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“bordering on a sense of alarm” toward the opposite party
June 16, 2014 10:04 AM   Subscribe

This PewResearch animation graphically shows the growing polarization among US voters during the past 15 years. Part of a 121 page pdf. Pew doesn't address why polarization is happening, but the pundits will try: "Voters are becoming angrier because living standards are falling and the middle class is shriveling." Democrats blame corporations, Republicans blame the government and the Dallas Fed blames robots.

One concept of note the report seemingly dispels is asymmetrical polarization. "The study also undermines the notion, popular in Washington, of “asymmetrical polarization” – which blames Republicans for causing the division." However this idea, first introduced two years ago in the Washington Post ("Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem", Previously) is still just as compelling according to the authors of the Post piece, the Pew report supports asymmetrical polarization.

The Washington Post summarizes salient points eg. "30 percent of consistent conservatives and 23 percent of consistent liberals say they would be unhappy if a family member married someone from the opposite party."
posted by stbalbach (213 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe I'm a hopeless moderate, but I wish instead of blaming we could occasionally ascribe reasons to things.
posted by psoas at 10:10 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


It says right up there, the reasons are Democrats, Republicans, and Robots.

DRR. Like DDR, but without dancing.

Unless "pound podium with fist in righteous indignation" is a dance. Or "backtrack shuffle".
posted by sio42 at 10:15 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


How about a barely containable hatred of both parties?

I haven't yet RTFA, but having gotten the call from Pew a number of times over the years, I'm guessing "f**k them both" was not an option.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:18 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


Like DDR, but without dancing.

Next up on CSPAN.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:19 AM on June 16


I have felt myself drifting toward polarization since 2003 and hate it.

In my secret heart I blame the republicans for making me feel polarized.
posted by shothotbot at 10:24 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]


Democrats blame corporations, Republicans blame the government

And some of us see that this is an increasingly meaningless distinction.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:27 AM on June 16 [79 favorites]


I was hearing about this on C-Span yesterday, when some angry dude called in to say that it was wrong to say that conservatives have never presented a health care reform alternative, that they did 25 years ago when Hillary Clinton unveiled her plan. The angry ANGRY caller added that C-Span, which he accused of having "a relationship" with Hillary Clinton, should develop one with the Heritage Foundation.

I changed the channel rather quickly after that, but not before hearing the preternaturally patient unemotionally explain that the channel and its sister channels have often broadcast Heritage events and that C-Span has no relationship with Hillary Clinton.
posted by raysmj at 10:27 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Do away with single sided media enclaves that become echo chambers. That would do more to solve this problem than anything else.
posted by hippybear at 10:28 AM on June 16 [37 favorites]


...which is also a key reason why it won't happen.
posted by aramaic at 10:30 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Newt Gingrich. He took denying your opponents any legitimacy, turned it to 11, and showed that it worked. Fuck him and his piggy little face. I have feelings about this.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:30 AM on June 16 [53 favorites]


Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Do away with single sided media enclaves that become echo chambers.

Too profitable to be reined in this way. Fox News in particular, but preaching loudly and angrily to the choir in general, is a license to print money.
posted by kgasmart at 10:31 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I'm totally polarized and I feel justified for being so. In some sense I feel that one "shouldn't" be polarized, and so in a vague way I feel guilty about being polarized, but in the face of modern Republicans, I feel not being polarized is indicative of either ignorance, stupidity, outright evil, or some combination thereof.
posted by Flunkie at 10:32 AM on June 16 [28 favorites]


I'm still going with my "Communicable madness" theory and we're just ponty ponty pool pontypool
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 AM on June 16 [23 favorites]


preaching loudly and angrily to the choir in general, is a license to print money.

Not so much a license to print it but a steady source of it. In a media world that gives us hundreds of tv channels, the internet, countless print publications, radio "personalities", etc all competing for cusotmers' attention, a 24/7 partisan screed guarantees a stable source of revenue.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:36 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Newt Gingrich.

He and the Clinton machine became the masters of the 24/7 news cycle and rose with the rise of the internet and we've never looked back.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:37 AM on June 16


a 24/7 partisan screed guarantees a stable source of revenue

Give the people what they want; ratchet up the partisan animosity, and they'll want more of what you sell.

Capitalism itself, or at least our version of it, helped create this.
posted by kgasmart at 10:38 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


looking at the graphic from pew, i can't help but wonder if the internet and the rise of 24 hrs news is (one of) the reason(s) for this.

sure, politicians have always said and done amazing or inflammatory things, but we hear about those things a whoooooole lot quicker these days. and we also hear more about The Issues more frequently and the amazing or inflammatory things that are related to those issues.

ornot, but that's my first very impression.
posted by sio42 at 10:39 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


It feels like the accusation of polarization is another way of telling people that they shouldn't be so pissed off, and if they were just a bit nicer and bipartisan all would be dandy, which is, to my ears, complete bollocks.
posted by idb at 10:43 AM on June 16 [36 favorites]


Interesting study, but where do we go from here. There is Republican political obstructionism and social extremism on one hand, and general Democratic corruption on the other. Historically, most alternatives to these two extremes end up leading to populist tyranny, and we seem to be headed that way with the Tea Party's own brand of lunacy. Maybe that's the real danger.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


How about a barely containable hatred of both parties?

I wouldn't call what I feel as hatred toward either party, but it is like getting into a slap fight over whether Colgate or Crest is the superior toothpaste and then forever dismissing and hating someone because they use what you don't.

I would call myself a radical moderate because when you seek balance, you look radical to both sides, especially to the extremes. It is as if you have two target signs on you. Campaigns are fought like wars, and wars bring out angry emotions because no one likes to lose in a competition where they know they are going to lose some sort of control to the victor. I think a system should remove obstacles standing the way of progress, but then people get boxed in and when you are confined, you get angry, frustrated, and then lash out.

There is anger and that is the common thread, but people on one side of the political spectrum get so blinded by rage, they don't see the other side feels the exact same way -- hurt, confused, and desperate to find something that works. Instead of using that common thread to come together, it is the excuse used to tear people apart...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:49 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]


It says right up there, the reasons are Democrats, Republicans, and Robots.

DRR. Like DDR, but without dancing.


"Th-this is my wedge issue! It was made for me!"
posted by Rhaomi at 10:49 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Is that like what they do on The News Hour, where many discussions follow the format of expert vs. some person from an inscrutably named think tank in the vast right wing opinion shell game? Because if so, count me out.
posted by indubitable at 10:50 AM on June 16 [17 favorites]


looking at the graphic from pew, i can't help but wonder if the internet and the rise of 24 hrs news is (one of) the reason(s) for this.

Absolutely. The combination makes it insanely easy for a person to submerge himself/herself in an ideological echo chamber, to find and associate with like-minded individuals that will reinforce your prejudices, and to hear the same message from enough sources to grant it authenticity regardless of whether or not it is the truth.
posted by delfin at 10:52 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


I'm still convinced that this is mainly a conservative creation, born of decades of deliberately corrupting political discourse. Of particular note is the creation of organizations they called "think tanks," a formerly well understood word that referred to places where intensive research took place. The phrase is now so corrupted that the Pew Charitable Trust won't use it, saying instead:
Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and
trends shaping America and the world.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:52 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


I have felt myself drifting toward polarization since 2003 and hate it.

In my secret heart I blame the republicans for making me feel polarized.


I'm right there with you, shot.

I was raised to be non-partisan. But damn...it got so bad that I consistently visualized myself clinging to my non-partisan-ship by my fingertips...while the GOP stomped on them. Finally I gave up. I imagine myself, while falling into the abyss of partisanship, yelling "I'm a Democrat now...are you happyyyyyyy.....?"

The GOP's actions during the Florida recount debacle of 2000 was (were?) the last straw for me. That may end up being the defining event of my political life. I don't think I'll ever get over my anger about GOP dishonesty and demagoguery during that event. Up until then, I'd at least been able to remain nominally non-partisan.

I do believe that the farther you go in either direction on the political spectrum, the crazier people typically become. But the crazies on the left have fairly little influence. Whereas the crazies on right are running that wing of the asylum...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:52 AM on June 16 [25 favorites]


Is that like what they do on The News Hour, where many discussions follow the format of expert vs. some person from an inscrutably named think tank in the vast right wing opinion shell game?

Do you mean NewsHour (formerly MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour)? Because their "analysis" section usually comes from a couple of old fart journalists Shields and Brooks which is way off from the CNN/FOX/MSNBC style expert vs. wingnut segments you are talking about above.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:00 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Eh, the common framing that both sides are equally extreme because they're both on sides, and it's better to be a "moderate", is a bromide that fails spectacularly in some situations. "The serial killer says we should kill random people; the non-serial killer says we shouldn't; I'm a moderate, I think we need to find some ground between these extremists" is not moderation.

I am not saying that Republicans are literally serial killers, but the idea that the Democratic Party is extreme to any degree remotely approaching the degree to which the Republican Party is extreme strikes be as blatantly absurd.
posted by Flunkie at 11:01 AM on June 16 [92 favorites]


I feel not being polarized is indicative of either ignorance, stupidity, outright evil, or some combination thereof.

Wait, like people who are willing to let people of opposing political views marry into their family are this?
posted by corb at 11:02 AM on June 16


Right now the currrent leftist President of the nation has implemented a health care plan first proposed by a right wing think thank and first implemented by the opposite party in one state which, reputation not withstanding, regularly elects right-of-center governors.

The other big item on his agenda are proposals to implement one or both of two policy ideas from right wing economists, to address a major problem discovered by scientists in a branch of science with a 150 year record of attracting individuals with right wing political views.

These two things have the current right wing party on a tantrum that's instigating incidents of physical violence.

And raising my blood pressure to the point that all I can do to calm down is go watch my leftist friends put on yet another production of a century old G&S musical apologia for political conservatism.
posted by ocschwar at 11:04 AM on June 16 [21 favorites]


The Overton window has been shifting ever to the right for decades, driven by a partisan agency masquerading as a news source. Add in the parade of white guys (and always, always John McCain) on the weekend news shows, and you get an increasingly partisan group. But the thing is, it's driven by conservativism. "Both sides do it" is bunk.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:08 AM on June 16 [27 favorites]


I feel not being polarized is indicative of either ignorance, stupidity, outright evil, or some combination thereof.
Wait, like people who are willing to let people of opposing political views marry into their family are this?
I can't help but notice the underlying equation of "I am unhappy with the person who my family member is marrying" with "I disallow my family member from marrying that person". It strikes me as a very conservative equation.
posted by Flunkie at 11:09 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


The difference between the Democrats and Republicans is that the Republicans have actively encouraged and reached out for the support of the fruit loops on the right over the last 40 years. National Democrats in modern history not only do not trend liberal but seem embarrassed to be seen in progressives' company.

In times of electoral trouble, it used to be that both sides would pull themselves towards the middle. These days, Democrats in trouble lean rightwards and Republicans in trouble lean rightwards.

The critical mistake that the Republicans made in the modern age was to leave the door open and allow the John Birchers access to the machine beyond its donations slot. As the government shutdown crisis of months past demonstrated, the monied interests on the right are still smart enough to not want complete chaos or complete federal government dismantling; they merely want to shake the box and have more pieces land on their side, and both parties are pretty happy working to make that happen. Now, the rabble are taking down corporate conservatives and taking over state government offices and trying to force their will on national policy and, well, clusterfuckery abounds.
posted by delfin at 11:12 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Do you mean NewsHour (formerly MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour)? Because their "analysis" section usually comes from a couple of old fart journalists Shields and Brooks which is way off from the CNN/FOX/MSNBC style expert vs. wingnut segments you are talking about above.

The Shields/Brooks thing is a 15 minute segment once a week. I am referring to the rest of the program, which airs daily for an hour.
posted by indubitable at 11:13 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I don't know the cause of the polarization, but please don't act like the Democratic and Republican parties are the same. Neither are perfect, but the Republican party is a whole other sort of horrible beast at the moment.

It's like saying, "Well, the Republican party intentionally backed over a kid with their jeep, but the Democratic party once shoved a adult, so they're really both the exact same sort of violent criminals. No different at all, really."
posted by chasing at 11:21 AM on June 16 [20 favorites]


the idea that the Democratic Party is extreme to any degree remotely approaching the degree to which the Republican Party is extreme strikes be as blatantly absurd

Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:22 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.

They would be wrong.
posted by chasing at 11:24 AM on June 16 [42 favorites]


Yeah. If by "polarized" we mean that one of the parties has gone absolutely batshit insane, yeah. We're totally polarized.
posted by brundlefly at 11:24 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.

Don't you see? That just proves how extreme they are.
posted by Peccable at 11:25 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.

