Could The Real Political Upheaval Take Place On The Left?


Posted by Bob Lord

I have a different view of the Republican bloodletting we seem to be witnessing now. Even before the election, the so-called pundits were predicting the internecine war that would take place within the Republican Party. The masters of the obvious predictably predicted a struggle between the teabaggers and the Establishment. Somewhat less predictably, there now seems to be a spat between the newly identified "conservative entertainment crowd" (i.e., Fox and Rush) and the morons who believed their wild-eyed predictions. This aspect of the squabble is kind of hilarious, because we're seeing that the whole right-wing crowd was led astray by a bunch of gasbags who just couldn't get their collective heads around the idea that polls have predictive value. They even had a website where they "unskewed" the polls. And it also appears that the Romney campaign was throwing fake polling data into the mix, which apparently deceived even the deceivers over at Fox. 

What we're not seeing is any real analysis of how all this will play out in the long-term. The furthest the analysis goes is whether the Republican Party will be able to recover, or whether it will go the way of the Whigs, or somewhere in between. But the real change could actually take place on the left. Here's why:

As the Republican Party has moved to the right, the Democrats have as well. I've commented on this previously, noting that the entire political spectrum has moved rightward. Think of it this way. There's an ideological spectrum, which represents the full range of ideological viewpoints, from extreme right to extreme left. But there's also a political spectrum, which is narrower than the ideological spectrum and which represents the range of viewpoints that may enter the political debate without disqualifying the holders of those viewpoints. Over time, the poltical spectrum moves within the ideological spectrum. As it does, both parties move with it. Actually, individuals pull their parties in one direction or the other, and the political spectrum moves accordingly. In 1980, Reagan began pulling the Republican Party rightward. That precipitated three decades of rightward movement of the political spectrum, and both major parties. 

Currently, the political spectrum is perched at the far right of the ideological spectrum, to the point where Ayn Rand's ideology may enter the debate. We actually have politicians pushing zero tax rates for investment income these days. They likley won't prevail, but they can express those views without losing all viability as politicians. And the most aggressive a politician can get on tax rates for the rich is 39.6%. That would have been considered right-wing just a generation ago.

As the poltical spectrum has approached the far right side of the ideological spectrum, the gap between the Republicans and Democrats on the political spectrum has become frighteningly small. Check out Chris Hedges' post today to get a sense of how narrow that gap is. This puts the Republicans in a quite the predicament. The pundits believe they need to moderate their positions in order to remain viable. But moving left on the political spectrum will render the Republicans indistinguishable from Democrats. They're really stuck ideologically. They're perched at the very right edge of the political spectrum and not far from the right edge of the ideological spectrum. So they have no room to move right. but moving left means losing their identity. 

Thus, there really is a chance the Republicans will go the way of the Whigs. If they do, the Democrats may dominate politics for an election cycle, but no longer. A unipolar world is inherently unstable. A new party will form to challenge the Democrats. Will it be on the right? Unlikely, given that the Republicans are having a hard time surviving in that narrow space now. But it could be on the left. There's a whole lot of room to the left of the Democrats, and a whole bunch of people towards that end of the ideological spectrum yearning to have a voice speaking for them. I put myself in that group. Here's hoping.