Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 21, 2010 / 8 Sivan 5770

The Golden Age of Centrism Wasn't So Golden

By Michael Barone




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Laments about polarization are filling the air — or at least that part of the air in which friends and family members have political discussions. It has been widely noted that every Republican member of Congress has a voting record to the right of every Democrat and every Democrat is to the left of every Republican. There is no partisan overlap anymore.

This is bemoaned by celebrators of centrism, who look back to a golden age when there were lots of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats.

The funny thing is, when you look back to that time in mid-century America, the decades on either side of 1950, high-minded thinkers didn't like that partisan muddle at all.

Mid-century political scientists disliked the ideological incoherence of the two political parties. It would be better, they argued, to have one party clearly liberal and the other clearly conservative. Then voters would have a real choice and could be confident about the consequences of their votes.

Political scientists then as now were mostly Democrats, and they evidently hoped that the Democratic Party would emerge as the clearly liberal party and that it would continue to be as successful as it was in winning the five presidential elections in the 1930s and 1940s.

They were writing at a time when Americans were not polarized by the cultural issues that have raged in recent years. Abortion was a crime in every state. Homosexuality was not mentioned in polite company. Everybody partook of the same uncontroversial popular culture in movies and on radio and television.

But there was one great polarization in mid-century America, and it contributed significantly to the partisan muddle: the divide between North and South. Southern states had laws imposing racial segregation, and many didn't allow blacks to vote. The North had no such laws and, except for wartime and postwar migration to major cities and factory towns, had few blacks.

Southern whites voted solidly Democratic, but their officeholders were conservative on issues like civil rights and federal aid programs. That's why there were so many conservative Democrats in Congress. More Republicans than Democrats voted for civil rights laws, and some Republicans supported extending New Deal programs. So there were quite a few liberal Republicans, as well.

We're a long way from mid-century America today. No one favors racial segregation anymore. Cultural conformity has largely vanished. In an affluent nation, we have been able to choose different lifestyles, to inhabit different cultural niches.

The mainline Protestant churches have lost members, while more Americans identify themselves as secular or as evangelical Christians. Increasingly, we choose to live in neighborhoods and metro areas dominated by those who share our cultural and political views.

The bipartisan agreement on foreign policy that prevailed for two postwar decades ended as doves came to dominate the Democratic Party, while hawks became Republican. The abortion issue, which split both parties' constituencies in the 1970s, in time became a defining issue for both parties, as pro-lifers abandoned the Democrats and pro-choicers the Republicans.

All of which leaves little room for centrists, who in any case are a diverse lot — libertarians who are conservative on economics and liberal on cultural issues, traditionalists who are liberal on economics and conservative on cultural issues. You can find a few members of Congress who fall in those camps, but not many.

The polarization of our politics is increased somewhat by partisan district lines. But overall, it's a reflection of our society and a result of the increasing intrusiveness and involvement of government in areas of life that used to be left alone. Changing longstanding laws on abortion and gay rights was bound to stir controversy and heated involvement on both sides. Issues of war and peace naturally arouse strong partisan views.

In the last 16 months, the Obama Democrats' proposals to vastly increase the size and scope of the federal government and to put federal spending on the way to doubling the national debt as a percentage of the economy have tended to sweep these cultural and foreign policy issues aside. They have increased the polarization of the parties, but have also produced some Democratic primary battles between supporters and opponents of the Obama program. The result could be a little less polarization — but don't count on it.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

JWR contributor Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner.




Michael Barone Archives

© 2009, Washington Examiner; DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles