Election 2016

The Parties Turn It Up to 11

Republicans are moving rightward while Democrats are moving leftward.

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"Look, I imagine that there's theoretically a chance that [we] all went from being radical extremist crazies to Washington sellouts in 12 hours," South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney said the other day. "But maybe a more likely narrative is that we really think that this is a good step for the conservative movement."

Mulvaney is a leader of the Freedom Caucus, the ragtag rump of right-wingers in the House of Representatives who helped show House Speaker John Boehner the door. He was beefing about the fact that conservative activists have turned against caucus members who support Rep. Paul Ryan for Speaker. Ryan is about as conservative as they come. But there is always someone who, like Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnell, is willing to turn the dial up to 11, which means anyone who stops at 10 becomes a RINO, at least relatively speaking.

You'd have to be living under a rock to have missed the drama that has engulfed the GOP since the rise of the Tea Party a few years ago. The fallout has been relentlessly entertaining, and sometimes dismaying. But the cacophony also has obscured a similar dynamic on the other side of the aisle. While the GOP's center of gravity has been moving right, the Democratic Party's center of gravity has been moving left.

You can see that in the difference between two Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls, taken in 1990 and again this year. The polls show a clear rightward shift among Republicans: The percentage calling themselves "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative" has grown from 48 percent to 61 percent, a shift of 13 percentage points. At the same time, though, the percentage of Democrats who call themselves "very liberal" or "somewhat liberal" has grown from 39 percent to 55 percent, a shift of 16 percentage points. If the poll is accurate, then Democrats have moved to the left by a slightly greater degree than Republicans have moved to the right.

This summer Gallup reported similar results when it found "Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years." Last year Pew Research found the same thing over a 25-year time frame, observing that "members of both parties have become more ideologically consistent and, as a result, further from one another."

So it's no surprise that, while Hillary Clinton remains the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the heart of the party proletariat beats for democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

This is telling, because for Sanders and his supporters even the more left-wing Democratic Party of today is still not nearly left-wing enough. Sanders favors tax rates as high as 90 percent; he thinks lowering foreign tariffs through the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would be "disastrous"; he even opposes an open immigration system, arguing that it's a right-wing plot. His economic ideas are not merely steeped in the past, they are steeped in ignorance of basic economics: It makes "no sense," he tweeted, that college loans bear higher interest rates than car loans or mortgages. But it makes perfect sense. As a Twitter response succinctly put it, doesn't Sanders understand the "difference between secured & unsecured loans? Try repossessing a college degree."

Sanders also wants to rewrite the First Amendment so government can prohibit private groups from airing advertisements, making movies, publishing books, or otherwise commenting about political candidates. In this, unfortunately, he has a lot of company. Hillary Clinton has proposed the same thing. So has the other remaining Democratic contender, Martin O'Malley. Carving out exceptions to the First Amendment is now, as one commentator on NPR remarked, "a mainstream position," at least in Democratic circles.

The conventional wisdom says the increasingly ideological strain in both parties is bad for America because it makes politics "dysfunctional" and governing "impossible" and because "a polarized political system makes it impossible for the federal government to accomplish most of its policy objectives" and so on.

The unspoken premise behind such laments is that things were ever so much better when the two parties were of one mind on most of the big questions facing the country, and a handful of big shots could hash out any remaining differences over a chummy round of drinks.

But there is at least as much evidence against such a premise, $18 trillion of government debt, the Iraq war's fallout, continuing economic malaise, as there is for it. Which makes it easier to understand why, rightly or wrongly, many party activists on both sides want to turn the dial up to 11.

This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


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  1. Getting the base out never looked so crazy.

    Woooooooooo.

  2. I’m certainly no Sanders fan but I have read several places where commentors have rebuffed his call for student loans to have lower rates because secured vs unsecured.

    A student loan is the only type of loan that isn’t disposalble by bankrupcy. Any other loan can be disposed of by filing bankruptcy. A student loan follows you for life and can be collected by the IRS from tax refunds.

    That is more secure than any type of loan secured by personal or real property.

    1. A secured loan paid off with security may not get you the full principal, but you get it quickly. How valuable is getting back the principal over a lifetime? Tax refunds are an easy way to collect, but one can manage their with holdings to minimize or eliminate refunds.

    2. “Secure” for whom? Government schools?

  3. …and the Libertarians are digging deeper burrows.

  4. The polls show a clear rightward shift among Republicans: The percentage calling themselves “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative” has grown

    Couldn’t this also be a severe leftward shift in the culture, where saying simple things like “Under our current tax system 50% of the country pay almost nothing” gets you marked as a wide-eyed loon bound for a rubber room?

    1. Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding.

