George Will: Vote Democrat in November

The dean of conservative columnists argues that the Republican Congress must be taught a lesson.

In a column titled, ”Vote against the GOP this November,” the longtime conservative commentator turns on his erstwhile party.

Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

The principle: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.

Consider the melancholy example of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who wagered his dignity on the patently false proposition that it is possible to have sustained transactions with today’s president, this Vesuvius of mendacities, without being degraded. In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons,” Thomas More, having angered Henry VIII, is on trial for his life. When Richard Rich, whom More had once mentored, commits perjury against More in exchange for the office of attorney general for Wales, More says: “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . But for Wales!” Ryan traded his political soul for . . . a tax cut. He who formerly spoke truths about the accelerating crisis of the entitlement system lost everything in the service of a president pledged to preserve the unsustainable status quo.

Ryan and many other Republicans have become the president’s poodles, not because James Madison’s system has failed but because today’s abject careerists have failed to be worthy of it. As explained in Federalist 51: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” Congressional Republicans (congressional Democrats are equally supine toward Democratic presidents) have no higher ambition than to placate this president. By leaving dormant the powers inherent in their institution, they vitiate the Constitution’s vital principle: the separation of powers.

Quite right. On the late, likely unlamented, OTB Radio, Dave Schuler frequently noted that we had combined the worst features of separation of powers and parliamentary rigor. Even a decade ago, Congressional Democrats tended to vote lockstep against President George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans tended to vote lockstep with him. The phenomenon got much worse under President Obama and worse still under President Trump. There are a variety of reasons for this, mostly having to do with the purge of moderates from both parties, but the effects have been disastrous.

While Trump is enormously unpopular overall, he’s as popular with his party’s loyalists at this point in his presidency as Bush and Obama were. And, frankly, he’s much more ruthless and effective than they were in punishing dissenters. It thus takes an enormous groundswell of public sentiment, such as happened in the backlash against caging innocent children, to get Congressional Republicans to show any spine at all.

Will closes with this:

In today’s GOP, which is the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream. So, to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him. A Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables, but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate’s machinery, keeping the institution as peripheral as it has been under their control and asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House. And to those who say, “But the judges, the judges!” the answer is: Article III institutions are not more important than those of Articles I and II combined.

Quite.

It’s interesting to me that, despite my headline, Will doesn’t explicitly say to “vote Democrat.” The headline, which he likely didn’t write, says “vote against the GOP” and the text doesn’t quite move beyond the passive voice of the “congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced.” The closest we get is “to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses.” In what’s effectively a two-party system, “vote Democrat” is the only logical alternative.

But, as Joshua Foust and I were discussing on Facebook yesterday regarding this column, Will, while a #NeverTrump guy as early as I was,  never got to the point, as I did kicking and screaming, of actually endorsing a vote for Hillary Clinton. And Will’s previous substantive column before this one, not counting a lovely tribute to his friend Charles Krauthammer, was an essay endorsing 72-year-old Bill Weld as the Libertarian Party nominee for 2020. That’s a half-measure, suitable only for those who live in states whose outcome is simply not in doubt.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2018, Congress, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    While Trump is enormously unpopular overall

    This is flatly untrue.

    https://realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

    Now, maybe a new round of polls will show the President’s numbers cratering because of this illegal immigrant family separation mess but describing him as “enormously unpopular” is contradicted by the facts as they now stand and have now stood for several months.

    This is not nitpicking. If you operate on the assumptions that Donald Trump is “enormously unpopular” and doing a disastrous job as President when neither of those things are true, you will accomplish nothing but ultimately embarrassing yourself. I mean, rousing yourself on a Saturday morning to post about George Will’s opinion as if anyone gives a tinker’s dam what George Will thinks?

    As for Will himself…did he call for the GOP to be taught a lesson when it led this nation into a war for no good reason that got thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed? When a Republican President authorized the spying on Americans without warrants or the torture of prisoners? How about when a Democratic President openly refused to enforce the law as it had been passed by Congress?

    On the other hand, what do I know? Maybe hysterically rending your garments over the fate of illegal immigrant families will finally be the silver bullet to slay the Were-Trump monster. But if THIS is what it takes to get rid of Trump…do you actually think what follows is going to be a return to normality?

    Mike

    2
  2. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge:

    While Trump is enormously unpopular overall

    This is flatly untrue.

    https://realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

    Now, maybe a new round of polls will show the President’s numbers cratering because of this illegal immigrant family separation mess but describing him as “enormously unpopular” is contradicted by the facts as they now stand and have now stood for several months.

