Monday, July 16, 2012

Why are there no DINO's?

The Tea Party, and the conservative movement more broadly long before it, has tried to take ownership of the Republican Party. When a member of Congress is insufficiently conservative, the movement targets them, perhaps through primaries. They call these candidates "RINO's" or "Republicans in Name Only." While there is diversity within the Republican Party on many issues, it's clear that to the conservative base, being Republican means being conservative.

The movement has no qualms about targeting Republicans for ideological deviation. It's the exception to Reagan's 11th Commandment. The movement pays close attention to votes in Congress. And there is some evidence that the movement has been successful in electing like-minded legislators, and in keeping them in line.

The modern progressive movement also has no qualms about criticizing Democrats for too much compromise. Obama has almost as many critics from the left as from the right, notably on Obamacare (too watered down) and foreign policy (unmanned drones).

But liberals/progressives/the left do not take ownership of the Democratic Party. They seem to recognize that the Democratic Party is the party that they should like, but they put the onus on the party to come to them. It's the Democrats' fault because they have no spine. The Tea Party never lamented that the Republicans didn't have a backbone. The Tea Party decided it was the party's backbone. The Tea Party didn't wait for the Republicans to come to them. They put a rope around the party and pulled.

If there is any truth to the characterization that polarization today is mostly a consequence of the Republicans moving to the right, this must be a big part of the explanation. There is a movement invested in moving the Republicans, while the equivalent movement on the left, which I think it just as vibrant, seems like it has given up on moving the Democrats.



  1. I think part of the answer to the question is that Americans are generally a center-right population. When 'movement liberals' insist on ideological purity it usually results in an electoral bloodbath. Another part of the answer, IMHO, is that liberals have a greater appreciation for and understanding of HOW government works than do their conservative counterparts. Policy gains are made incrementally in our system. That favors the liberal position over the long term so some progress toward their goals is better than none. Conservatives, on the other hand, want sweeping change all at once. Thus, conservatives who fail to toe the ideological line are an impediment to change and must be defeated.

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  3. In a word, "realignment."

    In the 1980s and for the most the period before then, the U.S. was effectively a three party system - Republicans, Northern Democrats and Southern Democrats. The DINOs of the Southern Democratic faction have mostly been replaced by ideologically Northern Democrats or Republicans (often simply rebranded Southern Democrats). The Tea Party is basically a successor to the rebranded Southern Democratic party, while the RINOs are often "Rockefeller Republicans", "Eisenhower Republicans", or otherwise Northeast establishment Republicans (Romney among them) who have been made unwelcome in their own party as white Southern Democrats and likemind pols have displaced them. The Southern Baptists have evicted the Episcopalians from their own party.

    The progressive wing of the Democratic party is merely grumbling rather than taking up a hue and cry because their own party is actually a lot more ideologically pure than it was in Goldwater's day, and has largely won the culture wars (who could imagine a U.S. President of either party endorsing gay marriage in 1988?) and economic liberals have recently secured two-thirds of a loaf in Obamacare, increased financial industry regulation, and the government rescue of GM and Chrysler.

    Also, many union voters have disengaged and union power has been steadily waning for decades, so the relative impact of social liberals in the Democratic party has increased.

    There are always going to be people pushing political parties in one direction or another (usually simultaneously). But, the GOP is experience a slow moving ideological coup, while the Democrats are fortunate enough to have both relative ideological purity among their elected officials and a fairly big ideological tent as a fall out of realignment.

    1. I don't think most of the evidence is consistent with the claim that the Democrats are more homogenous than the Republicans. There are far more Blue Dogs in Congress than "Rockefeller Republicans."

  4. There are far more Blue Dogs in Congress than "Rockefeller Republicans."

    But there are no Rockefeller Republicans left, and the Blue Dogs were decimated in 2010.

  5. In the Democratic party the term more likely used is "blue dog" instead of DINO.
    Another factor is that, due to redistricting and thus the concentration of Democratic votes in noncompetitive urban areas, candidates are more likely to be associated with the politics of a particular city.

  6. 1. The progressives are the Democratic party today. There may be differences in tactics - single payer wasn't achievable in one gulp so it'll get done piecemeal - but it's their party. That's why there's no room anymore for older, traditional liberals like me. JFK (or Jimmy Carter) could never be nominated today.
    2. Supporters of both parties tend to cut their leaders slack when they are in power. For instance, during the Bush 43 years he managed to maintain core Rep support even while creating the biggest new social program since the Great Society (prescription drug benefit), worked with Teddy Kennedy to federalize education, spent like a drunken sailor on social programs and tried, with Democratic allies, to reform immigration policy in opposition to many in his party. Doesn't sound very Right to me. Okay, so he gave his base taxes and judges - you have to give them something. Even on foreign policy, while the Dems try to push it down the memory hole, he had half the Senate Dems with him on Iraq (including Clinton, Biden, Kerry).
    3. And that brings me to the Republicans today - they've seen that it never ends with the progressives and attempts to meet in the middle mean you just lose more slowly. Every budget deal (with the exception of 96) ends up with the tax increases real and the cuts illusory, the rules make it more difficult (reductions in spending increases are "cuts") and the Supreme Court balancing tests all run in progressives favor - even the conservative justices' tendency to follow precedent and not overturn prior decisions just ensures that non-progressives are always playing defense. The Tea Party did not arise in a vacuum. It only has traction and attracts people because the progressives keep driving towards a society where the default is that government makes the decisions except on those occasions when it decides to delegate authority back to the little people.