      Every serious analysis clearly shows that the country, as a whole, has done just the opposite: shifted considerably rightward. That’s exactly why many of the policies of conservative icon Ronald Reagan are now rejected by modern GOP base conservatives as _not_ conservative. Somebody running with Reagan’s record today would be denounced as a RINO.

      And this is precisely why the article’s suggestion that “If the poll is accurate, then Democrats have moved to the left by a slightly greater degree than Republicans have moved to the right” is plain silly.

      The poll question tells us only about the respondents’ subjective/relative estimation of the political label to apply to themselves. It tells us nothing about where they sit relative to their counterparts of 1990, on any objective scale of conservative vs. liberal policy positions.

      To understand their actual motion requires looking at actual policy positions, and how those have changed over the decades.

      Since long before 1990, the political center of the two parties has moved steadily rightward. Consequently, even as the Democrat extreme moves leftward relative to the center, their absolute movement is not even remotely comparable to the absolute movement of the Republican extreme, as it moves right relative to a center also moving right.

      1. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me with that nonsense.

        The current darling of the Democratic party and favorite of the popular culture is a full-on, self described socialist. At what point in American history could a socialist ever be considered a serious contender for a major party nomination, much less the presidency itself? George McGovern? Even he got nominated on a fluke and then lost the general election in a landslide. You think Sanders would be defeated that easily today in a general election? Please. He’d pick up 45% of the vote without breaking a sweat.

        And can you honestly say that aside from a couple of outliers, any of the current Republican nominees are really THAT out of step with anything Ronald Reagan would recognize as modern conservatism? Please, do point out all the radically right-wing positions of Marco Rubio or Carly Fiorina that would leave Reagan scratching his head over.

        Meanwhile, as pointed out above, the news media does yeoman’s work in painting candidates who make entirely accurate statements like ‘50% of the country pays no taxes’ or ‘freedom of religion deserves protection’ as dangerous lunatics unfit for any public office.

        So yes, do tell me again how the nation has moved rightward, including the political left. Make sure to include lots of trigger warnings though. You know, for all those right-wing college students that now dominate academia.

        1. George W Bush the first Republican to socialize an entire industry and create a massive new entitlement program. Paul Ryan supported both.

          Yeah they are moving rightward. Sure.

          1. Rightward is toward Positive Christianity and the Common Good over the Individual Good. In 95 years it’s odd that so few people have bothered to read the original platform.

        2. Damn…#FeeltheBern

        3. “50% of the country pays no taxes” is a lie and “freedom of religion deserves protection” is presumably code for “Christians get free shit and the liberty to stomp the necks of everyone, especially Muslims and gays.”

          Do you honestly think it’s anything but obviously true that a Reagan or a Nixon would be squarely in the middle of the Democratic party today, policy-wise? When was the last time any Republican even gave lip service to the possibility that income taxes could be raised, ever? This is not a mystery of course. Given how congressional districts have become drawn, the only possible outcome is more political radicalism, and Republicans have more or less won that game, and now we have a bunch of candidates on a debate stage who can’t say a truthful thing even by accident. But how would you know, what with thinking that “50% pay no taxes” is an accurate claim?

          Bernie Sanders is a result of the same phenomenon–the Dems have been sorting as well. But I will guarantee you he will not win except in leafy college towns and the states that resemble them. While the GOP nominee, even if it’s a sane person, will not be able to stray beyond today’s orthodoxy an inch.

          1. The upside to district gerrymandering is that it takes fewer honestly-counted libertarian votes to change the outcome of looter party election efforts.

      2. “Every serious analysis clearly shows that the country…has…shifted considerably rightward.”

        Perhaps you could provide some proof for this claim.

        Otherwise, most of your post looks like the standard leftist boilerplate.

        1. most of your post looks like the standard leftist boilerplate.

          Standard leftist boilerplate IS “serious analysis”. /DERP

  5. Couldn’t this also be a severe leftward shift in the culture, where saying simple things like “Under our current tax system 50% of the country pay almost nothing” gets you marked as a wide-eyed loon bound for a rubber room?

    While they don’t pay income tax they fall prey to the Corporate Income tax, sales tax, etc. like the rest of us.

  6. Impeach Obama, his crimes can no longer be tolerated.

  7. “The polls show a clear rightward shift among Republicans: The percentage calling themselves “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative” has grown from 48 percent to 61 percent, a shift of 13 percentage points. At the same time, though, the percentage of Democrats who call themselves “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal” has grown from 39 percent to 55 percent, a shift of 16 percentage points.”

    I’d be very hesitant to make judgements based on such a subjective metric.