    I suppose “enormously unpopular” is sufficiently amorphous that you could see it otherwise but your own link demonstrates that 51.1% disapprove, 43.7% approve, with a net -7.4%. Even Rasmussen has him at minus 6. That’s pretty unpopular. It’s true, however, that he’s been even more unpopular.

    16
  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    A president with 42% approval and 50% disapproval in the midst of peace and prosperity is enormously unpopular. Any decent president presiding over this economy would be at 60%+ approval. Republicans could have had their tax cut and their stolen Supreme Court seat and be looking at high approval rates with Rubio or Bush or Kasich.

    It’s not just that half the country opposes him despite a strong economy, it’s that those who disapprove despise him, reject him absolutely, and believe his election was so monstrously wrong that they’ve lost faith in their fellow Americans. In my lifetime I have disliked a number of presidents, but I’ve never wished they would stroke out and die, but I will dance a jig and pop a bottle of Champagne if this rancid, vile, treasonous, corrupt piece of sht dies.

    And I’d have no problem having a beer with Republicans who supported the Bushes or Reagan or Romney or McCain, but sharing a drink with a Trump voter would be like sharing a drink with a child molester. They aren’t just wrong, they aren’t just people I disagree with, they’re despicable.

    26
  4. Ben Wolf says:

    And I’d have no problem having a beer with Republicans who supported the Bushes or Reagan or Romney or McCain, but sharing a drink with a Trump voter would be like sharing a drink with a child molester.

    One is as dishonorable, selfish and murderous as the other. And given Trump is overwhelmingly popular among Republicans, the same people supported all of them.

    There is no such thing as a better or worse Republican.

    7
  5. teve tory says:

    77-yro George Will’s hair color is every bit as real as Ronnie Reagan’s.

    I’ve got more white, and I’m 41.

    2
  6. teve tory says:

    I suppose “enormously unpopular” is sufficiently amorphous that you could see it otherwise but your own link demonstrates that 51.1% disapprove, 43.7% approve, with a net -7.4%. Even Rasmussen has him at minus 6. That’s pretty unpopular. It’s true, however, that he’s been even more unpopular.

    If you’ve had 9 years of economic growth and unusually low unemployment and you’re still at net -7.4 you are really, really unpopular.

    9
  7. Ben Wolf says:

    What is one supposed to think of George Will, a man who has done all in his power to ensure future generations will inherit a planet that cannot support organized human life?

    11
  8. teve tory says:

    @Ben Wolf: a socially-conscious conservative intellectual I knew 15 years ago (back when that wasn’t completely unheard-of) complained, “George Will isn’t even a Conservative, he’s a fucking Royalist!”

    (one of my other fond memories of him was how he tried to read Sean Hannity’s first book and quit in Chapter 2, saying, “This guy is an idiot.” and he would occasionally pull the book out and read lines in a sub-forest-gump voice.)

    8
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    I would be the first to agree that Reagan Republicans are the precursors of Trump voters. I’d agree that W. made horrible mistakes in office. But to equate Trump voters and earlier iterations of Republicans is to equate a bad sunburn and end-stage melanoma. Yes, they are related, yes they have the same cause, but one is just painful and the other is fatal. Reagan and Bush did not set out to destroy democracy, neither sold himself to foreign dictators, neither was corrupt. Voting for a scoundrel is not quite the equivalent of voting for a traitor.

    21
  10. Ben Wolf says:

    @teve tory: That intellectual was right. Will doesn’t come close to resembling a philosophical conservative, nor does anyone else in the Republican Party. They are radical statists who have not hesitated to crush liberties in pursuit of what they envision as a “proper” society.

    If the Democrats were philosophically opposed to Republicanism they wouldn’t let people like Will within ten feet of themselves.

    4
  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @teve tory:

    I’ve got more white, and I’m 41.

    You know… debating who is more white kinda got us into this mess.

    😉

    But +1 for George Will. Glad he is standing up and stating the obvious that the GOP is no longer the conservative party in the USA.

    9
  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Stopped clocks and all that.

    @Liberal Capitalist: And -4 for all the other deceits he commits in the rest of the column. It really is bad, just an exercise in trying to prove how superior he is to everyone else.

