A few years ago, political scientists and some popular commentators began examining a phenomenon known as “asymmetric polarization,” a fancy way of saying that while the two parties were moving apart ideologically, they weren’t doing so at the same rate. For a variety of reasons, Republicans were heading faster to the ideological edges. “Republicans are galloping right while Democrats are trotting left,” wrote Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their 2006 book Off Center; or as David Roberts put it, “The left’s gone left but the right’s gone nuts.”
There was copious evidence in congressional votes and public opinion to substantiate that assertion, not to mention the entire lunatic phenomenon of the Tea Party, which culminated in the nomination and election of President Trump. But in just the last couple of years, we may have seen a reversal, in which Democrats are the ones who are changing while Republicans aren’t, or at least aren’t as much. Part of the reason may be that there’s only so much room on the right for the Republican Party to go, unless they propose to turn The Handmaid’s Tale into a documentary, bring back child labor, and round up all the endangered species for processing into lunch meat. But Democrats are undergoing a much more striking ideological evolution right now, genuinely turning into a more emphatically liberal party.
Are there risks associated with such a change? Sure. But they’re actually in a better position to profit from them than Republicans were at their periods of rapid ideological evolution. That’s because on nearly all the issues where Democrats are becoming more liberal as a party, they’re moving toward public opinion, not away from it. And Republicans, especially President Trump, are making it even easier.
Consider what may be the most dramatic change of late, the Democratic Party’s almost complete embrace of what gets reduced to the shorthand of “single payer” health insurance. It would actually be better termed “universal coverage,” since there will be some variation in what Democrats support (here’s a sample plan if you’re interested), but what’s important is that just about every Democrat who might run for president in 2020 has already come out and said they support single payer, by which they mean a government guarantee of health coverage for everyone.
This is an enormous change. Ten years ago, all the major Democratic candidates rallied around something like the public/private hybrid Mitt Romney had passed in Massachusetts. Just two years ago, Bernie Sanders offered a single payer plan, which Hillary Clinton said was too radical and proposed enhancing the Affordable Care Act.
But now President Trump and the Republican Congress have effectively ended the argument among Democrats. Their failed attempt to repeal the ACA showed everyone how much the public values Medicaid, while their somewhat successful efforts to sabotage the law will continue to reduce security and increase premiums, creating the space for Democrats to propose something much more ambitious.
And the public looks ready to hear their case: The most recent
Source:: The Week – Politics