How We Got Here

I’m sharing an unusually long quotation, also shared by Political Animal, from one Dave Roberts (a writer with whom I am unfamiliar), because it has so much explanatory power.

Roberts traces the history behind America’s current political polarization, and he’s pretty convincing:

In postwar, mid-20th-century America, there was a period of substantial bipartisanship, and it powerfully shaped the way political and economic elites think about US politics. The popular picture of how politics works — reaching across the aisle, twisting arms, building coalitions behind common-sense policy — has clung to America’s self-conception long after the underlying structural features that enabled bipartisanship fundamentally shifted.

What enabled bipartisanship was, to simplify matters, the existence of socially liberal Republicans in the Northeast and Democrats in the South who were fiscally conservative and virulently racist. Ideologically heterogeneous parties meant that transactional, cross-party coalitions were relatively easy to come by.

Over the past several decades, the parties have polarized, i.e., sorted themselves ideologically (that’s what the GOP’s “Southern strategy” was about). Racist conservative Democrats became Republicans and social liberals became Democrats. The process has now all but completed: The rightmost national Democrat is now to the left of the leftmost national Republican.

Crucially, however, the process of polarization has been asymmetrical. While almost all liberals have become Democrats and almost all conservatives have become Republicans, far more Republicans self-identify as conservative than Democrats do as liberal, and consequently the GOP has moved much further right than the Democratic Party has left.

Part of the explanation is that there has been a demographic sorting as well. The demographics that tend Democrat — minorities, single women, young people, LGBTQ folks, academics, and artists — cluster in the “urban archipelago” of America’s cities. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has increasingly become the voice of white people who live around other white people in rural and suburban areas, where they have been radicalized by burgeoning right-wing media and a network of ideologically conservative think tanks and lobbying groups.

It is not surprising that small-government ideology appeals to people who view government as a mechanism whereby special interest groups make claims on their resources, values, and privileges. Conservative whites, freaked out by hippies in the ’60s, blacks in the ’70s, communists in the ’80s, Clintons in the ’90s, Muslims in the ’00s, and Obama more recently, are now more or less permanently freaked out, gripped by a sense of “aggrieved entitlement,” convinced that they are “losing their country.” (If only someone would come along and promise to make it great again!)

As the GOP has grown more demographically and ideologically homogeneous, it has become, in the memorable words of congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, “a resurgent outlier: ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

When I was a new lawyer, a more seasoned colleague told me “There’s actually only one legal question: what do we do?”

That question is equally applicable to politics. But for those of us who miss the previously sane and respectable Grand Old Party–and the balance it provided to the political system–the answer is far more elusive.


  1. NVL; thank you for your much kinder remarks to Gopper than I found to use in my rant. This does not mean I did not and do not mean every word and being tolerant will not change my views. Earl talked about learning from others with a different point of view…true, but there are exceptions. Holocaust Deniers are spawned from the same animals who carried out the genocide in Europe…or the genocide going on in middle-eastern countries today. The same can be said of slave traders and slave holders; there is nothing new left to be learned from their mindset or their route to wealth on the sweat and labor of hundreds of thousands of victims in their ownership.

    The Civil War was not a political war, fought for states rights; it was an immoral conflagration on our own soil and sadly, it continues today on another level. Kim Davis is using her political position to wage her religious/immoral war on others; another battle in the current civil war that rages here. She is a member of the Democratic party (but no Democrat in my estimation), took over her elected position from her mother who held it for 37 years. That is not politics; that is typical southern, religious, backwoods, one family control of those who disagree with others with a different view of life – not their politics. That situation is a major example of seeking an answer to “How We Got Here”? How did they get where they are, where can they go from here, and which law of which land (national or state) will end this out-of-control situation?

  2. Sheila’s blog has a world-wide audience. I can tell by the monitoring of my websites. Last week on the anniversary of 9-11, I had fifteen visitors from Sheila’s blog. The Breakdown was: 50% from Indianapolis, 17% from Milan, Italy, 17% from New York, and 16% from Auburn USA.

    Now Gopper must be thinking: “How can there be 50% of the visitors is there were 15 human beings visiting my website. That would mean there were 71/2 human beings visiting my site.”

    Therefore, according to Gopper, an online graduate of the holocaust denying website Institute for Historical Review, all the data is now ripe for “historical review.” He can now deny the report I received as completely worthless and revise it for his own purposes.

    The last time I looked at the German Criminal Code, Gopper would probably be arrested in Germany if he made his recent anti-Semitic statements in that country.

    Gopper is a lone wolf. In his own way, so is Donald Trump. In the long run, I believe they are both beneficial to democracy in that they are PREMATURELY exposing the deep underlying virus of anti-Semitism that is reaching epidemic levels in the U.S.. No doubt this will eventually undo the Republican Party’s chances of electing the next President, since the virus has now mutated into an all encompassing racism.

    At this stage, a vote for the Republican Party , is no more than a suicidal vote for a Race War and maybe worse.

