This is an interesting article by one of Bill Moyers’ staffers about the injudiciousness of political reporting about the “polarisation” of American politics. The author, Joshua Holland, is spot on that it is the radical right that is doing most of the polarising – at least that’s true within government. Democrats don’t fall too far from the centre generally, whereas the loopy right has been staking more and more ground…to the point where Ronald Reagan is looking like a liberal. Holland points out that Rep. Peter King of New York, a hidebound and closed-minded right-winger, is now being referred to as a prominent congressional “moderate” because he parts company with the Tea Party on a small handful of issues. That should make everyone sit up and take notice of how far the Republican party has tracked rightwards.
Of course, this is not to say that there isn’t an extreme Left to go with the extreme Right in today’s polarised America – it’s just that the extreme Left is so anti-politics that it is natural one cannot find many equivalents to Sen. Ted Cruz or Rep. Michele Bachmann…those equivalents exist, but not in the Senate. Because extreme left-wingers believe that democracy has been sold out to the highest bidder and everyone in government is out to get them, they naturally don’t offer much support to politicians; by contrast, despite anti-government rhetoric, the radical Right never fails to offer candidates for government office and to get them elected.
What I’m getting at here is that the congressional Left, even when it tracks mildly to the purist side, remains moored in reality, as well as committed to the idea that government action can help people, at least occasionally. The hardcore firebagger Left, because it is neither moored in reality nor committed in any way to government action, is therefore likely not to become the congressional Left.
Maybe someday they will be – maybe we will eventually get left-wing obstructionists to go with our right-wing obstructionists on Capitol Hill. But at present, firebaggers believe their anti-democracy and anti-government rants enough to neither participate in democracy nor provide rational options for government action. On Capitol Hill, we only get packaged crazy from the far Right, as the far Left saves it for pointless Occupy gab sessions complete with wacky hand gestures.
The radicalisation of the Republican Party is one of the most important political stories today, to be sure. The radicalisation of an apolitical radical Left _outside_ of the Democratic Party remains something to watch, mind you. But on Capitol Hill, it is the long march of the Tea Party that constitutes the main story.