On political moderates, tea-party victories, and more!

If you thought we’ve been moving farther apart, you were right.

Gallup, which has been asking Americans if we are conservative, moderate or liberal since at least 1992, finds that the self-labeled moderate group has shrunk by 8 percentage points over the last 18 years — a trend it calls “unmistakable.” The shift is split evenly between conservatives and liberals:

Gallup Political Ideology of U.S. Adults -- Annual Averages

It would appear that some moderates became gradually more liberal during the Bush years, and an even larger portion of them have joined the ranks of the conservatives during the Obama era.

Of course, whether you call yourself “moderate” depends in some part on where you think the middle lies. That’s why I think the proportion of self-described moderates in each party (click here for graphs) is less important than the trends of self-described conservatives and liberals:

Republicans consider themselves sharply more conservative, and Democrats think they’re sharply more liberal. The fairly steep decline in conservative Democrats, I suspect, represents the demise of the party among rural white Southerners.

Likewise, what you think about these trends probably depends on how important you think moderation itself is. Do you think it’s good to have compromises in which the left and the right each get a little of what they wanted? Or do you view such deals as occasions when neither side could make a compelling argument, with the result usually being bad policy?

Given the most recent trends, I’d say the trick for the GOP will be convincing its base that it’s being conservative while not alienating the independents who have headed their way (click here and scroll toward the bottom of the page to see that graph). And the Democrats? After two years of governing too liberally, it’ll be convincing ex-moderates and newly conservative independents that Democrats can still credibly identify the middle.

Other items of interest from the weekend/while I was out last week:

1. Two victories for the tea party last week: the death of the $1.2 trillion “omnibus” spending bill (in favor of a short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded until the next Congress gets settled in) and, according to Mickey Kaus, the death of the DREAM Act. Apparently, the tea partyers are still being vocal after all.

2. WikiIrony: A leak that Julian Assange doesn’t like. What happened to transparency above all?

3. The king of Saudi Arabia may be working behind the scenes to move the “Ground Zero mosque” elsewhere in Manhattan. Say, why does King Abdullah hate Muslims?

4. And finally, on the wrong-headedness of lame-duck sessions of Congress: I told you so.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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96 comments Add your comment

Jimmy62

December 20th, 2010
11:44 am

Don’t forget Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Tea Party should get at least partial credit for that. It took a Democrat defeat in an open election, combined with the Tea Party making it clear that they are fiscally conservative, not socially, to get the GOP leadership to make the repeal happen. Had the GOP won the election without the influence of the Tea Party, I doubt they would have supported repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Remember, the right wing ended it. The left wing started DADT and would never have ended it. It took the GOP to end that bigoted policy, just like so many other racist policies begun by the left and ended by the GOP.

StJ

December 20th, 2010
11:48 am

Haha!! Serious WikiIrony! It’s not fun when it’s done against you, now is it Julian??

“Moderation” only works when the most valid, logical arguments from each side are taken into account (it’s been a long time since that happened). Otherwise, bad policies are indeed the result.

HDB

December 20th, 2010
11:51 am

Jimmy62
December 20th, 2010
11:44 am

Lest you forget, prior to DADT, being gay disqualified one from SERVING in the Armed Forces; DADT allowed that barrier to be breached with limited consequences. Now. it shouldn’t matter!! The GOP had been adamantly against gays serving….so not all equality issues have been championed by the right! If you note the GOP opposition to the MLK Holiday (Reagan, McCain, and Helms, for starters)….there have been racist policies championed by the right!! Both sides have issues…..

