end of a brief experiment?

I’ve been reading a lot about the framing of the US as a “center right nation.” Basically the idea here is that even though the conservative movement was knocked down in the last election their response is to sound like Ralph Nadar. “Yes, the dems one. But fundamentally we are a center-right nation. Even the dems follow this path. And we conservatives are fundamentally closer to core American values.” LIberal bloggers have be challenging this framing. I particularly like openleft (in part because it was founded by a high school friend). But as Paul Rosenberg points out there, the last time Democrats won 50%+ of the House popular vote: November 4. The last time the Republicans did? 1946. The graph of the House popular vote is rather telling.

house-1942-date

Yes, the policies of each of these parties are shifting/emergent. But I must confess that I read this chart with a degree of naive hope: that our brief experiment with conservatism is over. I can even imagine the tombstone:

Conservatism
1992-2004

2 thoughts on “end of a brief experiment?”

  1. Hmmm, seeing as the Democrats in many cases *are* a center-right party (not saying this normatively, just based on comparisons to left parties globally) that chart and your argument don’t seem to rebut the argument that America is a center-right nation for the most part.

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  2. I’ve always been puzzled by the whole “Center right” think because it’s an image based on presidential politics. But if you take a moment to look at any other political measure, the Dems have had the upper hand since WWII, and before:

    – Dems normally have higher party affiliation than GOP, more people register Dem
    – Dems get more House votes, as noted above
    – Dems have controlled the House most of the time since the 50s
    – Except for the 1990s, dems controlled the governorships and state legislatures much of the time
    – the Senate flip flops, but the GOP rarely has control for more than 2-3 electoral cycles

    Legislatively, the GOP has had some victories, but the Dem’s still rule the roost:

    – no major gov’t agency has been abolished, though some have been starved for cash (a big issue for Gingrich and the GOP of the 90s)
    – Social Security, Medicare and other programs were never privatized
    – there has been no mass expulsion, or even limitation, of immigrants
    – abortion is still legal in all 50 states, despite 30 years of conservative activism
    – public schooling is more or less unchanged given 20 years of attempts at charters, vouchers, and other plans

    Basically, I would put the GOP’s major victories this way:

    – a few waves of deregulation in banking, airlines, trucking and telecom
    – increased defense spending of the 80s and 90s (under Clinton)
    – increased defense spending post 9/11 under the guise of homeland security
    – the reduction of top bracket marginal tax rates, starting with Kennedy and ending w/Reagan, with modifcations by Clinton & Bush II
    – shooting down a few social proposals, such as the ERA in the 1970s
    – stacking the courts with conservative jurists in the 80s and 90s
    – No Child Left Behind, probably the only major GOP social intervention that was passed.

    Now that I’ve typed it out, I’d probably say that this country has a mildly left tilt and we’ve had mildly left policies with a few hugely important exceptions:

    a) defense spending,
    b) deregulation of some pretty important industries,
    c) reduction of some absrudly high tax rates (90% in some cases pre Kennedy),
    d) a cohort of conservative jurists who *sometimes* go right, but not always

    In the end the image a right country comes from looking at exceptions, not general trends. Liberal dems have been ruling this country, except at the top executive branches, and within some industries. Otherwise, Dems have the advantage in many measurable ways.

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