Another Mismatch

In a valedictory to a long-serving member of the House who has announced his retirement, Albert Hunt includes this interesting quote in his piece at The Hill:

I interviewed Price the day after his retirement announcement. He recalled, with fondness, those salad days when he first arrived in the late 1980s.

Since then, the House, he says, “has changed in major ways: some positive, others not so much.”

The positive is that it’s a much more inclusive, diverse place, especially the Democrats: “We have become small d in that sense.”

The “not so much” is the deep polarization and emphasis on grandstanding rhetoric over legislative achievement. “When I arrived, members came to get something done; now many see the House as a platform for their own pursuits, a stepping stone.”

Price doesn’t exempt some in his own party but believes there’s “asymmetrical polarization.” When Newt Gingrich, in 1995, became the first Republican Speaker in more than 40 years, he adapted the same political guerrilla tactics that were so successful on the campaign trail to the House leadership.

It has gotten worse, Price says, with the Tea Party and Trump takeover of the GOP: “The politics of the Republican base are driving it further to the right; this no longer is a center-right party. They drove away two Speakers, and we have a much more divided chamber.”

I agree with his marking of the point of inflection in American politics as Newt Gingrich’s term as House Speaker. I also agree that there is more diversity of opinion among Democrats than among Republicans.

I disagree with any notion that this is a recent phenomenon. After all it was a century ago that, when asked if were a member of an organized political party, Will Rogers responded in the negative that he was a Democrat. And Bill Clinton’s remark about Republicans wanting to fall in line while Democrats wanted to fall in love?

I also disagree strongly with his admiration of Speaker Pelosi. If you don’t like Trump, you should not like Pelosi: one of the factors that led to Trump was Speaker Pelosi’s rejection of compromise and narrow majoritarian approach to the House.

7 comments… add one
  • jan Link

    I question your conclusion regarding which party has a greater degree of diversity of opinion. If Dems are so diverse why is their vote almost always lockstep to one another? Unlike the republicans who have a noticeable number of RINOs in their mix, manifesting into siding with the Dems, the democrat party seems to speak in one voice, with few dissenting from the party narrative. While Sinema and Manchin have been occasional outliers to policies the Dems want to pass, by and large the majority of Dems stick together, even though their votes are not necessarily representative of their more moderate constituencies.

  • The party is quite diverse but the leadership is more centralized and focused on the progressive wing of the party.

    The Democrats include progressives, moderates, and conservatives—just not in the leadership. The Republicans are becoming increasingly uniformly conservative.

  • steve Link

    Pelosi has contributed, but I think McConnell has done as much or more. He is much more competent than Pelosi so he has been better at keeping his party in line and not letting Dems get anything done. SCOTUS strongly in GOP hands was largely his doing.

    “The Republicans are becoming increasingly uniformly conservative.”

    Nothing like conservatives 30-40 years ago. Even 10 years ago.


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Conservatism seems quite normal, comfortably so to many when progressives piss all over themselves with glee at every Biden appointment chosen by sexual orientation or disorientation, as it may be.

  • Nothing like conservatives 30-40 years ago.

    Just as the progressives aren’t like the liberals of 40 years ago.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    The assessments of the Republican / Democrat party seems at odds with this study in 2017 ( )

    or this one in 2020

    In both studies, Democrats are more coherent ideologically on cultural and economic issues then Republicans are.

    What may be true was that the Democratic Party were more diverse on ideological beliefs until the great “migration” of Jacksonians to the Republican party during the 2010’s.

  • I would agree that if you pick your questions/issues carefully you can get pretty much any result you care to. I’m just telling you what my experience is. Maybe Chicago is atypical. Maybe my experience is atypical.

    There was a “great migration” of white Jacksonians to the Republican Party. However, it is still true that there are a lot of black Jacksonians and other social conservatives, almost all of them Democrats, and there are lots of moderate Democrats. How many liberal Republicans are there? I think they’ve all become independents.

    Let me put it another way. Is Bill Clinton a progressive? I don’t think so. Hillary? Uh-uh. Is Mitt Romney a conservative? Yup. That a lot of Republicans now consider him a RINO just indicates how far they’ve drifted.

    What I will say is that the number of people who characterize themselves as “independents” continues to grow which I attribute to increasing ideological coherence in both parties.

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