A two party system will often leave voters with no choice but to support a party which they fundamentally disagree with in some areas. Gay Republicans have been a common topic of discussion. Hopefully this election year will lead to more questions as to how a middle class person could vote Republican. Today Friendly Atheist looked at atheists who vote Republican, supporting a party which hates them. While the post is generally right in questioning how any atheist could vote Republican, the post began with a false premise:
Mind you, I’m not saying there’s anything strange about being an atheist conservative, or at least an atheist fiscal conservative. Belief in limited government, low taxes, strong defense, a hard line on immigration, and any number of other conservative beliefs are 100% compatible with atheism. It’s normal that such atheists wouldn’t dream of voting Democratic.
Lower taxes–only for the ultra-wealthy. Most people will pay lower taxes under the Democrats than Republicans.
Limited government–a party which supports increased government intrusion in the lives of individuals is hardly the supporter of limited government. Besides, the biggest growth in government in recent years has occurred under the Republicans.
Strong defense–compare Obama’s successes against al Qaeda versus Bush’s failure. Going to war against the wrong country does not provide a strong defense.
Hard line on immigration–ok that one goes to the Republicans. Nobody surpasses them in promoting fear and hatred of others.
There are many strong reasons why atheists would not vote for Republicans. These same arguments also would apply to secular religious individuals who respect separation of church and state. While not all Republicans hold all these views, they are common in the party. These include opposition to abortion rights, support for teaching evolution in the schools, opposition to contraception, opposition to gay rights, support for school prayer, support tax breaks for religious institutions, and the belief held by many Republicans that atheists should not hold public office.
There are essentially two things which Republicans really do support in office (as opposed to their rhetoric): 1) Reducing taxes on the ultra-wealthy (while being perfectly willing to increase taxes on the middle class and increase the deficit), and 2) Allowing the religious right to impose their views on the country as a means of buying their votes. This hardly leaves any good reason for an atheist to vote Republican, but a tremendous number of people (most not being atheists) do vote Republican based upon their rhetoric as opposed to what they actually do in office.
Steven Moffat give some hints (or perhaps misleads) about Jenna-Louise Coleman’s role as the new companion on Doctor Who during a recent radio interview:
The new companion will, again, be a human from contemporary earth. This is necessary for audience identification and a ‘jumping on’ point for new viewers
How the companion gets where she is and what that means for the character is what will make her utterly different and fascinating
The new companion will not have any links to any previous characters
Her ‘journey’ will be shocking and intriguing. The Doctor has never met anyone quite like her before
Her very presence in the TARDIS will change the Doctor and there’s something different about her that will have a knock-on effect for the Doctor/companion dynamic
Or how about Jon Luc Picard as a companion? Above is from the comic miniseries Star Trek: The Next Generation and Doctor Who: Assimilation².
The two greatest science-fiction properties of all time cross over for the first time in history, in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/DOCTOR WHO: ASSIMILATION²! Captain Jean-Luc Picard faces one of the most difficult decisions of his life, but the fate of the galaxy may depend on it! Can the Doctor convince him to make the correct choice?
Another example of cover art from the miniseries can be seen here.
There was controversy this week when it was revealed on the DVD extras that one of the heads used on Game of Thrones during the first season was that of George Bush. It sounds like it was just a matter of using materials which were handy and nobody would have noticed if this was not mentioned during the commentary. From the DVD commentary:
“The last head on the left is George Bush. George Bush’s head appears in a couple of beheading scenes. It’s not a choice, it’s not a political statement. We just had to use whatever head we had around.”
The full scene is above.
This was an interesting bit of trivia about the show which apparently nobody noticed when it aired, but once revealed HBO really had no choice but to have this edited out. In a nation split near 50:50 it is understandable that a media company would not want to alienate a large percentage of the country in such a manner. The season finale was taken down and DVD sales stopped to allow for digital removal of Bush’s head–which would create a problem for those desiring to watch the first season. I just checked HBO GO and found that the episode is back up. The scene with Bush’s head is unchanged except that there is now hair digitally inserted over much of the face making it unrecognizable.