Left wing management

December 20th, 2010
12:00 pm

Limiting the value of such trend spotting is the fact that all of the terms are essentially being scrambled as we speak, and that’s because we have arrived at a moment of ideological truth on an ongoing battle. The so-called ‘center’ – for all intents and purposes an optical illusion at best – is much like the surface of the water when there is seismic activity going on under the surface. There is a sense that the center can’t hold (to quote a phrase from the last century, at a similar flex point in history, which didn’t end well), but nobody can quite explain why. Both sides grow more hysterical in attacking the other side as ‘extreme’ and ‘radical’, which gives the whole political discourse the whiff of a mental unhinging. In reality of course, what has happened is that all positions have been destabilized and start to careen towards radicalism because the entire spectrum has undergone a violent seismic shift. The apparent extremism of the various sides of the political debate has only grown in the past two yeas largely because the stakes of the debate have multiplied ten-fold as a result of the near implosion of world financial markets. And, if it had been allowed to happen, there is every reason to think that broad swaths of the public in Western countries would have declared capitalism as failure, just as was the case in the 1920s and 30s. The powers that be understood, wisely for them, that this must be avoided at all costs. So now we find ourselves in a situation where our political debate is polarized between those (Republicans) who are fiercely – and at times hysterically – committed to concealing the real nature of the crisis, which are basically the same as they were in Karl Marx’s time – the fundamental contradictions of capitalism itself, now in a hyper-financialized form – and those who don’t know what to do because they had drunk the Kool Aid themselves (so-called Third Way social democrats, the only type of left that’s really left). Hence the basic hysterical tone of our current debates.

The cluelessness of a movement like No Label in this regard almost goes without saying and is truly breathtaking when you think about it.

Road Scholar

December 20th, 2010
12:35 pm

When will the repubs/conserves get around to immigration reform/enforcement? They have been in power all years except 10 since Reagan was voted in as president, and in power in the congress for 6 of the 10. Since they don’t like the Dream Act, what is in store except the whining and threats against civil liberties? I wish they would get off the pot or sh–! Let “true Americans” pluck chickens, pick crops, dig ditches and cut grass. Oh and the “true Americans ” will have to take a pay cut since they do the same chore slower than the alledged “illegals”.

Oh and the spending bill, why did the repubs vote against their earmarks? Doesn’t it just make them look stupid….or even more stupid? Get caught with your hand in the cookie (earmark) jar? If you are against earmarks, don’t select any! Maybe each state should have their senators select one…after discussing it with the Congressional members. Georgia’s should be the dredging of the Savannah Harbor, which serves the state…not their inflated egos!

A Hearty Cheese Sauce

December 20th, 2010
12:40 pm

One thing these charts and graphs fail to reflect is the portion or proportion of dimwits, dimbulbs, bums, baby-mamas, the lazy, the irresponsible etc that are included within the democrap party. I would venture to guess that number would be well above 50%…and growing.

jconservative

December 20th, 2010
12:47 pm

I have never understood the fear of lame duck sessions. I have always felt congressmen should do their jobs until they are out of office. Today, Dec 20, they should all be at work.

The new guys can go to work the day they are sworn into office.

This country, for some reason, has a love affair with “kick the can”.
It has surpassed baseball as the national pastime.

Libby

December 20th, 2010
12:53 pm

Every person I hear that identifies themselves as a ‘moderate’ is just a pinko commie liberal who has to keep changing their label once Americans figure out they are marxists.

CJ

December 20th, 2010
12:55 pm

With regard to the polling of labels, these findings are useless except to show that the media is frivolous.When polling folks on the issues, rather than labels, polls find that, despite mainstream media assertions to the contrary, we are not a center-right country.

For example, recent polls have indicated that most Americans supported a public option, want to keep or expand on the Affordable Care Act, support repealing DADT, supported allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, support funding health care expenses for the 9/11 first responders, prioritize creating jobs over deficit reduction, support stronger regulations for wall street, oppose privatizing Social Security, support legislation and/or a constitutional amendment to offset the damage caused by the recent activist Supreme Court decision expanding the ability of corporations to participate in our political system, and on and on.

Since Kyle mentioned the lame duck session again, it’s worth mentioning that Clinton was impeached during a lame duck session that took place just after House Republicans lost seats, in part, because of their obsession with bringing Clinton down. I don’t remember anybody among the right-wing media complaining about lame duck sessions then. Another example of the double standards that these guys seem to apply with impunity.

Left wing management

December 20th, 2010
1:05 pm

Libby: “Every person I hear that identifies themselves as a ‘moderate’ is just a pinko commie liberal who has to keep changing their label once Americans figure out they are marxists.”

Wrong.

You might get a little further if you became aware of how captured you are by the right wing rhetoric, which puts the words in your mouth, bypassing your brain.