They would have to be ignorant of both current events and history. So, yeah, I'm sure you would find people who think that.
posted by brundlefly at 11:26 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Because their "analysis" section usually comes from a couple of old fart journalists Shields and Brooks

They'd get more insight out of Shields and Yarnell and Yarnell's been dead for 4 years.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:27 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.

I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
Two men say they're Jesus one of them must be wrong
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:28 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


The Republican Party is reactionary.

The Democratic Party is... conservative, to be honest. They are a drag chute on the kind of social change that people seem to actually want. Look at their lukewarm, confused, unenthusiastic response to marijuana legalization, gay marriage, getting money and corporations out of politics, net neutrality, Keystone XL... Look at how the health care reform battle gave us a Republican solution instead of single-payer or a public option.

Republicans and their pet news outlets, with ever-increasing shrillness, convince people that the Clintons and Obama are the most liberal traitors to 'muricah who ever lived.

I really do not buy the "both parties are the same" rhetoric, because there is still a significant gap between them. But we have not had a viable leftist party in this country for decades.


Meanwhile I credit Dubya and then Fox, the Kochs, and the Tea Party for pushing me farther left. More than half the time I think capitalism isn't worth saving anymore; the rest of the time I at least think it needs a serious overhaul -- a massive New Deal that will build a new energy and transportation infrastructure, single-payer healthcare, guaranteed minimum income, a return to pre-Reagan tax rates, meaningful regulation and enforcement of all the things we've been letting corporations do in the name of being pro-business and small-government but at the expense of human health and safety, and more.
posted by Foosnark at 11:28 AM on June 16 [52 favorites]


Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.

They would be wrong.

See? That just proves how extreme they are.

They would have to be ignorant of both current events and history. So, yeah, I'm sure you would find people who think that.


Hey, whoa now, there was no value judgement in my statement, right or wrong, I just know plenty of people that think that the Democrats are a bunch of socialist leftist radicals.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:29 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Problem: I see one side of an argument as bizarrely irrational and intractable. That side sees my side in the same way. Anyone who wishes to be on the outside can easily just throw their hands up and say both sides are at fault.

Thing is, it's entirely possible for only one of those two sides of the argument to be genuinely wrong.

Far as I can tell, most Democrats would love to work with a Republican party that was capable of compromise. Sadly, the GOP just doesn't really do that anymore. It costs them too much in the primaries.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:31 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Hey, whoa now, there was no value judgement in my statement, right or wrong, I just know plenty of people that think that the Democrats are a bunch of socialist leftist radicals.

They would be wrong.

See? That just proves how extreme they are.

They would have to be ignorant of both current events and history. So, yeah, I'm sure you would find people who think that.
posted by chasing at 11:31 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.

Not all opinions are of equal value. Those which are based on fact inherently have value, while those based on wishful thinking and wilful denial of reality have none.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader as to which opinion is which.

a massive New Deal that will build a new energy and transportation infrastructure

I wish Obama had done that in his first two years in office, when such a thing could have passed the House and Senate. There's also no way he would have been re-elected, and you guys would currently have President Mittens if he had.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Like DDR, but without dancing.

Heute tanzen alle jungen Leute im Lipsi Schritt!
posted by Talez at 11:33 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Hey, whoa now, there was no value judgement in my statement, right or wrong, I just know plenty of people that think that the Democrats are a bunch of socialist leftist radicals.

Absolutely true. The real problem is that that viewpoint is expressed daily on a national/network level with no blowback at all, when it doesn't remotely comport with reality.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I would call myself a radical moderate because when you seek balance, you look radical to both sides, especially to the extremes.

Whoa.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:34 AM on June 16


Sadly, the GOP just doesn't really do that anymore. It costs them too much in the primaries.

It is quite true that there is an active wing of only one of the parties that vocally opposes any semblance of compromise. This is not true of the Democrats. My hope is that slowly but surely the amoeba of state will find a nice happy center and the frustrated left will also find some balls and form a lefty teaparty counterbalance to the right's and the center will become truly centered and rule both sides of the aisle with an even keel. Hey, a boy can dream, no?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:36 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


looking at the graphic from pew, i can't help but wonder if the internet and the rise of 24 hrs news is (one of) the reason(s) for this.

My own pet theory has long been that the increased rate of the flow of information the cable news cycle, the internet, and other recent communications innovations have helped create has fundamentally destabilized the mechanisms of stable identity formation in humans living through it.

People (in my theory) form their identities through a kind of feedback loop with the outside world, taking in information that informs our sense of personal identity from the outside world and incorporating it into our ideas of our own personal identities. But the ground--the set of all the information we have about humans and ourselves and our place in society and history--is less stable than it's ever been for most people living today. The result is that people's sense of personal identity is under constant challenge at a much more steady and faster pace compared to previous periods in human history.

Increasing identity insecurity causes people to get more deeply entrenched in protecting what they think of as their social identity--so you see people digging in on their tribal affiliations all around and in a lot of cases deliberately acting out exaggerated stereotypes of the social roles they identify themselves with. So people get more into the idea that their whiteness or maleness or femaleness or whatever is something special that needs to be protected from attack, for example. Republicans get more invested in the idea that Republican is a personal identity category that needs to be defended.

The idea explains a lot of the cultural and political trends we're seeing right now, in my opinion. As the flow of information through the feedback loop we use to define ourselves socially has increased its volume and rate of flow, the psychological mechanisms we use to define and preserve our self-identities have been overwhelmed and are leading to maladaptive behavioral patterns.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:37 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]


"Both sides do it" is bunk.

Empirical analysis has found that Democrats in Congress are modestly more liberal than they were in the mid-1970s, mostly because they lost conservative party members from the South. However, the magnitude of the rightward shift among House Republicans is 11 times greater than that of the leftward shift among Northern Democrats. (0.45 points more conservative versus 0.04 points more liberal.) According to the researchers who modeled this trend:
We should be careful not to equate the two parties’ roles in contemporary political polarization: the data are clear that this is a Republican-led phenomenon where very conservative Republicans have replaced moderate Republicans and Southern Democrats.
The entire country is getting pulled to the right, but the Republicans are going full-throttle in top gear. Everyone else is moving at a more leisurely pace. Witness the apoplectic right-wing response to Obama's Affordable Care Act in 2009, which was modeled on the conservative counterproposal to Clinton's failed attempt at health care reform in 1993.
posted by compartment at 11:39 AM on June 16 [41 favorites]


Far as I can tell, most Democrats would love to work with a Republican party that was capable of compromise. Sadly, the GOP just doesn't really do that anymore.

This is covered in one of the links in the FPP, from the Brookings Institute:
And importantly, as we have seen in other surveys, consistent conservatives like their elected officials to “stick to their positions” rather than “make compromises”; consistent liberals overwhelmingly prefer politicians who make compromises.
I just know plenty of people that think that the Democrats are a bunch of socialist leftist radicals.

There are a lot of people who think a good number of Republicans are the same way. Even Ronaldus Magnus is starting to get a lot of flack from the far right for being a liberal squish who gave out too many bailouts and tax raises, didn't think that every woman who had an abortion is a murderer, and was a little too in with the gays and Jews thanks to his time in Hollywood. And Eisenhower built the roads, decried the military-industrial complex, thought that a more equitable tax (including much higher marginal tax rates affecting the rich), and was a relatively major force behind desegregation and an admittedly limited form of civil rights, some of which puts him more to the left of most modern Democrats. Put Zombie Ike up against Clinton and Warren in 2016 and you got yourself a horse race.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:41 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


The Shields/Brooks thing is a 15 minute segment once a week. I am referring to the rest of the program, which airs daily for an hour.

NewsHour? I'm not really seeing the ire there. In comparison to the shite that's on everywhere else, it's a more tempered journalistic type show, which is why it's so "boring" and less of a mouthpiece for the whack-os and the fake front agencies.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:42 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I sensed this happening to me about eight years ago. I spent my twenties—roughly the GWB presidency—in liberal Portland, OR. My sensibilities have always trended progressive, but toward the end of the decade I became aware of how cloistered in one-sided opinion I'd become. Since then I've sought out non-batshit-crazy sources of conservative thought, and let me tell you they are few. I appreciate The American Conservative. It's far, far more thoughtful and moderate than anything on network news or talk radio.

Can anyone name any other respectable sources of conservative thought on the Web? I'm curious if they exist.

I'd really rather not end up an angry, paranoid old person in my later years.
posted by echocollate at 11:47 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


I've seen a lot of ignorance on the left - people who think the entire ocean is radioactive from Fukushima, conspiracies about banks and the US gov't, random health panics not based on science ... the left can be as irrational as the tea party.

The thing is, wackos on the left don't have power. There are no fringe left wing Senators and few Congresspeople, and their media influence doesn't extend beyond irritating Facebook memes.

I would also note that the Pew poll doesn't ask real question that would differentiate the extreme right from "conservative" or "liberal" - Should the Federal government be destroyed or not?
posted by kanewai at 11:47 AM on June 16 [16 favorites]


Ideology is a funny thing. In terms of first principles, I'm a right-wing anarchist, which makes the only tolerable form of government technocratic center-liberalism. I'm not sure Pew would know how to chart that.

Of course, Pew is only looking at one dimension here, polarization. Yes, Democrats have been polarizing around such beliefs as equality, and less catastrophic foreign adventurism. One party has actively become more pragmatic, more evidence-based and more technocratic. That's a more coherent party, but not more ideological or extreme.
posted by spaltavian at 11:48 AM on June 16


Put Zombie Ike up against Clinton and Warren in 2016 and you got yourself a horse race.

I was watching something about Eisenhower not long ago—over D-Day, probs—and I thought "Wow. What a cool guy. I like him."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:48 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


One party has consistently been telling everyone within earshot that government is terrible and should be drowned in a bathtub. One party is now shocked, shocked! that their constituents now hate them and hate it when they even seem to veer a tiny bit from the party line.
posted by rtha at 11:49 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Democrats blame corporations, Republicans blame the government and the Dallas Fed blames robots.

They could ALL be right, y'know ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:52 AM on June 16


American politics has always been pretty dire... what was exceptional was the period of roughly the '50s to the '70s where both parties were broad coalitions and offered very similar platforms. And even then the kooks were around— the John Birchers sounded exactly like the Tea Partiers.

In the '60s there was a radical left, and a lot of conservative thought can be explained if you realize that, to them, it's always 1968. (Jonathan Chait pointed out that, to the Weekly Standard, liberals are still hippies.)

The Republican opposition routinely called FDR a tyrant, and 18th century US politics was entirely raucous.
posted by zompist at 11:52 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


Let's also talk for a moment about Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge". Signatories to this pledge promise not to raise any marginal tax rates and to oppose any elimination of tax deductions or other loopholes unless matched dollar-for-dollar with tax cuts elsewhere.

There are two basic things you can do to deal with the budget deficit in the short term. Cut spending and raise revenue. As of 2012, 98% of House Republicans and 87% of Senate Republicans had signed a pledge forbidding any compromise that would simultaneously raise revenue and cut spending.
posted by compartment at 11:54 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Just by virtue of being a woman who insists she has the same rights as a man, I'm branded a communist-facist-babykiller. But I haven't done anything, except vote for people who believe the same, go to work, raise my kids and pay my taxes. For a communist fascist babykiller, I live an extremely boring life.

In other words, it ain't me who's doing the polarizing, here.
posted by emjaybee at 11:54 AM on June 16 [42 favorites]


The thing is that you can't have an honest disagreement with a party that denies things like evolution or climate change. You might as well be arguing with someone who believes in a flat earth or alien abductions. There's no middle ground between reality and the increasingly deranged fantasy world that the right lives in.
posted by octothorpe at 11:55 AM on June 16 [24 favorites]


This is what happens when people think they are getting less opportunity than they have been accustomed to, and perceive as their right. The American Dream was an easy sell as long as the rest of the world's population was providing the sleeping pills. That's over now, and there is going to be a lot of hand-wringing, populist politics, and blaming others before things settle down. It IS a human thing to blame others for one's unfortunate plight; at least American's are consistent in that.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:59 AM on June 16


Wait, like people who are willing to let people of opposing political views marry into their family are this?

It's not a matter of "letting" since everyone is an adult, but it's interesting how surprised I'd be if a close family member married a crackpot Republican. Interracial, interfaith -- we have those already and no one cares, but someone with really strongly held conservative views would raise eyebrows.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:00 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Divide & Conquer
posted by Sys Rq at 12:07 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I blame Them. When will They stop screwing up this country.
posted by chasing at 12:09 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


So let's divide the Republican and Tea Parties, and then start forcing Dems to actually be progressive again?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:10 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Yeah, 1968 remains of critical importance in American political history. In some sense there was a quasi-civil war. The left was decoupled from the mainstream by right-wing attacks and the left's self-immolation. You really couldn't hold anti-war youth, the civil rights interests, lefty intellectuals, the working class and a signigicant portion middle-class white people in the same party anymore. It was really the collapse of the New Deal coalition. (Reagan's election could be seen as the completion of the process).
posted by spaltavian at 12:18 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Do away with single sided media enclaves that become echo chambers.

