The Kenyan Muslim Socialist Usurper is just a Run of the Mill Moderate-to-Conservative Pol

Yup, Obama is a run of the mill moderate. We’ve been saying this for years but Keith Poole’s Voteview has a better methodology for estimating presidential positions on a left-right scale since 1945.  Every one in left blogistan is talking about that and not our joint intuitions and research.  The VoteView site actually has an interesting way to look at Political Polarization of elected officials and shows that the Republican Party has been moving rapidly to an ultra right position recently.  We’ve also said this.  I can’t believe how many Birch Society positions are now “mainstream” in Republican circles.  However, the Republican party asked for it when they courted Dixiecrats and the KKK away from the old style Dem party and were simultaneously usurped by religious radicals.  State Republican parties make the Taliban look reasonable.  Just come down here to the South or go to the middle of the country.  You would think the good old days of slavery were back in vogue. The current crop of primary tap dancers only shows how extreme the party’s base has become.  Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich can’t lie about their past lives fast enough.  They also seem to subscribe to the idea that when you repeat lies enough, they become truth.

Our findings here echo those discussed in a prior post that Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left in the contemporary period. Indeed, as seen below, President Obama is the most moderate Democratic president since the end of World War II, while President George W. Bush was the most conservative president in the post-war era.

So, this result is interesting on many levels.  First, Dubya has to be the most hated president since Nixon if not for longer than that.  His policies were and still are extremely unpopular.  That’s why the right is running on Reagan’s supposed rhetoric but not Reagan’s more liberal policies.  Remember, Reagan rescued social security.  Dubya wanted to privatize it.  Reagan engaged the Soviets. Dubya bombed the shit out of two countries he didn’t like. The other thing this shows is that moderate Obama is being labelled things that are outright lies.  This probably indicates the power of Fox News, the Koch Brothers money, and the current Republican fascination with denial of reality and truth.  Obama has basically stayed out of congressional politics. Ezra Klein paraphrases some of Poole’s findings.  DW-Nominate is Poole’s methodology for sorting out votes via measuring political coalitions.

DW-Nominate rates presidents by processing Congressional Quarterly’s “Presidential Support” index, which tracks roll-call votes on which the president has expressed a clear position. The system then rates the president by looking at the coalitions that emerged in support of his legislation. In essence, it judges the president’s ideology by judging the ideology of the president’s congressional supporters. So how, in an age of incredible congressional polarization, could this system rank Obama as a moderate?

There are a few answers. One, says Poole, is that Obama is very careful about taking positions on congressional legislation. In the 111th Congress, he only took 78 such positions. Compare that with George W. Bush, who took 291 positions during the 110th Congress, or Bill Clinton, who took 314 positions during the 103rd Congress. So part of the answer might be that, with the exception of high-profile bills such as health-care reform, Obama is hanging back from most of the congressional squabbling.

I wanted to share others’ thoughts on the Poole analysis.  Digby basically says the findings confirm “why liberals are frustrated”.  In deed, the real left wing of the Green and Democratic Parties do not like Obama’s policies at all.  This is something completely lost on Republicans in la la land.

Paul Krugman–ever the wonk–focuses on Poole’s methodology. This is something that bears reviewing.   It shows how Nixon’s southern strategy and the politicization of christofascists has changed party dynamics.

I’ve long been a great admirer of the work done by Poole and his collaborators. What they do is use roll-call votes to map politicians’ positions into an abstract issue space. You can think of this as a sort of iterative process: start with a guess about how to rank bills from left to right, use that ranking to place politicians along the same spectrum, revise the ranking of bills based on the politicians, and repeat until convergence. What they actually do is more complicated and flexible, and allows for multiple dimensions; but that sort of gets at the general idea.

And it turns out that US politics really is one-dimensional, that once you know where politicians stand on a scale that clearly has to do with taxation and the size of the welfare state, you can predict their votes very well. There used to be a second dimension, clearly corresponding to race; but once the Dixiecrats became Republicans, that dimension collapsed into the first.

