Friday, May 25, 2018

Centrists-- The Real Bad Guys


American fascist, Matt Gaetz

There really are right-wing extremists in Congress-- Jim Jordan (R-OH), Brian Babin (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Pete Olson (R-TX), David Kustoff (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Austin Scott (R-GA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Diane Black (R-TN), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Joe Wilson (R-NC), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jody Hice (R-GA), John Fleming (R-LA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)... I don't want to call anyone a Nazi. But someone could.

But there really aren't any left-wing extremists in Congress. Not a one. (I wish there were.) The dozen House Democrats with the highest ProgressivePunch lifetime scores are all, basically, left-of-center moderates:
Jamie Raskin (MD)
Mark Pocan (WI)
Pramila Jayapal (WA)
Katherine Clark (MA)
Mark DeSaulnier (CA)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Jan Schakowsky (IL)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Judy Chu (CA)
Adriano Espaillat (NY)
Ro Khanna (CA)
Keith Ellison (MN)
Most of them represent districts with constituents to the left of where they are! David Adler, writing for Wednesday's NY Times, put together an OpEd asserting that Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists, equating extremists on the right with "extremists" on the left. "The warning signs," he begins, "are flashing red: Democracy is under threat. Across Europe and North America, candidates are more authoritarian, party systems are more volatile, and citizens are more hostile to the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. These trends have prompted a major debate between those who view political discontent as economic, cultural or generational in origin. But all of these explanations share one basic assumption: The threat is coming from the political extremes." OK, Europe has some left wing extremists. But not the U.S.
On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process.

Is it true?

Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.

I examined the data from the most recent World Values Survey (2010 to 2014) and European Values Survey (2008), two of the most comprehensive studies of public opinion carried out in over 100 countries. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on a spectrum from far left to center to far right. I then plotted the proportion of each group’s support for key democratic institutions.

Respondents who put themselves at the center of the political spectrum are the least supportive of democracy, according to several survey measures. These include views of democracy as the “best political system,” and a more general rating of democratic politics. In both, those in the center have the most critical views of democracy.

Some of the most striking data reflect respondents’ views of elections. Support for “free and fair” elections drops at the center for every single country in the sample. The size of the centrist gap is striking. In the case of the United States, fewer than half of people in the political center view elections as essential.

Of course, the concept of “support for democracy” is somewhat abstract, and respondents may interpret the question in different ways. What about support for civil rights, so central to the maintenance of the liberal democratic order? In almost every case, support for civil rights wanes in the center. In the United States, only 25 percent of centrists agree that civil rights are an essential feature of democracy.

One of the strongest warning signs for democracy has been the rise of populist leaders with authoritarian tendencies. But while these leaders have become more popular, it is unclear whether citizens explicitly support more authoritarian styles of government. I find, however, evidence of substantial support for a “strong leader” who ignores his country’s legislature, particularly among centrists. In the United States, centrists’ support for a strongman-type leader far surpasses that of the right and the left.

What Does It Mean?

Across Europe and North America, support for democracy is in decline. To explain this trend, conventional wisdom points to the political extremes. Both the far left and the far right are, according to this view, willing to ride roughshod over democratic institutions to achieve radical change. Moderates, by contrast, are assumed to defend liberal democracy, its principles and institutions.

The numbers indicate that this isn’t the case. As Western democracies descend into dysfunction, no group is immune to the allure of authoritarianism-- least of all centrists, who seem to prefer strong and efficient government over messy democratic politics.

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia, middle-class moderates have encouraged authoritarian transitions to bring stability and deliver growth. Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?
Or maybe we should re-examine this whole concept, at least for the U.S. after the November midterm elections and-- more to the point-- after the 2020 presidential election.

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At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is BS. Having the respondents self identify place on political spectrum seems a bad idea. Most extremists I've met consider themselves normal moderates and every one else whackos.

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:24 makes part of my point.

The other part is that you must weight the responses with how well their "western democracy" is functioning.

In the united shitholes of America, it hasn't worked worth a shit for decades. Between the creation of the super-rich starting with Reagan to the outright purchase of policy by those super-rich to the (notably in 2008-14) economic ratfucking endured by all BUT the super-rich combined with both parties openly and lustily serving those super-rich... we suck.

Finally, you simply HAVE to factor in how gawdawful stupid americans are combined with how limbically overstimulated we are (greed, fear, hate, greed, lust, hate and greed. did I mention greed?) compared to most others. Stupid potted plants who exist for greed and hate will always tend to soft-sell themselves when self-IDing. I'm quite sure Hitler considered himself a moderate. But he actually helped his people... initially. Nobody in government here is helping anyone but their donors and themselves. And until we upset the system, they never will.

I'm kind of surprised about the findings from the dutch. I'm not up on what's going on there, but I'd be worried if I lived there.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Dutch were swayed by just a couple of terror attacks conducted by Muslims. For being a nation which suffered mightily under Nazi occupation, one would think those people would know better than to follow in those bloody footprints. But instead, it appears they have forgotten those experiences.

It is only a matter of time (with plenty of prompting by Trump being incessantly repeated by FAIX NOOZ) before a similar conversion can be engineered here in the Land of the Freebooter and the home of the Brave Corporatist.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dutch and French also had far more than their share of quislings. perhaps natural selection has made Neiderlanders majority quisling in the 70 years since.


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