Paul Krugman had a post yesterday, The New Republicans. It went in part:
There has been a lot of talk since the election about the possible emergence of a new faction within the Republican party, or at least among the conservative intelligentsia. These new Republicans, we’re told, are willing to be more open-minded on cultural issues, more understanding of immigrants, and more skeptical that trickle-down economics is enough; they’ll favor direct measures to help working families.
So what should we call these new Republicans? I have a suggestion: why not call them “Democrats”?
I’ve been asking that question for quite awhile. Well, not quite that question. My question is: What rational basis is there for classifying the Democratic party as a liberal or center-left party? Feel free to speak up if you’ve found one.
I’m a member of the local Democratic Town Committee. About a month before the election one of my fellow Committee members commented:
… primary winners [are] selected by left/right extreme elements of the general population at the expense of more centrist candidates… Somewhat incredibly there hasn’t been a meaningful third party down the center – just at the extremes like the Tea Partiers.
My response (edited slightly from the original):
There is a viable centrist party. It’s the Democratic party, a.k.a., us. Actually, on the national level I’d say the Democratic party is more a center-right party. When people go to the polls they have the choice between a center-right party and a far right party. There is no viable center-left or left option.
Yes, it’s popular to decry “extremists on the left and right” poisoning the parties. But it’s bullshit. Complete utter total absolute bullshit. There is no left wing equivalent of the Tea Party influencing the Democrats. MoveOn.org? Please. From a policy standpoint they’re standard-issue liberals. Occupy? The Democratic establishment hasn’t exactly snapped to attention and sought their approval. To the best of my knowledge, Occupy hasn’t run any candidates against liberal incumbents. At this point they can pretty much be filed under “Who cares?” And what are there in terms of actual center-left to left-wing political parties in this country? The Working Families Party? (Show of hands please, who’s even heard of them?) The Green Party? Sorry, the Green-Rainbow Party. Or is it the Green-Rainbow-Unicorn Party? I lose track. (Unkind, unkind, I know but, as a former member, I feel entitled to vent some frustration.) Anyone want to bet on whether Jill Stein (who I’ve met and is a great person and in a better world would be a great Governor, President, you name it) polls greater than 1%? I’m gonna take the under.* There is no organized left in this country and the disorganized left has near-zero effect on the Democratic party. There are a few liberals here and there but, basically, voters typically get to choose between a centrist and a rightwinger.
Back to the false equivalence of leftwing and rightwing extremists poisoning the primaries… The Republicans have always had their wackjobs, e.g., the John Birch Society. Thing is, once upon a time, they treated them as they deserved to be treated – like a criminally-insane uncle that you keep locked in the attic. Sure, you feed him and give him water but for chrissakes you don’t bring him down for dinner parties. What the hell happened? Now the criminally-insane uncles are throwing the dinner parties – if you can call biting the heads off live chickens and bats a dinner party – and have locked what’s left of the respectable folk in the attic. They’ve drummed out Bob Bennett (directly), Olympia Snowe (by implied threat), and Richard Lugar (directly)! That’s just absolutely flipping nuts! (Any bets on whether Susan Collins gets primaried?) There is no equivalent on the Democratic side. SDS and the Weathermen never had the influence even the Birchers did. Never. When was the last time sitting Democrat got run out by a leftwinger? I believe the correct answer is “Never.” Joe Lieberman? Nope. In a sane world Lieberman would be a Republican. Lamont ran as anti-war candidate – novel, but hardly radical. His primary victory was not triumph of leftwing extremism. Again, blaming dissatisfaction with the Democrats on leftwing extremists spoiling the primary is simply bogus. Utterly completely without merit.
So who’s a leftwinger? Take the following quiz:
1) Do you support single-payer health care?
2) Do you support increasing the highest Federal income tax rate to 70%?
3) Do you support taxing capital gains and other unearned income at the same rate as earned income?
4) Do you believe that banks should be nationalized?
5) Do you believe that the DoD budget should be cut by 50% and re-allocated to other endeavors?
6) Do you support immediate withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan?
7) Do you believe that most, if not all, of the Bush administration should be tried for war crimes?
8) Do you believe that the current administration’s drone-based bombing campaign in Pakistan constitutes a war crime?
9) Do you oppose the Bowles-Simpson committee’s recommendations?
10) Do you believe the $106k (or whatever is now) income cap on paying Social Security tax should be eliminated?
If you answered “Yes.” to all of the above, congratulations, you could be a lefty. (At the very least, you can call yourself an Old School Liberal.) If you answered “No.” to more than half then, relax, you’re definitely not. Now what fraction of office-holding Democrats would answer “Yes.” to more than a couple of those questions? A little support for #3 and #6 probably. Maybe a little for #10 too. Perhaps a couple dozen in Congress who support #1? But the others? No way. Yes, the Democratic party contains liberals but they don’t harbor refugees from the Spartacus Youth League. Sadly, one cannot make an analogous assertion of the Republicans. (Lowell Weicker, Ed Brooke, Frank Sargent, Jacob Javits… all fine public servants who’ve been gone a long, long time.)
Unfortunately, I think my rant holds up pretty well and will continue to for the foreseeable future.
*And I was right. She got about 450k votes, less than 0.5% of the popular vote.