Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Minor Musing About The Political Left, Right, And Center

George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind foolishness and and his decision to invade Iraq despite the fact that there was no evidence Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 or had the weaponry to produce the mushroom cloud Bush's Vice-President Cheney ominously warned Americans about moved me leftward on the political spectrum.

In a sane political universe I would still be one step to the right of center. In South Dakota, therefore, I'm three steps to the left, a spot that most of South Dakota's conservatives believe is a full step left of Marx and Lenin.

As the name of this blog indicates, I am used to being in empty spaces, but two recent national columns give me a bit of comfort. First in yesterday's column, Max Boot writes that the Republican party has morphed. It was "a conservative party with a white-nationalist fringe. Now it’s a white-nationalist party with a conservative fringe." If memory serves, Boot was a NeoCon cheerleader for the Iraq invasion, so I should make some snide remark about getting a comeuppance, but his work also provided my policy debaters with DA link and impact cards, so I have a soft spot for Max.

I also agree with two trenchant bits of analysis from the column. First, he points out that Trump and his enablers
“want to transform the GOP into a European-style nationalist party that opposes cuts in entitlement programs, believes in deportation of undocumented immigrants, white identity politics, protectionism and isolationism backed by hyper-macho threats to bomb the living daylights out of anyone who messes with us.” 
More importantly, the cult of Trump has totally destroyed the GOP's soul.
If Trump announced he were going to spit-roast immigrant kids and eat them on national TV (apologies to Jonathan Swift), most Republicans probably would approve of that, too. The entire Republican platform can now be reduced to three words: whatever Trump says. 

The second quotation leads nicely into today's E.J Dionne column. Dionne points to an Alan I. Abramowitz book which points out that Republicans have moved further right than Democrats have moved left.

And the centrist heavenly chorus is off-key in another respect: While it sings mournful songs about the major parties becoming “extreme,” Abramowitz’s data make clear that the two sides are not equivalent. Republicans have moved significantly further to the right than Democrats have moved to the left.

Between 1972 and 2012, he notes, the proportion of Democrats who put themselves at the center of the ideological spectrum (or were unable to place themselves) dropped from 52 percent to 41 percent, an 11-point drop. In the same period, the comparable figures for Republicans were 44 percent and 22 percent, double the Democratic swing.

The upshot: The share of Democrats in the ideological middle is nearly twice that of Republicans.

Boot's and Dionne's analysis indicate what red state Democrats and moderate independents have long known. Republicans will continue to demonize moderate positions as leftist/socialist/communist not because those positions are actually left of center but because Republicans have moved so far to the right that the center has become distorted. More importantly, Trump may have made that situation irreversible.

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