  3. Threats, Marv. Not unexpected from the intolerant bunch. Are you big enough to settle the score, yourself, or are you going to use the apparatus to do your dirty work? A bullet in a bicycle pump, perhaps?

    if you’ve learned nothing else, Marv, at least have the decency to admit that 90% of the world’s Jews are not Semitic and have not a drop of blood in their veins from the land of Palestine.

    The Ashkenazi are Asiatics from the Steppes who converted to Babylonian Talmudism (not at all the same thing as Christ’s religion) around 740 AD.

    Those who oppose Israel’s atrocities and phony “settlements” are friends of the true Semites, and the Israeli government is the most anti-Semitic force on earth. The real Jews of Christ’s day are still in Palestine, having converted to Islam over the years. To see the real Jew, the real Semite, look no further than the people whose ancient settlements are being displaced by Israeli bulldozers.

    Do you support Israel’s settlements, Marv? Do you support Israel taking lands beyond its 1948 borders?

  4. “Therefore, according to Gopper, an online graduate of the holocaust denying website Institute for Historical Review”

    Not quite. Try to be honest. In response to vicious Jewish oppression of the German people in Weimar and before, the German people viciously retaliated against the Jews up to and during WWII.

    That happened. The Jews were expropriated, treated harshly and tossed into work camps. Many Jews died of harsh conditions in these camps. That happened.

    What didn’t happen is 6,000,000 Jews being killed by the Germans. What didn’t happen is a slaughter of 6,000,000 resulting in the right to toss other people out of their rightful country so the oppressed people in another country could move in.

    What also happened in WWII was widespread corralling of Germans in concentration camps by the U.S. forces who killed the German prisoners for sport and starved them. What also happened in WWII was the forced depopulation of Germans from their ancient homelands so the U.S. forces could install new population in those places. Over 500,000 Germans were killed by or because of Allied forces in being expelled from their native lands.

    The Holocaust suffered by the Germans following WWII at the hands of the Allies equals or exceeds what the Jews suffered, but racists with an agenda and a massive media arm suppress inconvenient history in service of their own narrative.

    Why don’t you ever talk about the German Holocaust, Marv? Why don’t you ever spare a word to explain just how all those Germans came to leave East Prussia all at once, the true homeland of Germans?

  5. Marv, shame on you. Questioning the Jewish presentation of the Holocaust does not, in any way, imply Nazism. It’s a matter of historical examination and discussion. Being anti-Carthagenean does not make one pro-Roman. I post here to trample on all socialist ideas. The ideas and aims of National Socialism are more or less what one can find on any liberal blog, minus the dislike of Jews, obviously.

    I’m just a standard-issue libertarian-conservative. The conservative makes me cherish what’s important and good, and the libertarian makes me peer behind every curtain. There’s nothing exotic about anything I believe. I contend people only believe in things like the Holocaust because they’ve never looked into them or they’re scared of the consequences of opposing powerful forces. And let’s face it, ADL, Simon Weisenthal, B’nai Brith, AIPAC, the Mossad all make opposing or even questioning Israel’s claims to Palestine very dangerous.

    Once any thinking person sees the problems with a story, the position must, of necessity, change. For years, I used to say that 6 million number as if it were a scientific fact. One day, I looked into it, and it all fell apart. The numbers just aren’t there. I used to believe all Jews were related to Jesus. Same thing when you learn that King Bulan really existed.

    As for you, will you admit you’re an anti-Western racist? Terms like “Communist” only capture some of what’s going on, but I’ll ask it anyway. Are you now or have you ever been a Communist?

  6. Marv, you engage in calumny by calling people Nazis and neo-Nazis, but you protest slander in your next post? That’s spin.

  7. Gopper, as you are someone who places such value in the research, surely you’ll have no problem pointing me to a primary source to back up “The Holocaust suffered by the Germans following WWII at the hands of the Allies equals or exceeds what the Jews suffered” as well as “90% of the world’s Jews are not Semitic”?

  8. “Gopper, can you present higher quality evidence to the contrary?”

    Contrary to what? You’ve introduced nothing into evidence.

    “The Holocaust,” in official form, refers to the Nazis killing 6,000,000 Jews in death camps.

    The official version is absent proof. When you present a ledger, we can have something to discuss.

  9. Okay, you guys win! The oligarchs have been stripped of their power and we mind-numbed Koolaid drinking conservatives have been put down. There is about $100 trillion in world wealth with almost 7 billion people. That works out the less than $15,000 perperson. So now that the Hoosier liberal brain trust that is this group is put in charge of management and redistribution in the best interest of humanity, what will you didn’t? Given your concern for the stupidity of at least all of those foolish conservatives, I assume your plan would be to retain control of some (most?) of those assets in a central government. If. So, who are you trusting to manage those assets for the common good? While you lament the selfish decisions of the 1%, who or what organization will you put in charge of everything? You see, I know some of the 1% are unscrupulous and ruthless in their quest for power and wealth, but even with those “bad eggs” in the 1%, I trust them far more than I trust a much greater concentration of power in the hands of bureaucrats who think nothing of spending tax dollars (not to mention deficit spending). Liberal or conservative, we can all find countless examples of outrageous spending.

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