NYT’s blockbuster news about American politics!

by Fabius Maximus 

Summary: The New York Times has a blockbuster story about increasing political polarization in America, but it’s the opposite of what we have been told for a decade. This was Founder’s greatest fear for the Republic.

Political polarization in America

There is always a Left-Right spectrum. That was so even in the Roman Republic. But the “teams” or their characteristics shift, as our political system evolves. For years, bien-pensant Leftists insisted that the Right-Conservatives-Republicans (different expressions on the spectrum) had moved to the right. They said this in 2012 (e.g., here and herein 2015in 2016 (e.g., here and here), in 2017, and even in 2018 (here and here). Some even said that the Democratic Party had moved to the right.

But by 2018 it became increasingly difficult to ignore the Left-liberal-Democrats move to the Left. Especially after Trump has governed as a standard right-wing Republican for 3 years. Tax cuts for the rich and more military spending like Reagan and Bush Jr. Hatred for arms control treaties, like conservatives back to 1964. Harsh measures on immigrants from the South, like FDR and Obama.

David Graham, staff writer at The Atlantic insisted that the Party was being pulled to the Left by voters. By this year it became impossible to hide. Time to retcon US political history! For that, they call on the heavy hitters at the New York Times: “What Happened to America’s Political Center of Gravity?” by Sahil Chinoy, based on data from The Manifesto Project. They open with comforting words to the Left.

“The Republican Party leans much farther right than most traditional conservative parties in Western Europe and Canada, according to an analysis of their election manifestos. It is more extreme than Britain’s Independence Party and France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), which some consider far-right populist parties. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is positioned closer to mainstream liberal parties. …

“That’s the tragedy of the American two-party system,” Mr. Greven said {a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin who has studied right-wing populism}.

They describe how the US parties have changed, in the best tradition of modern journalism.

  • “In 2012 and 2016, the Democratic manifesto moved left, placing greater emphasis on labor groups, equality and market regulation.” Sounds nice!
  • “According to its 2016 manifesto, the Republican Party lies far from the Conservative Party in Britain and the Christian Democratic Union in Germany – mainstream right-leaning parties – and closer to far-right parties like Alternative for Germany, whose platform contains plainly xenophobic, anti-Muslim statements. … the party shares a nativist, working-class populism’ with the European far right ….”

Once finished with taring the GOP by association (at least they didn’t call them Nazis), they reveal the data. The Democratic Party has moved Left a lot since 2008. The Republicans have moved little. Odd that the NYT’s experts did not mention this during the past 11 years.

We can only guess at how much further left their 2020 platform will be. I’ll bet on “big move.” It was brilliant to frame this shift against Europe’s political parties (as if many Americans care about them), hoping that we would not notice the Democratic Party’s embrace of radicalism. They assume their readers are dolts.

US political parties vs. western median
From the New York Times, 26 June 2019.

Now for the bad news

I don’t know how the various US publics will react to this shift of the Democratic Party or the Left. I doubt that we are still “one people”, and we are certainly not “under God.” The Democratic Party’s new tactic – “identity politics” – is to stoke hatred: between men and women, between races and ethnicities. The Republicans, corrupt on race since Goldwater, are following the Dems’ lead. This fragmentation into “factions” was one of the Founders’ greatest fears.

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community. …the causes of faction cannot be removed; and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.”
— From Federalist Letter #10 by James Madison.

“A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons, of whom they are composed, into improprieties and excesses, for which they would blush in a private capacity.”
— From Federalist Letter #15 by Alexander Hamilton.

Factionalism can spread like a cancer through the body politic. In 1861 we proved the Fournders’ fears were valid. Let’s not do it again.