Would you be happy to see left-leaning threads on MeFi subjected to "Fairness Doctrine" forced balancing? (I know I wouldn't.)

but it's interesting how surprised I'd be if a close family member married a Republican.

Meanwhile I am always surprised when an extended family member or in-law turns out *not* to be a knee-jerk Republican / conservative Christian (one of the many reasons I live in a different city from most of these relatives and stopped going to family reunions many years ago).
posted by aught at 12:19 PM on June 16


Polarization is inherently a conservative win. Polarization can happen equally to both parties, and government will see a huge lunge to the right. That's what gridlock does.

People love mentioning the New Deal. As though that wasn't a compromise of the time. The Communist Party wasn't huge, but it was a legitimate presence at the time. Progressive radicals supported bona fide Eugenics.

The Left has always made progress by compromising with the Right. The Left is fundamentally handicapped by wanting change in an institution that favors the status quo. That is not about Republicans. That is about democracy.
posted by politikitty at 12:19 PM on June 16


I blame society.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:21 PM on June 16


Yeah, 1968 remains of critical importance in American political history. In some sense there was a quasi-civil war. The left was decoupled from the mainstream by right-wing attacks and the left's self-immolation. You really couldn't hold anti-war youth, the civil rights interests, lefty intellectuals, the working class and a signigicant portion middle-class white people in the same party anymore. It was really the collapse of the New Deal coalition. (Reagan's election could be seen as the completion of the process).

That, and the fact that the government (both the ostensibly left Democrats of the time and the later right Nixonian ones) were heavily involved in COINTELPRO and other activities aimed at fracturing and suppressing leftist thought and organization. I can't think of any analog for such political violence towards the right in US history, let alone at that time. For example, gun control all of the sudden became a BFD when the Black Panthers started arming themselves. In this day and age, entire portions of the country are giving carte blanche to largely white, reactionary right-wing organizations to carry and intimidate.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:24 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


The Republican opposition routinely called FDR a tyrant

It wasn't just them, he also had Huey Long to contend with.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:24 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Would you be happy to see left-leaning threads on MeFi subjected to "Fairness Doctrine" forced balancing? (I know I wouldn't.)

I'm not sure the comparison between a private club ( MeFi ) and the limited resources of the broadcast airwaves provided under license is appropriate.
posted by mikelieman at 12:31 PM on June 16 [7 favorites]


Would you be happy to see left-leaning threads on MeFi subjected to "Fairness Doctrine" forced balancing? (I know I wouldn't.)

Public forums are public forums. Fairness doctrine explicitly applies to monopolistic media outlets--i.e., media outlets that don't let just anybody publish their opinion like tv and radio broadcasters and that are supposed to have a public service function as a condition of their licensure. Metafilter is a different kind of animal than that, and everyone here already knows that nothing users contribute here is guaranteed to be reliable "official" information. Huge swaths of the public still believe there are strict legal controls prohibiting outright lying or bias on the bigger media outlets because for most of our relatively recent history (before about 20 years ago), there were such limits.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:32 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Would you be happy to see left-leaning threads on MeFi subjected to "Fairness Doctrine" forced balancing? (I know I wouldn't.)

Would the Fairness Doctrine need equal application to be effective.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:32 PM on June 16


I blame society.

Bullshit. You're just a white suburban punk; you'll be okay.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:37 PM on June 16 [8 favorites]


Divide & Conquer

So let's divide the Republican and Tea Parties, and then start forcing Dems to actually be progressive again?


Well, the Democrats have got the Divide part down perfect (read: let the Republicans do it themselves) it's the whole Conquer concept that they seem to be clueless about.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:38 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


In a free society quantity of speech beats quality. It's like freedom entropy.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:39 PM on June 16


zombieflanders: That, and the fact that the government (both the ostensibly left Democrats of the time and the later right Nixonian ones) were heavily involved in COINTELPRO and other activities aimed at fracturing and suppressing leftist thought and organization.

Certainly, and Chicago was their crowning achievement. The Chicago PD's use of agents provocateur at the Democratic convention probably did more for Nixon than anything he did for himself, save committing treason and detontating the peace accords.
posted by spaltavian at 12:40 PM on June 16


The Chicago PD's use of agents provocateur at the Democratic convention probably did more for Nixon than anything he did for himself, save committing treason and detontating the peace accords.

I'm pretty sure we have LBJ to thank for Nixon '68 more than anything that happened in Chicago.

*Well him and Sirhan Sirhan.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:43 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry to be so brazenly irreverent, but the linked research by the Pew Center is complete bullshit. It is almost worthless. I'm speaking specifically about measures like these, which are supposed to capture how "conservative" people are. Maybe some of their conclusions are valid, but that would be somewhat in spite of themselves. Here's what I mean.

Look at the questions asked: does government regulation do more harm than good? Can corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit in today's atmosphere? Are Blacks who can't get ahead "mostly responsible" for their own position in society?

What do any of these have to do with conservatism or liberality, really? Since the meaning behind them is always taken for granted, and certainly not rigorously elucidated here, they've become decoupled from their literal meanings and now function more as a gratuitous continuation of party politics with adjectives that are distinct from Democrat or Republican but not really different. We keep using those two terms, year after year, in many different contexts, despite the fact that they've lost nearly all of their ability to autonomously describe or characterize policy positions. And why?

Because things have changed so much, because life is changing quickly for Americans now, no less than it has been since the advent of industrialization. So what, exactly, does "conservatism" seek to conserve? The norms, values, and ways of life that attained here in the 1950's, when single-earner families were the norm and Blacks could barely participate in public life, but the government was filled with sober men who lived through a war and regarded peace, stability, and prosperity (for some, but importantly, not only for the rich) as their duty? Or is it conservative to retain the imperatives of the Reagan revolution, which was almost 40 years ago now? Why isn't it "liberal" to believe that government shouldn't interfere in the market, which is what that term would have meant 300 years ago?

So the problem, in short, is that when Pew characterizes the preferences as either liberal or conservative, they're being totally arbitrary: any of the responses coded in the survey as "liberal" could be justifiably characterized as conservative, and vice versa. The only thing that work does is reinforce the idea that democrats are liberal and republicans are conservative, absolutely nothing more. I wouldn't call it propaganda, but it is definitely not real scholarship, and it simply reproduces vacuously taxonomic prejudices without meaningfully characterizing the apparent differences observed.
posted by clockzero at 12:45 PM on June 16 [11 favorites]


Far as I can tell, most Democrats would love to work with a Republican party that was capable of compromise.

Not exactly. Most Democrats would not work with a Republican party that compromised precisely in the middle between the two positions - a compromise in the exact same degree for each party. Now, the Democrats will say that's because the Republicans are too extreme, so the compromise can't be equal or they will be pushed rightwards. But that isn't because the Democrats are just desperately waiting for a fair compromise to be proposed.
posted by corb at 12:46 PM on June 16


What do any of these have to do with conservatism or liberality, really? Since the meaning behind them is always taken for granted, and certainly not rigorously elucidated here, they've become decoupled from their literal meanings and now function more as a gratuitous continuation of party politics with adjectives that are distinct from Democrat or Republican but not really different. We keep using those two terms, year after year, in many different contexts, despite the fact that they've lost nearly all of their ability to autonomously describe or characterize policy positions. And why?

I can certainly agree with this analysis. Rather than partisan polarization, what they are measuring is how those positions and the terms have come to more corelate over time.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:49 PM on June 16


Bullshit. You're just a white suburban punk; you'll be okay.

We're gonna be all right ... Or maybe not.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:50 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


And even then the kooks were around— the John Birchers sounded exactly like the Tea Partiers.


That's because they pretty much are. Fred C. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:54 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I would argue that the conservative position at the start of the Reagan Revolution would have been to maintain and continue expanding the US's welfare state, as that had been the political status quo for nearly 100 years of previous American history, so even the ultimate icon of the early conservative movement wasn't actually conservative but a Right-wing liberal economic reformer, in the more historically consistent senses of the terms. So that's part of the problem right there. The people we call conservatives in recent US political history haven't been conservatives at all, but liberal reformers. Their orientation was right wing, because the reforms they wanted were explicitly for the benefit of the prevailing economic elite, but there's no doubt Reagan and his supporters were radical liberals in the sense that they wanted to radically reform the status quo and begin dismantling the then "establishment" welfare state. But people who see themselves as aligned with Reagan want to think of themselves as "conservative" because that's how it was all branded, so here we are now.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:57 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


And even then the kooks were around— the John Birchers sounded exactly like the Tea Partiers.

That's because they pretty much are. Fred C. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society.


Yes, hell, even creeps like the Schaflys are still around!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:58 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Yes, hell, even creeps like the Schaflys are still around!


Yeah, but the Conservative Bible Project is at least somewhat amusing. The Koch's influence on American politics is nothing short of alarming.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:06 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


With regard to the Yahoo link:
The hopeful last paragraph at the end of the article says, 'One trend that offers a hint of relief: More voters now consider themselves independent than say they are Republicans or Democrats. And independents tend to be moderates uncomfortable with the extremism in both parties. There’s still a middle in America, somewhere.'
Seems to me that maybe a lot of these independents don't track in the middle of the road. Rather, they can be found off on the edges. I know of many people that hold left-of-center views that refuse to vote at all because the Democratic Party doesn't hold to progressive populist ideals. This situation is only exacerbated when the Democratic Party moves further to the right in pursuit of imaginary independent centrist voters. Very rarely, a candidate will come along and get these progressive people out to the polls, e.g., Obama in 2008, but, by-and-large, it's a no-go.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party is trying to dominate the national discourse by appealing to its conservative populist wing. And it's succeeding (more than Dr. Frankenstein could have ever hoped for). The only true option for the Democratic Party, if it doesn't want to remain a(n increasingly irrelevant) center-right party, is to try and regain the trust of people on the left by catering to it. Not just lip service, mind you, but REAL action.
It has been obvious to me since at least Gingrich's Revolution that the Republicans are not compromising, so isn't it about time that the Democrats did the same?
And on a personal note, I believe that the People should control the means of production (communism), just as much as they are supposed to run the government (democracy). I get pretty nauseous seeing the Democratic Party being just as much in the pockets of the rich and of corporations as the Republicans. Why am I supposed to vote for them? Maybe if this country gets the Republican-run 3 branches of Federal government things will finally get so bad that regular people will finally realize what fools they've been. Or maybe not.
posted by frodisaur at 1:34 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


The Chicago PD's use of agents provocateur at the Democratic convention probably did more for Nixon than anything he did for himself, save committing treason and detontating the peace accords.

I'm pretty sure we have LBJ to thank for Nixon '68 more than anything that happened in Chicago.


I don't think that's the case. LBJ's fall was due to the war, and every other viable Democrat was a peace candidate (with Bobby being the least credible dove). The Left wasn't going to be happy with anyone but McCarthy, but Humphrey didn't lose because of hippies (18-20 year olds couldn't even vote until 1971, so the youth movement was never a big a voting block as a social one). The total alienation that many mainstream Democrats felt to what they saw on the TV in Chicago, and events like it, certainly took its toll on the electoral fortunes of liberals.

Though again, as said above, scary COINTELPRO Hoover-types and hippie-busting cops had a lot to do with that. And if Nixon hadn't sabtaoged the peace accords, the Democrats would have won in 1968, even with LBJ on the ballot.
posted by spaltavian at 1:35 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


The thing is that you can't have an honest disagreement with a party that denies things like evolution or climate change. You might as well be arguing with someone who believes in a flat earth or alien abductions.

The later is actually more likely than the crap they believe. It's at least potentially true.
posted by brundlefly at 1:37 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


corb: Far as I can tell, most Democrats would love to work with a Republican party that was capable of compromise.

Not exactly. Most Democrats would not work with a Republican party that compromised precisely in the middle between the two positions - a compromise in the exact same degree for each party.


That's demostrably not true. Democrats were seriously willing to take up deficit reduction at 1/3 increased revenues in return for 2/3 spending cuts. That's more than halfway, and the GOP couldn't even stop screaming "communist!" long enough to say "no". Even talking about deficit reduction- a.k.a. austerity- during an economic downturn is already going 75% of the way towards the Republican side!

During the 2012 GOP primary debates, they said they weren't even willing to talk about a 10 to 1 deal when asked.

Again, Democrats have consistently hewed to a non-ideological sense of pragmatism/technocratic progress. Republicans have fallen into an emotional/identity politics vortex of their own creation.
posted by spaltavian at 1:43 PM on June 16 [31 favorites]


The thing is that you can't have an honest disagreement with a party that denies things like evolution or climate change.

