RWN Interview With Michael Barone

John Hawkins conducted an e-mail interview with political analyst Michael Barone, a transcript of which appears at Right Wing News.

A representative exchange:

John Hawkins: On the whole, the US seems to have been moving slowly, but steadily to the right over the last 25 years. Do you agree that’s the case and can you tell us why you think that is?

Michael Barone: Slowly to the right in many ways, yes; but not on everything. The Democratic party is weaker in congressional and state elections generally than it was 25 years ago, but it’s arguably stronger in presidential elections; Democratic presidential nominees in the last three elections have won more popular votes than Republican nominees. Bill Clinton won 49 percent of the vote in 1996 and Al Gore won 48 percent in 2000; current polls show John Kerry running as well or better. On some issues abortion, gay rights–the electorate has moved well to the left in the last 25 years.

This is exactly right. It’s true that the Republican party has moved from permanent minority status to a slight plurality in the last 20-odd years but that’s largely a function of white Southern Democrats switching labels. On most social issues, the national trend has been inexorably to the left.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, 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.


  1. Bithead says:

    But why are the Deocrats leaving their party?
    Is it, as Reagan put it, the party is leaving THEM?

    I’m unconvinced that this is a measure of hte country heading right or left… what I see is a Democrat party that has swing so far left it’s turning off all but a portion of it’s own base.

    The nomination of John Kerry, and the rejection of Joe Lieberman would seem to back this argument.

  2. James Joyner says:

    The Republicanization of the South is just a delayed reaction to a change that had long taken place in the ideologies of the parties.

    The Democratic Party, on the whole, isn’t all that far to the left. Its party-in-organization is. The activists are naturally more inclined to extremism than the casual adherents that ultimately vote Democrat. Further, I’d note that even that group rejected Dean and Kucinich, going for a comparatively moderate candidate in Kerry. And, rhetorically at least, Kerry is running to the right on most issues. Even on abortion, he says he’s personally opposed to it even though he doesn’t think it should be illegal.

    You can’t run as a leftie and win in a national election. Similarly, Republicans can’t win if they’re too strident on the social issues.

  3. Bithead says:

    We seem to agree in large part, differing on the exact wording. I submit however that it’s the activists who have taken over the party, to the party’s detreiment. It’s the cause, I think of so many leaving the party. Which in turn makes one wonder how many Democrats are really excisted about Kerry. I can’t think there’s that many. I think they’re more interested in defeating Bush than they are about electing Kerry, as I’ve stated previously.

    As to Howard “Duck” Dean,I would point out to you however that Dean still enjoys wide support from the party faithful, and particularly certain facits of the party leadership. who seem miffed at the party that Dean got dumped… which I submit wouldn’t have happened if not for that jungle yell of his. the rank and file would ahve put up with his extremism for a while, if they’d have been able to get past the gag reflex… and he killed that with his stunts.

    What I’ll be interested to see however, in the next few months is how many rank and file Democrats have the courage to say ‘no’ to a party that seems headed off the left side of the road…. how may will hold their country and the truth to be higher than their party.

    In their extremeism the party leaders have sent the message; “Lockstep, or step off”.

    Jim Trafficant, whose corruption would have been protected by his party, wasn’t, and so the party dumped him at the first wide place in the road.

    OTOH, Zel Miller decided to step off.

    To me, it’ll be a measure of how far we’ve come, to see how many of the Democrats make such choices.

    By the way, James… any chance you can open up the comment window pop a bit; a little added width… perhaps another 35 pixels or so would do.
    I’m only getting part of the edit window at a shot. Makes editing a problem. I look even worse than usual, as a result.

  4. American Cuban in Miami says:

    Barone is way off. People don’t vote democrat or Republican in national elections they vote for the guy they like and think can do a good job for them. They are more inclined to vote along party lines in local elections. Have you seen a ballot recently. I don’t know half the people on it but I do know what party represents my views.

    A democrats ability to capture 48 or 49% of the vote is not a sign the country has moved left. If anything look at what these candidates had to do to capture that vote. Bill Clinton had to end welfare as we know it, pass tax cuts, and support globilization. Clinton also had a wonderful economy and relative peace to campaign on. Al Gore was basically doing a Bush impersontaion (or vice versa depending on your leaning). Today Kerry talks a very conservative line but his liberality continues to pop-up. Afterall if the country is more left then Kerry should just run on his 20 years in congress.

    The democratic party has owned strategy in national elections during the 90’s and I would argue that they have the increasing support of the national media.

    These things are useless at the local level. But Republicans have gotten wiser at the national game evidenced in 2000.

  5. Beldar says:

    Some of us hope that some of the trends showing up in the statistics — for example, lower rates of teenage unwed motherhood — suggest that this may not always be inexorable. And even if it is, it’s worth fighting a delaying action.

  6. Joseph Marshall says:

    “On most social issues, the national trend has been inexorably to the left.”

    I’d have to agree with you James. Take it issue by issue and most people favor Democratic policy. They are merely frightened by successful Republican ranting, tar and feathering, and TV ad slander not backed by evidence.

    That’s why domesticly GWB is forced to run on “tax cuts” alone, and why Republican majorities in Congress under a Republican President can’t legislate any better than they do. They don’t dare.

    Nominate a few rabidly partisan judges, propose a noisy Constitutional amendment which nobody needs, and go back to electioneering. That’s the life of a Republican in national politics.

    You would think that grown men and women would finally get tired of living such a lie. I guess it must be a really good job with lots of perks–the sort you do everything to keep even if your heart isn’t in it.