been the victims of being enslaved on what some people call the “Democratic Plantation.” Cause you know, I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase. Like, hey, we gotta get off the “Democratic Plantation.” Or, when people say, like, the GOP is no different than the Democratic Party, both, both of them are the same.

And, of course, if you saw that on Twitter, or on Facebook, or on a social media platform like TikTok, where there is no room for nuance, you might believe it. And that’s why I want to talk about this with y’all today. So first of all, um, when you talk about the Democratic plantation, right, the idea that Black people are stuck on the Democratic plantation insinuates that like Black people are too dumb to know what they’re voting for and that we’ve been bamboozled or hoodwinked by white people and that like all of our grandparents and great grandparents who read newspapers and voted for the collective progress of Black people didn’t know what they were doing.

That we were just playing in the white folks game. And apparently, like, the white folks wasn’t sharing this plan with each other because the Democratic Party figured out this game and got us to vote for them. And the Republican Party, somehow, the white people in the Republican Party couldn’t figure it out.

Now, I want to be clear here, right? So. None of this is saying that the Democratic Party shouldn’t be criticized. Because, I mean, to be frank, the Democratic Party got white people in it, and a lot of white people are racist. And the Democratic Party needs to be criticized. Because every organization needs to be criticized and should be criticized. But there’s a difference between criticism and false equivalency. There’s a difference between making both things the same just for the sake of the argument, right? Like, I don’t like milk and I don’t like poison. Right? But it’s a false equivalency to say poison and milk are the same thing just because I don’t like them. Or because I’m lactose intolerant, milk is poison. It ain’t no difference between rat poison and milk if you are lactose intolerant. See, that’s a dumb thing to say. And if you hear somebody saying that, you’re likely to stop listening to them. Right? Because you know that that person has no nuance. And what they’re saying, and they think that you are dumb.

And again, the Democratic party often does things that it should be criticized for. They appease moderate on the fence, white voters and chase after their votes while rejecting the demographic that has most loyally supported them for nearly a century, Black people, right? Black people are more likely to vote Democratic.

And we’ve been doing that for the last 60 years. But what nobody ever mentions is that why is there not a Republican plantation, right? Like why are the Black people so dumb when they vote Democrat? Why is it that the white people are not dumb when they vote Republican? The majority of white people have voted Republican in every single presidential 60 years, but somehow they know what they’re doing.

And somehow, they’re not on a Republican plantation? Why, why do you even evoke the imagery of a plantation when it relates to Black folks but not white folks? Why? Because why aren’t the white people stuck on a Republican plantation? Well, the reason is because some people are dumb, right? And to be fair, social media doesn’t allow for these nuanced conversations.

Again, there is room to criticize without the false equivalency. The second thing is, when you talk about the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party, you can say that both parties have flaws, but we have to understand what politics is, right? Politics is a game of power. And in America, the reality is, That we exist in a two-party system and those two parties represent two different things. And I’m not saying that there aren’t remnants of white supremacy in the Democratic Party. There definitely is. White people matter more to the Democratic Party. But, I am not expecting Democratic white people to like me. Like, politics is not a game of what you like. It’s a game of coalition building when your policy preferences intersect or align.

Right? So the white people in the Democratic Party don’t have to like me. Right? But when you talk about the two parties, there’s one party. that believes in the trickle-down economics, that believes that corporations should pay less taxes, that tax dollars should go to corporations and rich people, and that’s how you build an economy.