The wisest thing Jon Stewart ever said was "The truth has a Liberal bias"

When I first saw the Pew charts, I thought "that's the membership, what about the elected officials?" because they are NOT the same, as compartment's VoteView Link demonstrates.

There's one additional development in the parties' relationship to government that cannot be reflected in normal party 'positioning': elected Republicans support eliminating regulation for the benefit of Big Business while elected Democrats support Regulatory Capture by Big Business. Heads we win, tails you lose.

I remember not so long ago hearing how "Liberal" had become a dirty word. Since then, we've seen the rise of "Neoliberal" which IS a true obscenity.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:54 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


And independents tend to be moderates uncomfortable with the extremism in both parties.

This isn't quite right. About a third of independents are just weak democrats who won't admit to being democrats, about a third are weak republicans who won't admit it, and the last third are mostly, well, doofuses. People who know little, care even less, and vote even more less.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:03 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Yeah, immigration is another area where Democrats are begging for a deal.

I'm surprised people aren't more polarized, honestly. We treat politics like a game at times but it's literally about issues of life and death. How do you put up with people who support legal abortion if you oppose it? How do I keep from losing my temper at people who support idiotic wars or fight sensible gun control? Sometimes I feel like I am insufficiently angry about politics, but it can be hard to make anger productive.

I really, really want Republicans to try being sane again. I probably still wouldn't vote for them very often but it's just bad for the country that one of only two major parties is completely off the rails. We need competent politicians, at least. George W. Bush was incompetent and it was a bigger problem than his ideology. Sarah Palin was not competent to be nominated for VP. She did not have any grasp of the political issues outside of her home state and she had no understanding of foreign policy. Again, life or death issues here! She makes fun of liberals, yes, but that isn't a particularly useful skill for a leader!

Romney was actually a step in the right direction there but it's going to get harder for someone like him to win the nomination if the Tea Party gets their way.

Anyway, I don't like blaming "the media" for things but I blame the media for a lot of the unnecessary polarization. The left and the right do not live in the same reality anymore. We can't solve any issues because we can't even agree on what the issues are. I don't really have a clue how to fix it.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:06 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I would call myself a radical moderate because when you seek balance, you look radical to both sides, especially to the extremes.

Tell me, who or what are the extremes on the Democratic side? There are plenty of examples of extreme right-wingers on the Republican/Tea Party side, but I'm having trouble thinking of equivalents on the Democratic side. Or any truly liberal, left-wing pundits or wonks or anybody.

Sorry, but this is more "both sides do it!" bullshit.
posted by zardoz at 2:13 PM on June 16 [10 favorites]


I would argue that the conservative position at the start of the Reagan Revolution would have been to maintain and continue expanding the US's welfare state, as that had been the political status quo for nearly 100 years of previous American history, so even the ultimate icon of the early conservative movement wasn't actually conservative but a Right-wing liberal economic reformer, in the more historically consistent senses of the terms. So that's part of the problem right there. The people we call conservatives in recent US political history haven't been conservatives at all, but liberal reformers. Their orientation was right wing, because the reforms they wanted were explicitly for the benefit of the prevailing economic elite, but there's no doubt Reagan and his supporters were radical liberals in the sense that they wanted to radically reform the status quo and begin dismantling the then "establishment" welfare state. But people who see themselves as aligned with Reagan want to think of themselves as "conservative" because that's how it was all branded, so here we are now.

Exactly right. This is one reason that neoliberalism is hard for many people to grok, I think: the most ardent neoliberals call themselves conservatives publicly and are allied with organizations that are also explicitly branded in that way, while so-called liberal Democrats are (as I think someone pointed out above) just trying to hang on to the rapidly disintegrating middle class status, human rights for women, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, civil liberties in general, etc. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being conservative about those things. People fought hard and died for rights, liberties, and standards of living that are under attack from the so-called conservatives.

Of course, since tradition is a major source of meaning for political thought, the question of "which past?" is bound to be a sticking point in descriptive schemes based on retaining what is and allowing the new to flourish. Based on that factor alone, I would suggest that it's more rational and productive to describe the two most popular political orientations as egalitarian and meritonomic (my completely ad-hoc term of description):

Egalitarians think that everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of citizenship and material prosperity. We think that unchecked social hierarchy is inherently unjust and unstable. We feel that social systems shouldn't gratuitously compound the accidents of fate by rewarding those born into rich families beyond any sane standard and shouldn't punish millions for having been born into poverty or being born Black, gay, developmentally disabled, or otherwise not "normal". This sort of thought is where modern democracy comes from, and it is a home for feminism, labor unions, ethnic minorities, and others; essentially, this encompasses leftism, and assumes that government exists to balance inequalities of power, wealth, and inclusion.

Meritonomial types (merit+nomos, from the Greek meaning "law" but here intended as something more like decision-making-principle) think that people should only get and be able to get exactly what they deserve, and what they deserve is defined by their merit, which is defined always by those who have power rather than those who seek the opportunity to enjoy the things that society's "winners" are assured of by birthright. This is the kind of thinking that animates xenophobia, austerity, neoliberalism, and other regimes which assume that government is merely another tool for the wealthy and elite to use against everyone else. They think that all forms of social organization and association are opportunities to act out the zero-sum character of social power as they conceive of it.

So it's hard to know what people mean when they use those words, and the way they do get used is often perversely opposed to their denotative meaning. One is almost inclined to think that this fundamental confusion, which aids in the illegibility of political agendas to regular voters, might be objectively deleterious to well-informed, democratic decision-making.
posted by clockzero at 2:17 PM on June 16 [12 favorites]


Meritonomous, not meritonomial.
posted by clockzero at 2:24 PM on June 16


I lived through 9/11, and I still think the polarization story is the big political story of my adult life. I really don't understand why it doesn't get more attention. I mean, we're at the no-intermarriage stage. This is serious stuff, it's not just the Republicans doing it (though arguably Gingrich and the impeachment process "started" it) and most of the people I know seem to be fine with it.

Yet most of the things people in my circles say about Republicans would be unacceptable to say about another race, another religion, or just about any other group. I work in prisons, and I find that I have more compassion for rapists and murderers than I do for Republican politicians. I mean... something is seriously fucked up here. It's definitely sustainable, BUT IT SHOULDN'T BE.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:25 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


but this is more "both sides do it!" bullshit.

*Both "sides" do however. Cept for the robots. They don't.

Eventually there will be robots "doing it".

*Sides? Do it? How much more handwaving and self-finding bullshit is THAT kind of argument. Take data, generalize into 2 different labels THEN make sweeping statements on data reduced to 2 points. Put in money, guns and drugs along with promises that wont be kept...heheh watch them fight. But keep shining you crazy diamonds and reduce things down to a broad label.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:41 PM on June 16




Neoliberal thought gained such a boost in the eighties and nineties because America finally saw how spectacularly communism failed in West Germany and the USSR.

While the wealthy elite might have benefited greatly, it succeeded because ordinary Americans saw the Middle and Working Class starving under Communism. The New Deal suddenly looked like disaster averted to all but the oldest or most idealistic of Democrats. "Thank god our fling with communism was so tame and brief, look at what could have happened".

The 2008 financial crisis has caused a similar shift. It created a clear willingness to inject a lot of cash to the financial market afloat, and the government backed viable market for healthcare outside employment. But given gridlock, it's unclear if it will have any additional impact on legislation.

Also, if you're more interested in how America sees itself, as opposed to the Pew Studies definition of conservative/liberal, the ANES studies show very little movement from 72-14. A plurality of people see themselves as moderate. Conservatives always have a pretty decent edge against Liberals.
posted by politikitty at 2:58 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Boy are these parties fucked when the poles melt!
posted by srboisvert at 3:04 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Boy are these parties fucked when the poles melt!

Naw, when the proles melt the robots will be there to take over.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:11 PM on June 16


Personally, I wonder what Pew means by "consistently liberal," or more precisely what they mean by liberal and conservative ideas. Personally, I remember when obligatory health care insurance sold through healthcare exchanges was a Republican idea. Now buying insurance on the private marked is called crazy socialism. I also remember when cap-and-trade was the conservative Republican proposal to incentives the free market to solve our environmental issues, now it's crazy socialism.

With the exception of gay marriage, I'm hard pressed to find any political issue today where the Democratic party has embraced an idea that didn't come out of a Republican thinking tank in the 1990s. On the other hand, I can't think of a policy issue that isn't either reflexively derided as being the spawn of communist fascists or came out of John Birch Society from the right.

We' have a society where the "liberals", can't even take their own side in an argument, and the "conservatives" have taken burn-everything-to-the-ground stance.

We are so fucked.
posted by robotmonkeys at 3:20 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Neoliberal thought gained such a boost in the eighties and nineties because America finally saw how spectacularly communism failed in West Germany and the USSR.

I don't think that's necessarily true. Neoliberal thought was a lot easier to get behind when it was presented to America, so to speak, as merely a continuation of our tradition of free enterprise. But the M&A types, hedge fund managers, and various go-go 80's Reaganauts were merely nibbling on pensions that organized labor had secured decades before. After labor continued to decline, and it became clear that neoliberalism was about the rich chasing down and eating the middle class alive like African wild dogs do to wildebeest, people started caring about what neoliberals had been doing all along.

In other words, it's not that neoliberal thought had a boost in the 80's and 90's so much as that its cannibalistic excesses just weren't obvious to many people yet. For a while, it seemed like deregulated classical capitalism and not the autonomous, metastasizing affliction we now see.
posted by clockzero at 3:24 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


I was watching something about Eisenhower not long ago—over D-Day, probs—and I thought "Wow. What a cool guy. I like him."

Read up on the 1954 Guatemalan coup sometime.

Or indeed, the same thing in Iran in 1953.

Or the Bay of Pigs, planned under Eisenhower's watch and approved/funded by him.

He wasn't that cool of a guy.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:32 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


To further the point, a 2011 blog post by Ursula K. Le Guin is what first informed me on the topic of Eisenhower's true nature -- "Against Eisenhower".
To destroy democracy in Guatemala he used American military or paramilitary force in the interests of an enormous American corporation, United Fruit. After employing militarism to serve industrial capitalism for eight years, his pious warning against both seems incredibly hypocritical.

Yet on it has been built a whole tower of adulation of Eisenhower as a far-seeing statesman, above party politics.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:35 PM on June 16


The Republicans are the problem. They're the only ones who constantly deny science, try to erase the separation of church & state, and oppose equality.
posted by mike3k at 4:11 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Neoliberal thought was a lot easier to get behind when it was presented to America, so to speak, as merely a continuation of our tradition of free enterprise.

I don't see how you can say that's true. We traveled west because the government promised us land. We broke up trusts and monopolies. We blamed free enterprise for The Great Depression. We promised a chicken in every pot. We collectively put a man on the moon through government programs.

Free enterprise became a selling point because, once we looked behind the Iron Curtain, America saw that collective enterprise had failed.

That is not to say that government intervention is bad. But it was a lot easier for any politician to say that government intervention is bad. Those are two different things.
posted by politikitty at 4:16 PM on June 16


Not exactly. Most Democrats would not work with a Republican party that compromised precisely in the middle between the two positions - a compromise in the exact same degree for each party.
That's demostrably not true. Democrats were seriously willing to take up deficit reduction at 1/3 increased revenues in return for 2/3 spending cuts. That's more than halfway

Budget compromises are probably the easiest and least meaningful kind of compromise. I don't think the Democrats are any more willing to compromise on anything important to them than the Republicans are. Could you even imagine the Democrats giving up on gun control in exchange for gay marriage or agreeing to a flat income tax in exchange for some form of universal healthcare?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:20 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


But it was always obvious to everyone that those "collective enterprises" behind the Iron Curtain weren't really being run as collective enterprises but as authoritarian dictatorships. Hell, even the communist party openly acknowledged it had decided to forestall the move to true socialism until the people were ready for the transition to self-determination (which of course was never going to happen), didn't it? So what we were seeing was the failure of centralized autocratic power based systems, not the failure of collectivism.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:24 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Yeah, you know Obama came out in support of the SC's anti gun control ruling in DC at the time.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:25 PM on June 16


I've seen a lot of ignorance on the left - people who think the entire ocean is radioactive from Fukushima, conspiracies about banks and the US gov't, random health panics not based on science ... the left can be as irrational as the tea party.

At the risk of going "no true Scotsman," while I'm sure there are some far left-wing types who have those beliefs, but those are part and parcel of the extreme right--the Libertarian/Alex Jones crowd.
posted by zardoz at 4:41 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


If the "random health panics" are evidence of ignorance, it sounds as if we're talking about anti-vaxxers, where polling shows that it's just as bad on the right (slightly worse, actually) than it is on the left. As for the rest of it, I'd like to see numbers of Fukushima, banks colluding with the government, etc. The first article on google for Fukushima and the US comes from the International Business Times, a publication not known for appealing to leftists sensibilities, and the idea that regulatory capture is alive and well in the banking industry is not an open secret.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:00 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Republican Jesus: The Constitution and The Beatitudes are for the Democrats. Neither applies to my chosen one or his followers.

