Most of the time I really appreciate Kevin Drum's commitment to charts and data. But a few months ago, he published a couple of pieces aimed at making the point that "[s]ince 1994, Democrats have moved left far more than Republicans have moved right." As the title of his second piece suggests, he uses that data to blame the so-called "culture wars" on liberals. I'm a little late in addressing all of that, but it's because I've been stewing about it for a while now.
There were a lot of problems with the data Drum shared. For the most part, his charts show that over the years, more Democrats have aligned themselves with party positions. That is very different than the notion that the party has moved left. To demonstrate the latter, he would need to examine how Democratic policies have changed on issues like immigration, abortion, marriage equality, or guns. That is not what his data shows.
If we go back to 1994, we can see that there has been a lot of movement on the issue of marriage equality. But the chart Drum uses for that one actually tells the real story.
[T]he amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.
All of that is in addition to the eighteen states that have enacted 30 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote." Most of that was made possible by the attack on the Voting Rights Act that was brought to the Supreme Court by Republicans.
So excuse me if I reject the notion that it is Democrats who have moved farther to the left. Kagan wrote his piece as a warning for what is in the process of coming - an all-out assault on the foundation of our democracy by Republicans. My one beef with his piece is that he focuses all of his attention on Donald Trump. The former guy is, in fact, leading a cult. The so-called "culture wars" are his battle cry.
Trump is different, which is one reason the political system has struggled to understand, much less contain, him. The American liberal worldview tends to search for material and economic explanations for everything, and no doubt a good number of Trump supporters have grounds to complain about their lot in life. But their bond with Trump has little to do with economics or other material concerns. They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word, unable to challenge the reigning liberal hegemony. They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity. While Trump’s critics see him as too narcissistic to be any kind of leader, his supporters admire his unapologetic, militant selfishness.
But Trump alone couldn't have created or sustained that cult. His position as cult leader is rooted in the lies that are funded by right wing money and spouted daily by right wing media, which is why I write about them so often.
While Kagan is warning of a movement in the Republican Party that presents a constitutional crisis, Drum is suggesting that it is Democrats who have moved too far out of the mainstream. The latter is total hogwash. Right now it is the Democratic Party and a few NeverTrumpers that are holding the line to protect our democracy. There is nothing more mainstream than that.