Excellent observation and the treadmill was a great analogy. More importantly, you are absolutely accurate in your observation.
Republicans in every election accuse the Democrats of being spenders, and yet every Republican administration has outspent its Democratic controlled predessor.
Republicans always talk about not increasing taxes, and yet the effective tax rates tend to be higher AFTER the Republicans leave office.
The Democrats accuse the Republicans of being "warmongers," and yet the four most expensive wars with the greatest loss of life in the 20th century were authorized by Democrats: Wilson (WW1), Franklin Roosevelt (WW2), Harry Truman (Korea), and John Kennedy along with Lyndon Johnson (Viet Nam).
Obama complains that Dubya entered into two wars without paying for them for the benefit of multi-billionaire defense contractors (using off ledger budget entries). Lyndon Johnson kept military contractors busy billionaires during the Viet Nam war, while promoting his "guns and butter" approach to the budgets he approved.
I'm not saying that what any of theses presidents and their administrations did was wrong. World War 1, Korea, and Viet Nam might have been ill-advised adventures, but World War 2? I'm glad that Roosevelt fought Republican opposition and committed the nation whole-heartedly to that fight.
So Terry, you are right on the mark. As citizens all we have is one vote and then we have to go along with the ride. But the direction of that ride is always in the same direction, no matter who is in charge.