    6
  13. Ben Wolf says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Here’s the thing: Reagan was a traitor. People tend to forget he left office half a step ahead of impeachment for handing weapons to terrorist organizations advocating for our destruction, that his administration helped kick the drug crisis into high gear by directing the CIA to assist violent cartels in distributing cocaine, crack and heroin on American streets.

    Bush, we now know because the British government has confirmed the authenticity of the Manning Memo, plotted with Tony Blair to invade Iraq regardless of what was found by the weapon inspectors. Bush even attempted to persuade Blair that they should paint a plane in U.N. colors, fly it around Iraq until it was shot down and then use this as a pretext for war.

    Every Republican president since Nixon has been a violent thug hell-bent on wreaking social havoc and turning the rest of the planet against us.

    18
  14. MarkedMan says:

    This is curious, but I’m not sure if it has any significance. I haven’t read George Will in decades, primarily because he became the consummate Republican, i.e. he would lie about anything if he thought it advanced Republican election prospects. And not only is he one of the Republican’s intellectuals, he truly is smart, and so the intellectual glaze he painted on what were actually mundane Republican lies was especially repulsive because, unlike a moron such as Trump, he knew what he was doing. Most glaring is his obsession with creating a phoney scientific veneer on the workaday Republican climate change denial.

    11
  15. Hal_10000 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Exactly so. 538 has taken a look at approval ratings vs. economic conditions and Trump should be about +20 right now. That he’s much worse is because the American do not like him. Remember that “job approval” wraps up both personal approval and “how’s the country doing”. If the economy goes South — and Trump is taking every step he can to assure it will — he could be down to Bush 43 levels or lower.

    12
  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Sometimes, Ben, you are distressingly simplistic. It’s simply nonsense to say that Nixon or Reagan or either Bush was “a violent thug hell-bent on wreaking social havoc and turning the rest of the planet against us.” I didn’t like any of them, but that characterization is so extreme that it loses contact with reality and in the face of Republicans’ abandonment of reality and retreat into fantasy I think it’s important for us to remain champions of facts and consensual reality.

    15
  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You think dropping 30,000 bombs a year is intended to make people like us?

    I will repeat: every Republican president since Nixon has been a violent thug hell-bent on turning the world against us. The United States has long been considered in global opinion to be the single greatest threat to peace, and for good reason.

    9
  18. teve tory says:

    I bet most of these numbnuts voted for Trump:

    Southeast Missouri nail company gets hammered by Trump’s tariffs

    JUNE 22, 2018 BY ALISA NELSON

    President Trump’s tariff on steel imports that took effect June 1 has caused a southeast Missouri nail manufacturer to lose about 50% of its business in two weeks. Mid Continent Nail Corporation in Poplar Bluff – the remaining major nail producer in the country – has had to take drastic measures to make ends meet. The company employing 500 people earlier this month has laid off 60 temporary workers. It could slash 200 more jobs by the end of July and be out of business around Labor Day.

    https://www.missourinet.com/2018/06/22/southeast-missouri-nail-company-gets-hammered-by-trumps-tariffs/

    5
  19. @James Joyner: Indeed: a net negative for a president in his second year with the current economy is very much a case of “enormously unpopular.”

    8
  20. @OzarkHillbilly:

    all the other deceits he commits in the rest of the column

    Yes, there are a number of counter-productive portions of the piece if his goal is to punish Reps.

    That and for not, as James notes, coming out and straight up saying: vote for Democrats. We are at the point that if Will believes his underlying thesis, that has to be the only response because just voting against Reps will not be enough.

    10
  21. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Hal_10000:

    he could be down to Bush 43 levels or lower.

    I think that Herbert Hoover would be a better comparison if the economy goes South.

    2
  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I just grow tired of the “both sides” BS. Not because DEMs are perfect for they surely are not, but because in the age of trump there is no comparison between the 2 parties.

    14
  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    This is the intellectual equivalent of @Bung’s whataboutism. Cain committed murder therefore murder is OK. Nixon was a bad president therefore bad presidents are somehow grandfathered in. Jefferson had slaves therefore slavery in Saudi Arabia is fine. When you erase nuance you erase data, Ben, and when you do that, when you conflate and equate and whatabout all you’re doing is using the enemy’s tactics to excuse the present evil.

