14 August 2012

The inexorable rightward drift, part 13,759 of a series

What do you notice about this graph of vice-presidential DW-NOMINATE scores collected by Nate Silver? Well, Paul Ryan is the most conservative VP candidate in history, which is what liberals want you to remember. But that's not everything. Ryan's just the latest in a long-line of increasingly-conservative Republican picks. The next two most conservative on the list are Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle. Only Jack Kemp is out of order. (Sarah Palin doesn't have a DW-NOMINATE score, never having been in the national legislature, otherwise she would slot in nicely.) So Republican VP choices are gradually becoming more conservative, defying the standard assumption of pundits that a running mate should be used to "balance the ticket" ideologically and geographically.

However, Democratic veep nominations are also getting more conservative. The eight most conservative Democratic choices include all five nominated since 1988. Of the five most liberal, only Walter Mondale is post-1960.

The rightward creep of American politics is fast becoming a sprint. The liberal loyalist hold-your-nose lesser-evil faction likes to emphasize the "real differences" between the two parties. Well, this is one of them. The Democratic Party is thoroughly controlled and managed by its right wing, which has steadfastly prevented actual liberals from ascending to any positions of leadership. The loyalists argue for grassroots party-building and "working within the system" but have no plan to unseat the institutional and money power of the conservatives.