Forgot to post on Friday. I’m sure you all were heartbroken.
Scott had a piece on Trump where he said:
Everyone knows that America is getting more ideologically polarized these days. The right is getting rightier. The left is getting leftier.
I responded on Twitter:
A minor correction @slatestarcodex. The right is not getting rightier: it hasn't moved. Polarization is left and centre moving left.
— Free Northerner (@FreeNortherner) September 4, 2015
It is fairly obvious we have been moving left. I then finished the piece and looked through the comments. Many of the people there seemed to think the US is actually moving right. Are they insane?
In the US you can now lose your job or your business for having the same opinion on gay marriage that almost everyone 15 years ago would have had. This is leftward shift happening in real time with no ambiguity to it.
But maybe on other issues this is not the case, so I’m going to look at the top 10 most important political issues to Americans to see how they’ve moved. (Oddly, despite the huge amount of attention placed on it, the number of people who think gay “rights” is the most important issue ranges from “*”, almost non-existent, to 1%). I’ll ignore two of the top three as they are non-partisan issues with no discernible left or right positions: dissatisfaction with government and unemployment. Everybody hates unemployment and dissatisfaction is non-partisan. This leaves 8 issues that 4% or more of Americans thought are the most important issues.
1) Economy in General – Generally, the left is for more state economic intervention, the right for less. Government spending as a percentage of GDP is a decent proxy for state intervention. Other than a temporary dip in the late 90’s, government spending has been consistently rising. On the economy the government is moving left.
2) Immigration – The left is generally pro-immigration, the right generally anti. The proportion of immigrants has been increasing since the 1950’s, although, this mirrors a decrease in the first half of the 20th century. As well, due to the removal of country of origin laws by the left, immigration has become increasingly “diverse”. Immigration has become more left.
3) Race Relations – The president is black. 50 years ago the US legalized racial marriage and public opinion has been growing consistently in favour of it. Jim Crow laws have disappeared. The last lynching was in 1964, while today, black mobs burn down black-run Baltimore and injure over 100 cops with the establishment’s approval because a black man was killed while being arrested for possessing an illegal weapon (a crime that is only a crime because of the left). Society has moved left on racial relations.
4) Healthcare – Obamacare was just passed a few years ago. The Bush public drug plan was introduced a decade before that. Moving left.
5) Education – Public education spending, staffing levels, and funding per student have all been increasing at a rapid pace. Moving left.
6) Debt/Deficit – The right is generally anti-deficit, while the left is generally in favour of Keynesian deficit spending. The debt has been consistently increasing, barring a decline following WW2 and a temporary drop in the lates 90’s. We’ll say it’s been moving left.
7) Terrorism – The War on Terror continues and was right-wing in origin, although the left has instigated the Libya and Syria theatres of the war. But we’ll say the (mainstream) right won this one, now that the left is playing the game.
8) Foreign policy/foreign aid/focus overseas – I’m not actually sure how to look at this one. Foreign aid is declining, a right-wing win, but I highly doubt it is the main component driving the importance of this issue. There’s more hate against Russia and ISIS more nowadays, but those aren’t particularly partisan issues. The opening of Cuba and the Iran deal are vaguely left. The Cold War is over; NATO’s still around. Free trade agreements are increasing, but that issue is largely non-partisan: the elites vs everyone else. I don’t think this one is able to be judged along a left/right axis, so I’m not going to assign anything to it.
The following three I looked at as well, because at first I accidentally was reading the May column, not the August Column, but they’ve been written so I’ll include them:
9) National Security – See terrorism. Us defence spending as a percentage of GDP has been on a fairly steady decline since the 50’s, with a leveling-out/small rise since the mid-90’s. The number of defence personnel follows a similar trend (in absolute numbers, so, percentage wise it has been decreasing even more so). The trend has been moving left.
10) Gap between rich and poor – The Gini coefficient has been rising since the 70’s, but that was following a fall in the first half of the century. The left is opposed to the gap; the right is neutral on it. While the right isn’t in favour of a gap, they aren’t really opposed, and the left are very opposed, so we’ll say this has been moving right.
11) Ethics/Moral/Religious decline – See gay marriage above. The number of religious people has been declining and church attendance has plummeted. Marriage rates have declined. Divorce rates have increased. Fertility rates have plunged. Bastardry has increased. Female-headed households have increased. Things are moving left here.
So, on a total of the 13 of the most important issues to Americans, I didn’t rate 3 of them. Of the remaining 10, 8 have been moving left and 2 has been moving right.
On the majority of the issues that matter most to Americans the left has been winning. The US is moving left.
I realized after writing this that the question I ended up answering has changed slightly from the initial question, which was where the party’s are moving, not where the country is moving.