    29 years have passed since the end of Reagan’s term. Did he dogwhistle racism? Absolutely. Does that make him the equivalent of Trump? Decidedly no. If nothing else, time has passed, we’ve all seen the BLM videos, white folks have been presented with incontrovertible evidence of violent racism in this country. The Pharaohs, Jefferson and Robert E. Lee all supported slavery, but the pharaohs had no reason to believe it was wrong, Jefferson did but didn’t know what to do about it, and Lee slaughtered Americans in defense of an institution he knew to be morally repugnant. They are not morally equivalent any more than ‘you can keep your doctor’ is the equivalent of the Vesuvius of lies sitting in the White House today.

    10
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    He who formerly spoke truths about the accelerating crisis of the entitlement system lost everything in the service of a president pledged to preserve the unsustainable status quo.

    And George Will proves, once again, that he still doesn’t get it.

    1
  25. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I just grow tired of the “both sides” BS. Not because DEMs are perfect for they surely are not, but because in the age of trump there is no comparison between the 2 parties.

    While I concur, there’s a tactical consideration here. Will, perhaps because he’s a generation older, is more reluctant than me to endorse voting for the opposite party. But, if his objective is to convince his Republican fans that it’s okay to cross the aisle, it’s actually useful to bend over backward in pointing out that, yes, Congressional Democrats are also supine when there’s a Democrat in the White House and that, yes, voting for Democrats is going to be painful. Going full @Ben Wolf, even if Will believed it—which he almost surely doesn’t—would be exceedingly counterproductive.

    1
  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Indeed! Thanks for pointing that out! He still doesn’t get it (and I worry about Dr. Joyner).

    1
  27. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And I’d have no problem having a beer with Republicans who supported the Bushes or Reagan or Romney or McCain, but sharing a drink with a Trump voter would be like sharing a drink with a child molester. They aren’t just wrong, they aren’t just people I disagree with, they’re despicable.

    My family has a number of Trump voters in it, mostly of the “I can’t believe they nominated that idiot…” hold-the-nose and vote for him anyway because they’ve voted Republican for decades and they hated Clinton. I’m not going to say that they are good people, but they’re not despicable (except for my eldest surviving brother… he’s pretty awful).

    About half of the Trump voters likely fall in that category. They’re low information voters who are Fox adjacent, who don’t see the white supremacy. They think all politicians are corrupt, so they don’t see Trump as especially corrupt. They assume all the crazy talk coming from the Republican Party is just for show — something the politicians have to say to get through the primary, rather than something that they believe and will act on.

    They’re simple, common people. You know, idiots.

    And separating children from their families and putting them in cages is something that actually gets through to them. They’re dense and set in their ways, not actually despicable.

    8
  28. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Also, given the current state of the Republican Party, I would sooner vote for a child molester than a Republican.

    This probably is going to leave me with a few blind spots going forward where I vote for objectively terrible people, and will not serve me well if the Democrats someday go off the deep end.

    If Pol Pot won the Democratic nomination, I would assume that when he said we need an agrarian revolution, he meant that we need to revitalize our rural communities through economic programs and targeted investment, rather than emptying out the cities and forcing everyone to work the fields.

    4
  29. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds:Every time I think I should maybe start subscribing to The Nation again, I read a Ben Wolf message and remember why I stopped.

    I’m sure he still feels wreathed in moral purity for having shown his disapproval of the system and the man by voting for Jill Stein in 2016.

    6
  30. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “Also, given the current state of the Republican Party, I would sooner vote for a child molester than a Republican.”

    The good news is, if you’re voting for the former, you’re probably already voting for the latter.

    6
  31. Kit says:

    Even a decade ago, Congressional Democrats tended to vote lockstep against President George W. Bush.. There are a variety of reasons for this, mostly having to do with the purge of moderates from both parties, but the effects have been disastrous.

    Really? I mean, really? This is the way you remember the Bush years? He won a, ah, contested election, made no attempt to govern from the center, as then squandered an enormous amount of good will after 911 by pursuing disastrous foreign adventures. When you look back on that period, are your memories really of a Democratic opposition that was too fierce and unyielding?

    6
  32. MarkedMan says:

    Actually, I know a fair amount of Trump supporters. I have had more than one beer with them. We don’t talk politics but for the most part I believe it has more to do with selective information sources than anything else. If you watch Fox News exclusively and trust Republican officials more than Democrats then you are going to come away thinking that Trump has enacted a lot of good policies and cut a lot of red tape and sometimes he shoots his mouth off and hurts librul fee-fees. Their failing has more to do with avoiding the other side. And that is something that is normal for human nature. It really is a “both sides do it” situation.
    What is so damaging is that the main stream news sources have been lumped in with the other side.

