America slides to the right, faster. Why? What you can do about it!

Summary: Today’s post gives excerpts from some of the best political analysis of the year, concluding with suggestions for those people who care to do something about it.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

El Reagan: viva revolucion

Contents

  1. The best political analysis of the year.
  2. Excerpt #1: The Problem.
  3. Excerpt #2: The real problem, part one.
  4. Excerpt #3: The real problem, part two.
  5. What you can do about all this.
  6. For More Information.

 

(1)  The best political analysis you’ll read this year

A slow-mo revolution has been running in America since 1980. We have entered the steep part of the “S” curve, when laboriously built political machinery of the Right reaches maturity and exerts its full power.

There have been hundreds of articles about this. Pulling all this together is “No Cost for Extremism” in The American Prospect — “Why the GOP hasn’t (yet) paid for its march to the right.” The authors are professors of political science: Jacob Hacker at Yale, Paul Pierson at Berkeley. If not stopped it will shape a new America for the 21st century. I recommend that you read it in full.

On the other hand, why bother unless you’ll do something about it? See the last section for some ideas.

(2)  Excerpt #1: The Problem

According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.”

There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center. … based on voting records, the current Republican majority in the Senate is far more conservative than the last Republican majority in the 2000s. Meanwhile, the incoming House majority is unquestionably the most conservative in modern history, continuing the virtually uninterrupted 40-year march of the House Republican caucus to the hard right.

The GOP’s great right migration is the biggest story in American politics of the past 40 years. And it’s not just limited to Congress: GOP presidents have gotten steadily more conservative, too; conservative Republicans increasingly dominate state politics; and the current Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are among the most conservative in the Court’s modern history.

 

Right wing

… Today, mainstream Republicans denounce positions on health care, climate legislation, and tax policy that were once mainstream within the party. Leading figures in the GOP embrace rhetorical themes—state nullification of federal laws, the wholesale elimination of cabinet departments, “makers” versus “takers”—that were only recently seen as beyond the pale. Under pressure to appear neutral and play up conflict, the news media like to focus on the divide at any moment between the GOP’s right fringe and its more moderate members. But look at American politics as a moving picture and you see an ongoing massive shift of the whole GOP (and, with it, the “center” of American politics) toward the anti-government fringe.

Apathy Party

Excerpt #2: The real problem, part one

… an absolutely critical aspect of Republicans’ advantage — turnout. If everyone votes, the median voter is the typical American citizen. But not everyone votes, and turnout in midterm elections is particularly low (historically so in 2014).

In the past, that did not matter as much as it does today. The midterm electorate has always been smaller, but it has not always been so disproportionately Republican. High-turnout voters, such as the aged, have increasingly sided with the GOP, while the young and minority voters in Teixeira and Judis’s “emerging Democratic majority” have the lowest turnout rates, especially in midterm years.

This, in fact, is one explanation for Republicans’ big statehouse edge. Though not widely noted, governors are overwhelmingly elected in non-presidential-election years, when turnout is much lower, even across different groups. Only 9 states hold gubernatorial elections alongside the presidential election.

The Political Machine

Excerpt #3: The real problem, part two

Conventional images of the two parties see them as symmetrical reflections of each other. But when it comes to the activist core of the parties, there is no comparison. The Republican base is larger, more intense, better organized, and fueled by distinctive partisan media outlets that make those on the other side look like pale imitations.

Strong liberals are often motivated primarily by one issue — the environment, say, or abortion, or minority rights. Strong conservatives tend to describe themselves as part of a broad effort to protect a way of life. Even during the George W. Bush presidency, liberals wanted Democratic Party leaders to take moderate positions and expressed a strong desire for compromise. Conservatives consistently indicate they want Republicans to take more conservative positions and never, ever compromise with opponents.

—————————-  end excerpts  —————————-

Solutions

What you can do about all this

The political machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains powerful, needing only the energy of citizens to power it. Get involved! Find candidates that you like — at any level of government — and help them. Contribute your time and (if you can) money. Vote! Encourage others to vote (shame is a powerful tool for social reform)!

Push other people to get involved. When reading the political analysis that overflows from the Internet, demand ideas about cures from the authors. That is, in comments ask for recommendations about things to do. Analysis alone no longer helps. Encourage them to do more than provide entertainment for the outer party (“Yea, good guys!” “Boo, bad guys!”)

For more ideas see the posts listed at Reforming America: steps to new politics.

For More Information

For a better understanding of these matters I recommend reading this by Hacker and Pierson: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (2010). Almost as good but more entertaining is Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government (1991) by P. J. O’Rourke.

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24 thoughts on “America slides to the right, faster. Why? What you can do about it!

  1. Excellent analysis. The left is scattered the right is at worst composed of three main groups, those who do not believe in the separation of church and state, those who believe that no government is better than any government and those who are stuck in the racist mindset. These groups do overlap but they are distinct however more manageable their coalition is than the hundreds of activist groups on the left that try to address a single issue. And then there is money in politics.

