"The Purity Party"
No Room for Moderation
When it comes to the issue of partisanship — and the gridlock it creates — and who is to blame for it, the media generally presents a narrative of false balance in which both sides are equally to blame. But this narrative is easy to prove wrong. In fact, it takes just two charts to disprove.
Here’s the rundown on how the Republican Party is the one that’s become more partisan and extreme over the last few decades.
Paul Breer has the details:
A study by distinguished political science professor Keith Poole does. It should come as no surprise that the analysis finds Republicans are to blame for the gridlock.
Poole assessed all of the Republican and Democratic votes in the House and Senate from 1879 to 2011, and plotted both parties on a liberal to conservative axis. Poole’s study shows that beginning right around 1980, House Republicans began to vote in strict partisan lines considerably more than Democrats.
Note on the graph: The closer to 1.0, the more partisan that members’ votes were that year. The 10th percentile line represents a moderate member of Congress, while the 90th percentile line represents a member of Congress who, for example, is 90% more conservative than the his/her co-partisans.
In short, these charts show Republicans becoming significantly more partisan over the last few decades while Democrats have barely moved. The most striking finding from the study of the House (at top) is that the least partisan Republican in the House today is about as partisan as the most partisan House Republican in the 1970s. And therein lies the recipe for today’s extreme partisan gridlock — gridlock caused in large measure by Republicans growing ever more extreme, which in turns makes compromise almost impossible.
The most vivid illustration of the practical consequences of this Republican extremism is the shock retirement of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The primary reasons she cited in deciding to retire were…wait for it…partisan gridlock and extremism. The most recent example? The GOP’s crusade against birth control and women’s health care:
The vote set for [yesterday], framed as a choice between contraceptive coverage and religious freedom, was not the reason Ms. Snowe made her announcement, she said. Her retirement decision was bigger than any one vote. But people familiar with her thinking say the re-emergence of such hot-button social issues helped nudge her to the exit.
In effectively driving out Snowe, the Republicans may have handed an opportunity to Democrats, much as they did by passing over more moderate Senate candidates in 2010 in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware in favor of extreme partisans — all of whom eventually went on to lose the general election.
Next time you hear the media talk about partisan gridlock, remember which side is actually to blame.
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