Saturday, January 4, 2020

Justifying Political Pessimism

On my previous post, Donald commented that my predictions were "depressing." I prefer realistic, but I can see how one can conclude my "the glass is half empty, cracked, and leaking" worldview is a bit depressing.

I offer the following two bits of support that I'm being realistic. First, the gap between the parties is wide and growing wider.
Stolen from "What Happened to America's Political Center of Gravity?"
New York Times, June 26, 2019
In a sane political universe, I would be close to the center or probably a step to the political right. In the world viewed by most Republicans I am far to the left. (South Dakota Republicans likely view me as someone to the left of Karl Marx.) In the world Democrats see, I'm too far to the right to be considered a reliable voter.

Second, an angry moral certitude dominates the current political zeitgeist, The following Tom Nichols tweet sums it up pretty well.
Nichols, in fewer than 280 characters,  illustrates how the political focus has moved from asking how can one work to ensure liberty for all to asking how can one stop others from exercising freedom in ways that one dislikes.

Both the chart and Nichols's tweet illustrate another problem: our current political vocabulary is inadequate to the task.

The chart shows that words like centrist have no real meaning. If one is in the center of American politics, one is farther to the right than many voters in the rest of the world and farther than Republicans were in the Reagan era.

When Nichols uses the term "conservative," he is referring to Trumpists who are not conservatives; they are populists far removed from the tradition of Hayek or Buckley. Populists in the Trumpian tradition are much more driven by the emotion of the moment than any conservative principle.

A widening gap, hubristic moral certitude, and a political vocabulary that is woefully inadequate for the current situation does not lead me to think optimistically.

1 comment:

Donald said...

That's an interesting graph. It's hard to interpret, but to me it seems that the Democrats are a moderate center left party, while the Republicans are an extreme right party. If you measure the distance from the median line, the Democrats are about 3-4 time closer to being a centrist party, than the Republicans. The US Republican Party, in fact, is so far right that the only parties that are further to the right are the European neo-fascist parties. I realize there are elements in the Democratic Party that are a bit more like the Social Democratic parties in Europe or the Greens, but the majority of the party is fairly pragmatic.