  2. Assertions like

    The political machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains powerful, needing only the energy of citizens to power it. Get involved! Find candidates that you like — at any level of government — and help them. Contribute your time and (if you can) money. Vote! Encourage others to vote (shame is a powerful tool for social reform)!

    sound increasingly like standard boilerplate. I’ve done all this. The result was Barack Obama, and now he’s ramming through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Final Solution to the problem of democracy that will end government of the people, by the people, and for the people once and for all in America (and most other advanced countries) by giving multinational corporations the power to nullify laws passed by individual states merely by going through a secretive arbitration process, at the same process it raises prices on drugs and software and other patented/copyrighted products by 2000% to 20,000%.

    FM will predictably dismiss this as “more defeatism” and “yet another example of apathy.” How well has FM done in his effort to change things with his daily posts? How much have his military reformer buddies like William Lind and Chet Richards and Chuck Spinney accomplished in their 30-year-long effort to change our broken useless self-destructive American military?

    FM can’t even get pageviews, Chet Richards and Chuck Spinney are completely marginalized and utterly excluded from the military they’ve tried to reform. William Lind is now doing transportation policy.

    Pack it up, it’s done. Game over.

    1. Padawan Thomas,

      “FM will predictably dismiss this as “more defeatism”

      How often have I said that the Force is weak in you? Yet you continue to prophecize, with FAIL after FAIL.

      “The result was Barack Obama”

      On 4 November 2004 Obama was State Senator in Illinois. Four years later he was elected President. Nobody could believe this represented citizen activism. Especially a Chicago politician, from one of the few remaining great urban machines.

      It took me a while to realize that you were kidding about this nonsense. Our jester!

    2. Thomas,

      “FM can’t even get pageviews,”

      Look down at the counter on the right side menu bar, near the bottom. Almost 5.7 million page views.

      That is what Katy Perry gets in a day (deservedly so) but that is a lot of nothing for long-form posts about geopolitics.

      You might learn something if you would acknowledge your errors. It’s the first step.

  3. Caught the middle of something on NPR today; I think it might have been one of their TED talks; not sure by whom. But the chunk I caught was discussing the difference between lasting activist change, e.g. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, vs ephemeral activism, like the Occupy movement. The hypothesis was that the internet made things too easy; for the bus boycott, a lot of ground level organizing had to go on before the fact, arranging rides for people to work and so on, and this left a legacy of working connections between people and organizations; whereas currently, if you want a demonstration at some address, you put out a shout on the various social media, at the appointed time a bunch of random people show up, and after its over they disperse. Which meshes with the observation that “The Republican base is larger, more intense, better organized, and fueled by distinctive partisan media outlets that make those on the other side look like pale imitations” to empower the rightward drift.

  4. Or your sort could just get out of our and go to some nation or quasi-nation that better suits your ideology. As you stated, Americans have a broader and more active base. Hence, we’re likely going to finish retaking the country and will rebuild it in a form more consistent with its cultural roots, cultural roots that you and yours seem to find to be abhorrent.

    Really! No offense is truly intended but you’re “domestic foreigners” fighting a war to replace America with something you think will be better, at least for yourselves and those with “protected traits” of some sort….and you’re going to lose that war.

    How many lives will you sacrifice in this war before you surrender and/or retreat to kinder, safer shores?

    1. Jonolan,

      Your appear to be deciding who are Americans. There is no basis in our system of government for you to do so. In fact, such efforts are antithetical to it.

      Such efforts are common in our past, attempts to delegitimize people based on their race, ethnicity, ideology, and religion. Looking back they have not only consistently been defeated, and now provide the “bad guys” in our historical dramas.

      So I will ignore your remarks. As they say in the Middle East, the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.

    2. I speak more honestly and bluntly than most but the decision of who is and isn’t an American is one of the foundation of our system of governance, just as its counterparts are and have been on of the foundations for all systems of governance involving elected officials. Care to review history, even merely US history from the Whiskey Rebellion onwards before making your claims? Or review the non-normative people, e.g., Atheists, Muslims, Whites in Black controlled districts or vice-versa, elected to office across the land?

      As for being defeated – When has such a culturally based purification ever been defeated by internal forces? Or are you hoping the Russians will come here in force to save you?

      Lastly, it’s is most telling about you that you choose, when being sarcastic, to use a phrase from the Muslim World…

  5. “Pack it up, it’s done. Game over.”

    Reform seems simple, but it is extremely hard to implement. Rebellion is an easier path.

    It’s easy to quit when things don’t change on our timeline.

    Staying the course and staying hopeful requires a larger reservoir of courage.

    1. VFW,

      “Reform seems simple, but it is extremely hard to implement.”
      That goes to the heart of our situation. As Clausewitz said, “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.”

      “It’s easy to quit when things don’t change on our timeline.”
      I agree. As I have said so often, the great reform movements usually take decades, except when they take generations.

