What folks used to say:
•Watts: “Both parties agree about far more things than they disagree about.”
•They both attach great importance to the constitution and wish to maintain America’s system of government. Neither favours changing the economic system.
•It is rarely the case that parties are united against the other.
•Each party consists of different groups, or factions, that often have more in common with a group or a faction from the other party.
•In 1993, there were 26 Democratic Senators with a more conservative voting record than liberal Republican James Jeffords.
What is happening now?
•The differences “between” parties are now more significant than the differences within.
•In 2013, not a single Democratic Senator had a more conservative voting record than the most liberal Republican Susan Collins.
•There are no more “centrists”.
•Republicans are more closely linked to a specific ideology – conservatism. Likewise, the Democrats are more closely associated with liberal beliefs.
•In the House of Representatives in 2005, there were 56 Congressmen/women with a “centrist” voting record, where it was difficult to tell if they were liberal or conservative.
•In 2013, there were just 5.
•The break up of the “Solid South” in the 1970s meant conservatives in this area left the Democrats and sided with the Republicans. This resulted in an already conservative party becoming even more conservative. It took away the conservative wing of the Democrats, leaving a more liberal base.
•There are now no Democratic governors in the South and only 6 southern Senators (out of 22) are Democrat.
•Redistricting has resulted in fewer competitive seats, meaning that House members do not have to “reach to the middle”. In 2014, there were only 90 “swing seats” out of 435 in play.
•Tribal loyalty has increased: there is greater support amongst registered party supporters “for their own guy”. In Obama’s fifth year in office, only 11% of registered Republicans gave the 44th president a favourable approval rating, compared to 71% registered Democrats.
•The rise of new media and radio talk shows have further cemented the differences, with conservatives preferring to watch Republican-favouring news channels like Fox. Even what liberals and conservatives watch and read is different.
•In 2010, 78.6% of votes in the Senate split along party lines, the highest percentage since 1922.
•Not a single Republican in either House of Congress supported Obamacare