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February 7, 2016

‘The Political Middle Has Disappeared’

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.

Anyway, the slide got me thinking about how un-ideological our political parties were in the early 1980s, when Georgia had a Democratic congressman named Larry McDonald, who was a member of the John Birch Society and the Moral Majority. McDonald received a perfect 100 percent rating from the conservative Americans for Constitutional Action in 1980. His AFL-CIO rating was 5 percent and his score from the very liberal Americans for Democratic Action was 6 percent.

McDonald was killed Sept. 1, 1983, when KAL 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter.

Texas Democrats Marvin Leath and Phil Gramm and Oklahoma Democrat Glenn English weren’t quite as conspiratorial as McDonald, but they were very conservative by the standards of the early 1980s. Politics in America, 1982 (CQ) referred to Leath as “a Republican in all but the nominal sense.”

Across the aisle, New York Rep. Bill Green, Massachusetts Rep. Margaret Heckler, California Rep. Pete McCloskey and Rhode Island Rep. Claudine Schneider all could have fit comfortably in the Democratic Party.

Times definitely have changed. There is no indication that we are headed to an election in 2014 that will send many more moderate Republicans and Democrats to the House. The political middle is what it is. And that means that there is no reason to expect the two parties will find more common ground in the months and years ahead.

  • john hall

    K! Toss in Sherwood Boehlert, Chris Smith, Matthew Rinaldo, Olympia Snowe, John McKernan, Tom Ridge, Nancy Johnson, Ben Gilman, Frank Horton, Jim Jeffords. But they were all Northeastern Republicans

  • judi

    Throw in also the Koch’s money, the Tea Party and the ALEC…plus the Southern Baptist Taliban………and you’ve got a civil war in the making.

    • Pragmatic Conservative

      You forgot about George Soros, Emily’s List, AFL-CIO, etc., who are all equally determined to create a civil war and implement their own totalitarian utopia for the left.

      • billbear1961

        When they attempt a coup and threaten to DESTROY their own country’s economic LIFE to get what they want, we’ll worry about them.

        THEY haven’t done so.

        The filthy hysterics and ruthlessly cruel and selfish power-mad maniacs of the radical right HAVE!!

        • Pragmatic Conservative

          I don’t condone the Tea Party’s actions, but lest you forget Obama was complicit in this drama by declaring up front that he would not negotiate, i.e. he insisted on getting everything he wanted up front. He was just as willing to sacrifice this country’s economic life because he knew the Tea Party would be blamed and he would get the political benefit. Not exactly the mark of a real leader, or someone who actually cares about the nations’ future.
          Let’s be real about things here – the left is by no means “clean” when it comes to politics in the US. The lying, ruthlessness and selfish behavior you attribute to the Tea Party would just as accurately describe the left during the Bush years.
          And in case you forgot, Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate and it was beneficial, politically, for him to do so. His claim that not raising the debt ceiling now is the equivalent of terrorism was nothing more than hypocrisy and political convenience. Both sides need to learn that no one stays in power forever, and what goes around comes around.
          That’s something that we pragmatists already understand, and that’s why we reject the extremes in both parties.

          • Mark Bunster

            Go ahead and tell me what Obama’s “demands” were. You can’t. The only thing that was specified is the govt has to be open, the bills paid. Those are not demands–the only way they could be, is if the other side–Republicans–are NOT in favor of those two things. You can’t demand something the other side also wants. Those aren’t demands; they’re national necessities. They are not up for debate; they must be done.

            The demands were all from the party who declared they would shut us down and make us deadbeats to the world–unless Obama gave them something they lost fairly on three notable occasions: passage, judicial affirmation, and re-election of the person who brought it to you, after an election waged in significant part over that legislation.

            There is no equality here. The GOP held the country hostage.

          • Mark Bunster

            Oh–and when THAT failed, the GOP just kept coming up with other, different demands…while holding the same hostages. I didn’t vote for Obama in 2012, but he did everything right for the country in this instance. GOP put us in grave danger, for nothing. Literally, nothing.