    There was an article I came across where an anonymous Fox News employee working on their Web Site was asked if they put up anything about the children in cages. He said that yes, they put up a few things, but they didn’t get many hits and then they just worked their way quickly down the site until they were gone. That sounds about right. It doesn’t match with their world view, so they avoided it, probably not even consciously.

    3
  33. James Joyner says:

    @Kit:

    This is the way you remember the Bush years? He won a, ah, contested election, made no attempt to govern from the center, as then squandered an enormous amount of good will after 911 by pursuing disastrous foreign adventures. When you look back on that period, are your memories really of a Democratic opposition that was too fierce and unyielding?

    As noted in the OP, I think it was bad under Bush Sr, got worse under Clinton, worse under Bush Jr, worse under Obama, and now worse under Trump.

    Karl Rove aside, Bush largely governed from the center, at least by GOP standards. Conservatives still haven’t forgiven him for the massive expansion of the Medicare drug benefit. While Democrats hate No Child Left Behind, it was very much an expansion of Federal power over an era that Republicans have been trying to give back to the states since at least Reagan’s day.

    And, yes, Harry Reid went from being a moderate Senator to an obstructionist as Majority Leader. I blogged about that routinely at the time.

    Again, McConnell and the Republicans turned that up to 11 under Obama.

    But what Will and I are complaining about now isn’t Democratic obstructionism but rather Republican spinelessness in the face of a President of their party governing against their principles and interests.

    1
  34. @James Joyner:

    But what Will and I are complaining about now isn’t Democratic obstructionism but rather Republican spinelessness in the face of a President of their party governing against their principles and interests.

    The thing is, I am not sure that this is true. In terms of policy the one consistent principle that the party has had consistently has been tax cuts, and especially tax cuts at the upper end of earners. They got that (as Will notes). Beyond that, their “principles and interests” are getting re-elected. Since a lot of them are in safe districts they only have to rely on primary wins, which means they need Trump.

    I also fear that the party is far more comfortable with Trump’s white nationalism than I wanted to believe.

    I think Will is lamenting something that does not exist, and may not have ever existed the way he wanted it to.

    9
  35. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    In terms of policy the one consistent principle that the party has had consistently has been tax cuts, and especially tax cuts at the upper end of earners. They go that (as Will notes). Beyond that, their “principles and interests” are getting re-elected. Since a lot of them are in safe districts they only have to rely on primary wins, which means they need Trump.

    I think that’s true as far as it goes. But there was certainly much more to the agenda that tax cuts, well into the 1990s. Alas, over time, it became most “against” particular politicians or agenda items rather than “for” anything in particular.

    I also fear that the party is far more comfortable with Trump’s white nationalism than I wanted to believe.

    That element was always there but I think it’s subsumed into something larger, a cultural revanchism. Lots of white Americans, particularly blue collar rural and Southern ones, are angry that some Other is taking “their” country from them. Some of that is anti-black and anti-Hispanic but it’s more than that, too. The whole “God, guns, and gays” thing (which once upon a time was “God, guts, and guns”). The “real America” thing. But, again, white nationalism nests well within all of those sentiments, even if it’s a relatively small part.

    1
  36. teve tory says:

    39% of democrats voted for the 2002 AUMF. About the No Child Left Behind Act:

    It was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), George Miller (D-CA), and Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH). The United States House of Representatives passed the bill on December 13, 2001 (voting 381–41),[8] and the United States Senate passed it on December 18, 2001 (voting 87–10).[9] President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002.

    Democrats didn’t vote in lockstep against Bush.

    5
  37. teve tory says:

    House GOP just unveiled a plan to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. If they cut those things enough, their supporters won’t be able to Mobility Scooter their way to the voting booths.

    1
  38. george says:

    And Will’s previous substantive column before this one, not counting a lovely tribute to his friend Charles Krauthammer, was an essay endorsing 72-year-old Bill Weld as the Libertarian Party nominee for 2020. That’s a half-measure, suitable only for those who live in states whose outcome is simply not in doubt.

    Actually, if a significant number of regular GOP voters vote Libertarian instead, it’ll be more than adequate for putting D’s in charge of congress and the senate. I’d be very happy if even 10% did so, and so I suspect would the Democratic Party. I just don’t believe that Will has anything like that kind of influence (nor does anyone else) – people vote out of habit, and cheer for their home team, whether they like the current players or not. Getting 10% to shift their vote is extremely hard.