One of the biggest puzzles about the first season of Once Upon A Time is why they didn’t use Meghan Ory more often. The producers apparently agreed and are making her a regular for the second season, along with adding new characters.
The two top writers of rapid-paced dialogue are back on the air this summer–Aaron Sorkin with The Newsroom and Amy Sherman-Paladino with Bunheads. Sorkin discussed his work in an interview here–but I would give higher grades to Sorkin’s previous shows than he gives himself. Another interview with Sorkin touches on science fiction as well as politics:
In one episode of Newsroom, we hear Will say, “I’m a registered Republican—I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not by gay marriage.” So—
Your question is “Are hurricanes caused by high barometric pressure or low barometric pressure?” The answer is both. Hurricanes are caused when a high-pressure system surrounds a low-pressure system. That wasn’t your question, though. Your question is, why is Will a Republican?
No. My question is, if he really is a Republican with moderate-to-liberal beliefs, when did you become interested in science fiction?
You’ve answered the question I thought you were asking, which is, why is he a Republican? There are several reasons, but the biggest is: I haven’t seen this guy on TV.
Or anywhere, lately.
For the last year or so, but really since Obama got elected, I’ve found the most interesting op-ed political writing to be from Republicans who are looking at the extreme right and saying, “Those guys aren’t with us. I don’t know what happened here, but they’ve kind of co-opted our brand name. But these aren’t Republican values.” Guys like David Frum, Mark McKinnon, Andrew Sullivan. Even George Will. I hadn’t seen that guy on television. There’s CNN, which tries very, very hard either to not be anything or to be both things. And then, of course, there’s Fox and there’s MSNBC, on either side.
Amy Sherman-Paladino’s new show Bunheads premiered last week, with many similarities to Gilmore Girls. Inevitably interviews about the new show led to questions about Gilmore Girls, including the mysterious four words which she had intended to conclude the series with:
You always said you knew the four words that were going to end the last Gilmore Girls episode, and you obviously never got to have them said. Any chance you’d share them now? To me, because I didn’t have control of that last year and [whispers]I still haven’t seen the last year … Here’s the deal. All the people who ran the last year, David Rosenthal, I hired him, he’s good people, he’s a good writer, I really like him. I don’t think he thought Dan and I were going to leave. We didn’t think we were going to leave. Everyone was caught unaware. It was literally a situation of bad negotiating. Our interests were in staying and keeping the show going. Once the CW bought it, we called Warner Bros. and said the CW is going to need this show to launch new product for the next couple of years. You don’t want the show to go down this year. We instigated that. When the negotiations got so crazy we thought, Maybe we’re high? Maybe they don’t want it for the next couple of years. But by not having control of that, it shifts the focus of what my last words would have been. I was also holding on to it for a long time because I was thinking if we did do a movie, I would be able to use it there. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen so, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll eventually say the four words. I feel like now I’ll let people down because it’s been so built up. “Really? That’s what we waited all these twelve years for? Well, thanks so much.”
Maybe the four final words were, “Rory, you were adopted.” Doubtful, but amusing speculation.
Alexis Bledel’s appearance on Mad Men this season also came up:
I’m sure you know a very grown-up Alexis Bledel was on Mad Men a few weeks ago. We have a place in Brooklyn and she lives right around the corner from us. I have to say she is taking a very thoughtful, interesting approach to her career post-Gilmore. She’s being very particular. I think it’s very smart. She’s not rushing. I applaud it. She did have her shirt open, however, and her boobs hanging out. I was behind. I’m behind on everything that’s not Game of Thrones. And then I read some headline that said, “Most Boring Mad Men Ever Except for Rory Gilmore Getting Naked!” I thought, Holy shit, is she naked? She wasn’t. She had a fur and some underwear. When you’re young and your boobs look like that? Why not?
Speaking of Mad Men, I noticed that critics were generally dissatisfied with the season finale last week. I disagree. Certainly there was more drama in the previous episode in which Lane committed suicide, but the finale did an excellent job of tying up some loose ends and presumably setting the stage for next season. They might have saved the suicide for the finale, but handling it this way allowed viewers to see the aftermath of the act.