          • billbear1961

            Excellent posts! Accurate and rational analysis–a pleasure to read.

            As a social democrat, I must say that it is a relief to see a conservative (I assume, if you didn’t vote for the President’s re-election) who understands EXACTLY what was going on!

            Our politics are apparently different, but you are an opponent for whom one can have some respect!

          • Mark Bunster

            No, they appear to be the same. I voted 3rd party because I was disgusted with the giveaway of the public option, the trumpeting of austerity’s virtues, his tendency to give away the store but for the Tea Party’s saving habit of not taking Yes for an answer, and of course the worse-than-Bush abuses of civil liberty both at home and abroad. But on this he was 100% correct, drew the line and stuck to it–for all our benefit. I didn’t vote to re-elect, but I was very glad he was there this month.

          • Mark Bunster

            And you know what’s sad, and what Rothenberg doesn’t seem to get? 20 years ago the health care exchange, the notion of entitlements as a fair idea perhaps fraught with fraud, and not torturing your enemies or spying on your people were all solidly REPUBLICAN values. That tells you all you need to know about how the field has shifted under everyone’s feet.

          • billbear1961

            If real journalists–the few that are left–don’t start holding the propagandists accountable, instead of treating them like colleagues, it’s all over!

            We’re in the position we’re in today because of the radical-right propaganda machine.

            These people are fascists, Mark.

            Read about their doctrine of “fundamental transformation,” and you’ll see what I mean:


            They mean to DESTROY whatever they cannot bend to their will.

            This doctrine is a declaration of WAR on our democrat system.

          • billbear1961

            And they call the President a socialist, Mark!

            Biggest JOKE of the past 5 years!

            (The ACA must eventually develop into single-payer!)

            (The thing that simply enraged me most was his failure to hold the banksters accountable when he had the chance! No, he listened to that corporate whore Geithner, and the banks walked all over him–and us!)

          • billbear1961

            And they call the President a socialist, Mark!

            Biggest JOKE of the past 5 years!

            (The ACA must eventually develop into single-payer!)

            (The thing that simply enraged me most was his failure to hold the banksters accountable when he had the chance! No, he listened to that corporate prostitute Geithner, and the banks walked all over him–and us!)

          • Winston Blake

            Forcing everyone to buy Obamacare from Wall Street insurance companies owned by the big banks makes no sense at all.

            “Occupy” exactly what?

            Obamacare is a huge Wall Street bailout…

            You stupid Canadian leftists forget that if it wasn’t for us greater men of the British Empire, neither one of your countries would exist.

            Sodom Hussein Obama is just a lawn jockey for George Soros and Goldman-Sachs.

          • billbear1961

            Did you even read my post?

            I support the public option and eventual single-payer, but the ACA will have to do–for now.

            Obama’s biggest failure to date is his failure to hold the banksters accountable.

            Sadly, he’s not the social democrat I’d very much like him to be!

          • Winston Blake

            I don’t care what you support, Canadian… mind your own business…

          • billbear1961

            If we both had condos in the same building and I said to you, “Give me what I want, or I’ll burn the building down,” you wouldn’t negotiate with me–you’d CALL THE COPS.

            What did they have to offer in negotiations? Meet our demands, and we’ll DO OUR JOBS–for a few weeks? Meet our demands, and we’ll stop threatening the country’s economic LIFE–until we want something else??

            You really must remind me WHEN democrats have EVER threatened to destroy the economy if their demands weren’t met! Because somehow, you know, I managed to MISS that!

            EDIT: As for Obama’s STUPID vote against raising the debt ceiling, there’s a big difference between political grandstanding when you know no harm will come of it, and making the same threat during a shutdown when you have the power to REALLY make it happen, isn’t there??

            The radical psychos in the fascist Tea Party have crossed the line. They’ve gone WAY too far.

            They don’t mean to offer opposition to majority policies in a constructive, democratic way with reasonable suggestions or alternatives worthy of consideration and debate.

            NO, their actions show they are out to commit acts of reckless SABOTAGE, to destroy what they can’t bend to their tyrannical will!