    1. Right. I’d hypothesize that people simply feel more comfortable with the Conservative and Liberal labels today than in previous years. Previously, people were exposed to alternative ideas simply by consuming the available media outlets. This kept the masses centered, while the “wackos” read poorly written pamphlets printed in some guy’s basement. The internet has changed this. You can disguise propaganda as news on a very nicely designed Web 2.0 site. People with extremist ideologies are able to congregate as if they were not separated by a 1000 miles. They can fine tune their ideas and package them in a consumable way. Drudge, HuffPost, Breitbart, RedState, MotherJones (ahem Reason) are as easily accessed as thier moderate counterparts, and they offer a sexy alternative to the boring nuance of yesteryear.
      The leftward shift of Democrats probably comes from them learning to embrace the term liberal. In the 90’s liberal was even accepted as a pejorative by most Democrats I

  8. Live Free[er]?

    Dear Reason reader,

    one of the most personal freedom- damaging beliefs you can ever have [one of many :-)] , is the belief in the necessity, and the effectiveness, of political involvement – to supposedly “improve” your own life or, the lives of others, via the political “process”.

    Fact: as an individual you will _never_ enjoy a freer life for yourself until you completely reject the “drug”, “religion” [ or whatever else you want to call it] known as “political activism” or “involvement”, in its entirety.

    It is nothing more than a trap- a dead end that dramatically _decreases_ your chances of ever achieving more personal freedom and happiness for yourself in this world.

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom Consulting:
    http://www.onebornfree.blogspot.com

    1. Fuck off, piece of shit spammer.

    2. The tiresome defeatist is back. Why is anyone so wealthy and wise so keen to descend into the rough-and-tumble (other than for spamming)?

  9. Leftward and rightward is blurred. For the INDIVIDUAL LEFT, the corporatization looks like a shift rightward. For the INDIVIDUAL RIGHT, the passage of Medicare Part D is a shift leftward. What is happening, simply is corpora-fascism. And so we fight the left/right argumentation when the discussion is individualism/statism. Libertarians are deemed to be neither left nor right, but are more concerned with “upward” and the use of Force against peaceful and productive people. If “left” or “right” is to be detected in the parties, there’s left and right in each, and they are largely mirror images of each other, simply with different demographics. Rich to poor, educated to ignorant, traditional to progressive – the differences are simply who is going to benefit from the Force unleashed on persecuted individuals. It’s the depressing reality that in the past there was much greater differentiation between the parties but they were more civil to each other. The rabid fighting and hacking with each other has come as they have gotten much closer together philosophically, but where they differ is fought more intensely. And that intensity is due to the increase by both parties for Statism – the stakes are just way too high for the other side to control even though they are more homogeneous than they have ever been.

    1. Well put! I wish our platform committee would stick up for individual rights and abolition of the individual income (capitation) tax. Let Mitt Romney’s corporations contribute and fend for themselves, and leave the flat-taxers to debate the other looters while we repeal bad laws by draining off spoiler votes.

  10. “a polarized political system makes it impossible for the federal government to accomplish most of its policy objectives”

    Not really seeing a down side here.

    1. ^+1

    2. I can imagine a situation in which no government gun pointed at me is better than a Mexican standoff, but I doubt the article reprinted from the looter press really conveys much in the way of gleanable useful meaning.

  11. There is NO left or right… This ideology was created during the French Revolution where the people on the left of the assembly were radicals and called for blood and the people on the right of the assembly wanted to keep things pretty much the way they were. There are three forces in government: collectivism, individualism, and what I call “Monarch-ism.” Monarchism is the force of a single issue, where people or politicians rally around one person or issue like abortion (Republicans), or social justice (Democrats), or pot legalization (Libertarians). Monarchism can be a government based on a deity or a dictator. Until we lose the left/right ideology, we will never advance and definitely never get rid of the two party oligarchy. Also, the separation between the parties is an awesome thing. It stalls government from screwing us over. Gridlock protects our rights and our government was designed to be difficult to pass laws. When they cooperate we get the Affordable Care Act, the Patriot Act, etc.

    1. Gosh. I can’t decide between “hear hear!” and “true dat!” Voters, like mice, perceive that as long as the Calico Cat is locked in fake teevee wrestling holds with the Gingham dog, they are safer than they would be otherwise.

  12. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.buzznews99.com

  13. Using the terms “liberal” and “conservative” in these polls imposes a false binary that may not accurately reflect how the respondents actually perceive the world and their place within it. What the media and political pundits define as “left” and “right” actually represent specific clusters selected from an array of values, rather than a universal spectrum along which every individual can place themselves. If you separate out the values (e.g., protectionism vs. free markets, collectivism vs. individualism, authoritarianism vs. limited government, social conformity vs. tolerance, etc.), most Americans would be grouped in clusters that defy that standard left-right paradigm. Imposing the liberal-conservative binary only serves to perpetuate the power currently held by authoritarians in both parties.

