The Myth That Republicans Are Growing More Extreme
By Matthew Vadum
There is an insidious meme afoot that in the Obama era Democrats have been heroically restraining themselves by clinging to moderate policies while ideologically extreme Republicans have gone hog-wild in the pursuit of conservative purity.
Today’s Democratic Party makes common cause with the criminals who burn down poor people’s neighborhoods in American cities. And yet the Right is somehow alleged to be more susceptible to “extremism.”
Sharpening her class-warfare guillotine, Hillary Clinton calls for the “toppling” of the one percent. She copycats her potential rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), claiming that “the deck is stacked” in favor of the wealthy and powerful.
“My job is to reshuffle the cards,” Clinton says.
Yet Republicans, who haven’t singled out identifiable social groups for destruction, somehow get tagged as the radicals.
This alleged so-called asymmetric polarization by the GOP is just the latest iteration of the hoary media myth that Republicans are dangerous extremists and Democrats are reasonable moderates. It is popping up now because the two parties’ primary contests are heating up. The benighted masses need to be reminded by their betters what to think and how to vote.
In a May 31 Financial Times column titled “American socialism’s day in the sun,” garden-variety left-winger Edward Luce hails the recent entry of self-described socialist Bernie Sanders into the Democratic presidential race because, he claims, it is “dragging” frontrunner Hillary Clinton “leftward.”
“At 15 per cent in the Democratic polls, Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, is riding higher than any US socialist since Eugene Debs ran for the White House a century ago,” writes Luce, who is the son of a British peer and was speechwriter to Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers from 1999 to 2001.
“The fact that Mr. Sanders has very little chance of unseating Hillary Clinton is beside the point. His popularity is dragging her leftward. If he flames out, other left-wingers, such as Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland who entered the race at the weekend, are ready to pick up the baton. Elizabeth Warren, the populist Massachusetts senator, will continue to prod Mrs. Clinton from outside the field. The more Mrs. Clinton adopts their language, the harder it will be for her to reclaim the centre ground next year. Yet she is only following the crowd. A surprisingly large chunk of Democrats are happy to break the US taboo against socialism.”
Luce adds that he is “not forecasting a red dawn in the US” and that there is little chance of “even a small portion of Mr. Sanders’s agenda being enacted.”
“But the rise of the Democratic left,” Luce writes,
“is every bit as real as the Tea Party’s surge among Republicans. Until recently, political scientists talked of ‘asymmetric polarisation’ — meaning Republicans were moving more to the right than Democrats were moving left. Now Democrats are catching up.”
Luce is living proof, as this 7-year veteran of a Wall Street-based newspaper can attest, that just because journalists report on markets doesn’t mean they like markets. They can be every bit as left-wing as other reporters and in some cases more left-wing.
Contrary to what Luce writes, the “Democratic left” isn’t rising now; going back to George McGovern’s candidacy in 1972, that faction never lost control of the Democratic Party.
“McGovern helped lead the transformation of the Democratic Party into a coalition of leftists distinct from the previous generation of liberals in the Kennedy mold,” Arnold Ahlert has written. “As a result, the country has never been the same.”
Under McGovern’s leadership, the party’s rules were rewritten to incorporate a kind of affirmative action that helped to shift the party “decidedly leftward,” as McGovern’s obituary in the New York Times read.
As Alhert explained:
“Democrats established a de facto quota system informed by identity politics, where people were encouraged to first think of themselves as members of sub-groups identified by race, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Nothing has changed to this day, as California’s 2012 Delegate Selection Plan, for example, reveals. Goals for representation at the Charlotte convention included dividing Californians into six subgroups with the “proper” percentages relative to the general population–as in 16 percent African-American, 29 percent Latino, 1 percent Native American, 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islanders, 12 percent LGBT, 10 percent Disabled Persons, and 18 percent Youth-Under 30.”
The Democrats’ convention in Miami in 1972 degenerated into a circus as the party adopted a platform that was “anathema to middle America,” he wrote.
