As mentioned in yesterday’s post about George Romney, the Republican party has simply moved way more than the Democratic party. In his post about Obama being such a moderate Democratic president, Ezra nicely summed up the political science research on this asymmetry:
Over the past century, DW-Nominate has shown a steady increase in congressional polarization. Democrats have moved to the left while Republicans have moved to the right. But Republicans have moved a lot further than Democrats. “Republicans in both chambers are polarizing more quickly than Democrats,” said Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. “If the Democratic senators have taken one step toward their ideological home, House Democrats have taken two steps, Senate Republicans three steps and House Republicans four steps.”
Political scientists call this “asymmetric polarization,” and there’s evidence of it all around us. Forty years ago, for instance, zero Republicans in Congress had signed a pledge to oppose tax increases in any and all circumstances. Today, almost all of them have. There’s no corresponding pledge on the Democratic side.
There’s plenty of things “both sides do,” but rapidly moving to ideological extremes simply is not among them. Right now there is simply a massive asymmetry in American politics and to ignore this fact and reflexively respond to everything with some variation of “both sides…” or “yeah, but Democrats also…” is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of contemporary America.