I love XKCD. Here, he has graphed the DW-Nominate scores for both chambers of our Congress. Check out the full size version: http://xkcd.com/1127/large/
The DW-NOMINATE data set is a treasure, and I’d been planning on doing something similar to this graph to follow my Supreme Court post. But since he’s already done all the hard work, let me just make a few observations:
Take careful note of the way the parties have changed since Nixon. Not only have the conservatives and liberals fully sorted themselves into the two parties, the centrists of each party (shown by the lighter color) have been displaced by the extremes (the darker colors). This is especially apparent among the House Republicans, where that deep dark red took over swiftly beginning in the 1990s.
There can be no doubt that this trend is a failing of our republic. It’s a political failure, instigated intentionally by folks like Pat Buchanan who started as an advisor to Nixon. It’s a media failure, brought on by the way technology has replaced a unified national discussion with a fractured ideological one. And it’s an institutional failure, seen in the corrupted redistricting of House seats and the incentives to abuse every one of the numerous veto points in our legislative process.
The Historical Switch of Left and Right
On a historical note, let me say that I do not agree with DW-NOMINATE’s classification of right and left in the first three party systems. I, for one, strongly associate myself with the Washington Administration, not the anti-federalists; with Hamilton, not Jefferson; with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, not Andrew Jackson; with Lincoln; and with the Progressives of Teddy Roosevelt, not the Populists of William Jennings Bryan. In each of these cases, I think that yesterday’s left has become today’s right, and yesterday’s right the left.
But maybe it’s just that my tribal affiliation with the North is stronger than my partisan affiliation? Does anyone else see the left/right switch in the same way I do?