More..

This satire goes back to at least 2004, maybe 2002. This time frame closely mirrors the divergence in the Pew report.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:22 PM on June 16


Yeah, you know Obama came out in support of the SC's anti gun control ruling in DC at the time.

Obama: Gun control failure is biggest frustration - June 10, 2014 at 5:45 PM EDT

A lot of Obama's statements about the DC case just sound like election-year equivocation to me.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 6:06 PM on June 16


"Neoliberal thought was a lot easier to get behind when it was presented to America, so to speak, as merely a continuation of our tradition of free enterprise."

I don't see how you can say that's true. We traveled west because the government promised us land. We broke up trusts and monopolies. We blamed free enterprise for The Great Depression. We promised a chicken in every pot. We collectively put a man on the moon through government programs.


You make some interesting points. Please understand that I'm not claiming America has some singular, transcendent character, such as being The Land of Free Enterprise, which can either be revealed or ignored but is true in either case. This country's history is complex, and there has always been tension between people and interests oriented to profit and those oriented to justice, social and otherwise, and that tension has played out in complexity as well.

So you're right that we collectively put a man on the moon and enacted Social Security and maybe almost got an economic Bill of Rights. But we also had those monopolies to break up in the first place, and not only wasn't it an easy-breezy sort of task at the time, but it's not like we've gotten rid of monopolies forever now. America has always been a place where free enterprise (defined in liberal/colonial and then neoliberal terms) has had devoted champions as well as a country evincing in its foundational-institutional values the awareness that communitarian justice matters. Which, itself, also didn't stop Americans from building vile, institutionalized injustice into its DNA.

Free enterprise became a selling point because, once we looked behind the Iron Curtain, America saw that collective enterprise had failed.

Again, I'm just not so sure this ever happened as you're describing it. The Soviet Union obviously did collapse, but I wouldn't hazard a guess about the American public's ascription of that failure to such a specific cause as the congenital deficiency of collective enterprise per se. Maybe I'm wrong about that; I was in grade school when it happened. Certainly, however, the people who seemed most interested in the truth of that specific point were always American capitalists rather than America.

That is not to say that government intervention is bad. But it was a lot easier for any politician to say that government intervention is bad. Those are two different things.

I think you're definitely on to something, but I am not convinced entirely about where you're taking it. I think politicians were motivated to engender some of the social benefits and civil rights they (mostly, very grudgingly) doled out to the American peasantry over the 20th century because they knew communism and socialism were A) very real, and B) openly egalitarian in terms of their conception of distributive justice. At the same time, capitalists had always chafed under the imposition of things like paying their workers money, letting them go home, etc and so of course they always tended to complain that government intervention on behalf of workers was a Bad Thing. They didn't mind government intervention when it enabled them to sell munitions or control the entirety of sovereign central American nations, of course. And, eventually, lots of politicians started sounding like those capitalists, because there was a shit-load of money to be made through complete regulatory capture.
posted by clockzero at 6:13 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


What do we do? Pour all the money into AI research. Once we create a Mind, let it have its funny name and then give it the reigns.

I kid, but not really...
posted by snwod at 6:32 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


the idea that the Democratic Party is extreme to any degree remotely approaching the degree to which the Republican Party is extreme strikes be as blatantly absurd
Interestingly enough, if this were a conservative blog you could probably find people with the reverse opinion.
I understand that my claim that the Republican Party is a lot more extreme than the Democratic Party is of the form "X is a lot more extreme than Y", and that you can easily find people who also say "X is a lot more extreme than Y", but fill in "X" with the Democratic Party and "Y" with the Republican Party. And I furthermore understand that a possible explanation for that is that I am just as blinded by my ideology as I perceive them to be by theirs. But I also understand that that's not the only possible explanation.

I mean, you can also easily find people who say that literal Biblical creationism is true, and evolution is obviously false. I say it's the other way around. Does this show that I'm just as wrong as they are on this matter?

And in any case, let's get to the heart of it: Do you think the Democratic Party, generally speaking, is currently as extreme as the Republican Party is?
posted by Flunkie at 6:35 PM on June 16


The problem is that in the US you have the Right and then you have the Far Right and in the middle is this massive tepid puddle of poor idiots crab-bucketing each other for the office with a view of the alley, each one convinced he or she is bound for greatness in either Heaven or reality TV or (good lord willin') both. Sinclair Lewis was right back then, and he's still right on a hoverboard now. We're stupid and insular and hateful and pig-fucking ignorant and worst yet proud of it.

Ugh.

Sorry. I've been drinking.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:39 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Sodium thiopental?
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:00 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


We're stupid and insular and hateful and pig-fucking ignorant and worst yet proud of it.

We do, and are, lots of good things too. We're more than just victims of our own bad tendencies or tragic flaws.
posted by clockzero at 9:07 PM on June 16


I hate that folks act like Regulatory Capture has to happen through nefarious mechanisms. When considering who has the knowledge to regulate the banking industry, the most qualified people will have experience in the banking industry. They'll have similar blind spots.

That's not to say there isn't instances of corruption. But even without corruption, regulation is really difficult.

Institutionally change will always be harder than inaction. That will give neoliberals an outsized success rate given their level of support.
posted by politikitty at 9:28 PM on June 16


I was raised a sensible Midwestern political moderate, believing in hard work and decency toward fellow humans and free enterprise. Gingrich happened, and I was uneasy. He was clearly bad news in a way people like Bob Dole never were. But then the Machiavellian Bushies came to power with a stolen election, and lying us into war in Iraq. So I thought, you want to behave as though you're Nietzschean political supermen? Ok. Fuck you then. Game on.

You know, it's ironic, when hate-filled grifters like Sarah Palin talk about "real Americans" and how they agree with her; I think: "No! Fuck no. You aren't the real Americans. We are. We of many races and genders and sexualities. We who believe that you shouldn't go hungry or without excellent education in the richest country on the planet. We who believe everyone should have access to healthcare. We who believe that if you work hard you should be able to get ahead. We're the ones holding firm to American ideals. We're the real Americans."
posted by persona au gratin at 12:43 AM on June 17 [9 favorites]


Typical Newshour segment: Jonathan Gruber, healthcare economist from MIT. vs Avik Roy, grifter from the Manhattan Institute. Roy lies, Gruber calls him on it and the newshour people never adjudicate because that would be being liberal.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:47 AM on June 17


cosmic.osmo: Budget compromises are probably the easiest and least meaningful kind of compromise.

This is nonsense. Spending has been the number one issue to the GOP, while Democrats have been desparate to save entitlements; there's nothing easy about compromising on those. It's certainly meaningful, in fact, it's the singularly most important issue in a semi-depression as we faced 2007-2011.

Could you even imagine the Democrats giving up on gun control in exchange for gay marriage or agreeing to a flat income tax in exchange for some form of universal healthcare?

These weird swaps you are talking about aren't at all useful yardsticks on compromise. The Democrats have compromised on every single one of those issues: guns, taxes and healthcare. Marriage is sort of an anomaly there, because it's hard to say exactly when marriage equality became the Democratic position, but you're not seeing them pushing any further ahead than the majority of the country. Democrats have already long given up on gun control; Obama did nothing on guns before Newtown and only raised it as an issue afterwards to show how horrible the Republicans are: no one believed a bill would get through this Congress. A flat tax for healthcare? In otherwords, you're asking why the Democrats aren't willing to literally destory the economy to get something they were able to get by winning an election.

Your idea of "compromise" as being willing to totally capitualte on an issue in hopes of securing an agreement on another issue in a sort of bizarre horse trade that no one as ever or will ever propose makes as little sense as saying budget compromises don't count.
posted by spaltavian at 5:59 AM on June 17 [9 favorites]


Do you think the Democratic Party, generally speaking, is currently as extreme as the Republican Party is?

A good chunk of polarization is not the development of "extreme" positions but rather the development of "ideological consistency." That is, we still have about the same number of "far Left" and "far Right" but we have many more people who used to rate as "moderate" because they held a mix of strongly conservative and strongly liberal views. Now many more people hold the full panoply of their party's platform to be gospel. The partisan spectrum now has two "camel" humps rather than following an even bell curve, which is basically how it looked before 1994.

According to Pew, we're starting to see as many people who are "extremely" liberal as we've usually had of "extreme" conservatives. But there are many more people who rate as "moderately" liberal and conservative because they've stopped holding some of the views that made them seem actually moderate, that is, having positions in common with both parties. These people aren't "extremists" but they are now "consistently" liberal or conservative. That's an important kind of polarization. So yes, I do think that the Republican Party is about as polarized as the Democratic Party (though the GOP is and has for decades been a bit more polarized). One way to think about it is that fifty years ago a larger portion of the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act than the Democratic Party: 80% of Republicans voted for it, compared to about 60% of Democrats. Now, that'd be a party-line vote. And yes, only fifty years ago there was a larger proportion of pro-Civil Rights Republicans than there were Democrats: the Democrats preserved their dominance of the legislature by currying favor with the post-Dixiecrat "left" segregationists.

Another real issue is that both parties report strong levels of fear and disapproval of the other party; as that level rises, compromises become otiose for politicians because they can be primaried so easily in their heavily gerry-mandered districts.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:06 AM on June 17


Do you think the Democratic Party, generally speaking, is currently as extreme as the Republican Party is?

I think you can probably discern my feelings about the Republican party from my other comments in this post, but as a whole I think that the Democrats have been at least more successful at quieting or silencing the extreme sentiments within the party faithful. I think there are certainly radical elements in the left, but the Democrats have done well to keep them either out of the Party itself or at least shut them up and largely avoid acting or saying what the right acuses them of. The Republicans have not been so skillful in this regard. They pandered to the extremists and made social conservativism their defining platform in order to draw the south out of the hands of the DNC. They used to be the stuffy starched shirt crowd, but years of sucking up to the camo shirt set and pretending that they weren't the creators of things like political correctness and white man's burden nanny-state progressivism they accuse the left of purveying have given a sense of political entitlement to the far right uber social conservative radicals and wresting control of the GOP back from them is going to be a tough if not impossible task.

Oddly enough the DNC has become the establisment Party, much like it was in the Deep South years ago, except this time the radicals of the 60s and more so the Party operatives touting a counterbalance to the right wingnuts have left it with a more "progressive"* social agenda. In order not to lose the far left completely the DNC will alwasy let a couple of lefty back benchers off the leash for some firey podum-thumping sound bites (eg. Tony Weiner or Eliizabeth Warren), but they rarely take any actual action on any leftist agendas. The Republicans thus far haven't really taken meaningful radical action either, except for show (think impotent attempts to kill Obamacare that everyone knows won't get past the doors of the House), but that could change with a tea party coup.

So TLDR version: Part of the GOP is radical, the DNC keeps their lefty's quiet except enough to prevent a far left revolt, neither party actually does anything meaningful that is totally extreme and politics aren't quite as crazy (yet) as the pundits and people selling media would have us believe.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:24 AM on June 17


Spending has been the number one issue to the GOP,

Everyone complains about spending while the F-35 continues to be funded is simply without credibility on issues of fiscal responsibility.
posted by mikelieman at 6:34 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


Spending is a total smokescreen. The Fiscal Conservatism of the GOP is now (as always) just campaign rhetoric. You will continue to find just as many ear marks and pork projects in red districts as blue, more in fact if the GOP takes the Senate in November.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:58 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the GOP is very good at cutting spending on anything that might conceivably ever help a poor person.
posted by octothorpe at 7:00 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


There's actually a pretty decent argument that one of the biggest barriers to compromise is that we don't have enough pork anymore.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:06 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The Democrats have compromised on every single one of those issues: guns, taxes and healthcare.

By that yardstick, so, too, have the Republicans.

The thing is, when you're looking at compromises, you can't look at "From X current position to Y new position that I want, what is the compromise in between?" and call it a fair, even compromise. Because in many cases, X current position is already a loss for one side.

So for example, on gun issues, there's a wide spectrum, from "Concealed Carry should be a shall-issue everywhere, every state should honor every other state's permits, fully automatic firearms should be registered but no other firearms should, no registry ever, etc" to "Every firearm should be registered, military style rifles should be outlawed, nobody should have a large magazine, and everything should be strongly controlled with a national gun registry."

Though it may not seem like it, we are already at a compromise position on that, which does fall somewhere in the middle of those two positions - both of which are positions held by members and even legislators from both parties. Figuring out which side it's slightly closer towards would actually be staggeringly difficult and would require weighing, in many cases, ideological values, where the only way you can measure them is by how strongly the position is held.