            They pose the gravest threat to our democratic system our country has known since the CIVIL WAR.

            Either we DEAL with these seditionists by wiping them from the political map, or our “great democratic experiment” is OVER.

            They are pushing this nation along a path to CATASTROPHE!

            In your heart of hearts, I think you realize that, prag-con!

        • rigdum_funidos

          PEOPLE who CAPTALIZE are NUTS

          • billbear1961

            And people who do not answer the points one makes are COWARDS.

  • billbear1961

    I’m a social democrat, and an American. I live in Canada with my Canadian husband.

    Our social democratic views are considered moderate or center-left in Canada. This would be the case in most if not all of the modern, industrialized democratic world–EXCEPT in the USA!

    Over the course of three decades, you have allowed radical right propaganda to jerk the political center of the country so far to the right, that what is rightfully considered centrist, moderate or middle-of-the-road in much of the developed world is marked down as “far left” in the U.S.

    There is virtually no true “far left” in the USA! But there is, most assuredly, a rabid and radical far right!!!!

    It just threatened your very economic LIFE, America, if you refused to cave in to its fascist demands to end majority rule and turn power over to an insurrectionist Tea Party tribunal!

    It threatened your LIFE, America–an utterly unprecedented act–an outrageous act of BETRAYAL–by a major political party in the USA!

    WAKE UP and wipe these insane, reckless and ruthless society-hating ANIMALS from the political map, America, while you STILL have democratic elections that matter AT ALL!!

    EDIT: I urge all true PATRIOTS here, who care about the future of our democratic republic, to sign this petition to hold the ringleaders of the recent GOP coup attempt ACCOUNTABLE for their seditious CRIMES.

    • cris

      Oh dear. You are quite the angry one, eh?

      Regarding your claim that your “social democrat” views are considered moderate or center-left in Canada…I know you’d hoped that folks on this site wouldn’t understand Canadian politics and would therefore allow your claim to go unchallenged. Unfortunatley, you and I both know that your NDP views are considered crazy within Canada and pretty much everywhere else – as they rightly should be.

      When put into practice in BC, Ontario…absoloute, abysmal disaster. And now we see what your “social democrat” fascist friends are up to in Quebec – uh oh. Seems they’re not too interested in diversity and tolerance eh? Not to mention the shameful state of Quebec’s “social democrat” economy.

      So, given that you are simply wrong on the facts – as you’ll admit – perhaps you should practice a little less hate and a bit more tolerance and rational thinking moving forward?

      We appreciate it – thanks!!

      • billbear1961

        Go help your corrupt master Herr Harper kick parliamentary democracy to death, gangster.

        Any more BRIBES for corrupt senators? Any more deliberate LIES about how much military acquisitions will cost?

        How many more BILLIONS will go missing? How many MORE times will you shut down parliament to avoid answering questions or no-confidence votes?

        How many more calls will you make to mislead voters on election day, to send them to the wrong voting places?

        You are the eager pupils of American-style corruption!

        60% of Canadians oppose you. Your majority was
        possible only because the opposition is divided!!

        Many in Canada still have great respect for the likes of Tommy Douglas, a social democrat, who, more than any other, was responsible for the universal health insurance Canada has enjoyed since the 60s.

        • cris

          You have literally responded to zero of the substance of what I wrote. So we’ll have to conclude that my assertion was correct that your ideology is loonier than the Tea Party’s and has led to countless social injustice, pain, and misery across the country.

          • billbear1961

            Bull! Many of the benefits and protections Canadians enjoy are the direct result of social democratic policies, often co-opted by the Liberal party to steal social democratic thunder!

            Your “libertarian” ideology would enable the robber barons among us to commit and get away with any crime they like while making it impossible for ordinary people to defend themselves!

            With a castrated government, citizens would have no recourse, no defense, no rights or protections from the most powerful in the land!

            We will not let you turn the clock back a century in the name of “freedom,” a freedom for the wealthy to rob society blind AND destroy the natural environment in the process!

            North and south of the border, the majority see through your vicious charade, despite the endless assault on the truth by the corporate fascists’ 24/7 propaganda machine!

