Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 23, 2014

There Are No Moderates Left in Congress

Screen Shot 2014 04 10 at 10.32.57 AM There Are No Moderates Left in Congress

The Fix: “In the last three decades, the number of members in the middle in the House dropped from 344 (79 percent of the House) in 1982  to four (.9 percent of the House) in 2013.  As the slide suggests, redistricting — the decennial redrawing of the nation’s congressional lines — plays a major role in that decline. The last two nationwide redraws have largely been incumbent-protection efforts, making Republican districts more Republican and Democratic districts more Democratic.”

  • wdb

    Is this really due to redistricting? I think it’s mostly due to the parties becoming more ideologically aligned. Areas that used to elect liberal Republicans now elect Democrats, and those that used to elect conservative Democrats now elect Republicans.

    • Charles Wolf

      …the Democratic Party has NOT seen that polarizing metric leftward, save as exhibited by its ousted Blue Dog caucus.”
      If my memory serves me well, most of the “Blue Dogs” Few if any were replaced by liberal D’s. OTOH, many were replaced by rabid Teahadists.

      • LBJ

        Southern “conservatives” now align with the conservative party. Tea bagger hatred of Obama has sent the GOP to absurd nuttiness. Redistricting entrenches these kooks.

  • EdKulzer

    This is a severely distorted map: it takes as a given that both parties ideologies have not shifted, and that members have only ventured to lesser orbit from that center.

    That is a false, incomplete comparison. The GOP has not been this extremely ultra-conservative in a century, while the Democratic Party has NOT seen that polarizing metric leftward, save as exhibited by its ousted Blue Dog caucus.

    http://voteview.com/blog/?p=726

    Maps assuming a grossly-errant symmetry to the polarization are no less than misinformation.

    ” The Republican party is “an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited and social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise,unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”Our problem is polarization but not just any polarization—asymmertric polarization. Republicans are more partisan than Democrats.”

    http://www.civilpolitics.org/content/mann-ornstein-its-even-worse-it-looks/

    • jf

      My only quibble is with your connecting the Blue Dog caucus to a polarizing metric leftward. The Blue Dogs were conservative Democrats, especially on fiscal issues. It’s true they are mostly gone.

      • EdKulzer

        Precisely the point: Stupak & the Dogs were the House ConservaDem wing. When they were euthanized at the kennel of the ’10 mid-terms, the resultant composition of the serving Democratic Party shifted leftward due to the loss of that rightward heft. Not due to a focused ideological shift of policies espoused.

        Whereas the GOP’s blitzkreig rightward has been a conscious internal purging rightward due to the rising uber-conservative libertarian thumb of the Tea Party on the rightward scale.

        • zappa24

          Exactly. The average Democratic Congressperson became more liberal not because there was a leftward shift of individual members, but because the right side of the party got chopped off.

    • NRafter530

      I think the Democratic caucus is a hell of a lot more left wing than it has been in decades.

      But it’s almost the smallest its been since the 1940s.

      • EdKulzer

        That’s where the actual data comes into play, to separate actuality from single perspective. And as it bears out, no, the Democratic Party has barely moved on the ideological axis.

  • Charles Germany

    I would definitely think that the parties have also become more partisan as the result of outside party money as demonstrated by other posts and graphs posted here on Wonk Wire and Political Wire. This does give a lot of insight though.
    Thanks for all the info you give us, Taegan. It is all of very high quality!

  • Randy Parker

    There are plenty of Moderates, just no Centrists.

    • Blue Mark

      The Moderates are all in the Democratic Party, Moderate Republicans have been forced out.

      Because nearly every congressional district is now gerrymandered to be a safe seat for one of the two parties, the real contests are the primaries – where ‘centrists’ are pitted only against one extreme or the other – never both. This is especially true in the GOP where there is no longer such a thing as a “Rockefeller Republican”, nor a moderate. The last standing ‘centrist’ Republican was Florida’s Charlie Crist, who is now a Democrat.

      The Democratic Party lost its conservative wing long ago when the Dixiecrats bolted to the GOP over civil rights. The moderates are still there, they are the DLC types like the Clintons, Gov McAulliff, Senator Manchin, and others – including Obama – who are often called liberals merely because they are now so far from the new extremes of the conservative party – despite being to the right of the old establishment GOP of Eisenhower and Rockefeller.

      But the main point is quite right, the parties have been sorted out because of nearly universal gerrymandering, which has effectively erased any ideological overlap. If we returned to competitive districting as some states like California are now contemplating, we could see that change.