Here’s the deal: from a radical committed ideological standpoint (meaning from the right wing, currently, because they have hijacked the terms of discourse) people who identify as ‘moderate’ are ipso facto tools of the opposition at best, or closet sympathizers at worst, simply because they don’t subscribe to your side’s tenets. But that proves nothing because the terms of debate have been rigged in advance.

Ray

December 20th, 2010
1:07 pm

Guess the rightwing claims of the stimulus having done nothing are about to be tested.

Guess we finally get to see what a decade of GOP lead small gov’t and deregulation is all about. After all, GA has been a golden example of this style of government for the last decade – a perfect test case.

Time for the meth-head rightwing trash of GA to bite their pillows :)

CJ

December 20th, 2010
1:09 pm

By the way, I haven’t seen polling on this, but I strongly suspect that most Americans support ratifying the START Treaty that most Republicans are doing their best to kill. It would be great if these Americans would pick up the phone and call their Senators today (I think the vote is scheduled for tomorrow?) to let them how how they feel. Isakson, it appears, might be among the exceptions who will vote for ratification (I haven’t heard anything definite), while Chambliss looks like he’s going to vote with against it with most of the other TeaGOPers.

The media seems to be putting this issues mostly in the background, but definitely worth paying attention to.

Jefferson

December 20th, 2010
1:12 pm

Republicans are just flat out liars, they have NO credibility. Their tribe looks mighty foolish, but haven’t learned anything a kid could learn.

DannyX

December 20th, 2010
1:13 pm

Interesting.

Right underneath the poll Kyle cited is a Gallup poll concerning creationism/evolution.

40% of the American public believe God Created humans 10,000 years ago. The exact same number that claim to be conservative, 40%.

38% of the American public believe a compromise of God plus evolution created humans. About the same amount of Americans claim to be moderate, 35%.

16% believe evolution is the sole cause of life. 21% claim to be liberal.

Bottom line, if you believe Fred played with Dino 10,000 years ago you probably are a conservative Republican.

Left wing management

December 20th, 2010
1:22 pm

CJ: “With regard to the polling of labels, these findings are useless except to show that the media is frivolous.When polling folks on the issues, rather than labels, polls find that, despite mainstream media assertions to the contrary, we are not a center-right country.”

Spot on.

This disaster of a media is becoming so egregious that I’m contemplating the idea that maybe the media will have to be systematically shaken to its foundations before there will be any hope of a genuine political discourse in this country. As I said above. the perfect expression of the colossal idiocy of the current mainstream (i.e. right wing sympathizing) media establishment is the spectacle of the No Label movement, a perfect excrescence of an excuse for a movement, perpetrated by people who have had their heads plunged underwater in Washington for far too long.

No, we’re not a “center right” country, for the simple reason we’re not a left country or a center country. Because these terms are being fought out on a terrain where the battles have just gotten started really, and to say the outcome is yet to be determined is an understatement that would be hard to top.

Churchill's MOM

December 20th, 2010
1:24 pm

Too bad we don’t have a CONSERVATIVE party, just 2 “green” parties owned by the LOBBYIST.

ATLBadger

December 20th, 2010
1:34 pm

Wow, Kyle doesn’t even touch DADT. Perhaps because he knows most of the Republicans got it wrong and he doesn’t want to admit it?

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 20th, 2010
1:52 pm

The only time this country was united, for any length of time, was WWII. There is always opposition and most of the time, that opposition will be in the 40-45% range. The winners write the history books, so that 40-45% view, is usually forgotten, unless you want to do some digging to find out what they thought, at a given time. This is really pretty much the norm.

CJ

December 20th, 2010
2:04 pm

Forgive me for straying from today’s topic, but a follow-up to previous threads. I’ve said before that once if all the blacks, Hispanics, gays, and Muslims left the country, then the right would come after the Mormons, then the Episcopalians, then the Presbyterians, and so on…

We’ll here’s the evidence from “Tea Party Nation”–

“When I was in Washington this past Friday, I walked by the United Methodist Building, next to the Russell Office Building. The sign in front of the United Methodist Building said, “Pass the DREAM Act.”

