I think it was Tom Bethell, back when he wrote the must-read Washington column for The American Spectator, who asked the pertinent question when Bernie Sanders was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives under the Socialist Party affiliation in 1990: How will we be able to tell the difference between Bernie’s socialism and the “mainstream” Democratic Party in Washington?
That illuminating question has become suddenly urgent now that Bernie may be the Democrats’ presidential nominee this year. Bethell’s astute point, 30 years ago, is being borne out today: Bernie is the telos of the modern Democratic Party. This can be proven with Euclidean precision with the simple observation that all of Bernie’s rivals essentially say they are for the same things as Bernie, only a little less costly and intrusive, etc. In other words, all of Bernie’s rivals stand for the proposition that they desire Socialism-Lite. It is great fun watching them tie themselves in knots dealing with him in the so-called Democratic “debates.” Message to Bernie: Shut up, they explained. No wonder things are not going well for Democrats at the moment.
If you drop in on any self-respecting college political science department—or a mainstream media newsroom, which thinks all the same things—it is axiomatic that the problem with the polarization of American politics today owes entirely to the radicalism of the Republican Party that began in the 1980s. You will see fancy charts and graphs supposedly “proving” this proposition empirically. I sit through a lot of academic seminars devoted to this proposition, which I usually blow up with a single unwelcome question: “Funny how Republicans supposedly became more ‘extreme’ just when Republicans started to win more elections. What does that say about American voters?” (What that question really means is, “What does that say about political scientists?” But I need to get out alive from these things. . .)
So it is with some satisfaction that I caught up with an article in, of all places, the New York Times, that offers empirical evidence for something obvious to all conservatives, namely, that it is the the Democrats who have become increasingly extreme. This article tries to measure how the parties have moved ideologically over the last 20 years, and while the article tries very hard to slime Republicans for being well to the right of most European conservatives parties (good, I say), the chart their data produced shows the Democratic Party has lurched hard to the left during this period, while the Republican Party is pretty stable:
Now, it is possible to pick apart the methodology ad nauseam of these kind of “empirical” studies, and the overall article is quite stupid if you want to suffer through the link. But this visual is quite striking, showing that even lefty social scientists can’t disguise the effectual truth of things.