The finale included Pete Campbell getting punched, not once but twice, making this twice as good as the previous episode in which this occurred. Pete seemed to becoming too successful at SCDP, but we learned of his dissatisfaction with his life during his visit to the hospital. Perhaps he was demonstrating even more self-understanding when he told the conductor, “I’m president of the Howdy Doody Circus Army.” There was an Eternal Sunshine Of Spotless Mind conclusion to the Rory Gilmore storyline. We saw that SCDP has become a successful firm, suggesting an end to the new company struggling to survive story lines which can become tedious. Most importantly, we may have seen the beginning of the end of Don and Megan. The episode contained clues, such as Don telling Peggy, “That’s what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on.” Don warned Megan against taking help from him, telling her she would be better off being “someone’s discovery than someone’s wife.” Don might now believe that Megan will move on as Peggy did. Now that Don has helped Megan get the role in the ad, she has become too much like Betty when they met, and might ultimately suffer the same fate. The episode ended with what might be the old Don Draper going into the bar to order a highball. We don’t know how he answered the question, “are you alone” but things will never be the same between Don and Megan.
The Avengers ended with the heroes going out to a shawarma restaurant after saving New York. When watching this scene (at the end of the credits) did you wonder where Loki was? The answer is above.
I’ve often pointed out that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that Ronald Reagan would no longer be welcome. It means more coming from Jeb Bush:
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said today that both Ronald Reagan and his father George H. W. Bush would have had a difficult time getting nominated by today’s ultra-conservative Republican Party.
“Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,” Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as “temporary.”
“Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,” he said. Reagan “would be criticized for doing the things that he did.”
Bush blamed both the hyper-partaisnhip of the Republicans and Barack Obama for the dysfunctional political climate during Obama’s first year. If we look back, Republican leaders were already saying their goal was for Obama to fail. In contrast, Obama’s major proposals during his first year included an old Republican health care reform proposal (which had been used by Mitt Romney), old Republican ideas to deal with climate change, and tax cuts.
Don’t get the idea that Bush’s criticism of the Republican Party suggest he is a moderate. Bush also supported the extremist Ryan budget.
The right-wing propaganda rag, The Washington Times is running a story claiming that Obama suffered an” embarrassing defeat” in which his budget was voted down 99 to 0. Many conservative blogs are repeating this lie. They are also claiming that there were similar embarrassing votes for Obama in the past. In reality, there was no actual Obama budget up for a vote. These “Obama budgets” are actually budget votes initiated by Republicans for budgets which are not really Obama’s. As they are not Obama’s actual budgets, the Democrats (along with Republicans) have unanimously voted against them.
If only the Republicans would concentrate on governing and solving problems as opposed to repeated stunts for political gain.
First Read reports that the Republicans plan to crash the economy again before the election with another fight over the debt limit. The Democrats need to be prepared to make sure that this time the Republicans are held accountable for their actions. If the Republicans were half as competent at governing as they are at such political manipulations, we wouldn’t be in such bad shape. Unfortunately the far right wing views which now dominate the party prevents this.
The defeat of Richard Lugar by Richard Mourdock in Indiana last might might have consequences far worse than changing one Senate seat from conservative to extremist right wing. I am, of course, assuming that Indiana doesn’t provide another shock as when this conservative state went for Barack Obama in 2008. Jonathan Chait has a warning as to what could be the most serious outcome:
The most important and alarming facet of Lugar’s defeat, and a factor whose importance is being overlooked at the moment, is one of the things Mourdock cited against him: Lugar voted to confirm two of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Obviously, Lugar would not have chosen to nominate an Elena Kagan or a Sonia Sotomayor. But he was following a longstanding practice of extending presidents wide ideological latitude on their Supreme Court picks. In the absence of corruption, lack of qualifications, or unusual ideological extremism, Democratic presidents have always been allowed to pick liberal justices, and Republican presidents conservative ones. That’s not a law. It’s just a social norm.