  • mudlock

    If redistricting were the problem, why do we see the exact same pattern in the Senate? It’s not redistricting.

    • Nick Scanlan

      You don’t see the problem in the Senate as much. The problem the Senate has is you only need one extremist to block everything if you don’t have the 60 votes to counter them.

    • 802walker

      Different set of rules that is causing gridlock.

    • adastraperapathy

      Redistricting and polarization at the House level (and state legislative level) would affect polarization in other races.

      When your crop of state legislative and congressional candidates becomes more polarized, that’s going to put pressure on Senators to do the same, else risk a primary challenge.

      • mudlock

        Then the Senate’s polarization should lag by at least about the average house career, which also doesn’t seem to be the case.

        • moderatesunite

          you would be correct except for all of the primaries in recent years that have taken out republican incumbents. More conservative Democrats have survived in the senate but they tend to come from red states, and as a result are more likely to lose in a polarized political climate

        • adastraperapathy

          Except that the Senate’s composition is skewed by the existence of a bunch of low population states with populations that are more homogeneously white than the rest of the country.

  • OrangeFree

    It’s not redistricting – it’s that these “moderates” finally joining the parties they should have belonged to all along. Parties becoming more ideologically coherent is not a bad thing (In fact, it’s kinda the way it works everywhere but here).

    What IS the problem? It’s the fringe wings refuse to sacrifice ideological purity for the good of the country.

    • Lance Lee

      It is fine to have homogeneous parties in other places. A Parliamentary system can deal with that, the minority cannot stop the majority from governing. In the US it doesn’t work because the minority can stop almost anything from happening. The US system requires the two parties to work together and compromise. We are seeing what happens when there is almost no overlap and one party refuses to work with the other side.

      • pbrower2a

        But in a parliamentary system the Parties have responsibility for results. Bad results bring parliamentary defeat. In our order, bad results that elites want are now (at least since 2010) are frozen in place, perhaps indefinitely.

        As it is we have a terrible distortion due to gerrymandering; the Republicans have set most districts so that although Democrats have a few districts easily described as sure things, Republicans have advantages in the others. So if 70% of the Democrats are in five districts in Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, then the other 30% of Democrats find themselves in districts that a Democrat has little chance of winning. With the harsh ideological divide, a Democrat in such a place as Grand Rapids, Lansing, or Kalamazoo is effectively represented by someone nearly antithetical to his political values who will never vote his way. Nearly — because the opposite of “liberal” is “fascist”. (The opposite of a sober conservative is a Commie).

        The Republican Party may not be a fascist Party, but it is clearly a Party of ideologues who believe that the Common Man exists to suffer for economic elites in This World so that he can get rewards for his earthly sufferings in the Next World. It is the most right-wing Party to achieve any semblance of power in a country with a heritage of democracy that has not yet destroyed liberal democracy.

  • CJR

    I love this chart mapping the House and Senate from the founding of the country.

    https://xkcd.com/1127/

    It shows pretty much the same thing, but also with ideological purity.

  • YONATAN C

    THERE ARE MORE THAN 2.6 MILLION UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES WHO HAVE BEEN WITHOUT AN UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION BILL SINCE LAST DECEMBER. THESE FAMILIES HAVE HAD TO FACE EVICTIONS, HOME FORECLOSURES, PERSONAL BANKRUPTCY, AND HOMELESSNESS, WHILE THE POLITICIANS PLAY “PARTY POLITICS’ IN THE SENATE. THIS IS TRULY UNEXCEPTABLE. WITH SO MANY PEOPLE HURTING AND LOSING EVERYTHING, WHILE THE REPUBLICANS HOLD THE EXTENSION BILL “HOSTAGE” FOR POLITICAL LEVERAGE. HOW DARE THESE SELF-RIGHTEOUS, SELF-IMPORTANT, CAREER POLITICIANS, DENEY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE. THESE WORKERS HAD FAITHFULLY PAID INTO THE SYSTEM FOR YEARS OUT OF THEIR PAYCHECKS, BELIEVING THAT HELP WOULD BE THERE FOR THEM TOO, IF THEY SHOULD NEED IT. SENATORS LIKE JOHN BOEHNER, ACT AS IF THIS MONEY BELONGS TO HIM PERSONALLY TO DISTRIBUTE AS HE WISHES. THERE WASN’T A PROBLEM WHEN CONGRESS APPROVED A FOREIGN AID PACKAGE FOR THE UKRAINE, COSTING BILLIONS OF TAX PAYER’S DOLLARS. WHY IS THAT? WHAT ABOUT AMERICANS IN NEED HERE AT HOME?.

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