            EDIT: NEWSFLASH: Senator Mike Duffy reveals corrupt PM Harper KNEW what was going on ALL ALONG, ordered him about and threatened him repeatedly!!


            Why are conservatives always such gangsters, Cris??


        • Winston Blake

          You Canadians should mind your own business…

          • billbear1961

            I’m an AMERICAN living in Canada.

            I still vote by absentee ballot and have family and friends in the U.S.

            JUSTICE in the U.S. is EVERY American’s concern, wherever he may live.

    • rigdum_funidos

      you are very silly. the Tea Party cares about the deficit and debt, not much more. Canada has straightened out its deficit and debt problem, but the US, lead by a totally irresponsible President, is going further and further [$17 trillion going on $20t trillion] into debt. We are already about at the Greece debt level; when interest rates rise, which they must since we keep printing unbacked-up money, we will not be able to afford existing social programs, much less Obamacare. If Canada would like to take 25 million blacks and 30 million Hispanics, we might be OK.

      • billbear1961

        The baggers care about POWER, and have demonstrated they will do ANYTHING to get it, including threatening the very economic LIFE of their own country unless their dictatorial demands are met.

        They have done NOTHING to help this president solve the nation’s problems, problems created by an unnecessary war, HUGE tax cuts to the wealthy and robber baron economic policies that led to the 2008 Meltdown–all caused by GOP “leadership.” All they ever do is scream NO!!

        If Obama had not spent like a drunken sailor, the GOP recession would have become economic COLLAPSE, and then you would have blamed him for THAT.

        Republicans have done everything in their power to KILL the recovery (which had really started to pick up steam), starting with sequestration which they gleefully imposed, with no modifications desired by the President, robbing this country of 900,000 new jobs and a percentage point of economic growth!

        Now they have struck another blow against the economy with the shutdown, and have shaken world confidence in our SANITY by threatening DEFAULT unless their demands were met.

        Deficits were coming DOWN. Government spending was rising at the lowest rates since EISENHOWER. More and more jobs were being created, and then the GOP–insane with hatred for Obama–struck with their shutdown, costing this country at least $24 billion and shaving half a percentage point off growth!!

        They have all but destroyed consumer confidence going into the Christmas season, the most important of the year for many businesses!!

        They hope to blame the President for the harm THEY have done to this nation!!

        They are filthy, rotten TRAITORS, who care about nothing but themselves and POWER (for themselves and their rich masters).

  • Mark Bunster

    What a superficial reading of poll data, almost juvenile. Do you know how ELSE these figures can be explained? Most Republicans are now farther right than REPUBLICANS were 20 years ago, much less Democrats. And with the far right picking off more moderate GOP all the time, Dems have their “most liberal Republican” also moving well to the right. Furthermore, there is ALWAYS a middle; that’s a numerical fact. The middle hasn’t disappeared; it’s moved.
    Finally, the D-NOMINATE scoring on ideology is far more accepted as a precise tool than NatJrnl scores; D-NOM counts every vote.
    This is yet another tired example of the mainstream punditry breaking it’s own arms in an afford to twist EVERYTHING into a plea for some anodyne, chimeric “third way” or “middle moderation.” The right has moved far right, and for 25-30 years the left has been moving right as well.

    • billbear1961

      You just have to consider who OWNS them to understand their behaviour–the media, I mean.

      There aren’t a lot of REAL journalists left in the USA.

      With the destruction of the Fairness Doctrine, they’ve allowed the 24/7 radical right propaganda machine to jerk the political center so far right that ANY collective effort to sustain the General Welfare is now suspect in the eyes of 60% of the population.

      They’ve allowed all the brilliant promise FDR delivered to this country–the only time in our history (from the 1930s till the ’70s) when ordinary Americans truly began to make gains and stand their ground against the super wealthy–to be subjected to endless and merciless attack, to the point where our economic stability and future are seriously threatened by the most rapacious and utterly unprincipled GANGSTERS to dominate Wall Street in almost a CENTURY.

