Although a complete understanding of what's going on here requires an explanation of NOMINATE scores and the underlying methodology, this single chart serves as both American Politics in a Nutshell and American Politics at a Glance:


I used to work with the fellow most responsible for developing these measures of ideology, and he is as far to the right as anyone in academia. That is only relevant here inasmuch as it undercuts the glib response that this is just more Ivory Tower Liberal nonsense trying to make the poor GOP look bad. Both parties have moved away from the center since 1970, but…it's fairly clear in these data that one party has done a bit more moving than the other.

22 thoughts on “A THOUSAND WORDS”

  • I'd say the chart understates the new wackiness of the GOP, but it probably only looks that way because so much of it festered in the dark until the political winds changed.

  • middle seaman says:

    The Republicans are not more conservatives; they are more rightwing radicals. They stopped being conservatives with Reagan.

  • The only thing that is missing is a little dotted line starting from the dot under the "u" in "Southern Democrats" to the dot under the "a" in Republicans titled, "Whiiite, Southern." I would add, "old" but they didn't start that way.

    That would be the "Civil Rights migration"….

    In fact, taking Southern Dems (from 1919-1965-ish) and the post-1967 Repubs, the line would be a nice monotonically increasing "conservativism" in the South.

    Not a lot of wiggle room for explanation.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Back when I was a teenager back in the mid-70's, I considered myself, and was considered by others, to be a bit left of center, with some Socialist leanings.

    In the past 20 years, my attitude haven't changed much from those years, but our society and political atmosphere has.

    To the point where I'm now considered to be practically tongue-kissing Marx, while giving and getting reach-around's with Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Che.

    I'm now considered to be some sort of leftist radical.
    Kind of like Barack Hussein Obama, a fairly centrist Democrat – even right of center by the standards of the 70's – is now some sort of SocialiFasciCommunist.

    The Reich-Wing in this country has been very successful at moving The Overton Window far, far, right over the past 40 years.

  • There are a lot of former Republicans who are now Democrats. I don't think Charlie Crist has changed his fundamental views, but he and other like-minded former Republicans have added their ideology to the Democrat pool. On the other hand, their leaving the Republican party means that the ones who are left get to dictate that party's agenda.

    Political parties change as their members join, leave, die, and change their minds on various issues. Remember that Ronald Reagan started out as a Democrat, and famously said that he didn't leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left him.

  • Michael Bloom says:

    I can't see any metric that would equate the liberalism of Clinton and Obama era Democrats with those of the '60s and '70s. Compare Clinton's welfare reform and NAFTA to the Great Society. Compare Obama's stance on the NSA to the Church Committee's evaluation of the CIA. There are too many Democrats nowadays willing to buy into "entitlement reform" and the "grand bargain." Given all of that, it seems to me the Democrats' line should be pointing upward too– although, granted, still a huge gap away from the Greedy Oligarchy Party's.

  • They haven't just moved the Overton Window to the right, they're strapped rocket boosters to the damn thing and it's moving so fast now you can hardly see it.

  • AS US in the UK pointed out, the shift in Southern Dems isn;t so much a growth of left ideology as it is right wingers leaving the party.

    Northern Dems, by this measure, haven't shifted in my adult life time.

    Intuitively and anecdotally, this seems wrong. To Michael Bloom's point, current Dems are not on a par with the liberals of the 60's.

    I'm puzzled that he Dem line dos not bend up in the ninety and noughts. The exodus of Southern Racist Dems should have been long complete by the early 80's.

    Really – I'm baffled by this.


  • I'm always skeptical of any approach that collapses the political spectrum into one dimension. There's a lot more diversity in the system than people give it credit for, but if you convince people that there's really only one important rift in politics (progressive-conservative), then it's easier to build coalitions and mobilize people.

    On the other hand, dichotomies are easy to think with. I tried to feel out a more detailed landscape – but it isn't very pithy:


  • @cund

    You undercut your argument somewhat, when you characterize our Pres as a right-of-center D because there is plenty of Youtube video of BHO from the early '00s stating that "I have always been for single payer health care."

    If that is a standard right-of-center D position then the D party has shifted to left significantly. I don't remember in the 70s and 80s many r-o-c Dems advocating for universal health care.

    Although that is only one issue, it is a very big deal.


  • @DIck Nixon

    I am vaguely familiar with their proposals and need to sharpen my knowledge on them.

    Medicare is a form of National Health care for old people like me.

    Theoretically it is financed by we the people and our employers thru the medicare tax. It has the appearance, just like Social Security of YOU putting money away for your future needs. The Left has often argued past the coercion aspect and allowed how it is for our own good.

    If the monies had been managed well there is a possibility that both programs would not be headed for insolvency (running deficits that have to be made up or benefit cuts or both).

    Universal health care as envisioned by BHO is a wealth transfer project where everybody 'riding or walking" would receive government provided and controlled health care without regard for their ability to pay any tax.

    In fact, isn't that the Left's definition of a civilized society in that part of life? Any alternatives are generally shouted down, vigorously, as non-serious (or worse) attempts to solve the problem..

    That's an Alinsky tactic. (see rules #5 and #12) that the Left often uses.

    FWIW: The Right uses the same tactic in a slightly different form when Leftists oppose military spending – that y'all are soft on Commies or that you're un-Patriotic.


  • Bb, as with any insurance program you should be careful to avoid speaking of managing the money until you know what you are talking about.
    Viz. Medicare, managing the money includes the Part D passed by an R Congress with an R president but with no controls, a liar testifying as to the projected costs etc.
    Most important, any cost in Medicare is paying for health care, which costs have continuously escalated faster than inflation for decades. Go compare the per capita cost of health care in any OECD report. The US spends 40% more than the next most expensive country, Switzerland. We spend 3x what Japan spends
    It is most emphatically not what Medicare spends but what health care costs.

    Social Security, well, you really have no clue.

  • Even a cursory analysis of policy would show that the bulk of the mainstream Democratic platform, and attitudes have been drifting more towards the right since the early 70's. Take out a few isolated issues like attitudes towards gays, and the bulk of mainstream dem politics is much further right. Particularly, where economic and labor policies are concerned.
    The only reason that health care was such a non-existent issue for most in the 70's, was that there wasn't such a huge number of people uninsured, and those that were insured weren't having to pay such a large amount for their coverage.
    Luckily, over the last 5-10 years the Dems have been slowly shifting back towards their more liberal leanings when it comes to economics, labor policy, and social justice. After seeing the disastrous effects being wrought by years of conservative policies on the fiscal regulatory and economic fronts, there are more dem pols that are retreating back to positions that were mainstream 30 years ago.

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