I have a DREAM. That is, no more United Methodist Church…

Today, the Methodist Church is little more than the ‘religious’ arm of socialism.”

http://www.tngovwatch.org/2010/12/my-dream-no-more-methodist-church/

Unless you’re a Baptist fundamentalist, you’re next.

carlosgvv

December 20th, 2010
2:24 pm

As the dumbing down of America continues unabated, more and more of the dense will call themselves conservative. This dumbing down will eventually produce a large conservative majority, putting the Republicans and Big Business in hog heaven and the rest of us in the pits.

joe

December 20th, 2010
2:33 pm

Liberals should learn to appreciate the Tea Party…#1 reason, to hold the republicans in check. The GOP wouldn’t have voted to kill the Omnibus bill, loaded with earmarks, if the T party had not held their feet to the fire. I realized the liberals want the spending, but the sooner they realize that our country is headed for a fate similar to Greece, and we need to get the out of control spending in check, the better off all of us will be. Thank you Tea Party!!!

True American

December 20th, 2010
2:48 pm

A Hearty Cheese Sauce: And the other party has the racist, skin heads, bubbas, poor white trash to stupid to know that rich whites are pimping them, and a bunch of hypercrites Rep.

JDW

December 20th, 2010
2:49 pm

@CJ…I hear you. The guy that posted that bit of Tea Party manifesto is quite the Hypocrite Superman.

By night Right Wing social defender of justice…by day criminal defense attorney specializing in DUI cases. Wonder how that plays with his Baptist brethren?

Toby

December 20th, 2010
2:50 pm

The US debt has been increased the most by Republican presidents & they are quick to spend wastefully on military expenses, so Conservative could easily be a misleading term. A quick look at nations around the world shows that Liberal nations have higher well-being (not Communist Liberal, like North Korea or China, but Socialist Liberal like western Europe or Canada). When we invest in the people via healthcare, education & transportation, the economy is strengthened: the Tea Party is more aligned with the Middle East (theocracy & economic anarchism which destroys the middle class & leaves an exceedingly wealthy very small rich class… in the US at the moment, the richest 1% make as much as bottom 90% because of Republicanism.) Well being is good & pain is bad, by the way.

True American

December 20th, 2010
2:54 pm

Where was the tea party when the Rep held 2 million families of unemployment hostage? Where was the tea party when rich people like hannity,beck, rush requesting tax cuts for millionaires.
The tea party people were a bunch of hypocrites who spoke out against government but taking Va, medicaid, SSI, medicaid checks

Jimmy62

December 20th, 2010
3:03 pm

HDB: Racism is against a group of people, not a holiday. Not thinking MLK’s birthday should be a national holiday is not racism.

True American: We were supporting holding up those unemployment payments, because this country didn’t have the means to pay for it. All th GOP asked was that equivalent spending in other areas be cut to pay for the unemployment extension. Why do the Democrats want to hold my children’s future income hostage to pay for people who can’t get jobs today?

Where was the Tea Party? Supporting fiscal sanity amid calls for massive spending of money that simply doesn’t exist!

Toby: Please show me an example where the Tea Party supports theocracy in this country. And economic anarchism. I’m not sure you know what either of those things mean, if you think the Tea Party supports them.

@@

December 20th, 2010
3:12 pm

Today, the Methodist Church is little more than the ‘religious’ arm of socialism.”

Since I’m Methodist, I guess left-wingers should be pleased….I’m rebelling against church doctrine? I’m one of them.

Never saw “The Methodist Church” on a voter registry, just the people that attend.

schnirt

JDW

December 20th, 2010
3:16 pm

@Toby

“We were supporting holding up those unemployment payments, because this country didn’t have the means to pay for it.”

