Any discussion of polarization or gridlock in American politics must begin with the chart above. It shows how far right or left House Democrats and Republicans are on the ideological spectrum using Keith Poole’s respected DW-NOMINATE score system.
As you can see, Democrats are in their historical range, no more liberal than they’ve been in recent history. The biggest change is that there’s less distance between Southern Democrats and other Democrats.
By contrast, the Republican Party has gotten more conservative every year since 1975, and this trend has been accelerating lately. Every two years, Republican voters send to Washington a freshman class of House Republicans more conservative than the last.
This brings us to the No Labels “problem solvers” nonsense. By placing the blame for Washington’s gridlock on “partisanship” and incivility, and not the rightward lurch of the Republican Party and its activists, donors and voters, they are making it safe for Republicans to move even further right. Republicans know they will not be blamed for gridlock, even as they adopt positions ever further outside the mainstream.
No Labels’ failure to “label” the party most responsible for the gridlock is a great disservice to voters who are mad about gridlock and want to vote strategically to stop it.
Nothing highlights the poverty of the No Labels theory of change better than their plumping for Charlie Dent and Mike Fitzpatrick as non-partisan problem-solvers.
By historical standards, Dent and Fitzpatrick are both very conservative dudes. Dent voted with the party 84% of the time last session, and Fitzpatrick was at about 79%. Since the Republican Party of the 112th Congress was the most conservative Republican Party ever, you’ve got to be pretty conservative to vote with them that often.
And to be sure, Dent and Fitzpatrick were right there with the House neanderthals on all the worst votes. Both voted for the economy-destroying Balanced Budget Amendment, both voted to end guaranteed benefits in Medicare, both were against Clinton-era tax rates for the richest Americans in the face of Gilded Age-level inequality, both voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood, and the list goes on and on. On every major issue of the 112th Congress, both these dudes were indistinguishable from the rightwing firebreathers of the 112th freshman class.
It’s not just that these two Congressmen are too conservative, but that they take partisan conservative positions. Both were right there with the House tea people helping John Boehner take the debt ceiling hostage back in 2011 – a stunt that cost the taxpayers $18.9 billion and at least a million jobs. Is that a nonpartisan good idea? Is it something a “problem-solver” would do again after the disastrous results last time?
Holding these guys up as examples of responsible Congressmen is ridiculous, and No Labels is only making gridlock worse by letting them off the hook. To fix Congress, we need Clear Labels to accurately assign blame for who is causing the dysfunction.
Charlie Dent really put it best when he said:
“When your house is on fire, you have to stop arguing about the escape routes,” he said. “At some point you have to choose one and move forward.”
Exactly. At some point you have to decide which party deserves more blame, and then pull a straight ticket for the other party.