America the Polarized
January 6, 2002 11:27 AM   Subscribe

America the Polarized NYT's Paul Krugman says that Congress is polarized because Republicans have moved to the right, while Democrats have remained fairly constant. He (and a political scientist) attribute the change to economic polarization, the sharply widening inequality of income and wealth.
posted by pmurray63 (24 comments total)
Slate had a mathematical analysis of this a few weeks ago. The cited authors used statistical methods to show clusters of voting trends within congress. There are neat movies of voting trends changing over time.
posted by phatboy at 11:44 AM on January 6, 2002

I would have to say the ever-growning obsession of the right with their god has played a part in their isolation from the rest of society as much as economics.
posted by tcobretti at 11:47 AM on January 6, 2002

Dang, I just linked this in a thread but I'm glad it got made a front page post. Of course, some will call it another example of hateful liberal bigotry, no doubt.
posted by y2karl at 11:54 AM on January 6, 2002

That article lost all credibility when it finished with:
Many commentators still delude themselves with the comforting notion that all this partisanship is a temporary aberration. Sorry, guys: this is the way it's going to be, for the foreseeable future. Get used to it.

American politics has always been partisan, very partisan. A Southern Senator once severely caned a Northern Senator, before the Civil War, for example. Aaron Burr (Vice President for Thomas Jefferson) shot Alexander Hamilton.

This whole idea of the political "center" is an illusion. Whichever party is in power claims to be in the center.. it's just a made up idea whereby one party can paint the other party as extremists.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:02 PM on January 6, 2002

Democrats and Republicans have changed so much over time it's hard to categorize which hasn't budged. It all matters on what party you like more (as mentioned in earlier comments). Woodrow Wilson was a democrat yet he exhibited a lot the characteristics of a modern day extreme right Republican. In my opinion both parties are exactly the same except for a few key issues. The only thing that angers me is tha most members vote along party lines with little regard to what the bill is.
posted by geoff. at 12:15 PM on January 6, 2002

Then there are those of us who understand corporate influence in politics and that ultimately the two parties are very similar. They continue to survive by maneuvering and manipulating us into thinking otherwise and making us scared of the other side. Regardless of what happens, they both win. They like it that way.
posted by fleener at 12:29 PM on January 6, 2002

Woodrow Wilson was a democrat yet he exhibited a lot the characteristics of a modern day extreme right Republican.

Hmm. Internationalism? Women's rights? A belief in the need for more bureaucracy (no kidding - when a political science professsor at Bryn Mahr College, he was the first academic to seriously address the need for a professional bureaucracy, as well as the study of same) and economic regulation? What on Earth are you talking about, outside of racial beliefs?
posted by raysmj at 1:00 PM on January 6, 2002

I guess I was wrong comparing him to a Republican of today. I would have been better saying he is different then a Democrat of today. He was progressive but so was his predecessor Taft and Roosevelt. So most of the things he was doing were things a Republican of the same time would have done (many of the child labor regulations and what not). I remember on a tv show someone mentioning that Wilson would seem like an odd Democrat for today which is why I made that statement. I'm going to do some research on it to see what I can drudge up or if I was just misinformed. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.
posted by geoff. at 1:43 PM on January 6, 2002

yeah I'm supposedly republican but i rarely find myself identifying with the republican majority nowadays. times are achanging.
posted by wantwit at 1:45 PM on January 6, 2002

Never met a poor (presently poor--plenty from the past) Republican in my life. Its an oxymoron as far as I am concerned.
posted by Budge at 1:50 PM on January 6, 2002

One of the things that I've personally noticed has been the growing influence of libertarian thought (sometimes called "classical liberal"), which is distinguished from strictly conservative thought. Libertarians abound in the world of the net and tech geeks.

That said, I'm not willing to accept Krugman's view of income disparity as the key factor here. That disparity has stretched and changed before, after all.
posted by dhartung at 1:58 PM on January 6, 2002

The disparity is a growth trend. And now Japan also has this widening gap between the wealthy and the others. What makes this a bit significant is that their top guys at corporate places make much less than our top people and their managers tend to be (in salary) much closer to the workers. But they still are growing apart. But then this is the nature of capitalism.
The observation that coprorations and their lobby groups have leveled party differences a good deal is I believe correct. Nader consistently pointed to what had been the relationship of corporations to politics and how this has changed over the years so that now corporations virtually run the country. Alas, though he was a Cassandra in his announcements, he offered no real program suggesting how he planned to change such things.
posted by Postroad at 2:20 PM on January 6, 2002

My father has always been a Republican and, furthermore, a religious conservative, even when our family was poor, which was a lot (though I didn't realize it until much later). I guess you just don't know very many people, Budge.
posted by kindall at 2:26 PM on January 6, 2002

Libertarians abound in the world of the net and tech geeks.

