A terrific post-shutdown “after action report” by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who is one-half of the bipartisan polling team that conducts the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, includes one slide (No. 7) that I found particularly instructive.
Titled “the political middle has disappeared,” it shows the ideological distribution of Republican and Democratic members in the House in 1982, 1994, 2002, 2011 and 2012, based on National Journal ratings.
In 1982, only a handful of Republicans were more conservative than the most conservative Democrat and only a handful of Democrats were more liberal than the most liberal Republican. Because of that, a stunning 344 members of the House rated between the most liberal Republican and the most conservative Democrat.
By 2002, most Democrats were more liberal than the most liberal Republican, and most Republicans were more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. Because of that, the number of members in the “overlap” dropped to 137 members, and in 2012 only 11 members fell in that “political middle.”
That single slide doesn’t explain all of the gridlock but it helps explains why the parties can’t work together and why Washington can’t run smoothly in an era of divided government. Full story