    1. My observations match the martiandawn’s. Nothing is stupider than adopting the Newspeak vocabulary devised specifically for the destruction of life and freedom, and proceeding to argue on the enemy’s terms. Our parents and grandparents were trapped between “left wing” Stalin and “right wing” Hitler. Both expressions were twisted neologisms at odds with reality. In Civil War days generals had left-and-right wings that depended on which way the army was pointed, and hence conveyed some crumbs of useful meaning accessible to journalists and the public. Once-useful words like pelf, boodle, pull-peddling and traffic in influence are clevely maneuvered into the company of Victorian anachronisms. Their replacements: wet work, nation-building, black ops, revenue enhancement… are all synonymous with robbery and murder on behalf of the clearly visible “unproductive hands” Adam Smith warned us against in 1775.

  14. Ok so both paties have “turnt up” but….

    TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?!

    /Lil John derp

  15. Only when I saw the article was cribbed from the looter press did it become clear why every sentence was one-dimensional and therefore limited to a bidirectional representation nothing like reality. Libertarians shifted the paradigm of politics. Long ago we had to choose between George W. Bush and Richard M Nixon christianofascists versus a coalition of assorted communists and socialists calling themselves (of all things!) “liberals.” Today our vessel of statecraft has left those shores at the border where Altruria meets Lineland. No longer forced to choose between nationalsocialist christianity and communo-fascist socialism, we measure fanatical opposition to individual rights and deathly fascination with economic coercion. Emigrating from Lineland to Flatland gave us two dimensions defining four quadrants, which more closely models the real world. Here, consistent totalitarians face off diagonally against libertarians exercising integrity. Those bereft of either quality cling to the monochrome “left-right” monofilament of fragmented freedoms–stepped on and cut with the habit-forming denaturants of coercion and compulsion. A pity.

  16. The republican party hasn’t moved to the extreme right lately? What the fuck is the Tea Party?

    Bb-but the Democrats might nominate a (democratic) socialist! No, they won’t. They’re going with the neoliberal.

  17. As a Twitter response succinctly put it, doesn’t Sanders understand the “difference between secured & unsecured loans? Try repossessing a college degree.”

    Actually, strictly speaking repossessing a college degree would in principle be perfectly possible. Every college grad gets a piece of paper signifying that they have graduated. Behind that piece of paper lies a set of records with the college that person graduated from showing anybody who enquires that the person in question has a degree in a particular field and that in order to attain that degree they attended classes for various subjects and attained certain scores from those subjects, whether through exams, assignments, etc.

    In principle one could have a system where whoever was in charge of policing US college loans could take a deadbeat college grad to court. Assuming an appropriate judgment against the grad, the court could then:

    a) order the student’s college to suspend until such time as they repaid the loan or even terminate that person’s degree altogether;

    b) repossess the bit of paper signifying their graduated status.

    Needless to say both options this would stymie any attempt by that student to use their degree to obtain a job or to on to obtain a higher degree such as a doctorate.

    I would also note that if a land deed can be under mortgage so can a college degree.

    1. What if they got the loans and didn’t graduate?

      1. If you mean those who fail to finish their degree there would still be a need to pay the bill for the classes they did attend. Any balance remaining in the money loaned to them would of course be refunded. (As opposed to being kept by the ex-student and used for other purposes. But then I imagine that happens already with students who fail to finish college.)

        If, on the other hand, you mean those who complete their course but flunk it altogether…well, then they really would be in a deep hole, wouldn’t they? A college loan to repay but no degree to get a job to pay it back with.

    2. How liquid is a repossessed college degree?

      That’s where your theory fails.

      1. How liquid is a repossessed college degree?You’re assuming the lender would sell off the repossessed degree to get their money back. That would not be the point of the action.The point would be to induce the student to repay the loan or lose their degree.

        Needless to say the court action need not end at repossessing the degree. It could go on to repossessing other assets the former student had acquired since graduating–such as their car, house, holiday cottage in Florida, etc.

        The degree might not have much liquidity but the assorted assets acquired through the USE of that degree would.

      2. How liquid is a repossessed college degree?

        You’re assuming the lender would sell off the repossessed degree to get their money back. That would not be the point of the action.The point would be to induce the student to repay the loan or lose their degree.

        I would also add the court action need not end at repossessing the degree. It could go on to repossessing other assets the former student had acquired since graduating–such as their car, house, holiday cottage in Florida, etc.

        The degree might not have much liquidity but the assorted assets acquired through the USE of that degree would.

  18. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.buzznews99.com

  19. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

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