      The radical right is trying to turn the clock back ONE HUNDRED YEARS to a time when we were almost helpless, as defenseless and unorganized individuals, against the most powerful in the land!

      • Chris Wilson

        If you look historically it’s almost a natural progression. The Depression and WWII led to Keynesianism in the 50s and 60s which led to the stagflation of the 1970s which led to the deregualtion of the 80s and 90s which led to the crashes of the 2000s which is leading to new Post-Keynesian Economics. You can see a similar track w/ the labor movement. It is all just history repeating itself.

    • Mojojojo

      What else can you expect from a right-wing prognosticator, and the conservative half of Public Opinion Strategies. Use your brain Roth. So the middle disappeared in the House. What about the electorate? Who do moderates vote for now? —

      “In every single Presidential election in the modern era, moderates have made up a majority of those voting for the Democratic candidate… Win or lose, moderates make up the base of Democratic Presidential coalitions.”

      • Jeffrey Coley

        “Moderate” is a euphemism for democrat who wants to appear open minded.

        I heard an interview with an “undecided voter”. She revealed that in the past four presidential elections she had voted for the Democrat. When questioned about the candidates running in the election at the time, she revealed that she was looking for any reason to vote against the republican and was willing to excuse every foible of the democrat. Hardly “undecided” or “moderate” by any reasonable definition.

        • Mojojojo

          False, read the link. “Moderate” is a euphemism for the majority of the Republican party until Reagan scared them away permanently in 1984.

          And “undecided” has nothing to do with “moderate”, that’s irrelevant. Undecideds are known for preexisting bias.

          • 1mrt1

            Mojo just silly. reagan added to the GOP

          • Nosh_72

            1MRT1 Translated for everyone. From “Bla bla bla” to “I am from the Tea Party and I will come on here all day and everyday to say that – I am a sore loser and I just continue to grow as one.” Not much else to read from this character.

          • Jeffrey Coley

            Reagan scared the moderates away?

            Then you’re agreeing with me that for the past 35 years “moderates” are in fact democrats who don’t want to admit it.

            Romney was the moderate’s moderate – and he lost. Because after getting the republican nominee they say they wanted the moderates vote democrat. Happens every time.

          • Mojojojo

            I’m not agreeing with that at all. You’re basically arguing it’s impossible to vote for a party without being that party, with literally 0 evidence. Infantile reasoning.

            And Mitt “Life begins at conception, regardless of rape or incest” Romney, a moderate?? BAHAHAHHAHA.

            Now I know you’re trolling, waste of time. Mojo out.

          • Jeffrey Coley

            If you want some historical perspective, the party that first became ideological was the democrats, who drifted sharply left after Vietnam. Conservative democrats like Ronald Reagan left the party – or as he put it “the party left me”.

            The parties were “un-ideological” until the 1980’s because their was a common patriotism based upon an abiding love for our foundational principles. Everybody knew they were Americans first.

            Today love of country and faith in the wisdom of our founding fathers is considered radical right-wing bigotry. The real surprise in American politics today is just how far left the democrats have gone. They are off the chart of American political history. Senior elected democrats openly admire genocidal communist dictators like Mao Tse-tung. If you’re a democrat anti-Americanism is patriotism. The leftist cancer is so advanced that common courtesy and decency are seen as hatred and intolerance.

  • billbear1961

    Non-partisan, Stu?

    Listen, pal, you and your colleagues better start taking a stand against fascist SABOTAGE while we’ve still got a democracy left to defend!

    • cris

      Fascism: a far-left ideology that would have to be considered the ideological polar opposite (along with other loony state-worshipping ideas like communism, Nazism, state theocracy) of the libertarian ideals espoused by many of the so-called “Tea Party” folks.

      But we appreciate you putting en entire sentence together and using smart-sounding words like “democracy” and “SABOTAGE” (YELLING IT VERY LOUDLY!) in your post. And wook at da wittle polar bear!!

      • billbear1961

        Far left? Like MOST of today’s cons, you are a LIAR. (The Nazis WERE fascists, and DESPISED social democrats, condemning many to the camps! All theocracies are, by their very nature, fascist.)

