Opinion Brief

America's big shift to the right: Fact or fiction?

Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira says the American electorate actually hasn't changed much. Others challenge his definitions of "electorate" and "much"

The 2010 fight for control of Congress is over, but the battle to interpret the results wages on. And "the big dispute at the heart of most arguments," says Ed Kilgore in The Democratic Strategist, is "whether the U.S. electorate is moving ideologically to the right in a way that gives Republicans a natural majority in the future." The conventional wisdom, based on the GOP gains and exit polls, is "yes." But is the conventional wisdom right?

Conservatives, not America, moved right: There has been a slight shift to the right since 2006, says Ruy Teixeira in The Democratic Strategist (PDF), but it's "overwhelmingly an intra-Republican story." More Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, who "act very similar to Republican partisans," now call themselves conservative, and they "turned out at very high levels in 2010." The rest of the country? It's stayed largely the same.
"Is the electorate moving to the right? Ruy Teixeira says no"

Still, the trend should worry Dems: However big or small the shift, says Jay Cost in The Weekly Standard, the overall trend should be small comfort for Democrats, who are doomed by the electoral map. "Nowadays the Democrats win the cities, but are much weaker everywhere else," and the increasingly conservative South is just gaining more power and seats in Congress.
"Is the electorate moving right?"

It's the Democratic politicians who have shifted: Liberals weren't motivated to vote this year, says Stephanie Taylor in U.S. News, because their candidates failed to fight "for popular progressive change." Most Americans believe in Big Government programs like Social Security and wanted a public option for health care. In other words, "we live in a center-left country," but that "isn't reflected in our government or in the timid, conservative elements of the Democratic Party."
"Democrats... didn't fight for popular progressive policies"

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