    1
  39. reid says:

    mostly having to do with the purge of moderates from both parties

    Is there really a purge of moderates from the Democratic party? This just sounds like a feel-good both-siderism.

    6
  40. teve tory says:

    Is there really a purge of moderates from the Democratic party? This just sounds like a feel-good both-siderism.

    The way to answer this question would be with some research and counting. GOP members live in fear of being condemned as RINOs and primaried into oblivion à la Eric Cantor. Do Democratic politicians live in similar fear? What’s the numbers of GOP incumbents who’ve been primaried out by the RWNJs vs the Dems who’ve been primaried out by Vegan Communist Lefties? I don’t know, and am lazy and playing PokerStars all day today, but hopefully somebody out there is curious and obsessive and comes up with the data.

  41. James Joyner says:

    @teve tory: The Dems who voted against the AUMF got crushed in the midterms, which is why all of the Democratic contenders for POTUS in 2008 other than Obama (who wasn’t a national figure at the time of the vote) had been on Bush’s side. And, yes, lots of Dems got behind NCLB, which, as you note, was co-sponsored by Teddy Kennedy.

    @reid: There are very few Blue Dogs left. We’re down to, essentially, Joe Manchin. There’s no doubt that the GOP has moved further to the right than Dems have to the left, at least as it’s currently defined. But we have two very polarized parties.

    That’s not just impressionistic, by the way. See Iyengar’s “Fear and Loathing across Party Lines” and recent Pew Research data. From the latter:

    When responses to 10 questions are scaled together to create a measure of ideological consistency, the median (middle) Republican is now more conservative than nearly all Democrats (94%), and the median Democrat is more liberal than 92% of Republicans.

    In 1994, the overlap was much greater than it is today. Twenty years ago, the median Democrat was to the left of 64% of Republicans, while the median Republican was to the right of 70% of Democrats. Put differently, in 1994 23% of Republicans were more liberal than the median Democrat; while 17% of Democrats were more conservative than the median Republican. Today, those numbers are just 4% and 5%, respectively.

    2
  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher:

    They’re low information voters who are Fox adjacent, who don’t see the white supremacy.

    Or maybe, see it and don’t care. My mom and dad were in that category and explained it as a function of age causing one to want familiar stability.

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: Boom! (And I probably don’t find Ben Wolf as objectionable as you do.)

  44. Kit says:

    @James Joyner: I just don’t have the time to go into every detail, so I’ll limit myself to asking just what point you are trying to make with No Child Left Behind? The fact that Democrats were not sufficiently behind this bill and that that was a step along the path to our current polarization? WTF? Am I missing something here?

    1
  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tedious might be a better adjective

  46. reid says:

    @James Joyner: I’m sure we do have two very polarized parties. But it seems to me that everything you described could be explained by the republican party’s march to the right. I just don’t see any similar march to the left in the democratic party. They’d practically have to be communists to be comparable.(Generalizing, of course.) in any case, the democrats seem pretty moderate overall, and I don’t see any intentional purging of moderates from their ranks. Maybe I’m missing something, though.

    3
  47. @reid: There is empirical evidence that suggests both parties have moved, but that the GOP has definitely moved more far more rightward.

    1
  48. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think that there are more evidence that both parties are more nationalized than moved either left or right. The Republicans moved right because they are more reliant on national donors, the Democrats moved to right on economic issues and to the left on social issues for the same reason.

  49. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory:

    77-yro George Will’s hair color is every bit as real as Ronnie Reagan’s.

    What do you mean hair color? It’s a frikkin’ wig. Not a toupee, a wig. The man is a closet baldy and has been for a long time.

  50. gVOR08 says:

    A great deal of the shift since the sixties was due to the Civil Rights Act and the subsequent geographic swap. The Democrat’s center of gravity moved left as their conservative wing of Southern Democrats changed parties or were voted out. Similarly the Republicans lost their North Eastern liberal wing. Just by eyeball, except for gay rights, which is only recently even an issue, I believe this explains most of the leftward shift of Democrats. But Republicans have moved way right of their historical right wing. When speaking of left, right, and center one should be careful to specify whether you’re speaking of the center of current American politics or some historical mean.

    The left is kind of bounded by socialism and communism, and IIRC there were once more avowed socialist Dems than there are now. But Republicans are no longer bounded by reason and there seems to be no rightward bound to crazy, especially in a Republican primary.