Exzra Klein does some longer analysis of the findings along with his usual Beltway Bob spin. Can’t he just quit the man crush thing for a bit?

Obama’s financial rescue effort was largely a continuation of the Bush administration’s policies. He resisted calls to nationalize or break up the big banks, modeled his health-care reform bill after legislation that Republicans had proposed in Congress and Mitt Romney had passed in Massachusetts, extended the Bush tax cuts once and intends to make most of them permanent, signed legislation cutting domestic discretionary spending to its lowest level in decades, and supported the same sort of cap-and-trade plan that John McCain once introduced in the Senate. Obama’s presidency has been ambitious and it’s been polarizing, but in terms of the policy it has produced, it’s been much closer to the market-based approach of Clinton than the forthright reliance on government of LBJ.

Republicans, however, can and should take partial credit for this. Obama is so moderate in part because the Republicans are so extreme. Politicians are ideological, of course, but they are also opportunistic. And the GOP, in closing ranks against almost every major initiative Obama has attempted, has taken away most of his opportunities to be truly liberal. The fight to get to 60 votes in the Senate has ensured, over and over, that Obama must aim his legislation at either the most conservative Democrats or the most moderate Republicans. In this, Obama has only been as liberal as Sens. Ben Nelson and Scott Brown have permitted him to be. And that’s not very liberal.

That’s left Obama a moderate president in an immoderate time. For progressives, that moderation has been a continued frustration. For conservatives, it’s been obscured by a caricature of the president as a free-enterprise-hating socialist. And for the White House, it’s been a calculated strategy. We’ll know in November whether it was the right one.

I’m probably an archetypical independent these days. I’m gravitating towards Obama not because I like anything he’s done, but because Mitt Romney can’t seem to speak with out lying and Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum represent what is undoubtedly the WORST thing about this country.  All of their positions are straight from either the christofascist or Confederate states of America playbooks.   I can’t for the life figure out what it is–other than personal promotion–that drives Mitt Romney.  His do anything, say anything brand of politics frankly makes Obama look like a reasonable choice.  Plus, the more I find out about Romney’s personal decisions–like baptizing his outspoken atheist father-in-law post mortem–is horrifying.  The dog on the roof struck me as the most inhumane act I’d ever heard until I read about his Stake President lectures to women in Vanity Fair.  The man seems capable of speaking out and out lies with no sign of remorse or self-realization at all.

So, here we are together between the Barack and the Willard Hard Place.  We’ve got the shallow boyfriend who offers us promises he never intends to keep and the preppy boyfriend who’ll tell us anything if we just give him that blow job.  What a freakin’ choice that is.


30 Comments on “The Kenyan Muslim Socialist Usurper is just a Run of the Mill Moderate-to-Conservative Pol”

  1. That last paragraph – I would have laughed harder but with this cold I would have ended up with a 10 minute coughing fit. You could not have described the situation more appropriately. We need a Dakinikat chart on all of the politicians, rating them on the boyfriend scale. Okay, I’m coughing now!

  2. northwestrain says:

    State Republican parties make the Taliban look reasonable.

    Yep! hit nail on head.

  3. ralphb says:

    That fits the conclusion I’ve come to after watching for about three years. Obama seems to be a middle of the road moderate. In fact, he’d probably be pretty close to the old Southern Democrats like Bill Clinton, if Bill didn’t have Hillary pushing him a little Left.

    The GOP is so batshit crazy now that Dubya couldn’t get the nomination anymore. He wasn’t nearly wingnut enough for the current base.

    • alibe50 says:

      I think he is just a corrupt man out of his element and will sell any position that will get him reelected. He is not a moderate or a conservative and not even close to a liberal. He is corrupt. He has no values and he and his backers are in it for the money and the power. He has neutered the left. He has emboldened the right and he does not give a damn for any of us, left, right or center. He is the ultimate corrupt cynic that never had a position to sell out. I feel so sorry for us. I only hope he loses this election. Perhaps the left will regain a bit of its former self. But i doubt it anymore.

