[Note: This item comes from friend David Rosenthal. DLH]
What Happened to America’s Political Center of Gravity?
By Sahil Chinoy
Jun 26 2019
The Republican Party leans much farther right than most traditional conservative parties in Western Europe and Canada, according to an analysis of their election manifestos. It is more extreme than Britain’s Independence Party and France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), which some consider far-right populist parties. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is positioned closer to mainstream liberal parties.
These findings are based on data from the Manifesto Project, which reviews and categorizes each line in party manifestos, the documents that lay out a group’s goals and policy ideas. We used the topics that the platforms emphasize, like market regulation and multiculturalism, to put them on a common scale.
The resulting scores capture how the groups represent themselves, not necessarily their actual policies. They are one way to answer a difficult question: If we could put every political party on the same continuum from left to right, where would the American parties fall?
According to its 2016 manifesto, the Republican Party lies far from the Conservative Party in Britain and the Christian Democratic Union in Germany — mainstream right-leaning parties — and closer to far-right parties like Alternative for Germany, whose platform containsplainly xenophobic, anti-Muslim statements.
The Republican platform does not include the same bigoted policies, and its score is pushed to the right because of its emphasis on traditional morality and a “national way of life.” Still, the party shares a “nativist, working-class populism” with the European far right, said Thomas Greven, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin who has studied right-wing populism. These parties position themselves as defenders of the “traditional” people from globalization and immigration, he said.
The difference is that in Europe, far-right populist parties are often an alternative to the mainstream. In the United States, the Republican Party is the mainstream.
“That’s the tragedy of the American two-party system,” Mr. Greven said. In a multiparty government, white working-class populists might have been shunted into a smaller faction, and the Republicans might have continued as a “big tent” conservative party. Instead, the Republican Party has allowed its more extreme elements to dominate. “Nowhere in Europe do you have that phenomenon,” he said.
The situation predates the current administration, Mr. Greven said. While we could analyze Republican manifestos only through the 2016 election, since then, President Trump has openly expressed approvalfor politicians like Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of France’s National Rally, who was recently ordered to stand trial for posting pictures on Twitter of killings by the Islamic State.
The Democrats fall closer to mainstream left and center-left parties in other countries, like the Social Democratic Party in Germany and Britain’s Labour Party, according to their manifestos’ scores.
And the United States’ political center of gravity is to the right of other countries’, partly because of the lack of a serious left-wing party. Between 2000 and 2012, the Democratic manifestos were to the right of the median party platform. The party has moved left but is still much closer to the center than the Republicans.