The Democrats lurch to the Left
By WASHINGTON EXAMINER
For decades, and especially during the past seven years,
political media have complained about what they say is a lurch
toward right-wing extremism by the Republican Party. The rise
of the Tea Party, congressional GOP resistance to President
Obama's agenda, opposition to gay marriage, the lack of
abortion supporters in the party— all of it has been depicted as
evidence of extremism and being out of touch with the public.
This superficial and self-serving analysis ignored the existence
of the reciprocal phenomenon — the Democratic Party's lurch
to the left.
According to a recent American Enterprise Institute report, the
ideological make-up of the Republican Party hasn't changed
much over the last 15 years. Looking at Gallup data, the
researchers found that the share of Republicans who identify
as "conservative" increased from 62 percent in 2000 to 68
percent in 2015.
But the percentage of Democrats who self-identify as liberal
has risen in that time from 29 percent to 45 percent. The
number of white Democrats who identify as liberal has nearly
doubled, from 28 percent to 50 percent. The report also found
that barely a third (37 percent) of Democrats describe Hillary
Clinton as a liberal. About half call her a moderate.
Michael Barone, the Washington Examiner's senior political
analyst and an AEI resident scholar who contributed to the
report, analyzed exit poll data from the early primaries. He
found not only that the Democratic electorate is getting more
liberal, but that it is shrinking. Exit polls and vote totals in the
early Democratic primary states find that the Democratic
electorate is "much more liberal" than it was eight years ago.
More than two-thirds of voters in each of the first three
Democratic primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada)
call themselves liberal. That share increased 14, 11 and 25
percentage points respectively from 2008.
Barone notes that this leftward trend isn't due to a surge of
liberal voters into the Democratic electorate. Democrat turnout
was down significantly in all three states, and self-identified
liberals remained roughly steady in each of them compared to
Rather, it's mostly due, as Barone puts it, to "a flight of
moderates and conservatives from Democratic contests." The
number of moderates and conservatives plummeted 46
percent, 38 percent and 64 percent, respectively.
Barone concludes that the liberal polices promoted by Sanders
and Clinton are leaving centrist and conservative Democrats on
the sidelines or looking for other options.
This is the not the first or only study to arrive at such a
finding. A study published last fall by a team of political
scientists found that state Democratic parties are moving
further to the left than state GOP parties are moving to the
This might explain why Gallup recently found that for the first
time "red" states outnumber "blue" ones. Gallup found that 20
states are solidly red (meaning Republicans outnumbered
Democrats there by at least 10 percentage points) and 14 that
are solidly blue.
Not only is the Democratic Party shrinking and becoming more
extreme, but Barone finds that the Republican base is
expanding, in large part due to the addition of evangelical
Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders' popularity and early primary
success has fed the popular myth that demographic shifts and
other changes in the electorate have produced a country more
amenable to liberalism. But that's a false narrative.
Sure, there are issues on which the country is more liberal,
such as same-sex marriage. But there are others on which it
has moved in a conservative direction, including on gun rights,
and many more on which the country remains divided. It is the
Democratic Party, not the nation as a whole, that has become
In a divided country, the Democrats' movement leftward risks
alienating millions of voters who are unhappy with the state of
politics and also dislike the agenda that today's Democrats
2/29/2016 The Democrats lurch to the Left | Washington Examiner