So let me make sure I understand…

We can’t afford around $40 Billion to extend unemployment but incurring an additonal $800 Billion or so in debt to fund tax cuts is ok…

Alrighty

JDW

December 20th, 2010
3:18 pm

Sorry my 3:16 should have been directed at Jimmy62 not Toby.

joe

December 20th, 2010
3:18 pm

@ Toby “Liberal nations have higher well-being…Socialist Liberal like western Europe or Canada”

I don’t know what your definition of higher well being is, but pit the USA against any country in western Europe and Canada, and I’ll take the USA every day of the week. You cannot get our freedom just anywhere…but because of that freedom, you are free to go seek out that so called higher well being in any location you’d like…but know, you’ll never find it as good as we have it here.
And further, you’ll never be able to change this country into France, Greece, Italy or any other because there are only about 20% who live here, who are liberal and profess to dislike the USA, while the other 80% do what we can to improve it via our free market, capitalist economy. God bless the USA!!!

williebkind

December 20th, 2010
3:26 pm

HDB:
“Lest you forget, prior to DADT, being gay disqualified one from SERVING in the Armed Forces;”
That is not true HDB! You are putting out bad information. Now go read DADT once again and come back. We will discuss the truth.

williebkind

December 20th, 2010
3:30 pm

Next, the liberals will proclaim its a right to have more than one spouse. It got to be in the constitution somewhere. American values will continue decaying.

williebkind

December 20th, 2010
3:33 pm

joe

December 20th, 2010
3:18 pm
Good post and Merry Christmas!

williebkind

December 20th, 2010
3:34 pm

These liberals must have good jobs because they are always gone by 3pm. Or is that when the DNC shuts down.

Linda

December 20th, 2010
3:35 pm

Toby @ 2:50, The Speaker of the House decides which bills come to the floor & most bills originate in the House. According to CNS, the US debt has increased $5T since Pelosi became Speaker when the Dems. took over Congress in Jan., ‘07. The debt was $8.67 T when she was sworn in. As of 10-22-10, it was $13.67 T. It’s $13.88 T today. There is debate on raising the debt ceiling.

“Pelosi, the 60th speaker…has added more to the national debt than the first 57 House speakers combined.”

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/debt-has-increased-5-trillion-speaker-pe

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 20th, 2010
3:38 pm

@@

Looks like you Methodists get to be the whipping boy for a change. (IW&SH)

Fix-It

December 20th, 2010
3:53 pm

HDB does not know any truth, only left wing talking points. Why do we even discuss gays is it because they are a large percentage of the population? No they are less than 4%, so as some dimacrat said, “Shut up and sit down” GWAHAHAHAHA

Jimmy62

December 20th, 2010
3:57 pm

Funding tax cuts. What a joke of use of language. In order for the government to be “funding” those cuts, that money would have to be theirs in the first place But it’s not. It belongs to the people who earned it. The only way a tax cut is “funded” by the government is if you believe all money belongs to the government, and they choose to let citizens have some of it. Allowing people to keep the money they earn is NOT the same as spending money, no matter how you try to twist the meaning of words.

Money to pay unemployment benefits is actual money that has to come from somewhere. All I wanted is for someone to figure out where that money is coming from before committing to spending it. But instead they decided to print up funny money and use that.

Jimmy62

December 20th, 2010
4:01 pm

BTW, the ONE dude writing that anti-Methodist thing doesn’t represent me or any tea partiers I know. I can find something offensive written by one person in just about every group, that doesn’t mean the whole group agrees.

But an interesting history lesson: The Methodist Church was started by John Wesley, who traveled around Europe (mostly England) and told the serfs that if they just got through their Earthly existence, the afterlife would be better. In other words, he was just a tool of the nobles, using religion to keep the poor people from getting uppity. So from that respect, the left (and right, who are against monarchies, at least in the US) should have a problem with the Methodist Church.

Jimmy62

December 20th, 2010
4:03 pm

Correction: Wesley’s followers founded the Methodist Church, Wesley himself was always a member of the Anglican Church.

Left wing management

December 20th, 2010
4:14 pm

Jimmy62: “In order for the government to be “funding” those cuts, that money would have to be theirs in the first place But it’s not. It belongs to the people who earned it. ”

But many of the CEOs in the financial sector make mountains of money – in the millions – through the most dishonest of means, hardly what I would call ‘earning’.

Until we can take these people down a notch or two through executive pay reform, I say raising tax rates on them will work just fine. How about the 90+% marginal rates we had in the 40s? Yeah, that would be a nice start.

