The left’s gone left but the right’s gone nuts: Asymmetrical polari...

In this 2012 article David Roberts explains why US voters haven't noticed that the Republican Party's gone nuts.

From 1973-1974 till 2003-2004, the Democratic Party moved six points to the left and the Republican Party moved 22 points to the right. As a result by 2004 there's no longer any overlap.

Why, if the GOP has been radicalizing, have voters not seemed to notice?

Lots of people blame the political media.

But remember, most voters rarely encounter political media. They hear about politics through nightly network news, or not at all.

My theory is that centrism is a powerful psychological and social temptation…  I think of centrism not so much as an ideology — how could it be ideology when it’s defined in relation to two moving targets? — as a temperament, a cultural identity. It springs from the (not entirely unreasonable) sense that partisanship is a kind of psycho-cognitive impairment that causes the sufferer to see only one side of an issue, to seek out only pleasing facts, to engage in motivated reasoning. It renders partisans unable to draw fair conclusions based on evidence. By transcending tribalism, centrists see more clearly.

Or so they like to think. And it’s not hard to see why: It’s a flattering and noble story to tell about oneself. Identity centrists are, nonetheless, human beings, and as such they are as subject to human foibles as the rest of us. Centrists ... are just as prone to motivated reasoning. If you approach every question as a binary to be transcended, you can always find two “sides” to serve the purpose.

it’s also hard for the general public to see — to really understand — the radicalism on offer from the GOP. In the middle of Robert Draper’s recent New York Times Magazine piece on Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC, comes this astonishing detail:

“Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing. [my emphasis]”

That is, of course, an entirely accurate description of the Ryan budget plan. It’s precisely what Romney and the congressional GOP have said they will enact. And yet when voters hear it, it sounds over-the-top, like fear-mongering.

… most voters wouldn’t believe that the GOP has embarked on a nationwide effort to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, but that’s just what they’ve done.

Jonathan Chait says, “I wouldn’t overread this and assume that the Republicans have found the ultimate wormhole, advocating policies so outlandishly unpopular that opponents can’t persuade voters they’re real.” That’s funny, ha ha, but they kind of have. Republicans have been getting more and more crazy, but they’ve kept winning. They’ve been packing federal courts, opening up politics to unlimited money, quashing attempts to revive the economy, … and it has not hurt them. It’s a 50-50 nation. Nothing much seems to change that. [emphasis mine, excepting within the Draper report quote]

US voters, thinking that both political parties are biased, take the easiest way out by looking for a middle position, assuming that two opposite biases will balance out to something reasonable. Republicans are coasting on their long party's history, enjoying the public's presumption of legitimacy while actually embracing extremism so outlandish voters don't think it's real when they hear details.

Tags: Republican extremism, centrist voters

Views: 39

Replies to This Discussion

Ruth, I heard about the separation but this is the first pic I've seen. Thanks.

Regarding the Repub Party's long history:

I was looking for the start of the Party's split and thinking it began around 1960 when conservatives disliked Eisenhower's moderation. A long-time party activist told me the Party had formed before the Civil War from three anti-slavery parties that had nothing else in common.

I'm not sure about the 1880-1890 period, but the party split in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft both ran for president, divided the Repub vote and the Democrat Woodrow Wilson won.

Another source said the Party split in 1948 when Truman beat Dewey and the Western conservatives blamed the Eastern conservatives for the loss.

Around 1960 the Party's conservatives started expelling the moderates, led by Nelson Rockefeller and other Easterners. After his 1964 loss to Goldwater, Rockefeller did nothing to unite the moderates.

Repub moderates in Congress had helped the Dems enact the Civil Rights laws, which resulted in the Southern Dems (the offspring of slave owners) leaving. Nixon's Southern Strategy brought them and their racism into the Repub Party.

In the late 1970s the Party's leaders realized that fundamentalist Christians have conservative values. President Reagan invited them into the Party. They outnumbered the remaining moderates and these no-compromise Christians took over the state Repub parties.

Around 1985, I heard a Repub point out that they didn't have the votes in Congress to end the social programs so they might be able to end them by borrowing the Government into bankruptcy.

Actions appear to have followed policy because Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 all borrowed and left deficits; only Clinton left a surplus.

So, giving the Party's nuttiness a starting date depends on the views of those wanting to date it. I looked at the pics you supplied and don't see a sudden large break.

Obama's 2008 election and his race might account for the mid-2008 near-riots by Tea Party folk. The no-compromise Christians might be part of the mess we see now.

One thing is clear: big government religious conservatives now dominate the Repub Party, but small government Libertarian conservatives are still there.

I can't imagine "borrowing the government into bankruptcy" as a sane strategy to accomplish any political agenda.

The article is a couple of years old ... but getting more accurate every day! I have been trying to wake people up to what is happening since the late 1970s and I waste my time and energy. The evidence is all there. We just have to look, understand and challenge the trends that take place right under our noses. 

So, become as self sufficient as possible, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Stay out of debt and refuse to play the game of consuming everything that can be produced and propagandized to thinking whatever is on the market is good for us. The stuff is killing us, with each bite we take, each breath we inhale, each lie we hear. 

War is not a peace campaign! Subsidies are not empowering workers! Trade negotiations do not free people from slavery! Lowering wages are not benefiting the country as a whole. Paying higher minimum wage will not put workers out of jobs in the long run. 

Edward Bernays and his propaganda devises transform consumers into gullible sheep following the herd's leader blowing his penny whistle.

Well, the world can go crazy from listening to lies and believing them to be true. It feels good to challenge lies, take stands that need to be taken, and confront bullies. One can sleep sounder, rise rested and go about the business of being happy in spite of all those who wish us to be exploited, to be content with what we have and can make, grow, or recycle, and to be generous in our love of life and those who share it with us, even if the sharing is through virtual media.  

Thanks for pointing out how seeking centrism in an attempt to avoid partisan bias is itself a bias, vulnerable to the ever-more-radical pull of the right wing.

Their extremism has indeed gotten to the point where, as with religious fundamentalists, you sometimes can't tell parody from reality! Many actual Republican positions sound like something out of The Onion these days....

You can say that again.

Many actual Republican positions sound like something out of The Onion these days

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