But the social norms that previously kept the parties from exercising power have fallen one by one. Under Obama’s presidency, Republicans have gone to unprecedented lengths to block completely uncontroversial appointments, paralyzing the government and using the power to paralyze government to nullify duly passed laws. It is bringing on an approaching crisis of American government.
The social norm against blocking qualified, mainstream Supreme Court nominees is one of the few remaining weapons the Republican Party has left lying on the ground. But if Republican senators attribute Lugar’s defeat even in part to those votes for Kagan and Sotomayor, which seems to be the case, what incentive do they have to vote for another Obama nominee? And then what will happen if he gets another vacancy to fill – will Republican senators allow him to seat any recognizably Democratic jurist? Especially as the Supreme Court interjects itself more forcefully into partisan disputes like health care, will it become commonplace for the Court to have several vacancies owing to gridlock, for the whole legitimacy of the institution to collapse?
Not to mention the most blatantly political and unjust action by the Supreme Court since dominated by conservatives–blocking a recount and choosing the president in 2000.
The outcome is certainly not clear. Republicans have gotten away with seriously hindering the Obama administration by blocking nominees without justification, but a Supreme Court Justice is a far more high profile position. People who are unaware of how much the Republicans have obstructed progress are more likely to notice this and perhaps begin to realize how unreasonable the Republicans have become in recent years. The Republicans very well might pay a political price if they repeatedly filibuster moderate liberal Supreme Court nominees, and this might also lead to changes in Senate rules. This might not even be limited to the Supreme Court. Would anyone really put it past the Republicans these days to filibuster replacement appointees for members of the Cabinet who choose not to remain in Obama’s second term.
If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.
This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.
Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.
THINKPROGRESS: What do you think is happening here?
DANFORTH: An effort by some, and apparently a large number, 60% in Indiana, to purge the Republican Party and to create something that’s ideologically pure and intolerant of anybody who does not agree with them — not just on general principles, but right across the board.
THINKPROGRESS: Do you stand by your view that GOP is beyond hope?
DANFORTH: If this trend succeeds, yeah. What they will be left with, if indeed they want to purge the party of all but people who have a particular ideological slant… it’s not a way to win elections, it’s not political sustainable. It might make them feel good for a time but doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked. It didn’t work in Nevada or in Delaware in last election. They won nominations but couldn’t win elections. I don’t know how you win elections without getting 51% of the vote. I don’t see how you’re gonna get 51% of the vote if you make it clear that people in your own party, who don’t absolutely agree with everything you want to do, aren’t wanted.
While President Obama and congressional Democrats want to extend only the Bush rates for middle-income earners, Republicans have long argued that the entire slate of tax rates should be kept in place until Congress can agree to a complete overhaul of the tax code.
But moving to extend the Bush tax rates without offsetting spending cuts or revenue increases could leave the GOP vulnerable to attacks on the deficit, particularly for a party that has spent years accusing Democrats of bankrupting federal coffers and used their House majority to insist on controlling the exploding debt.
It is Republican Party orthodoxy that tax cuts do not need to be offset because of the additional tax receipts they spur through economic growth. And in interviews, even House Republicans who have broken with the party leadership on taxes told The Hill they do not believe the extension of the Bush-era rates needs to be paid for.
Of course the evidence over the years has been that in most cases lower taxes means decreased government revenue without causing economic growth. This was seen again with the Bush tax cuts. The Laffer Curve shows benefits for tax cuts in situations with high tax rates. On rare occasions, such as when Democrat John Kennedy lowered taxes, economic benefits were seen. Even the Laffer Curve demonstrates that economic stimulus will not result from tax cuts when tax rates are at historically low levels, such as at the present. Republicans just want to lower taxes for the ultra-wealthy, and do not really care about the deficit or the consequences for the country.
Barack Obama is on the cover of Rolling Stone. The interview started out with Obama making a point which I think many Democrats have missed. Obama has been criticized for trying to attract Republicans when it is obvious that Republican politicians have no intention to compromise. They prefer to block anything proposed by Obama for political gain, regardless of how much harm they do to the country. However, in trying to make his policies attractive to Republicans, it is Republican voters, not politicians, who Obama wants to attract. Many are brainwashed by Fox and the right wing noise machine, but Obama showed in 2008 that he can attract enough former Republican voters to win in states where Democrats had not won recently.