Now I understand how that could be extremely frustrating to Dems - because they might feel they are being penalized for what they view as "extreme" views on the other side. They don't want to have to compromise with "extremists", because they feel that a down-the-middle-compromise with extremists leaves things further to the right of where they want things to be. And that is, in fact, a perfectly valid position to hold - but at the same time, that means that they aren't offering perfectly fair compromises, either.
posted by corb at 7:20 AM on June 17


90% of the country wants expanded background checks for guns but we can't get it. It is not a "feeling" that the other side is extreme, it's about as objective a fact as you can get in politics. It is crazy that 90% of the population in a so-called Democratic Republic can't get their way on this. When you have 90% you shouldn't even be talking about compromise.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:26 AM on June 17 [8 favorites]


Well, that's another question. Do you compromise because it's the right thing to do, or do you compromise because it's the only way you can get your way? If the former, then yes, you still compromise even if 90% of the population supports something, because that other 10% still matters. (I'll also note that pure population samples tend to skew urban, so I'm not sure that figure is exact, but we'll go with it.) If the latter, then sure, you don't compromise when you have such a large advantage - but then you don't get to claim any moral high ground.
posted by corb at 7:31 AM on June 17


Sometimes the 10% have an immoral position meaning compromising with it will not be the right thing to do. But in general, no, 10% does not matter enough for it to help steer policy. That's, "We will listen respectfully to your views and then do our own thing," territory.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:37 AM on June 17


It can and should still be a compromise, but it should be a compromise to the median position, not the mean, which is skewed to the right by a relatively small number of extremists on that side. The problem is that votes don't matter, dollars do, and all of the money is on the pro-gun side of the issue, so the current political position of "do nothing" is probably right near the center of the lobbying dollars distribution.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:38 AM on June 17


so-called Democratic Republic

Sounds like a Democratic Republic to me. You see in Democratic Republics you have elected representatives (elected being the Democratic part, Republic being the representative part). Representatives have to not only worry about what is best for the country but that they will lose their jobs if they don't get reelected. In our particular brand we've added in a second layer of Democracy (just to be sure that we were the most prick-waving uber Democracy on earth) in which people that subscribe to a Part also get to choose who will be put up as their Party's potential representative. It's this part of the equasion where the Representatives get all squcked out with regards to actually taking any meaningful action that might upset the apple cart.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:40 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


corb: I'll also note that pure population samples tend to skew urban

Cite.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:41 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


I'll also note that pure population samples tend to skew urban

Cite.


Cite

And more on why 90% opinion on something means nothing in an actual Democratic Republic.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:44 AM on June 17


??? How is that a cite?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:50 AM on June 17


The Democrats have compromised on every single one of those issues: guns, taxes and healthcare.

By that yardstick, so, too, have the Republicans.


No, they have not. These so-called "compromises" were made a long time ago by a party that had a different structure. Republicans have not compromised in any meaningful subject since 9/11.

So for example, on gun issues, there's a wide spectrum, from "Concealed Carry should be a shall-issue everywhere, every state should honor every other state's permits, fully automatic firearms should be registered but no other firearms should, no registry ever, etc" to "Every firearm should be registered, military style rifles should be outlawed, nobody should have a large magazine, and everything should be strongly controlled with a national gun registry."

That you can imagine an ever-more extreme position and insist that since we are not there, the "Republican Party" is willing to compromise is an incredibly stupid argument. Yes, they are not advocating stoning gays to death, despite that being the position of some Republicans. That does not mean Republican elected officials and powerbrokers are in any way, shapre or form compromising with Democrats on the actual disputes currently being had in the country.

This is more "both sides do it" bullshit.

Spending is a total smokescreen.

Obviously we're talking about social spending here. Of course their real goal is the demolition of the New Deal and the attendant social changes: spending cuts are how to do that.
posted by spaltavian at 7:52 AM on June 17


Do you compromise because it's the right thing to do, or do you compromise because it's the only way you can get your way?

Isn't it a fundamental principle of market economics that compromise is merely an action which allows to parties to maximize their own satisfaction? What's the moral high ground trading for these days?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:54 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


??? How is that a cite?

Wow, really? You really are so disbelieving that you need a citation that most Americans are urban resident and can't be bothered to search "urban" on the Census site. Here, here is a cite: 80.7%: Percent of the US population living within urban areas
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:57 AM on June 17


Cite

Tonycpsu, this seems like quarreling for quarreling's sake. Do you really genuinely not believe that a majority of the population of the United States is clustered around urban areas? This is not something I would have thought was objectionable.
posted by corb at 7:59 AM on June 17


The 10th Regiment of Foot: Wow, really? You really are so disbelieving that you need a citation that most Americans are urban resident and can't be bothered to search "urban" on the Census site.

No, I'm well aware most people live within MSAs, but that is not the question. I read corb's statement as saying that she didn't believe the 90% number was representative, not because more people live near cities but that the sampling itself was skewed toward urban areas, and therefore not representative. That's what is usually meant when you say a sample "skews urban" -- you're saying it oversamples urban voters out of proportion with their number in the population.

Of course, pollsters know how to correct for oversampling accurately, so it would shock me that the many polls on the background check issue that arrive at or near the 90% number would be skewed in such a way. That is what I was asking for a cite for. Not that there are more urban voters, which is obviously true, but that the sampling itself on these polls was done incorrectly.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:01 AM on June 17 [7 favorites]


I think that tonycpsu thought you meant that surveys of populations skewed higher than their representative population.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:02 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


corb: Do you really genuinely not believe that a majority of the population of the United States is clustered around urban areas?

That's not what skew is. The 90% number is for the population. You said you didn't belive 90% was the real number because of an urban skew. But the population is what the population is. Were you saying you thought the poll was wrong, or do you not think urban samples in polls should be treated equally with rural samples?
posted by tonycpsu at 8:02 AM on June 17 [6 favorites]


Machiavellian Bushies......hate-filled grifters like Sarah Palin

Ah, yes. The Real Americans who were born on third base and think they've scored a touchdown.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:04 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I mean, shit, our legislative bodies both overcount rural votes (the Senate by built-in malapportionment, the House by the ease with which one can gerrymander away urban votes because of how clustered they are.) Now you want us to overcount rural votes in raw opinion polls???
posted by tonycpsu at 8:04 AM on June 17 [8 favorites]


The United States of America One Person, One Vote*

* Offer void in urban areas.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:07 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Well, a little of both. My overall point is that if 80% of the population, by the numbers, is urban, then you're going to have something like less than 10% of the landmass making decisions that make sense for them on their landmass, but don't make sense for the other 90%. Which some people believe is the right thing to do, and others believe that federalism is built to oppose. This is, in many cases, a major cause of the Democrat/Republican split. Democrats believe that rules that make sense to them in large cities should apply to rural areas as well, while Republicans believe that local areas should get to determine their own rules.

Although I will point out that if 80% of the population, by numbers, skews urban, then it's going to be really, really hard to measure the other 20% in a representative sample of 1,000 people while still managing to get a broad geographical/regional sampling. And I think in a country as large as America - bigger than the entirety of Europe - you are in fact going to have geographical/regional cultural differences.
posted by corb at 8:07 AM on June 17


Well, a little of both. My overall point is that if 80% of the population, by the numbers, is urban, then you're going to have something like less than 10% of the landmass making decisions that make sense for them on their landmass, but don't make sense for the other 90%.

Counterpoint: Most of the agricultural policy in the US, a good portion of which helps out rural residents and companies at the expense of everyone else. It's a long-standing problem that largely rural states get paid more than they pay back, despite being hotbeds of anti-federal funding initiatives. Unlike Europe, there are a good number of states where a large majority of the population would suffer under the federalist model.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:16 AM on June 17


Democrats believe that rules that make sense to them in large cities should apply to rural areas as well, while Republicans believe that local areas should get to determine their own rules.

You're confusing the US parties with the Houses of Westeros and the Free Folk.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:24 AM on June 17 [5 favorites]


[Takes deep breath.]

corb: Which some people believe is the right thing to do, and others believe that federalism is built to oppose.

Federalism says nothing about land mass. In the peculiar situation of the United States of America, it so happens that we're made of big states with few people and smaller states with more people, but that's incidental to Federalism in and of itself, and actually, the framers didn't anticipate Idahos and Utahs -- they were more trying to accommodate Connecticuts and Delawares.

Now, our particular bicameral federalist system does serve as a compromise between the less populous and more populous states, or at least it has throughout our history. These days, the clustering of urban voters actually makes it easier to game the House in such a way that rural populations get an outsized voice in both houses (the Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan House maps from 2012 prove this.)

So I do understand your point that in the legislative process, we have decided as a country to distribute influence out of proportion to the raw number of voters.

However.

You're now trying to extend this kind of over-representation toward rural votes to how we interpret the results of an opinion poll. I'm sorry, but that's absurd! You said you doubt the 90% number, but you provided no reason to do so other than "sampling rural areas is hard." Well, that's what pollsters do. They know how the population skews, and they know where the people they're calling live, and they know what cell phone response rates versus land-line response rates are, etc. They know how to correct for all of these errors.

So, the cite I was asking for is why you feel those polls are skewed. Not how the population is skewed, but whether the polls are representative of the population. When you say it's "a little of both", you're saying that you have evidence that these polls have somehow made an error in how they sampled, so please show it. Otherwise, you're just saying you don't like what those results say, and trying to use the fact that more people live in cities as a smokescreen.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:24 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


Democrats believe that rules that make sense to them in large cities should apply to rural areas as well, while Republicans believe that local areas should get to determine their own rules.

No, they don't. They believe, backed up by the courts, that the constitution means cities like DC can't, for instance, ban handguns. They support across the board abortion bans. They oppose gay marriage. They believe whatever is most convenient to achieve their goals, same as Democrats.

But anyway, is there really a rural/urban divide on background checks? I'm googling around to look at polls and even in rural area opposition seems to be a minority. We aren't talking 90% in favor of the checks, but take Alaska for example:

This majority (in favor of checks) includes gun owners (75 1 Pew Research Center, May 1-5, 2013. percent favor), Republicans (59 percent), NRA households (56 percent) and voters in rural parts of the state (57 percent).

That level of support should be enough to get it done, that it isn't is a sign of a broken system. The filibuster is broken. The gerrymandering is broken. We aren't getting the right representatives or the right bills for this electorate.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:32 AM on June 17 [6 favorites]


while Republicans believe that local areas should get to determine their own rules

No, republicans believe that rural areas should be allowed to make conservative rules but not liberal ones, and that urban areas should be allowed to make conservative rules but not liberal ones, and that suburbs should...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 AM on June 17 [9 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: No, republicans believe that rural areas should be allowed to make conservative rules but not liberal ones

Scott Lemieux is always a great read on this topic.

Faux Federalism: House Republicans favor “state’s rights”—except when states do things they don’t want them to do.

Will Any Principled Pro-Life Federalists Please Stand Up?

Federalism, Madison, and the 21st Century

The "States' Rights" Scam
posted by tonycpsu at 8:49 AM on June 17 [8 favorites]


??? How is that a cite?

Wow, really? You really are so disbelieving that you need a citation that most Americans are urban resident and can't be bothered to search "urban" on the Census site. Here, here is a cite: 80.7%: Percent of the US population living within urban areas


Corb said it was skewed, an unproportional over-representation of ubran voters. That's different than an accurate sample correctly representing a majority of the population.

If corb was misusing the word "skewed" and just meant "has more of" than she criticized a poll for being done correctly.
posted by spaltavian at 9:04 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Although I will point out that if 80% of the population, by numbers, skews urban,

Again, that's not what "skew" means. If 80% of citizens live in cities, then that itself is the fact. Samples can be skewed, facts cannot be skewed.
posted by clockzero at 10:05 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


The United States of America One Person, One Vote

I'm not sure where you got the impression that this was true. People under 18 are not permitted to vote. Non-naturalized citizen residents can't (federally anyway). In many (most?) states felons can't vote and I believe in all prisoners can't. Women and blacks and the non-propertied didn't count for the first half (3/4) of our existence as a nation. The ONLY people with an actual vote in any Representative government are the representatives. One person one vote has never been part of the equasion in Republics and only applies to Direct Democracy.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:17 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I was merely echoing the sentiments of voter ID supporters who claim there's all sorts of voter fraud going on, and that each eligible voter should have an equal voice on election day. I was making no statement about how those votes on election day translate into voice in the legislature, and have acknowledged the many ways in which voters are disproportionately represented. I don't see why you felt the need to latch onto that offhand jokey comment when I went on to explain myself more thoroughly, but suffice it to say I'm aware that we don't live under direct democratic rule.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:26 AM on June 17


Samples can be skewed, facts cannot be skewed.