      “Staying the course and staying hopeful requires a larger reservoir of courage.”
      That’s an interesting perspective. I thought it took dedication and commitment. Why courage?

      “Rebellion is an easier path.”

      I don’t understand. Rebellion is far more difficult than reform. More dangerous, and hence more difficult to recruit for. Also, the odds of success are much much lower: successful reform movements are common in history; rebellions are quite rare.

  6. FM,

    It’s an easier path to rebel rather than reform. That doesn’t means it leads to success. It’s just easier. This is probably only a useful phrase when people have lost hope. For example, it’s easier to strap a bomb to your chest on martyrdom rather than fight the long fight for political freedom and reform.

    For the reformists, yes, it is part discipline and part commitment, but courage is the fuel or the heart of the fight. Continuing to move forward when hope feels forlorn. Fighting against apathy.

    1. How many times in history have we seen a group overthrow the government of a country, only to find they have no real idea how to govern it themselves. Much easier to blow up the offices of the Bureau of Street Sweepers than to actually keep the streets swept, with all that that entails in real life.

    2. Gzuckier,

      Has that happened often? I cannot think of any examples.

      There are many when the new government learns that they lack the capacity to govern, or that their theories of government do not work well, or both.

      But not having ideas? Seems unlikely.

    1. Actually, no. That’s not what I was saying, not exactly at least.

      I was saying accept it or leave it because the costs to all sides and the “collaterals ” will just grow worse and worse – we’re seeing the escalations on both sides already, though more on yours so far – and it serves little purpose since you’ll lose in the end one way or another.

    2. socialbill,

      “Love it or leave it” has an odd history. First popularized by scummy journalist Walter Winchell in his defense of Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunt, it’s a flag under which sail a motley assortment of right-wing racists and ideologues — most of whom have an idiosyncratic view of “America” that is disliked by most Americans, and quite foreign to our system.

      Even in a literal sense their use of it is quite irrational, since they use it as rebuttal to people showing a love for America whose whose political views differ from theirs — as if America is a totalitarian state incompatible with a diversity of political views. Exactly the opposite of the Founders intention.

      IMO they’re best ignored, like orange peels on the sidewalk.

  7. The slide to the right has wide appeal, and is too big to stop. They have God on their side which means “no compromise”. There is no need to admit mistakes, because there are none. The far right may even catch up with radical Islam. Both are similar in that they lack tolerance.
    We are becoming Iraq; fractured, angry, intolerant, well armed, and ready to fight. Like Iraq differences between people are enhanced. The religious right, the evil non believers, blacks, Hispanics, and of course, liberals.
    The far right has its own truths, that appear to be absolutes. As such there is no need for critical thinking.
    My prediction is the Republican Party will become more radical, win the presidency, and retain control of the house and senate.

    1. James,

      “The slide to the right has wide appeal, ”

      In fact most of their key policies have support only from a minority of Americans: heir social conservative polices (e.g., gay marriage, radical limitations on abortions), frequent and large foreign wars, massive cuts to social safety net, and shifting taxes from the rich to the 1% (cutting capital gains taxes, increasing highly regressive sales taxes).

  8. FM continues to vomit out the usual boilerplate, so the only reasonable way to respond is with more boilerplate:

    How often have I said that the Force is weak in you? Yet you continue to prophecize, with FAIL after FAIL.

    This is a very important concept and we need to study it. A bipartisan commission should be appointed immediately to issue a white paper on this extremely significant issue. Citizen participation is crucial, and will form the basis of our democratic response.

    On 4 November 2004 Obama was State Senator in Illinois. Four years later he was elected President. Nobody could believe this represented citizen activism. Especially a Chicago politician, from one of the few remaining great urban machines.

    We need to remember that America was founded on these great ideals. We, as Americans, must do our utmost to live up to this responsibility, because these are the qualities that have historically made America great, and continue to make us great in the 21st century.

    It took me a while to realize that you were kidding about this nonsense. Our jester!

    The usefulness of these insights cannot be denied. At the same time, we must balance these traits with the time-honored qualities of freedom, dignity, and liberty that make America the greatest nation on earth.

    Look down at the counter on the right side menu bar, near the bottom. Almost 5.7 million page views. That is what Katy Perry gets in a day (deservedly so) but that is a lot of nothing for long-form posts about geopolitics. You might learn something if you would acknowledge your errors. It’s the first step. {reply to Thomas: “FM can’t even get pageviews.”}

    hese principles have guided the Founding Fathers, and continue to guide us, and with God’s help we will continue to push forward, making progress in the 21st century toward a world in which America is the greatest nation in the country, and we have the best-educated and most prosperous American people in the world. FM once again treats us to government of the pabulum, by the pabulum, for the pabulum. Are there are any adults left in the room? Is there anyone willing to utter anything other than vacuous platitudes like “The political machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains powerful, needing only the energy of citizens to power it” in response to these serious problems?

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