THE BLOG

Avoiding Symmetric Polarization: Autopsy of the GOP Autopsy vs. Occupy Third Way

12/19/2013 08:40 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2014

The asymmetric polarization we have in Congress today can only become symmetric in two ways: Republicans becoming more moderate (which is desirable and decreases overall partisanship) or Democrats becoming more ideological (which is undesirable and increases overall partisanship). Throughout 2013, the GOP has done a stellar job remaining in zombie mode (because you only do autopsies on things that are dead) and Democrats have (so far) retained an ideological balance of those on the far-left, left, and center-left. In what follows, I review the GOP's actions throughout 2013 that prevented us from reaching desirable symmetry and caution Democrats on the perils of moving farther to the left and creating undesirable symmetry.

(See this chart for a comprehensive look at polarization throughout U.S. history)

Autopsy of the GOP Autopsy: Revanchist At Best
"We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too." -- From GOP Autopsy, pages 6, 7, and 75 (they couldn't be bothered to capitalize Black)

The 2013 Growth and Opportunity Project failed. It may have failed because it's 100 pages long and Republican legislators hate reading long, comprehensive documents (perhaps the 2014 Autopsy report should be more of a piecemeal approach rather than comprehensive). It's more likely, however, that it's hard to change how you feel towards certain groups in such a short amount of time; moreover, to do so in a manner that's convincing to those groups.

Asians. Immigration Reform will positively affect over a million Asian families and DREAMers, and the only obstacle is the GOP. In addition, the GOP's lack of acceptance of any religion except for Christianity is not going to appeal to the Asian community, which is mostly non-Christian.

Blacks (capitalized). The Republican SCOTUS Justices damaging the Voting Rights Act on the premise that racism has ended, implementing new voter restrictions in Republican states (which will have a provable disparate impact on minorities even if intent can't be proven), the gag-reflex that Conservatives have with Black skin, the continued disrespect towards the President from the Tea Party, and the recent slandering of the dead Nelson Mandela have helped the GOP gain -39,000,00 Black voters.

Let's be honest though -- the Republican party wants to reach out to Black voters as much as they want to reach out to atheists. It's just something they say, like when the airport Starbucks employee tells you to have a nice flight and you say "you have a nice flight too." They're not flying anywhere -- you just gave an automatic response with no cognitive integrity behind it. When the GOP says they want to reach out to Black voters there is no cognitive (or emotional) integrity in their words.

Hispanics. Similar to the problems the GOP had with Asian voters in 2013. Just as America blamed Cruz and the GOP for the government shutdown, Asians and Hispanics place clear blame on Boehner and the GOP for shutting down Immigration Reform. In addition, the GOP's recent attacks on Pope Francis, who happens to be Catholic, won't help them appeal to the Hispanic community, which is mostly Catholic.

Women. For women, the Republican Party began the year with several of their 2016 hopefuls voting against the Violence Against Women Act, spent the summer making it harder for women to vote (specifically those who may have changed their names following marriage or divorce), spent the fall trying to make it harder for women to access their constitutionally guaranteed reproductive rights, and have ended the year passing Rape Insurance.

LGBT. In light of Democrat's DOMA victory, several Republican states are refusing to offer military benefits to same-sex couples. It'll be interesting to see if those same states refuse to file taxes for same-sex couples next year since the federal government sees them as married no matter where they live. In addition, university counselors will have to help same-sex couples file their FAFSA, and I doubt financial advisors in all states are trained or willing to assist them.

As I pointed out during the 47 percent tape anniversary, the Republican Party has a demographic expiration date: 2028. It's possible that most of the 1st time voters in that election will be minorities. If the GOP continues to write their own zombie apocalypse by turning off minority voters, and if they concurrently fail to create barriers to voting, then the Executive Branch will become a one-party system.

Occupy Compromise
Given the demographic realities in the country and the GOP's incidental masochism in reaching out to minorities, the Democratic Party does not need to help them by moving to the far-left. We should pride ourselves on being able to compromise to get government work done and using government to improve people's lives. Each day of my life is a testament to government as I wasn't born with God-given rights -- I was born with government-given rights (particularly the right to vote, which my parents weren't born with).

Therefore, the pride we have in our proclivity to compromise and use government to extend rights and opportunities should not be given up due to our current frustration with Republican obstructionism. Future President Hillary Clinton, who grew up a Republican, will perform far better among Independents (who lean right) and Moderates (who lean left) if the Democratic Party is still perceived to be a party of responsible, pragmatic legislators. If we attempt to increase the proportion of far-left (or Occupy) candidates in the 2014 midterms, and thereby make our party as partisan as Republicans, we will only succeed in creating a more polarized atmosphere. Moreover, by increasing polarization and reducing compromise, Democrats would be helping Republicans achieve their goal of breaking Government.

It would be a sad irony if Democrats, who value compromise and a functioning government, willingly augmented the current obstruction by seeking ideological purity.

However, I disagree with Third Way's argument that we don't need those far-left voices as proponents of Progressive ideals. I still consider Elizabeth Warren's statement on our social contract to be one of the most inspirational moments of the 2012 campaign, and we couldn't have won without the Occupiers creating the core debate of the campaign: 99 percent and 1 percent.

To be clear, my point isn't that we don't need Occupiers or far-left progressives in Congress; rather, I'm arguing that we shouldn't increase the proportion of far-left legislators and concurrently decrease the proportion of center-left and left legislators. We all know that there is a disparity in demographic diversity between the parties when it comes to racial/ethnic diversity, but there's also a disparity in ideological diversity between the parties, with Republicans being ideologically pure and Democrats being ideologically diverse. I hope my Democratic Party remains a party that prides itself on all its diversity: racial, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation based, and ideological.

YOU MAY LIKE