There is a sense in which a "fact" can be skewed, i.e., an underlying distribution is a fact, in a sense. Probability distributions can be skewed and it is a mathematical quantity called "skewness." It is defined: skew(X)=E{[(X−μ)/σ]^3}. In this sense a distribution of geographic location can be skewed.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:15 AM on June 17


A distribution is only skewed in comparison to the normal distribution, no? If we're talking about the proportion of Americans living in urban vs non-urban areas and the former category is 80% of the total population, one could correctly say the whole population skews urban. Saying that the 80% of the whole population which lives in urban areas "skews urban" is incoherent, as far as I can tell.
posted by clockzero at 11:39 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Land should not have rights nor a voice in the political process.

As a corollary, low density confers no special legitimacy to a region or population.
posted by PMdixon at 11:44 AM on June 17


Far be it from me to discourage pedantry on MetaFilter, but the problem here isn't an insufficient understanding of the math behind the statistics, but the attempt to conflate the geographic distribution with how we interpret the results of an opinion poll that samples people instead of acres.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:57 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Yes, but saying that 90% of Americans favor stricter gun controls isn't actually the meaningful polling question.

That same study asked who Americans trust on gun control. Fourty percent say Republicans. That number skyrockets when you ask Republicans or Conservatives who they trust on gun control.

Republicans aren't being shy about what their stance on gun control is. Public policy is actually tracking pretty close to public opinion on this issue.

It's not enough to want government intervention. You also have to agree what government intervention should look like, and that is why most efforts for government intervention either fail or end up horribly watered down.

I'm actually a pretty middle of the road Democrat who expanding our safety nets, and patching up our regulatory bodies. But I think Liberals have a huge fundamental misunderstanding of the institutional barriers they're up against when trying to create good liberal government. Instead they create simplistic villains that should be easily vanquished by the good guys.
posted by politikitty at 1:13 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The poll question is strictly on background checks which are, again, supported even by a majority of NRA members. If Republicans put forward a reasonable bill with NRA approval it would pass in a heartbeat without a Democrat having to write a word of it.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:24 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


So what? Asking a yes or no question does not indicate the level of support for background checks.

It'd be kinda nice if the government gave me a pony. And if someone asked, I'd say "yeah, a pony would be nice". But I'm not going to feel like my party has failed me because they've failed to put forward Free Pony legislation.

Voters are quite clear that the Republican party is the Do-Nothing Party when it comes to gun control. Yet a considerable number of voters who approve of background checks support the Republican Congress over both Obama or neither. It shows that gun-control support is much weaker than the poll question you're trying to cite.

Also, it's incredibly naive to think the Republicans could put forward a reasonable bill with NRA approval without the Democrats adding amendments that the Republican House would find unacceptable. The bill would not be a slam dunk. It would be a slog.
posted by politikitty at 2:38 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I see no evidence to suggest that, we are just back at the earlier "Democrats don't want to compromise," false talking point. This is an issue they would love to get done because gun issues are often used as a cudgel against Democratic politicians. Getting it off the table would be a win-win for Dems no matter how it got done, and Obama is always willing to compromise.

90% support is 90% support. Nothing ever will have more support than that, Mom and Apple Pie will poll lower. "Oh, but they don't mean it!" Whatever. It doesn't matter when the only opposition is vastly outnumbered by people who do actually care. Don't forget it didn't pass because of the unnatural 60 vote requirement, no other reason.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:47 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


Also, it's incredibly naive to think the Republicans could put forward a reasonable bill with NRA approval without the Democrats adding amendments that the Republican House would find unacceptable.

The last major attempt at such a bill had bipartisan support, and was co-authored by a Republican and a Democrat whose ideologies fall somewhat to the right of Reagan's. I can think of several big reasons that it didn't pass the Senate and wouldn't pass the House, but none of them involve Democrats inserting poison-pill amendments.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:55 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


It's not about poison-pill amendments. It's about any amendments. It would not pass in a heartbeat. It would only potentially pass after considerable compromise and negotiation.

That is not to say that it's not a good idea. I support stricter gun controls. But saying that anything would be easy is ridiculously naive. The Democrats would try to get the strictest gun controls they can garner the votes for. They would be stupid to do otherwise. That will complicate any "obvious and quick" fixes that the American public might support.

And again, I don't believe support for gun-control is as strong as the one cherry-picked poll states. That exact same poll asked a number of supplemental questions that show a large amount of the support is weakly held. Ask them the same question with a negative framing, say, something you might see in a hotly contested campaign like "Do you believe Congress should infringe on your second Amendment right to have access to firearms?" and you'll see something that the NRA would like to advertise.
posted by politikitty at 3:07 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


politikitty: The Democrats would try to get the strictest gun controls they can garner the votes for.

Did you not pay attention to the fate of the Manchin-Toomey proposal after Newtown? The strictest gun controls that Democrats were able to garner the sufficient number of votes for was no gun control.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:10 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


Yeah, politikitty, I really think you're arguing a hypo that already happened. And it didn't go down as you're retrodicting.
posted by PMdixon at 3:47 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Although I will point out that if 80% of the population, by numbers, skews urban, then it's going to be really, really hard to measure the other 20% in a representative sample of 1,000 people while still managing to get a broad geographical/regional sampling.

This is an incoherent argument. If you have a representative sample, you don't need to worry about over- or underrepresentation of any group, by definition. If you're just saying that samples should be representative, I doubt anyone would argue. If you're saying that some particular samples under discussion are biased in some way, you could just make that explicit. If you're saying that a hypothetical sample might be biased, then I don't think it's worth arguing about.

And I think in a country as large as America - bigger than the entirety of Europe - you are in fact going to have geographical/regional cultural differences.

Of course, there are such differences always. But we have the federal government in part because we don't want to let regions like the South hold on to certain "cultural differences" that just happened to have terrible consequences for lots of other people. In the same way that a region in America might not want to have some region-specific way of life meddled with by the government, the rest of the country shouldn't be held hostage by a relatively small group of people. We get plenty of that already through our economic system.
posted by clockzero at 3:49 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


The strictest gun controls that Democrats were able to garner the sufficient number of votes for was no gun control.

And? My hypothetical was predicated on the idea that support for gun control is overwhelming and non-partisan. The first half of my comment was an explanation of why that isn't the case. 68 percent of Republicans do not want stricter gun control laws. 77 percent of Republicans trust the Republicans in Congress on handling gun issues when the Republican position is clearly DO NOTHING.

Given that the Republicans have the support of their voters in doing nothing and standing in the way of increased gun control, from a democratic point of view, why should attempts to pass gun control legislation be easy or successful?
posted by politikitty at 3:52 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


politikitty: predicated on the idea that support for gun control is overwhelming and non-partisan.

And that is a straw man. Unless you're reading the room differently than I am, nobody who's cited the 90% figure has done so in an attempt to say voter engagement and enthusiasm for that position is as high as it is on the other side. It's simply a data point, showing that most people would like universal background checks. Do people vote on that as single-issue voters? Of course not. Has anyone said they do? No.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:58 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


You are cherry picking for a more general poll when we have polls on the more specific question regarding background checks. Passing that should be easy because it has practically unanimous support. Opposition plunges below the 25-28% crazy floor of people who approved of Sarah Palin after the election or George W. Bush at the end of his second term.

It's hard because political institutions do not respond to the will of the people because of gerrymandering, the filibuster, and some flaws implicit in the two party system...but it shouldn't be this way. If we were talking something like registry, which Republicans do actually oppose, this would be a different conversation.

This is far from the only issue like this, Medical Marijuana is another good one where support is practically unanimous across the political spectrum and yet the government lags behind. Polarization isn't our most major problem, that we are incapable of action even when in agreement is a much bigger danger.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:02 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Opposition plunges below the 25-28% crazy floor of people who approved of Sarah Palin after the election or George W. Bush at the end of his second term.

That's remarkably accurate. The precise value of America's crazification factor is 27%.
posted by delfin at 4:08 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


90% of the country wants expanded background checks for guns but we can't get it. It is not a "feeling" that the other side is extreme, it's about as objective a fact as you can get in politics. It is crazy that 90% of the population in a so-called Democratic Republic can't get their way on this. When you have 90% you shouldn't even be talking about compromise.

Based on that quote, it seemed quite clear the room was saying that Public Opinion supports additional gun control legislation, and a responsive democracy should provide additional gun control legislation.

Yet the exact same people who stated they supported legislation requiring background checks at gun shows also stated they oppose stricter gun control laws in this country. At least 36% of people who support legislation oppose legislation. They hold contradictory views, so it's impossible to say which view a responsive democracy should support.
posted by politikitty at 4:44 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


My interpretation would be that they don't consider background checks gun control. Polling depends heavily on how you ask the questions, which is why I am relying on the more specific question when talking about a specific issue.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:49 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


The vast, vast majority of Americans agree that they don't want crazy people to have guns. They just have a massive internal disagreement as to who the crazy people are.
posted by delfin at 4:51 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


(For instance, if we wanted to know about how people feel about medical marijuana we could ask, "Do you support loosening laws against drug use?" or we could ask, "Do you think medical marijuana should be legal?" We would rely more on the second question, right? Because people have all kinds of reasons to oppose looser drug laws that have nothing to do with medical pot. It's not a contradiction. "Gun Control" means a lot of different things, many of which Republican voters oppose. Background checks are not part of that opposition among virtually everyone in the country.)
posted by Drinky Die at 4:54 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I disagree with your interpretation. Medical Marijuana is loosening laws against drug use. Candidates are loathe to come out in favor of Medical Marijuana because they know they will be branded as loosening laws against drug use.

Framing matters when support is weak and fickle. The fact that there is a large gap between those two related questions underscores how weak support is on that issue.

Weak support is enough to maintain the status quo, but it's not enough to overcome the hurdles of legislative change.
posted by politikitty at 5:11 PM on June 17


What politician has been punished recently for support for medical marijuana? None I'm aware of. It certainly seems to be spreading across the country pretty quickly for something with only weak support. The country is not unanimously behind it because they think they themselves are politically "weak on drugs".

Loosening drug laws would poll badly because it's up to the person being polled if that means stop arresting people for pot or it means legalizing heroin. It's the same thing with gun control. Do you mean ban all semi-automatic rifles or do you mean don't let criminals and the severely mentally ill have access to guns?

I think if you are going to keep calling support for things like this weak you should start to produce some proof outside of "this completely different poll question says..."
posted by Drinky Die at 5:26 PM on June 17


Candidates are loathe to come out in favor of Medical Marijuana because they know they will be branded as loosening laws against drug use.

"California Democrats voted overwhelmingly to add marijuana legalization to the state party’s official platform on Sunday, marking a shift from current Gov. Jerry Brown’s own position on the drug.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the issue was approved by a near-unanimous voice vote at the party’s annual convention in California. As a result, the party platform for state Democrats will officially support “the legalization, regulation and taxation of pot in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol."

Despite the move, however, the issue is not expected to be put up for a vote during the 2014 midterms. Instead, advocates have decided to wait until 2016, when a larger percentage of the population is engaged with the national election and when more money could be spent to push messages.

Speaking out in support of legalization, California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state has fallen behind public opinion since it first voted to approve medical marijuana, and the time has come to take the next step forward.""


----
Increasingly large numbers of people are saying that not only should it be legal with a prescription, it should be legal, period (two states so far). There's a medical marijuana bill under consideration in NY right now, and Cuomo keeps torpedoing it for stupid reasons, but it was written by, you know, politicians who are supporting it. It's legal for medical use in 22 states, which doesn't sound like politicians are loathe to come out in favor of it.
posted by rtha at 5:37 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


There has been a significant shift in the support for medical marijuana that does not correlate with stricter gun control laws. Support for Medical Marijuana is closer to Gay Marriage, which had a lag between public support and politician support. Gun Control is closer to abortion, where there might be some ebbs, but opinion is rather stable.

Unfortunately, most reporters seem to think medical marijuana and "looser drug laws" are the same thing, which made a separate poll impossible to find. But I think that proves my broader point. If a majority of people strongly believe in medical marijuana, or even legalization, they are not worried about being portrayed as being associated with looser drug laws.

Incidentally, Gallup found that only 65% of people approved of the Manchin-Toomey bill. I know, I know. It's still a majority. But let's be honest that it's not close to 90%. And 50% of Republicans were against this specific very bland registration bill, while still telling pollsters they'd support some mythical version in the future.

Republicans like the idea of registration. Actually doing it? A whole other story. That's the definition of weak support.
posted by politikitty at 6:20 PM on June 17


Unfortunately, most reporters seem to think medical marijuana and "looser drug laws" are the same thing, which made a separate poll impossible to find.

Err, you didn't look very hard. Support for medical marijuana is at 80% or higher. 85% in this Fox News poll. There is no significant constituency of voters in opposition.

Incidentally, Gallup found that only 65% of people approved of the Manchin-Toomey bill. I know, I know. It's still a majority. But let's be honest that it's not close to 90%.

After the fact, yeah.

