NYT’s blockbuster news about American politics!

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 here, in 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.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about populism, about Republicans and Democrats, about factions, about the Left and the Right, and especially these…

  1. The Left goes full open borders, changing America forever.
  2. Visions of America if the Left wins.
  3. The key insight: the Left hates America and will destroy it.
  4. The Left can win in 2020 and dominate US politics.
  5. The Democrats will own America. Their past will sink them.
  6. The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.
  7. Election 2020 will be about open borders & America’s future – Fascinating quotes from the first debate.
  8. The Left crushes the Right. The counter-revolution will be ugly – Final victory is rare. There is usually a second act.
  9. The Left crushes the alt-Right, but Darwin might bring them to power – an alternative future, if the Right comes alive.
  10. Campaign 2020 shows who will mold America’s future.
  11. Two levers to bring the Democrats victory in 2020.
  12. The NY Times reveals itself and what news we’ll see in 2020.

This happened before. Let’s not repeat their errors.

The Founders looked to the Roman Republic for ideas and inspiration. In this time of peril, we too can do so. See two books about the people who were the poles of the forces that could have saved the Republic, but instead destroyed it.

Caesar – a biography by Christian Meier. He wanted to reform the Republic, but destroyed it.

Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni – The life and legacy of Cato, the mortal enemy of Caesar. He loved the Republic, but his greater loyalty was to the 1%.

"Caesar" by Christian Meier
Available at Amazon.
Rome's Last Citizen
Available at Amazon.

17 thoughts on “NYT’s blockbuster news about American politics!”

  1. Buzz Killington

    It’s clear here that Democrats have indeed shifted further left than Republicans have right, but in doing so they have only just crossed over the median party line to actually become left-wing. I understand the trend is sharp, but accusing only Democrats of “embracing radicalism” while their position is still closer to the median than the Republicans’ seems a bit strong.

    1. Buzz,

      These things are domestic politics. I doubt if one in ten thousand Americans cares about the political spectrum in Japan, China, Africa, or Europe (or vice versa). It’s just a bogus framing to mask the shift in the Democrat’s.

      As is the article’s equally bogus tarring the GOP with guilt-by-bogus-association with Europe’s far-right parties.

      Both are “mission accomplished” with you, however.

      1. I guess I misunderstood you. I thought you were criticizing the NYT for mischaracterizing the Manifesto Project. The NYT chart does indeed do so, but the Manifesto Project Dataset does still measure the Republicans as being further from the the center than the Democrats, though not by a huge margin. I didn’t realize you also consider the underlying data bogus, in which case I don’t know enough about it to comment at this time.

      2. Buzz,

        (1) “I thought you were criticizing the NYT for mischaracterizing the Manifesto Project.”

        I did not do so. They accurately presented the graph. They framed the data in such a way to mask the change that is significant to US politics: the large leftward move by the Dems. Their text also tarred the GOP by association. Neither is mischaracterization of the Manifesto Project.

        (2) “The NYT chart does indeed do so”


        (3) ” does still measure the Republicans as being further from the center than the Democrats, though not by a huge margin.”

        To repeat what I said before, who cares about that. Other nations’ people don’t change their views because how we think. Why should we do so because of how they think? Everybody has the responsibility to run their own nation as best they can.

        (4) ” I didn’t realize you also consider the underlying data bogus”

        It would be nice if you replied to direct quotes, as I do, since I said nothing remotely like that.

  2. The Roman analogy is worth bearing in mind; the radicalization of the populares came because of the deep-seated refusal of Roman patricians to reform the Republic, especially economically. The murder of the Gracchi was the beginning of the end of the Republic and it was the patricians who chose murder over reform.

    Is there an analogy worth building towards the U.S. republic today? I think so — 30+ years of tax cuts and gutting social safety nets have not produced a country better for the middle class, only for the rich.

    This refusal by the GOP to adapt their ideology to modernity is perhaps causing the same deep Leftward trend amongst the Dems, who have increasingly given up on the notion of compromise with a partner they see as negotiating in bad faith. Our Republic still works, and our institutions are clear, unlike the late Roman one, but will there be a Gracchi martyr amongst the ranks of the Dems? It’s worth pondering.

    1. Chad,

      I have written about this for a decade. For example: America isn’t falling like the Roman Empire. It’s falling like Rome’s Republic. While agree with the analogy, I believe you are taking it too literally.