As does narcissism, judging from the 'blog world and flame wars everywhere. We live in a complex and invisible web of relationships and social forces, increasingly organized in a top down hierarchy--to which libertarianism offers the ultimate in Simple Answers for a Complex World.
posted by y2karl at 2:58 PM on January 6, 2002

In terms of political parties, I think many, many more people align themselves ideologically with party stances on social issues, rather than economic ones. Economic issues are rather much harder to statically define and quantify, whereas it's much easier to take a solid stance on a social issue (abortion, gay rights, etc)

On a side note: I once met a gay Black Republican. That guy was truly a minority within a minority within a minority. Or maybe he was just confused (probably both. He was really rich, so that's the only way i could justify it)

I do agree with y2karl on the growing Libertarian movement, though.
posted by jare2003 at 4:11 PM on January 6, 2002

Polarization is a red herring, because these professional politicians are so much more alike than they would want you to know. Many have fed from the public trough their entire life, and the foremost thing in their agenda is reelection. They have a dualistic job: appease through lip service their actual constituents, who vote but do not give enough money, while at the same time doing the bidding of their cash bearing masters.
The system, especially with the senority system, is the problem. A good first start would be Term Limits; it's the law in Oregon, but read this link if you want to know how professional politicians feel about having to get a real job.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:55 PM on January 6, 2002

I was raised with the help of public assitance (mom was/is disabled). At that time I was a card carrying member of the GOP (Libertarian now, don't like them Christian fundies amongst other things).
posted by Mick at 5:26 PM on January 6, 2002

It's funny how much Libertarianism stands out on the web versus in reality. I suppose as much as people rail against it, they like the government spending a lot of money beyond its supposed constitutional guidelines - be it welfare (Democrats) or the military (Republicans)
posted by owillis at 5:53 PM on January 6, 2002

I suppose as much as people rail against it, they like the government spending a lot of money beyond its supposed constitutional guidelines - be it welfare (Democrats) or the military (Republicans)
That is a pretty broad brush! You paint with it often?
posted by thirteen at 6:04 PM on January 6, 2002

the foremost thing in their agenda is reelection.

Mack: What, you'd rather them not give a rat's ass about what constituents think, ever?
posted by raysmj at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2002

So, from this thread I learned: All Republicans are Jesus freaks, libertarians are simplistic narcissists, and all blacks who aren't Democrats are confused. More of the best in political thought, here on MeFi.
posted by darukaru at 7:34 PM on January 6, 2002

As someone who is politically a libertarian, I would say that for all the libertarian rhetoric and thunder on the web, none of it has translated into political success. I remember the last local LP candidate that ran in our county. Poor spoken, bespectacled (poorly dressed), and nervous. He looked like a smart guy, but he was certainly not a politician. The only national politico I can think of who is a libertarian is Ron Paul (R- Texas), he ran for President under the libertarian party in 94.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:49 PM on January 6, 2002

Change 'all' to 'some' , insert where missing, darukaru, and it's pretty much shooting fish in a barrel.
posted by y2karl at 10:14 PM on January 6, 2002

y2karl: Actually the shifting back and forth on issues would seem to indicate otherwise. I know plenty of religious democrats. In fact, most Catholics have been historically Democrats. And I would hope one would give Condoleezza Rice more credit than to call her simply confused. In fact, it's quite interesting that both Latin and African Americans are drifting to the Republican party because as both groups begin to gain wealth, things like the estate tax and similar issues start becoming core concerns.

But that drifting back and forth is what I consider to be a good thing. It means people don't think along party lines, instead they tend to form their own opinions (with the help of the press . . . but I'll take people willing to go with their gut over people voting along party lines any day of the week). The line that politicians and pollsters draw in the sand to indicate liberal and conservative are too broad. Most positions are presented in a pro or con option. You are for this or you are against this (and spare me the Bush comments about you are with us or against us because the liberals do the same damn thing). Are you for or against abortion? Are you for or against tax cuts? Are you for or against more spending on education? Of course, if you happen to feel that educational funds are not being spent wisely, the pollster question only lets you indicate whether or not you are for or against educational spending.
posted by billman at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2002

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