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  51. @Andre Kenji de Sousa: If you look at the work done for DW-Nominate, you can see the movement.

    And US parties have long been nationalized.

  52. Ben Wolf says:

    @wr: This is the third time you’ve repeated this particular falsehood. I voted for Clinton in the general though I regretted it even as I pushed the button.

  53. wr says:

    @Ben Wolf: Apologies for that. In the future I will think of you marinating in your self-righteousness as you curse the hand that pulls the lever for the marginally lesser of two evils.

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  54. Ben Wolf says:

    @wr: Self-righteousness means the belief one is morally superior. I don’t believe in moral superiority. I follow the four cardinal virtues to the best of my ability and try to do the right thing. To wrestle with the virtues does not make one person superior to another, it simply means one is trying to be a good person in accordance with nature.

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  55. Ben Wolf says:

    @gVOR08: Corey Robin has argued there is no foundational basis for American conservatism and, lacking any tether, the Right must inevitably move into explicit authoritarianism.

    I’m finding it difficult to disagree.

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  56. James Joyner says:

    @Kit:

    I’ll limit myself to asking just what point you are trying to make with No Child Left Behind? The fact that Democrats were not sufficiently behind this bill and that that was a step along the path to our current polarization?

    I was rebutting your contention that Bush “made no attempt to govern from the center.”

  57. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner: Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t centrism a definition of how far from orthodoxy one strays rather than bipartisanship? No Child was at the time regarded as a radical plan.

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  58. Ben Wolf says:

    @Michael Reynolds: No.

    We have had five Republican presidents since and including Nixon. Nixon explicitly set out to determine the Vietnamese’s breaking point with a bombing campaign of savagery.

    Reagan knowingly trained death squads to terrorize Central American peasants into obedience.

    Bush I authorized a military intervention into Panama that wantonly killed thousands of civilians, and knowingly participated in the fabrication of Iraqi atrocities against the Kuwaitis to generate support for another war.

    Bush II knowingly participated in fabrication of an excuse to attack Iraq again, with murderous operations like those that destroyed the city of Fallujah.

    And Trump is actively encouraging a mass murder in Yemen.

    None of these represent wise or just actions. They are instead the actions of people who do not know the difference between good and bad, that are in thrall to what Seneca called “brutishness” and considered a form of insanity.

    “Let me tell you how the emotions begin, or grow, or get carried away. The first movement is nonvolitional, a kind of preparation for emotion, a warning, as it were. The second is volitional but not contumacious, like this, ‘It is appropriate for me to take revenge, since I have been injured,’ or ‘It is appropriate for this person to be punished, since he has committed a crime.’ The third movement is already beyond control. It wants to take revenge not if it is appropriate, but no matter what; it has overthrown reason. That first impact on the mind is one we cannot escape by reason, just as we cannot escape those things which I said happen to the body, such as being stimulated by another person’s yawn, or blinking when fingers are thrust suddenly toward one’s eyes. That second movement, the one that comes about through judgment, is also eliminated by judgment. And we must still inquire concerning those people who rage about at random and delight in human blood, whether they are angry when they kill people from whom they have not received any injury and do not believe that they have — people like Apollodorus or Phalaris. This is not anger but brutishness. For it does not do harm because it has received an injury; rather, it is willing even to receive an injury so long as it may do harm. It goes after whippings and lacerations not for punishment but for pleasure. What then? The origin of this evil is from anger, which, once it has been exercised and satiated so often that it has forgotten about clemency and has cast out every human contract from the mind, passes in the end into cruelty.” (On Anger II.4-5)

    And this is not necessarily limited to Republicans:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mlz3-OzcExI#

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  59. teve tory says:

    @Kylopod:

    What do you mean hair color? It’s a frikkin’ wig. Not a toupee, a wig. The man is a closet baldy and has been for a long time.

    Is it obvious to you, or did you hear that? I have no way of knowing. Hell I didn’t even know Sean Connery was wearing a toupee the whole time he was james bond.

  60. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory:

    Is it obvious to you, or did you hear that? I have no way of knowing. Hell I didn’t even know Sean Connery was wearing a toupee the whole time he was james bond.

    We baldies have a sixth sense about these things.

    Seriously, just look at the picture at the top of this article. His hair looks like a piece of plastic planted atop his skull. I distinctly noticed it a few weeks ago when he was on Bill Maher.

