the ever more mysterious Democratic Party

J. Noble jfnbl at
Thu Jan 26 20:03:17 PST 2006

>... the skill of the Republican Party's being able to reject a 
>conventional politics tilted toward the center in favor of a far 
>more radical politics....

What might pass for "radical" Republican politics as viewed from the 
left doesn't violate the conventional wisdom that you have to woo the 
center in a two-party system because, as they say in Texas, it's all 
hat and no cattle. They promise the repeal of the estate tax, and 
deliver Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, the largest 
entitlement program since Johnson's Great Society. They promise a 
Supreme Court that will reverse Roe, and deliver one that decides 
Lawrence. They promise to return political authority to the States, 
and deliver the No Child Left Behind Act. The government is not so 
much sharply divided between right and left as it is tightly lashed 
to the center. Republicans have controlled the House, Senate and 
White House for five years and the most "radical" thing they've done 
(excluding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, Iraq War resolution, and 
Patriot Act because they all passed with large bipartisan majorities 
and broad public support) was the 2001 Economic Growth and Tax Relief 
Reconciliation Act, which phased in tax reductions over 9 years 
before a sunset provision repeals them 2 years later. If that's 
radical, what does cautiously conservative look like?

To the extent that the "character of contemporary politics ... can be 
fairly described in terms of a bitterly split governing elite," I 
think it's almost all show. Sen. Specter aptly described the last day 
of the Judiciary Committee hearings on the Alito nomination, during 
which members took turns praising and damning the nominee in terms 
that suggested either the second coming or Rosemary's baby, as a 
"minuet." They were appeasing the special interests that lined the 
hearing room walls instead of appealing to the center because the 
outcome is a foregone conclusion -- a conclusion dictated by the 
center when it refused to buy the attempt to portray Alito as a 

John Noble

At 5:28 PM -0600 1/26/06, Sanford Levinson wrote:
>There's actually quite a bit of evidence for John Noble's view. 
>Morris Fiorina and Alan Wolfe have both written important books 
>arguing that ordinary Americans are indeed not all that far apart. 
>What then must be explained is the character of contemporary 
>politics as seen at the national level, which I think CAN fairly be 
>described in terms of a "bitterly split" governing elite.  The 
>recent Hacker-Pierson book on the welfare state offers a very 
>interesting analysis focusing on the skill of the Republican Party's 
>being able to reject a conventional politics tilted toward the 
>center in favor of a far more radical politics.  (They present 
>evidence, for example, that polling data fairly consistently 
>demonstrates signficiant public opposition to most programs 
>identified with the House Republicans, say, but it just doesn't 
>matter.  One explanation is partisan gerrymandering, which, of 
>course,  was scarcely invented by Republicans even if they have 
>taken it recently to new levels.)

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