      Rome’s 1% were keeping most of the spoils from Rome’s conquests. Even denying land to the soldiers who bled for those conquests, while the soldiers went broke (time away from their farms, and competition from the new giant slave-run farms of the 1%). The 1% resorted to force – assassination – when the Gracchi brothers resorted to untraditional means to achieve reform.

      The 1% in the US is not oing anything remotely like that. They are taking a disproportionate share of America’s gains from productivity. They’re not using violence to suppress the Left. Rather the Left is using violence to control first universities, and now (attempting) in public spaces of the cities they dominate.

      On the other side, the Left is opening the borders to wash away America’s culture, allowing in people at a faster rate than we can assimilate, and low-skill people for whom we don’t have jobs – and for jobs whose wages have already been hammered down by the past 30 years of immigration. Next, they are promoting factionalism – hatred among races, ethnicities, and genders. Factionalism produces reactive factionalism in self-defense.

      There are no angels here, except in the minds of each side – who see themselves as angels and the Others as Evil.

      This makes us pleasant peasants, easy to rule. Which is, imo, the real similarity to the last days of the Roman Republic. They too evolved from unruly citizens to domesticated subjects.

  3. The real divide is between globalist imperialist and populist nationalist.

    The big business, traditionally viewed as a Right interest group, is completely aligned with the globalist project.

    The so-called radical SJW issues are all elitist guilt issues designed to control the masses and stop them from challenging the inequality of the current world.

    Plus the radical individualism of our liquid modernity destroys community and natural loyalties and makes everyone into a wage slave and easily manipulated consumer.

    Inequality is the number cause of societal failure. When the people no longer believe in the system, it causes what the Chinese call the “loss of the Mandate of Heaven”.

    4 years ago, I thought we would collapse by 2025. Trump’s pushing back to a mere temporary stop, unless he is successful. He likely won’t be, and if he fails, the end is sooner than we think.

    Of course, failure most likely just means a transition to a dictatorship or worse……. life might actually improve for 95% of the country in such a regime. I would rather not risk it, but our elites are too stupid, as demonstrated by the ridiculous soft coup attempt of the last 3 years.

  4. As an outside observer it seems to me there is no left wing party in the USA, only a less far right one. Compared to the post war period of social democracy nothing is left now. In fact the left has across the board betrayed traditional left wing values and embraced neo-liberal ones willingly. The Clintons were GOP in disguise, as far as the rhetoric went. In 1956 the Republican platform was further to the left than the European and Australian liberal /conservative parties. The change has been, frankly, amazing. The word ‘socialism” is tabu today. I’m sure that is unique to the USA. It does mean a great effort will be required to rectify it.

    1. John,

      “there is no left wing party in the USA, only a less far right one.”

      That’s not what the words mean. Left-Right is a one-dimensional representation of the political spectrum, first used in the French National Assembly.

      Even the descriptive terms conservative and liberal have no fixed meaning, but rather they change over time and place.

      Political parties are machines to translate the wants of people into policies. They have no inherent meaning. THe GOP was a near-revolutionary party at its origin, with abolition of slavery at its core (that’s not it today). The Democrats were their foes, and quite reaactionary.

      Flash forward to today: Merkel leads the more conservative of the German major parties. Yet her open borders policy is revolutionary, putting Germany into demographic and social changes whose end we can’t see – but will be quite different.

      1. Left/right is getting past its use by date but still resonates with most people. I use it advisedly because it can still add up. The spectrum is pretty complicated and varies across the nations.so it’s far from precise, yet still it is useful.

      2. JOhn,

        Left – Right still works great, which is why people still use it. It’s meaning is immediately understandable to almost everybody.

        “The spectrum is pretty complicated ”

        Yes, there are the 12 dimensions that Obama used when playing political chess. But 99% of the time, 11 of those don’t matter.

    1. info,

      I can’t imagine why you would listen to a guy ranting for 15 minutes about a news story you could read in 2 minutes: “Document Reveals The FBI Is Tracking Border Protest Groups As Extremist Organizations” by Jana Winter & Hunter Walker at Yahoo News — “The groups targeted in the bureau’s investigation are largely involved in nonviolent civil disobedience.”

      I listened, unfortunately, to the first 2 minutes of his rant. I’ll never get those 2 minutes back. The news story was quite accurate, and his rant pretty delusional.

      1. “I can’t imagine why you would listen to a guy ranting for 15 minutes about a news story you could read in 2 minutes.”

        I don’t actually know the reason why I did so.

        Commentary just seems more engaging than just reading. That’s probably why.

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