    (Also, I suspect Connery was only partially bald at the time he did the early Bond pictures, so a toupee wouldn’t have been as noticeable as it would be on a man with very little hair.)

    There are elderly men with full heads of hair (I believe Reagan’s hair itself was real, even if the coloring wasn’t), but it’s a lot less common than what you’d think from seeing the men who appear on TV–reporters, politicians, actors, and so on. Male-pattern baldness affects something like 2/3rds of all men, and even those without it often experience other forms of hair loss in old age.

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  61. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    You are the eternal college sophomore. Yes, Ben: there have been bad men in the WH. Yes, Ben people did not invent evil yesterday. No, Ben, that’s not relevant to this discussion unless your purpose is to muddy the waters and offer a defense of the indefensible. We all get that you’re smart, that you’re well-educated, that you are trying to be a good and decent man. But in discussions here you are the classic ‘make the perfect the enemy of the good’ type, a type that either turns revolutionary or becomes a church deacon.

    I think what you want to be is a revolutionary. I hope that’s not true, because revolutionaries are idiots. Revolutions never turn out well for revolutionaries because as self-righteous as you are there’ll be someone more self-righteous still who’ll happily march you to the guillotine or stab you with an ice pick. Revolution is for children and fools.

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  62. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    I have never understood men who get upset at losing their hair. I find it wonderfully convenient. Time spent blow-drying: zero. Time spent making small talk with a stylist: zero. Money spent on shampoo: zero.

    Now, in my case the time saving is offset by the need to shave my head every three days or so, but I have a nice big shower and Marin county has its own water supply, so the process is infinitely preferable to sitting in the stylist’s chair. And there’s the fact that I can drive with the top down and have no concern for my hair, or that in rain I can simply squeegee my head dry. Honestly, if I could grow my hair back, I wouldn’t.

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  63. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @reid:

    I’m curious (and I’m typing this on a roadtrip, so can’t do research)–how much of the parties’ march to the extremes is because of gerrymandering instead of ideological ‘purges’ from within the party.

    Indiana, as an example i understand well, usually sent a few blue dog Democrats to Congress. After the 2010 consensus and redistricting, those moderates all lost re-election. It wasn’t Hoosier Democrats rejecting moderate politics, but rather losing ballot box clout. I’m sure the reverse has happened in Maryland and the like. Repeat that process for state assembly districts, and you are ensuring that there will never be a bench of moderates learning how to become effective politicians.

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  64. @Neil Hudelson: I do not have a systematic answer at the moment, but gerrymandering could contribute in the senses that as a district becomes less and less competitive, the real contest for election is the primary. Primary voting tends to be dominated by more ideological voters.

    Also, as I have argued before, the primaries allow new factions to emerge and shape an existing party. The Tea Party was able to heavily influence the broader GOP because of primaries.

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  65. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I have never understood men who get upset at losing their hair. I find it wonderfully convenient.

    How old were you when started losing it? If you’re a young man trying to look attractive to the opposite (or same) sex, it can be pretty agonizing.

    Premature balding seems to run in my family. I started losing it at 29. My father started losing it at 19.

    Besides, I’m not an actor or politician, and I don’t have to worry about looking good on TV. Sure, balding isn’t anywhere near the taboo it was a half-century ago (I could imagine a bald James Bond today, which would have been unthinkable in the ’60s), but other things being equal it’s still generally considered a flaw in a man’s appearance. If in the future they ever find a quick, easy cure to baldness, I don’t think the chrome-dome look will continue to be fashionable.

  66. And, I think that the Tea Party emerged in response to the Great Recession (economic disruption) and the election of a black president (social disruption for some).

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  67. Ben Wolf says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t care in the slightest that you routinely insult me on a personal level. It means you don’t have a counter-premise.

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  68. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Revolutions never turn out well for revolutionaries”

    Even in our great revolution, our true revolutionary Thomas Paine didn’t have it so good…

  69. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And, I think that the Tea Party emerged in response to the Great Recession (economic disruption) and the election of a black president (social disruption for some).

    The other thing was a perceived need to rebranding/rebuild the Republican Party after it was routed in 2006 and 2008.

  70. @mattbernius: Sure. Losses motivate strategic moves. I do think that the Tea Party in particular was more driven by the variables I noted that the GOP rebranding, however. I think this is especially true if you look at the way the more established GOP butted heads with Tea Partiers in the primaries.