“Aside from the staunch anti-war position, they advocated amnesty for war resisters, the abolition of the draft, deep cuts to the military, a $1,000 grant to every American, a guaranteed family income well above the poverty line, prisoners’ rights, federal funding for local food cooperatives, the adoption of an Ethnic Studies curriculum bill, and a host of other leftist initiatives.”
In the election, President Nixon slaughtered McGovern but the extreme left’s position in the Democratic Party was unaffected. If anything, the party has moved gradually even farther to the left in the ensuing years as Democrats stopped learning from electoral defeats.
The Democrats’ humiliation in the congressional elections this past November only gave the radical left an even stronger death-grip on that party. No heads rolled. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) remains the House Minority Leader and Sen. Harry Reid, who is no longer in control of the Senate, still got to hang onto the post of Senate Minority Leader.
Luce’s observation about all this asymmetric polarizing going on in the Republican Party is, of course, ahistorical nonsense based on wishful thinking.
Luce and his colleagues in the Fourth Estate use themselves as the standard against which politicians are to be judged. Journalists think of themselves as moderates, even though the vast majority of them are somewhere between center-left and far-left on the political spectrum.
If Republicans have been moving dramatically to the right, if they have been becoming more principled conservatives, as Luce argues, they have a funny way of demonstrating it.
In the years since President Ronald Reagan, who was often controversial and polarizing, left office, the GOP has been backsliding, moving away from limited-government conservatism.
In his time, Reagan completed Barry Goldwater’s unfinished conservative-libertarian revolution, transforming the Republican Party into a bastion of supply-side economics. Reagan entered office declaring that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” and with some significant tax rate cuts the economic malaise of the Nixon-Ford-Carter years soon disappeared.
Reagan was so strong on national defense that his policies laid the groundwork for the collapse of the USSR during his successor’s term. President George H.W. Bush, who was no conservative –years before he had mocked Reaganomics as “voodoo economics”– got undeserved credit for bringing down the Iron Curtain.
Bush’s approval rating soared into the stratosphere after military victories but his campaign pledge, “read my lips: no new taxes,” which helped him beat the hapless Mike Dukakis in 1988, would be his undoing. Bush, who wasn’t terribly polarizing for most of his four years in the White House, signed the tax increases the Democrat-controlled Congress sent him and sealed his doom.
Almost from the moment Reagan left the White House, the GOP establishment began undoing his work, moving the party leftward. The Republican Party was never naturally conservative; it has been pushed to the right from time to time. When the crisis subsides, it oozes back to the mushy middle. Until the 1970s, it could be argued that the Republican establishment and the Democratic establishment weren’t all that different in many ways.
Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Republican revolution,” in part a reaction to President’s Clinton socialized medicine overreach, only lasted a few years. When Bush’s son, George W., moved into the White House in 2001, Republican lawmakers went on a spending binge, doing lasting damage to the lean, mean GOP brand that Reagan had worked so hard to establish. Democrats yelped but only because they weren’t leading the charge to fatten the Leviathan.
The Republicans’ 1996 nominee, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas), wasn’t polarizing at all, which may help to explain why he never became president. A creature of Washington who said some conservative things, Dole’s legislative accomplishments such as the Americans with Disabilities Act expanded the size and scope of the federal government. Dole was no match for the political skills of Bill Clinton who walked all over him. At the beginning of 1996 when Clinton, brought to his knees by the Republican Congress, declared “the era of big government is over,” he may have actually believed it even though he didn’t want it to be true.
As president, Clinton was frequently polarizing. His “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about gays serving in the military satisfied no one. The HillaryCare fiasco got Americans angry. The fact that he had sex with an intern in the Oval Office and then lied about it and tried to use his powers as chief executive to obstruct justice, made him a lightning rod and ultimately got him impeached by the House of Representatives.
As president, George W. Bush was hated by the Left so much that the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was coined. Bush may have been polarizing because he was pro-war and pro-tax cuts, but he wasn’t conservative. He supported big government on steroids and his tumultuous two terms in office opened the door for a neo-Marxist community organizer named Barack Obama, who would have failed an FBI security check, to sneak into the executive mansion.