Shane

December 20th, 2010
4:21 pm

Bottom line, if you believe Fred played with Dino 10,000 years ago you probably are a conservative Republican.

Well said.

Shane

December 20th, 2010
4:26 pm

The fairly steep decline in conservative Democrats, I suspect, represents the demise of the party among rural white Southerners.

And we all know why that happened right? When Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill the Dems lost the south forever. They all switched to Republicans.

True American

December 20th, 2010
4:31 pm

Jimmy62: I guess you did not care about your children future when George W was spending billions a month on a war that was not justified.
Hypocrites, Hypocrites tea baggers.

Darwin

December 20th, 2010
4:34 pm

Right wingers keep trying to label this administration as liberal. What is so liberal? Practically every policy from W has been kept intact. The fact that the administration passed a health care law just burns you people. It’s a watered down law. There’s not even a public option. I guess it’s like Iraq and WMDs. If you just keep on saying it, it becomes truth.

Shane

December 20th, 2010
4:37 pm

Hypocrites, Hypocrites tea baggers.

Wanna hear another hypocritical thing.

Ask any of the Tea Baggers if they are in favor of Federal Health Care. They will bleat out Noooooo

Then ask them if they are willing to give up their Medicare.

.Stand back while head explodes.

Michael H. Smith

December 20th, 2010
4:37 pm

It would appear that some moderates became gradually more liberal during the Bush years, and an even larger portion of them have joined the ranks of the conservatives during the Obama era.

Do I ever like what I see in these TEA leaves, Kyle. The Moderates are defining the middle and they are telling us just who they see as the extremest. Moderate always tend to move farthest away from what they view as being too extreme. In which direction did “the larger portion” move?

Likewise, what you think about these trends probably depends on how important you think moderation itself is.

I’ll give it to you straight on this one Kyle and I hope other TEA Party members who are reading this take it for what it is worth, because it is the difference between winning primaries and winning general elections. You can win a primary with a hard right or hard left candidate but they seldom can win in a general election. Look at the TEA Party backed candidates that lost in 2010, they were hard-line right-wingers running in races that would take a sharp centrist or moderate conservative candidate to beat a liberal. Mitch Daniels is spot on in telling conservatives to back off the social issue for the moment and put the focus on government and fiscal woes as the pathway to victory in 2012. He and I agree.

Moderation means everything if you plan on winning general elections, because they cannot be won without the moderates that more often than not or Independent voters. Obama knows this and he is now trying to move back toward the center to win the Independent voters he has lost in order to remain in power. Though, I believe it is far too late for that move to have any affect. Obama has already caste himself as extreme left-winger with negative baggage in tow this time around and he is no Bill Clinton.

JDW

December 20th, 2010
4:42 pm

@Jimmy62

December 20th, 2010
3:57 pm
“Funding tax cuts. What a joke of use of language. In order for the government to be “funding” those cuts, that money would have to be theirs in the first place But it’s not. It belongs to the people who earned it.”

Typical Tea Party/Republican HORSE HOHEY…I guess we should just ignore the fact that a cut in revenue or taxes has EXACTLY the same net effect as an increase in spending….BAHHHHHHHHHHH

See the issue is if you are really for reducing the deficit you can’t be for tax cuts because they DIRECTLY INCREASE the deficit.

The Tea Party talks about the deficit because that is “politically correct”…the true unvarnished Tea Party manifesto is

“I am a selfish $OB that does not want to contribute to the funding of the government. I have no problem reaping the benefits, in fact just try to keep me from getting more than my share and you will see.”

Tea Party Sme Party…just a smokescreen for the 5 year old mentalities among us that never learned to exist in polite society.

Michael H. Smith

December 20th, 2010
4:52 pm

Do sit down Shane, take a sedative, you’re going to need it.

I don’t favor Federal Healthcare. However I do favor a form of universal healthcare far different from what the socialist left has crammed down to the American gullet and I support phasing out Medicare, Medicaid and all other government owned and controlled healthcare over time.

My head is still on my shoulders and it didn’t explode.

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 20th, 2010
4:59 pm

Michael H Smith

What form of universal healthcare do you favor? Not intended as a snarky question, I’d just like to hear your idea.