        Fascism: a political ideology of the extreme RIGHT, that posits the superiority and right to rule of one group (often racial, ethnic or religious) over all others, with no respect for the equal protection of the laws for ALL, for free inquiry or dissent, for scientific facts or the TRUTH, or for the individual rights and
        liberties precious to any liberal democracy, i.e. FREE SOCIETY

        Mussolini saw it as total CORPORATE control of the state (very much in keeping with the corporate-sponsored baggers, who seek to turn the clock back a CENTURY to a time when the ordinary citizen was virtually powerless against the wealthy. THAT is their libertarian idea of “freedom,” the freedom of the robber barons to commit ANY crime they like. But the wealthy are alarmed now at the recklessness of the MONSTER they helped to create!).

        Fascists: gangsters who will do whatever it takes to subjugate an entire society to their will, including the dissemination of endless lies and misinformation, sabotaging the democratic process, and creating chaos and fear to undermine legitimate majority rule

        In the case of the Tea Party, refusing to do their constitutional DUTY to keep government operating and respect the validity of the U.S. public debt (thus threatening the very economic LIFE of their own country) unless their FASCIST demands are
        met to delay or dismantle laws THEY disapprove of, with no respect for election results, or previous legislative or judicial decisions.

        They are guilty of SEDITION (using threats of economic catastrophe unless government submits to THEIR will), and should be arrested and tried for that CRIME.

        • cris

          Mussolini was a Socialist Member of Parliament before founding the Fascist Party, dear, and he retained that state-dominated, anti-market, anti-individualist ideology all throughout his political life. Corporatism is just another form of socialism that seeks to stamp out all individual initiative and which is totally opposed to the kind of individual democratic rights and free market economy that we liberals (i.e. libertarians) espouse. In other words, it represents the polar opposite of libertarianism and the Tea Party…but probably not too far off from your intolerant, racist views, hmmm? I hear the Taliban is recruiting!

          • billbear1961

            Without government controls and regulations, like those imposed by FDR, there is no free market. There is gross market manipulation, corruption that leads to eventual collapse! Where have you BEEN?? What fairy-tale world are you living in??

            Your “libertarian” views enable the wealthy to go on the rampage and would make it impossible for the ordinary citizen to defend himself–or the natural environment–from their gargantuan POWER!

            The super rich LOVED the baggers while they thought they could use them to undo the benefits and rights and protections our parents and grandparents spent a CENTURY fighting for.

            But their wild-eyed recklessness with regard to the national debt has given the wealthy pause!

            They couldn’t care less about the 99%, but they sure as hell care about their FORTUNES!

            Wake up, Cris!

            You are being manipulated!

  • southerndemnut

    Of course really before the Internet, and really before the watershed election of 1994, whether you were a Democrat or Republican depended more on geography than simple ideology. I am old enough in the south to remember that when my father was elected to the legislature in North Carolina, there were exactly 6 out of 120 legislatures Republican. The real action was in the Democratic caucus between the various factions, and the handful of Republicans just joined whatever group benefited them the most at the time.

    With the rise of Newt Gingrich, the internet, and various other things, people start to identify nationally with their politics. A Democrat was a Democrat and a Republican was a Republican no matter if you where you were located.

    Of course gerrymandering exacerbated all of this by dividing districts not by geography but by predominate affiliation.

    I suppose that it was bound to happen as communications increased and people began to identify with others nationally than locally, but still, it is a very base case right now that the wall is so high.

  • Defend Liberty

    To thrive over time, we should adhere to the moral standards and practices upon which the oaks of liberty grew strong in the first place.

  • Chris Wilson

    I think Mark has a point. We also should not forget about the political middle within the voting public. A majority of Americans are centrist Independents who feel overwhelmingly under represented. There’s an article in the current issue of Esquire addressing that very issue. I think this leaves open a very good possiblity for moderates to reappear within both parties especially with so much anger towards Tea party conservatives over the shutdown and liberals over the Affordable Health Care Act.

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