      • ralphb says:

        The Left doesn’t have a self and never did in the US. Unless you count worthless hairballs like Tom Hayden as some kind of leader. The problem with what has been the Left in the US is they have been chronic bitchers and moaners who have meetings where they talk endlessly with each other about coming up with a plan to someday have a plan if only they could remember what it was about but now have talked so long no one remembers. Just consider the strategic and tactical brilliance of Code Pink and the other groups who stopped the wars in Iraq and AfPak, oh wait. Kumbaya!

        In the meantime, people like FDR, Truman, LBJ and Clinton who were not really of the Left managed to accomplish some very good things for people. Pardon me if I don’t get too weepy that the Left might be neutered. I can’t tell the functional difference.

      • quixote says:

        alibe50, that’s my take on B0, too. George Soros recently said (from memory, so approximate) “If it’s between Romney and Obama, there’s not much difference between them except the crowd they bring in.”

        Which, I think, sums it up perfectly.

  4. ralphb says:

    The man seems capable of speaking out and out lies with no sign of remorse or self-realization at all.

    George H.W. Bush was something like that. While I don’t remember particulars he did something during the campaign against Clinton that was despicable and, when asked about it later, denied he could have done it. When presented with proof he had done it, he still denied it because he was a good person and a good person wouldn’t do that thus he didn’t do it. Must be some kind of rich upper class thing with self denial.

  5. peggysue22 says:

    Well, we know that Romney isn’t running for the financial perks–he’s rich as Midas. But then, so are the Bushies. When Poppy Bush was asked why he was running, he said because the presidency was ‘the big enchilada.’ I always thought that was a really rotten answer but it points to the ego/power thing involved, being King of the Hill.

    With Romney there’s that added Mormon thing and maybe a father to live up to [I've read the father was very well respected, on both sides of the aisle]. And liked. So maybe he’s trying to prove something because I certainly don’t pickup any vision beyond the right-wing blather of deregulation, shrink government, reduce taxes and get out of the way for corporations [because they're people after all].

    But Obama’s political leanings come as no surprise. It just makes the charges of socialism/ Marxism sound all the more stupid. And yes, what the GOP is doing makes Obama look far better than he really is. Obama [despite what he says] doesn’t deserve reelection. But in comparison to the Republicans? He looks like the only reasonable choice.

    Which is the same damn position Democrats/liberals have been faced with for how many elections? Too many!

    • ralphb says:

      Did you like Bill Clinton in ’92 and/or ’96? Was Gore too moderate to get your vote? If not, then the answer to your question would be one (1) election.

      • peggysue22 says:

        No I liked Bill Clinton, despite his flaws. He was, in fact, the best Dem President I had an opportunity to vote for. Twice. I liked Hillary even more.

        I voted for Gore and Kerry without liking either but I admit had SCOTUS not thrown the election to GW, we’d be far better off. I voted for Carter, too [back in the day]. Wasn’t happy about that vote. Good man but simply not a good leader at the national level. But in comparison to Reagan, film star extraordinaire? He looked like a prince.

        So, my answer? It’s been three elections since I had someone to vote for that I actually believed in. Over my lifetime vote? Two back-to-back terms. Not pretty.

        I’m done voting for the lesser of two evils.

      • bostonboomer says:

        They were both too moderate for me, but I was OK with voting for Clinton. I really didn’t want to vote for Gore, never liked him, still don’t.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Romney’s running for financial perks. He wants to lower his own and other rich guy’s taxes and get his hands on the Social Security funds. He’s also doing it because of his daddy complex. Just like Bush and Obama.

  6. quixote says:

    Roseanne Barr is running for Prez as a Green!

    Whee!

    Well, at least I have somebody upticket to vote for.

  7. ralphb says:

    Funny WH Science Fair picture …