It is difficult to respond to Ron Fournier’s “analysis” piece about both Democrats and Republicans abandoning “the middle” without just offering up a string of invectives about Fournier’s complete absence of research and analytical skills. Here is the lead paragraph from the AP’s Washington bureau chief:
Charlie Crist’s departure from the Republican Party is not just a Florida story; it’s an American story – a tale of two parties driven by their ideologues, squeezing out moderate candidates, alienating independent voters and isolating the place in U.S. politics where most things get done: the middle.
The entire proof that Fournier offers up for Democrats abandoning the middle is Ned Lamont’s defeat of Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut Senate primary. No joke–that is the only evidence he offers up in this “analysis” piece.
This might be because any analysis of the changing composition of Democratic members of Congress would have shown that the Democratic house caucus has actually moved noticeably to the right over the past six years. For example:
- 50 of 106 Democratic House members who are members of the Blue Dog coalition and / or New Democratic coalition were first elected in 2004 or later. Another, Baron Hill, was first elected in 1998, defeated in 2004, but re-elected in 2006
- Of the 93 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who were first elected in 2004 or later, 51 are members of the Blue Dog Coalition and / or the New Democrat Coalition. Even if Andre Carson, Jared Polis, and Laura Richardson are removed from that list because they also joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and even if Baron Hill is removed because he first won a seat in Congress back in the 1998 elections, that still makes 47 out of 92, or a majority.
- By comparison, of the 162 House Democrats who first won their seat in 2003 or earlier, only 55 are members of the Blue Dog Coalition and / or New Democrat coalition. That is only 34%, compared to 51% for Democrats first elected in 2004 or later.
The Democratic House caucus is moving to the right. Even leaving aside joining self-proclaimed “moderate” caucuses like the Blue Dogs and the New Dems, quite literally every ideological voting scorecard in existence will tell you that House Democrats with less seniority are further to the right of those with more seniority.
Granted, this is not the case in the Senate, as newer Democratic Senators are actually slightly to the left of the longer-serving Democratic Senators. Still, these competing trends cancel each other out, and make it impossible to convincingly argue that the Democratic Party is moving to the right.
Further, conducting actual analysis of caucus memberships and voting records is not something Fournier was ever going to do himself. Even if Democrats were moving to the left–something that I have been unable to accomplish, despite my best efforts–Fournier isn’t going delve into the research and facts necessary to prove it. Instead, he is just going to assert it is true, and then quote Pat Buchanan as supporting “evidence.” (seriously) Hell, Fournier didn’t even bother to prove that Republicans are moving to the right, even though that is actually something that is provable.
If you are going to write a piece claiming that both parties are abandoning the middle, then the least you should do is actually show that both parties are moving away from the middle. Fournier doesn’t bother to do that, and focuses only on a couple of anecdotes in primaries to demonstrate his thesis. This is a pathetic amount of research for someone holding such a position of authority in our political discourse. Even freshman college students aren’t allowed to get away with dreck like this. For Fournier to simultaneously complain in his piece that part of the problem in this country is that too many people are consuming news from media outlets where “facts are fungible” is the height of irony and lack of self-awareness.