One of the common refrains I’ve had to deal with over the last few years has been almost constant complaining from liberals about the rightward trajectory of the Republican Party. They’re not exactly wrong. While the GOP is more conservative today than it was in 1996, it isn’t because the establishment has necessarily moved to the right, it has been because the conservative base has expanded in the face of overwhelming pressure from the leftward advance of liberalism in the Democrat Party.
As liberal political victories mount (think Obamacare, Gay Marriage, the collapse of the War on Terror, and the crumbling of our judicial system), conservatives have felt pushed to act as a counterweight to the leftward drift of our nation. We have indeed grown “more” conservative and less willing to compromise on certain issues.
So while liberals have complained about how we’ve grown more conservative, I’ve always countered that however far to the right the GOP has moved, the Democrat Party has shifted far further (far faster) to the left. Now I have solid objective data to prove my point.
In a recent study undertaken by political scientists from Princeton, Georgetown and the University of Oregon, we learn that the Democrat Party’s shift to the left has been more dramatic than the GOP’s shift to the right.
At least since the 2010 midterms, it’s been a liberal talking point that Republican extremism is to blame for political polarization and gridlock. In the old days, the argument goes, Republicans were a moderate party, but over the past generation the GOP has been gradually taken over by its far-right wing…
But as the debates over issues like the $15 minimum wage, healthcare, and universal preschool have already shown, the Democrats have moved to the left at least as quickly as the Republicans have moved to the right. After all, Hillary Clinton has to renounce a good chunk of her husband’s positions to be competitive in the 2016 primary.
Now, a paper on polarization and inequality released in August… provides some empirical evidence that Democratic Party’s leftward drift is more pronounced than the GOP’s rightward drift, at least at the state level. The study’s overall argument is that income inequality has increased political polarization at the state level since the 1990s. But the authors find that that this happens more by moving state Democratic parties to the left than by moving state Republican parties to the right. As the Democratic Party lost power at the state level over the past 15 years, it also effectively shed its moderate wing. Centrist Democrats have increasingly lost seats to Republicans, “resulting in a more liberal Democratic party” overall. The authors find that the ideological median of Republican legislators has shifted much less.
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