Saturday, July 29, 2017

Data On Left/Right Trending

Found a nice tweet showing, in more concrete data, what I said in my first post here: we're polarized, but it's not because the Democrats have moved far-left.  It's the GOP that moved.

That's movement amongst the politicians, as reflected in Congressional votes... it isn't the movement of the public, and it isn't popularity of any particular ideas.  Note that the graph goes back to 1963, so Reagan is somewhere just above the midpoint, and the overlap basically disappears around 1990.  That's Clinton-era... but no, it wasn't because of Clinton, it's only time-correlated.  The movement began much earlier, and the vitriol against Clinton was more likely because of the divergence than the other way 'round.  And no wonder Congress has been so disfunctional in recent memory... but it's not the Democratic politicians that changed.

That helps to explain why, for example, even though the ACA is gaining acceptance in popular polls, and specific provisions of it (most notably coverage for pre-existing conditions) have always been popular with the public, the politicians in the GOP are still hell-bent on "repeal and replace," or at least just "repeal."

The same tweet has a graph showing more recent popular movement:

Here both sides are diverging, bulging away from each other and pulling the white median lines apart... but there's still overlap.  There's still hope of working together in the general public.  And the movement is "only" a bit over a decade old at most.  I'd be interested to see a year-by-year breakdown; I bet it's even more recent than that---I bet it's Obama and Tea Party old.  But that data isn't in the graph.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nobody is "for" iresponsibiliity

In the polarized right-vs-left world today, there's a tendency to exaggerate or even manufacture oppositional narratives.  But often those don't exist, at least not in the way they get presented.

Take, for example, social safety programs, from healthcare to welfare to school lunches.  Very broadly speaking, Democrats favor them and the GOP opposes them; the debate becomes framed as heartlessness vs. extravagance, enablement vs. personal responsibility.  Which is, in a word, stupid: with even a half-moment's thought, any but the most devout Libertarian will realize there's value in some safety net, and only the most ardent communist would acknowledge limits to what can reasonably be done.  Nobody supports rewarding irresponsibility.  Nobody supports doing nothing whatsoever.  We differ on degree, and on implementation details.

Similarly, nobody is pro-abortion: any abortion is a tragedy, even to those who support abortion rights.  Nobody is opposed to school choice; the opposition is against gutting the public choice, and whether vouchers would actually be enough to allow "choice" for all.  Nobody is opposed to "science" overall---although that one is subject to cherrypicking; people like chemistry and physics for all the toys they bring, but evolution and climate science and even medicine have their deniers.

And if you look at local politics, ideology seems to matter less: we may argue about spending SPLOST money on sidewalks or on road expansions, but it's not going to draw the heat that the national-level ACA vs. AHCA debates do.  Even when local politics disagree, it's not with the same destructive framing.

We could use a national structure that rewarded working together.  I'm undoubtably biased, but I saw Obama attempt to work with Repulicans for at least his first four years, and get roundly rebuffed.  And the Tea Party hardened that line, and Trump's rhetoric sure isn't helping either.  But, to be fair, Democrat's weren't particularly warm to W. before that, nor the GOP to Clinton in his second term.  So I'd have to remember back to Clinton's first two years to find that sort of respectful opposition... that's nearly an entire generation of ideology-before-country that we've had.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I'm now a liberal. How did that happen?

The short answer: the political spectrum took a hard right.

Yes, yes, I know: the culture wars, assault on our liberties, war against Christianity, gay marriage, all the rest.  Yes, I know.  And no, I disagree: the political spectrum took a hard right.  We can talk about the social spectrum some other time---I have much more sympathy for you there---but bear with me for a moment.

I became politically aware as a kid in Massachusetts at the beginning of the Reagan/Bush era.  A couple of my friends were avid Reaganites (one even used a photo of himself with the campaign poster as his senior portrait); a couple were equally avid opponents.  The discussions were intense, interesting... and often ended with everyone helping everyone else with their homework.  By the time I was old enough to vote, it was Bush/Quayle v. Dukakis, and I tended to vote a split ticket at least for state politics.  My thought was that balance was better than a one-party dominance, both because neither side had a lock on truth and because too much dominance created problems, both ethical and political.

Today, I live near Athens, Georgia, so that's a huge difference right there: what's moderate in Massachusetts may be liberal in Georgia, even though my thoughts on balance are largely unchanged.   But I don't think that's the whole story...

The Democrats swung politically hard to center under Clinton's neo-liberalism (NAFTA was pitched to conservatives' "free trade" desires, remember?), and under George W. Bush the GOP drifted further right. tamp down his out-of-line supporters.; the Tea Party, energized I think largely by their economic fears that happened to play into racial and political tropes, pulled the GOP much further right than it had been, to the point that pundits worried the party might fall apart entirely.
 Some of that is probably the result of Clinton's capturing centrist votes: it left the GOP's center further right than it had been.  A lot was fervor in reaction to 9/11 and the "global war on terrorism"... but it wasn't stark until the McCain/Palin campaign against Obama/Biden.  It's a worrying side when a campaign has to try to

So, here's the progression as I see it:
Party movement, H.W. Bush to Trump.  GOP right, right, right; Democrat right, left, right.

  • Reagan/G.H.W. Bush: cold war warriors and tax cutters, yes, but also huge deficit spenders and amnesty granters.  
  • Clinton: free trade, DOMA, welfare reform, Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  And, yes, tax increases (see Reagan's deficit spending, though), FMLA, and the Brady Bill.
  • G.W. Bush: we remember him for being wrong about Iraq and for a poor economy, but he also won huge tax cuts and expanded Medicare.  I put him a bit right of his father, mostly in opposition to Clinton's grab of the center, but also for wearing his evangelism on his sleeve and for framing terrorism---and much of his rhetoric---as "war" rather than, say, policing.
  • Obama moved the Democrats a bit left, mostly about healthcare.  He did a bunch of things the right should have liked if they weren't deeply opposed to him specifically (namely, the tax cuts, killing Bin Laden... although he did fail to enforce his "red line" in Syria), and a load of non-partisan things like stopping the economic crash and overseeing the creation of more jobs than any preior President (admittedly, starting from a deep recession, so regression to mean was on his side).  I slide McCain right again, for Palin and what grew into the Tea Party.
  • Trump... well, it's early still.  His supporters will cheer that he's doing exactly what he said he would; his opponents are just glad he hasn't been terribly effective at it yet.  Somewhere in between are people uncomfortable now, but hoping he levels out.  But, on the left/right spectrum: he ran as a nationalist, wasn't afraid to at least imply a threat of force, and in office has shown a strong authoritarian streak (and either ignorance of, or disdain for, separation of powers or checks and balances).  Historically, there's a word for that, and it's well to the right on the political spectrum.

So, in my view, I haven't moved much.  My wife has pulled me left on some issues, but at core I still think we need a balance of both parties, because one party alone will lose its way, and because both sides have valid points to raise and defend.  But I don't vote a split ticket anymore.

In part, here in Georgia, the Republicans are too dominant already, too close to that "one party alone will lose its way" problem.  The more insidious problem, though, is that---despite still having some valid points that need to be raised and defended---the GOP has, outside of those points, fully embraced what, in 2013, Bobby Jindal (then Louisianna's Republican governor) called "the stupid party."

And I can't vote for that.

Recent Posts

Data On Left/Right Trending

Found a nice tweet showing, in more concrete data, what I said in my first post here: we're polarized, but it's not because the Dem...