Let’s talk about the campaign. Given all we’ve heard about and learned during the GOP primaries, what’s your take on the state of the Republican Party, and what do you think they stand for?
First of all, I think it’s important to distinguish between Republican politicians and people around the country who consider themselves Republicans. I don’t think there’s been a huge change in the country. If you talk to a lot of Republicans, they’d like to see us balance the budget, but in a balanced way. A lot of them are concerned about jobs and economic growth and favor market-based solutions, but they don’t think we should be getting rid of every regulation on the books. There are a lot of Republican voters out there who are frustrated with Wall Street and think that they acted irresponsibly and should be held to account, so they don’t want to roll back regulations on Wall Street.
But what’s happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn’t get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that’s true. You have every candidate onstage during one of the primary debates rejecting a deficit-reduction plan that involved $10 in cuts for every $1 of revenue increases. You have a Republican front-runner who rejects the Dream Act, which would help young people who, through no fault of their own, are undocumented, but who have, for all intents and purposes, been raised as Americans. You’ve got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.
If you want to lower the deficit, reduce government intrusion in individual’s personal lives, have lower taxes on the middle class, and a stronger defense against al Qaeda, all things I would expect Republican voters to support, Obama has been the one to offer more sensible positions on these issues.
As for Mitt Romney:
Given all that, what do you think the general election is going to look like, and what do you think of Mitt Romney?
I think the general election will be as sharp a contrast between the two parties as we’ve seen in a generation. You have a Republican Party, and a presumptive Republican nominee, that believes in drastically rolling back environmental regulations, that believes in drastically rolling back collective-bargaining rights, that believes in an approach to deficit reduction in which taxes are cut further for the wealthiest Americans, and spending cuts are entirely borne by things like education or basic research or care for the vulnerable. All this will be presumably written into their platform and reflected in their convention. I don’t think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, “Everything I’ve said for the last six months, I didn’t mean.” I’m assuming that he meant it. When you’re running for president, people are paying attention to what you’re saying.
Drug policy is an area where many of us who did vote for Obama were disappointed. He did address this issue:
Let me ask you about the War on Drugs. You vowed in 2008, when you were running for election, that you would not “use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.” Yet we just ran a story that shows your administration is launching more raids on medical pot than the Bush administration did. What’s up with that?
Here’s what’s up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, “Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.” What I can say is, “Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.” As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.
The only tension that’s come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, “This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.” That’s not something we’re going to do. I do think it’s important and useful to have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of the things we’ve done over the past three years was to make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. We’ve had a discussion about how to focus on treatment, taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to deal with this issue. I think that’s an appropriate debate that we should have.
Changing the legislation is important, and I do wish Obama would propose some meaningful changes. There is no doubt that the medical marijuana laws are used for people to obtain marijuana for uses beyond medical uses. On the other hand, it is clear that prohibition does not work and there is no point in using government to try to prevent the use of marijuana. I back the position of the California Medical Association in having doubts about the system for medical marijuana but believe the answer is to legalized marijuana and get government out of this issue.
Obama showed his support for the free market, while contrasting his views of a market economy from those of the Republicans:
Occupy Wall Street seems to have influenced your rhetoric. Has it had a deeper impact on your thinking about America?
You know, I think that Occupy Wall Street was just one vivid expression of a broader anxiety that has been around in the United States for at least a decade or more. People have a sense the game is rigged, so just a few people can do well, and everybody else is left to scramble to get by.
The free market is the greatest generator of wealth in history. I’m a firm believer in the free market, and the capacity of Americans to start a business, pursue their dreams and strike it rich. But when you look at the history of how we became an economic superpower, that rugged individualism and private-sector dynamism was always coupled with government creating a platform so that everybody could succeed, so that consumers weren’t taken advantage of, so that the byproducts of capitalism, like pollution or worker injuries, were regulated. Creating that social safety net has not made us weaker – it’s made us stronger. It liberated people to say, “I can move to another state, but if I don’t find a job right away, my kids aren’t going to go hungry. I can start a business, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to be able to land on my feet.” Making those kinds of commitments to each other – to create safety nets, to invest in infrastructure and schools and basic research – is just like our collective investment in national security or fire departments or police. It has facilitated the kind of risk-taking that has made our economy so dynamic. This is what it means for us to live in a thriving, modern democracy.