Almost everyone in Congress supported the authorization for the use of force that Bush sought against Islamic terrorists. Most lawmakers, including then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), agreed with intelligence reports that indicated Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and agreed to a declaration of war.
Meanwhile, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, transformed the nation’s government as new entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration were created. Bush went on a nationwide tour to rally support for Social Security reform but hardly any lawmakers at all came to his aid. In an effort to score points with senior citizens, Bush and his congressional allies twisted arms and got a new prescription drug entitlement program called Medicare Part D enacted. The huge new program was polarizing in the sense that Democrats griped but only because they wanted the benefits to be more generous. Seniors eventually embraced the program but didn’t give the GOP any rewards for creating it.
In the Obama era, Republican lawmakers don’t even try to fight Obama for the most part. Sure, they opposed Obamacare which was enacted without a single Republican lawmaker’s vote but the GOP hasn’t made any serious effort to repeal the widely hated government takeover of the healthcare system that is causing health insurance premiums to skyrocket. They may have passed hopeless bills that purport to repeal the program but when given a chance to hurt Obamacare by defunding it they have consistently balked.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) support Obama’s unlawful executive immigration amnesty and just about every aspect of Obama’s radical left-wing agenda. Obama’s kooky attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, who bragged she had no interest in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, was eventually confirmed by the Senate with Republican votes.
GOP leadership on Capitol Hill may give moving speeches opposing Obama’s measures, but when legislation comes up for a vote their opposition fades away. It’s excuse after excuse after excuse. Delicate Republican leaders play by Marquess of Queensberry rules and constantly gin up reasons for not confronting President Obama. They are collaborating with Obama in the destruction of what’s left of America.
Boehner and McConnell are embracing an extreme, polarizing array of policies, but they happen to be President Obama’s policies. They have all but abandoned the conservatives and Tea Party supporters who gave them back control of Congress. McConnell, in particular, did his best in the most recent election cycle to exterminate those pesky right-wing activists who want the Republican Party to actually stand for something. He’s made it clear that conservatives are the enemy.
By caving in, often preemptively, to Obama, the Republican Party has moved dramatically to the left since the November elections, notwithstanding their rhetoric that glorifies free markets, low taxes, and individual rights.
Conservatives aren’t at home in the Democratic Party, either, and they have not been in recent decades. Today’s Democrats are the party of loudmouth screwballs like Alan Grayson and Al Sharpton.
Only a handful of Democrats like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey dare to stand up to the worst foreign policy president in this writer’s lifetime. Some Democratic lawmakers support Israel halfheartedly, but only because they have large Jewish constituencies at home.
It is significant that the neo-Marxist Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is the largest caucus within the House Democratic Conference. It was founded in 1991 by then-Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and the KGB conference center known as the Institute for Policy Studies. CPC has just under 70 House members and one Senate member (Sanders). Democrats control only 188 seats in the 435-seat House of Representatives.
And these are only the Democrats who have the courage of their convictions. When he was a U.S. senator, Barack Obama, the most left-wing member of the Senate when he served, never joined the CPC.
There used to be no shortage of Democrats or liberals who loved their country. Nowadays America-hating left-wingers dominate the Democratic Party establishment.
For example, Secretary of State John Kerry invented atrocity stories about his own side in the Vietnam War. Van Jones, Obama’s former green jobs czar, is a self-described “communist” and “rowdy black nationalist.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder is an ardent racist who refused to investigate civil rights crimes committed against white Americans. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had close ties to Communist Party USA (CPUSA) operative Hugh De Lacy, a one-time Democratic congressman representing Washington state. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez headed Casa de Maryland, an advocacy group for illegal aliens funded by George Soros and the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, is a longtime ACORN collaborator and has called Al Sharpton’s group, National Action Network, a “remarkable partner to all of us in the Obama administration.” Longtime ACORN-SEIU operative Patrick Gaspard, who is now U.S. ambassador to South Africa, was Obama White House political affairs director and executive director of the Democratic National Committee.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who ordered police to stand down during the recent riots and who admitted she gave rioters space “to destroy,” is secretary of the DNC. Heather Booth, founded of the Alinskyite training organization, the Midwest Academy, was DNC training director during the Clinton administration. Convicted swindler and tax cheat Bob Creamer, a Democratic strategist well-respected in progressive circles, is married to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) who is a CPC member.
Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner, whom Obama made his energy and environment czarina, is a member of the Socialist International. Strategist David Axelrod, whose counsel made Obama president, is a red-diaper baby whose parents worked with Obama mentor and CPUSA operative Frank Marshall Davis.
This is not an exhaustive list.
There used to be anti-Communist Democrats who wanted to beat the Soviet Union during the Cold War, according to Professor Paul Kengor. In the early years of the Cold War “the Democrat consensus [was] that communism was evil.”
“The scorching anti-communist rhetoric of Democrats like JFK and Harry Truman, and even a liberal like Adlai Stevenson, was the norm, and differed vastly from Democrats today or even during the Reagan era,” he writes.
Among the anti-Communist Democrats were: President John F. Kennedy (1961-3); President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-9); Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York (1965-8); Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington state (1953-83); Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia (1972-97); and Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas (1973-97).
This is also not an exhaustive list.
“Then there were Cold Warriors like Scoop Jackson, Sam Nunn, Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Eastland, Francis Walter, Edwin Willis, Richard Russell, union leaders like Lane Kirkland, savvy intellectuals like Lionel Trilling. None of these Democrats were dupes. Some led America in intense Cold War showdowns. And here’s a shocker for modern progressives and conservatives alike: The first pursuers of American communists were Democrats Woodrow Wilson and his attorney general, Alexander Mitchell Palmer. For all his faults, Wilson understood the dangers of Bolshevism.Wilson was followed by a long line of anti-communist Democrats who headed the Congressional committees that liberals have demonized, from the first to final chair of the House Committee on Un-American Activities: Rep. Martin Dies (D-TX), Rep. Francis Walter (D-PA), Rep. Richard Ichord (D-MO). In the Senate, James Eastland (D-Miss.) and Thomas Dodd were pillars on the Judiciary Committee and chair and vice chair of the Subcommittee on Internal Security, the latter of which did the best Senate work in pursuit of domestic communists loyal to the USSR. In sum, this is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party. The 2011 Democrat from the Northeast is not the 1961 Democrat from the Northeast. The party of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama is not the party of JFK, Truman, and Scoop Jackson.”
Today’s Democratic U.S. senators are so far left, so ridiculously politically correct, so out of touch with reality that with all of America’s problems they actually burned up valuable Senate floor time railing against the name used by the Washington Redskins football team. And when Democrats controlled the upper chamber last year, 50 of those senators signed a letter demanding the name of the team be changed because they claimed it was “a racial slur.” Democrats are still trying to kill the name by denying it trademark protection.
Virtually no Americans of Native Indian ancestry are offended by the word redskin (or Indian for that matter). Only official Indians looked to by the media, such as those involved in left-wing nonprofits, have temper tantrums over the word. Indian words are thoroughly embedded in American culture. According to one source, as many as 26 states are named after Indian tribes or based on Indian words. For example, the name Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian phrase “red people” — okla means people and homma means red.
When a team is named after an identifiable group of people it is done to honor those persons, not ridicule them. Why would anyone want to cheer a team that honors losers or demeans people? This is why the professional sports world is not awash in teams with potentially demeaning names like, for example, Louisville Hillbillies, Chicago Copperheads, Atlanta Scalawags, and the Burlington (Vt.) Draft Dodgers.
This radicalism, as dogmatic and pointless as it may seem, is nothing new from the Democrats on Capitol Hill. They live in their own world. They don’t care what real people want. They insist on dictating to people.
This is the way they have been for the past 40 years.
This kind of thing didn’t just happen, no matter how much Edward Luce and other journalists want to convince you it did.