And the other side believes the opposite. There’s one side that says You don’t have to pay people a living wage and they filibuster it every time you try to raise the minimum wage and pay people a living wage. And there’s another side that pushes for it. There’s one side that says that we should reform the police and there’s another side that says, you know, all police are good and if you criticize the police, then you’re anti-cop. If you want to reform current laws to prevent people from being brutalized, you’re anti-cop and as one side that tried at least try to get police reform done. And again, that doesn’t mean the democratic party is perfect because one of the criticisms is that the democratic party, even if they try to reform policing, they still perpetuate the idea that police solve crime, that defunding the police means that we don’t want any kind of law enforcement or social protection against crime. Which is not true, right? Like there are, if we started from today and try to build an institution that fought crime, that protected people, that helped neighborhoods, uh, fight, uh, violence, it would not look like giving guns to 18-year-olds and sending them out in the street and cars to pull people over and to frisk them, and to arrest them, and to incarcerate them. That’s not what justice would look like if we started from brand new. And now that we know these things, the only way to effect this change is to defund these ways that we’ve been doing it wrong. The Democratic Party runs away from that idea. They should be criticized from that. 

But, the other party says, you can’t even have that conversation. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. Don’t be anti-cop. There’s a side that says that we pay our taxes into the federal and the state and the local government and those governments have a responsibility to help the poorest and the neediest of those people, and there’s other side that says our tax dollars should be so low that we could drown the IRS in a bathtub. That side, there’s a side that says, “Hey, look, I don’t want to pay taxes. And the way that we can reduce taxes is to reduce the social programs that help the needy. But keep giving SpaceX and these large corporations our tax dollars.”

And those two parties are not the same, even though both should be criticized. If you’re going to honor your ancestors, if you believe that we are going to participate in the political process, then you got to choose one of those sides. Now you can say, if we’re going to be a part of a party, we need to ensure that that party has our policies and politics aligned.

But saying, “well, both are the same,” is this not only disingenuous, it insinuates that we shouldn’t even participate in voting at all. And if you think that Black people shouldn’t vote or that we should withhold our vote, then what you’re saying is that Black people should let white people determine our political and economic and social futures because they’re going to vote and they’re going to vote on the side that they’ve always voted for on the side of white supremacy, on the side of white nationalism, on the side that benefits them. And if you think that they are politically astute, if you look at history, you can see which side they are voting for. If they are voting for white supremacy, which side are they voting for? If they’re voting for white nationalism, if they’re voting for racism, which side has, have they been voting for for the past 60 years? Well, there’s a reason that they have been voting for the Republican Party. They understand this, but the Black people are too dumb? That’s a totally stupid notion. 

So, yes, the Democratic Party has racism embedded in it, like every other institution in America. Yes, the Democratic Party is not perfect. I don’t know a perfect institution in America. And yes, there are some people who subvert the progress of Black people who are Democrats. But that is the goal of the other party. And I’m not saying that you should vote Democrat. I’m saying that you should vote, and if you’re going to vote, if you’re going to choose what party or what candidate best affects your political, economic, and social progress, then you have to make an astute observation.

And that astute observation shouldn’t, can’t just be individual. It has to be for the collective progress of Black people. Because the truth is, Black people have never voted for the Democrats. Black people have never voted for the Republicans. The Black people who vote have been voting, for the most part, for the progress of Black people. We vote for Black people. And to do that, we have to judge which party has not our political best interest at heart, but which party best represents us in this two-party system. And if you think that’s the Republican Party, well, vote for them. If you think it’s the Democratic Party, vote for them. But you have to know that even when you make that determination, you’re not closing your eyes and just checking a box. You’re saying to yourself that both parties are not the same. 

And that’s why you have to understand that anyone who says that both parties are the same, I haven’t been listening to this podcast. They haven’t downloaded that Grio app. They haven’t told a friend about this podcast and they don’t know that we leave you every week with a Black saying, and today’s Black saying is, “One of these things is not like the other one of these things are not the same.” We’ll see you next time on theGrio Daily.

If you like what you heard. Please give us a five-star review, download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and to share it with everyone. You know, please email all questions, suggestions, and compliments to Podcasts@thegrio.com.


Michael Harriot is an economist, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His New York Times bestseller Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America is available everywhere books are sold.

Listen to these additional episodes:

The First Mass Incarceration

Black People Have Always Valued Education

Does Conservative Mean White?