But it also may be that the Senate's failure to pass the measure deflated Americans' support for it.

Republicans like the idea of registration. Actually doing it? A whole other story.


They say they would vote for it in a referendum, at 73%. It goes back to the main problem here: Dysfunctional congress that does not respond to the will of the people.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:35 PM on June 17


I didn't say I couldn't find a poll for medical marijuana. I said I couldn't find a poll for "looser drug laws". I would wager that public policy has tracked the latter much better than the former.

Again, you are trying to state that public opinion polls track actual preferences. They don't. In 2008, 78% of people said they voted when in fact only 64% voted. For 2002, the discrepancy is even higher. 62% said they voted, while only 40% of America voted.

Framing can dramatically overstate preferences. How is it impossible to think that people hear that question, and think "yeah, background checks are good" while also believing that the current background checks in place are sufficient? We know that people overstate their support of racial issues (affirmative action, etc) because they don't want to seem like a bad guy, even to an anonymous voice on the other side of the phone. Why wouldn't that same human instinct be triggered after a mass shooting?
posted by politikitty at 7:03 PM on June 17


I didn't say I couldn't find a poll for medical marijuana.

Well, but then why didn't you post one and instead link to one about legalizing weed? You're whole argument here is becoming baffling. You can't explain away 90%, it's too high. We aren't talking about a close question here.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:26 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I said I couldn't find a poll for "looser drug laws". I would wager that public policy has tracked the latter much better than the former.

I'm so confused. If that is the issue that gets so much more attention, then why can't you find a poll for it? Why would you "wager" on something you can't actually find evidence for?

Try "decriminalization." Nobody I know who works in drug policy uses terms like "looser drug laws."
posted by rtha at 8:13 PM on June 17


Did you read any of the conversation pertaining to gun control? Drug policy was only brought up to contrast the difference between "more strict gun control" and support for "background checks".

Decriminalization and legalization are both ways to frame drug policy positively. They might be accurate, but the right certainly doesn't use that language.
posted by politikitty at 8:57 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I brought up "looser drug laws" as an example of a bad poll question that would tell you very little, it's not surprising it isn't the language used in polls. I don't think decriminalization or legalization are positive frames, they are a neutral descriptions of a policy. These policies used to be viewed extremely negatively by most people but now they are generally supported, often even for harder drugs in the case of decrim because people are beginning to realize addiction is more of a medical problem than a legal one.

Here are the editors of NRO talking about the conservative case for legalization. Here is a conservative case against decriminalization. Pro or Con, this is the language of the debate.

HuffPo: "I became sort of a hero of the hippie culture, I guess, when I said I think we ought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana," Robertson said, according to Reason magazine. "I just think it's shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy. We've said, 'we're conservative, we're tough on crime.' That's baloney. It's costing us billions and billions of dollars."
posted by Drinky Die at 4:37 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Well, not to continue the derail too long, but I want to make sure I don't leave misimpressions about what I've said.

A distribution is only skewed in comparison to the normal distribution, no?

Skewness, as you can see from the formula, is simply the 3rd moment of the distribution. It is a deviation from symmetry, not from the normal distribution, although the normal is symmetric.

Far be it from me to discourage pedantry on MetaFilter, but the problem here isn't an insufficient understanding of the math behind the statistics, but the attempt to conflate the geographic distribution with how we interpret the results of an opinion poll that samples people instead of acres.

I agree wholeheartedly, and Corb certainly was arguing what I consider an illogical position, but the argument against that position should not proceed through misguided pedantry about someone's perfectly good use of a word like "skewed." The survey sample as well as the population does tilt asymmetrically toward urban dweller, i.e., it does skew that way, but that fact doesn't represent bias either in the population or in the sample. Corb's mistake is to imply that this skewness is biased and so unfair to someone somehow. What is biased is political representation at the national level, which accords more votes to dwellers in lower density geographies.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:25 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


It's simply a data point, showing that most people would like universal background checks.

Except it implies broader political and voter support than actually exists in the current political climate.

Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that 90% of the population lived in New York City, with the remaining 10% distributed to the other states and cities. Let us also suppose, for simplicity of argument, that in New York City, support for mandating that everyone live in apartment buildings is absolutely universal, 100%. Let us also suppose that outside of New York City, opposition to mandating apartment building living is also 100%.

In that case, it would absolutely be the case that 90% of the population supports that law. It would also be true that well over 90% of the country opposes the law. Personally, I believe that it would be wrong to enforce that law mandating apartment buildings on the rest of the country, but regardless of what I believe, if everyone's legislators do their job, then only 2 senators will be voting for that bill, and 98 senators will be voting in opposition to that bill. It would also be incorrect to say that there is broad support for the bill - because all of the support would be confined to NYC.
posted by corb at 6:49 AM on June 18


The 90% number was from an opinion poll. Opinion polls survey people, not land mass.
The 90% number was from an opinion poll. Opinion polls survey people, not land mass.
The 90% number was from an opinion poll. Opinion polls survey people, not land mass.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:53 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]



In that case, it would absolutely be the case that 90% of the population supports that law. It would also be true that well over 90% of the country opposes the law.


This is, uh, not how democracy typically works. Alaska does not have a veto.
posted by PMdixon at 6:55 AM on June 18


It would also be true that well over 90% of the country opposes the law.

No, it wouldn't, because dirt doesn't have preferences. Because it's dirt.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:01 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


As a courtesy, here is the original cite of the 90% figure:

Drinky Die: 90% of the country wants expanded background checks for guns but we can't get it. It is not a "feeling" that the other side is extreme, it's about as objective a fact as you can get in politics. It is crazy that 90% of the population in a so-called Democratic Republic can't get their way on this. When you have 90% you shouldn't even be talking about compromise.

"90% of the country" is somewhat ambiguous, but is clarified by "90% of the population." Anyone reading this who thought the 90% number was being put forth as proof that 90% of the U.S. Senate supports background checks lacks reading comprehension. Nobody thinks the Senate supports them, and in fact, we saw quite clearly last year that it doesn't. Still, the 90% number is meaningful in showing that there is a distortion between what a majority of the country's population (of people) would prefer and what their representatives can deliver for them.

We know there is an enthusiasm gap, and we know that both legislative bodies create major distortions of pure democratic rule, but we also know that 90% is a pretty overwhelming figure for anyone to agree on anything, so it's an important data point nonetheless.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:01 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


(And, for the record, if 90% of the population lived in NYC, I would say the right answer is to let those 90% have their gun laws, and let the other 10% who live elsewhere have their gun laws. But Antonin Scalia listened to a recording of the Bill of Rights played backwards at 78 RPM and discovered an individual right, so we can't have that.)
posted by tonycpsu at 7:03 AM on June 18


A majority of the Senate does support the checks, just not a supermajority.

corb, did you look at the polls I linked for rural voters? Support for the checks does drop from "massively, crushingly, beyond belief popular" down to just "really, really popular" among rural voters, but that should not be enough opposition to derail getting something done on this.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:05 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Still, the 90% number is meaningful in showing that there is a distortion between what a majority of the country's population (of people) would prefer and what their representatives can deliver for them.

And what I'm trying to explain is - you think this is a bug, a distortion that you can triumphantly proclaim that will get everyone, shocked, to say "My god, you're right!" But other people, including myself, see it as a feature - something to celebrate rather than despise. This country was not founded on direct democracy. You think of land as just "dirt with a few people on it", but for other people, regional character and autonomy is really, really important to them - and to the founders.The people who built this country, in their wisdom, decided that they did not want one city, or one state, sitting as the ruler of all, regardless of the population there. They did not want such a law coming to pass unless a significant majority of the states supported it. And as far as I'm seeing, they don't.
posted by corb at 7:19 AM on June 18


corb: And as far as I'm seeing, they don't.

If you're not seeing, you're not looking:
ThinkProgress was able to find 24 states with polls conducted over the last 100 days. The latest polls reveal continued wide support throughout the country, from deeply conservative states such as Wyoming and Texas to swing states such as Ohio and Florida.
More:
The U.S. Senate failed to pass expanded background checks despite support from 81 percent of voters nationally1. Since then, public polling has documented the fall-out for many senators who cast no votes. Five new surveys in states represented by senators who voted against S649 also show huge public support for background checks, even in gunfriendly states like Alaska and North Dakota. But this research goes further than that. It also shows, despite their previous vote, voters strongly supporting their U.S. Senator changing his or her mind. This research shows a path for these Senators to arrive at a different conclusion on background checks.
Given the evidence Drinky Die has produced showing support for background checks being strong even among rural voters, I don't see how the math could add up to a majority of states opposing expanding background checks. If you have evidence for that, by all means produce it, but seriously... 71% in Louisiana and Georgia, 72% in Texas... These are your people who you claim want to preserve their "regional character", yet they say clearly across many polls that they support universal background checks. You can try to speak for them, but they've already spoken, and their opinion is not what you say it is.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:33 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


The tradeoff for regional character is some regions wanted to treat some of their residents like subhumans. So, just like we recognize the potential issues with tyranny of the majority nationally we have to recognize the issues with tyranny of the majority in more local governments. Sometimes you need intervention from outside the local area.

Again though, this isn't one of those times. The support for this particular reform is already there.

I don't think direct democracy is great system of government, but a system in which elected representatives aren't given a reasonable chance to push forward their agenda is just as dangerous for different reasons. For an issue that polls at 55-48, it's reasonable for a minority party to obstruct. For an issue that polls at 90% support? It's just spitting in the face of the people that are supposed to be represented in Congress.

So just vote them out, right? Well, it's nearly impossible to get the supermajority in the Senate and the Congress is gerrymandered. Spitting in the face again. Plus, the two party system rigs the whole thing so many people don't feel they can vote even based on issues they strongly care about. I might vote for a Libertarian despite being personally anti-gun because they are still the best I can get on several other issues I care strongly about, but sometimes the need to vote for a Democrat to prevent disaster (incompetent politicians like Palin becoming VP) is just too great for me to even consider it. I don't even have to mention how obvious it is the two party system is a strong promoter the polarization we are talking about.

Anyway, regional character is important and I probably support more state's rights than most liberals, but it's not the only important thing. It's a very good thing to bring up in regards to the polarization of America in general, just not in regards to the specific background check part of the conversation.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:50 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


"The founders" were not at all in lockstep with each other on what they wanted from the country, and to say that your philosophy speaks for them is historical revisionism of a pernicious and awful variety. A lot of them on both sides saw slavery as an important part of regional character and autonomy, just from opposing viewpoints. Same goes with how they wanted representative democracy to work, and where they wanted law and the power to extend it to come from. They even disagreed on the extent and applicability of the right to bear arms. Much of what our country is built on came out of massive compromises from one set of founders to another, some of which has been exceptional, and some of which has been detrimental. And on top of that, it's pretty disingenuous to conflate the idea of one state having control (which isn't even remotely close to being the case here) with either the purpose and efficacy of the legislative branch, and then further conflate it with the ability for the Constitution to be amended.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:55 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


This country was not founded on direct democracy.

It wasn't founded on anything a modern person would recognize as legitimately democratic at all. The system envisioned by the framers was a herrenvolk democracy like Apartheid South Africa- democracy fir a small elite, with everyone else just subjects or property.

What we might recognize as at least horribly flawed democracy, white manhood suffrage, didn't arrive until the 1830s and would have horrified the average framer.

You think of land as just "dirt with a few people on it", but for other people, regional character and autonomy is really, really important to them - and to the founders.

It was indeed. But that's an empty argument ; lots of things were important to the founders. Things like "Black people should either be property or exiled to Haiti ir Liberia" or that women should be not much more than property or that people should v e imprisoned if tey criticize the government.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The people who built this country, in their wisdom, decided that they did not want one city, or one state, sitting as the ruler of all, regardless of the population there.

This is incoherent ancestor worship. There is no unitary wisdom of those people. No unitary agency can be ascribed because they violently disagreed about what they were working towards.

When I get a veto on funding the military because of concerns for my autonomy and desired regional character, I will be interested in hearing more about these important principles. "X is really important to Y" does not mean either that Y has a right to X, or that X is even possible / feasible.
posted by PMdixon at 8:14 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


I agree wholeheartedly, and Corb certainly was arguing what I consider an illogical position, but the argument against that position should not proceed through misguided pedantry about someone's perfectly good use of a word like "skewed." The survey sample as well as the population does tilt asymmetrically toward urban dweller, i.e., it does skew that way, but that fact doesn't represent bias either in the population or in the sample.

Ah, I see what you mean, Mental Wimp. You're right.
posted by clockzero at 9:14 AM on June 18


In some sense there was a quasi-civil war.
-Our Cold Civil War Intensifies [2,3,4]
-Don't Under-Estimate The Power Of Right-Wing Populism [Ctd]
posted by kliuless at 7:11 AM on June 20


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