One of the major arguments we’ll be having in this election season is a contrasting vision that says not just that government is part of the problem, but essentially that government is the entire problem. These guys, they don’t just want to roll back the New Deal – in some cases, they want to go back even further.
Obama also reads some of the blogs as well as op-ed writers:
Do you read Paul Krugman?I read all of the New York Times columnists. Krugman’s obviously one of the smartest economic reporters out there, but I also read some of the conservative columnists, just to get a sense of where those arguments are going. There are a handful of blogs, Andrew Sullivan’s on the Daily Beast being an example, that combine thoughtful analysis with a sampling of lots of essays that are out there. The New Yorker and The Atlantic still do terrific work. Every once in a while, I sneak in a novel or a nonfiction book.
Here’s a totally non-surprising finding: Republicans have become more conservative. Keith Poole and Howard Rosentahl have found that the Republican Party is the most conservative it has been in a century. While the Democrats have also moved to the left, largely due to the loss of more conservative members from the south, they have moved far less than Republicans:
Keith Poole of the University of Georgia, with his collaborator Howard Rosenthal of New York University, has spent decades charting the ideological shifts and polarization of the political parties in Congress from the 18th century until now to get the view of how the political landscape has changed from 30,000 feet up. What they have found is that the Republican Party is the most conservative it has been a century.
This graph shows the ideological movement for both parties in the House. Note the steady shift towards conservatism among Republicans.
In a recent conversation Poole, who’s viewed by other political scientists as the go-to expert on this issue, explained that the data are very clear:
“This is an entirely objective statistical procedure. The graphs just reflect what comes out of the computer. Howard Rosenthal and I, we’ve been working on something called Nominate. This does all the Congresses simultaneously, which allows you to study change over time.
“The short version would be since the late 1970s starting with the 1976 election in the House the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furtherest to the right that they’ve been in 100 years.
Of course some, and not just conservative activists, will be quick to point out that Democrats also have their take-no-prisoner liberals who aren’t prone to compromise on their core issues, either…
Poole acknowledges that Democrats have contributed their share to the polarization of the political process, especially, he says, through their use of identity politics, appeals to race, ethnicity and gender.Democrats have also contributed by losing House and Senate seats in the South where moderate Democrats have been replaced by Republicans. Meanwhile, moderate Republicans have continued to depart the scene, with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine being just the latest.
Buttressing a point that Obama has sometimes made, this loss of moderates and further rightward movement by congressional Republicans would have been a challenge to navigate for even the biggest conservative hero of modern times, President Ronald Reagan. Poole said:
“Ronald Reagan was so successful because he made all these deals with these huge blocks of moderate legislators. That’s why he had overwhelming majorities for the 81 tax cut, the 82 tax increase, where they had to go back and adjust the tax bill in 82 and the Social Security fix in 83. Then in 86 you had Simpson Mazzoli, which included amnesty and tax simplification. All that stuff passed with very large majorities. You cannot imagine anything like that happening now. Which is why the country is really in the tank.
“There’s a lot of blame to go around. It doesn’t look like there’s any resolution of this anytime soon.”
That said, Poole says the data are hard to deny; the polarization is largely due to how far and relatively quickly Republicans have shifted to the right end of the ideological spectrum. And he faults leaders of both parties for allowing the nation to get into a fiscal morass in which government spending on health care is unsustainable:
“It is true that the Republicans have moved further to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left. That’s absolutely true.
“On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be much impetus on the part of the leadership of either political party to really do something serious about our budget crisis. I doubt very seriously we’ll see much improvement.
“People forget how utterly irresponsible our political leadership has been for the last 30 years. … The current political class of the U.S. just isn’t in the same league as Truman and Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. You just don’t have that kind of leadership now, just when we need it.