Republicans Have Become Party of 'No'

Conservatives Turn Rejectionism a Political Way of Life

By J.J. Goldberg

Published June 10, 2012, issue of June 15, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Last week, alert readers recall, we talked about the “silencing of the liberal American Jew,” the narrowing of the range of acceptable discussion in much of organized Jewish life. I hope you’ve all come prepared to continue our discussion this week. Pencils out, please.

House Speaker John Boehner
getty images
House Speaker John Boehner

Our primary theme wasn’t the suppression of unpopular minority voices, however sexy that topic sounds. Rather, we studied the suppression of the majority by a determined minority. Suppressing a minority isn’t pretty, but suppressing the majority is really ugly. In the case of Jewish community, we argued, its “main representative bodies” no longer speak out as they once did on the moral issues of social and economic justice that most Jews care about. They’re stymied by vehement conservative minorities.

This week, we’ll broaden our lens a bit and look at wider national trends that mirror the Jewish dilemma. Here the issue isn’t suppression of a majority, but something different: congressional gridlock and government paralysis, leaving us with a growing sense of helplessness in the face of fiscal and other crises.

The cause, it’s usually said, is polarization of the parties and the electorate. But even-handedness is misleading. Despite all the media chatter about the two parties moving toward their extremes, there’s mounting evidence that the radicalization is mostly on one side — the right.

We’re talking about hard, statistical evidence. It’s compiled by conservative as well as liberal researchers. For example, the center-right National Journal reported in its annual congressional Vote Ratings for 2011, released in February 2012, that for “the second year in a row, but only the third time in the 30 years that National Journal has published these ratings, no Senate Democrat compiled a voting record to the right of any Senate Republican, and no Republican came down on the left of any Senate Democrat.” The report didn’t pin blame, but the numbers spoke for themselves. Each lawmaker’s voting record for the year was computed on a 100-point conservative-liberal scale. The meeting point was around 52 on the conservative side. That is, the most conservative Democrats were more conservative than liberal, and the most liberal Republicans were to the right of that. Picturing the ratings like a football field, the midpoint was on the Republicans’ 48 yard line. The numbers for 2010 were even starker: Four Democrats were solidly conservative and the most liberal Republicans didn’t get past their own 40 yard line. The midpoint was on the Republicans’ 41 yard line.

Similar results appear in a study of voters released June 4 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The study tracked voters’ changing responses over a quarter-century on 48 different values questions, from abortion to the environment to government help for the needy. The report says self-described Democrats have moved to the left and Republicans have moved to the right. Looking at the numbers, though, the Democrats’ shifts are generally slight and occasionally rightward, while the Republicans’ overall shift is astronomical and uniformly rightward.

The most talked-about new political book this spring is the just released “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.” Co-written by political scholars Norman Ornstein of the staunchly conservative American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the liberal Brookings Institution, it is essentially a searing indictment of the Republican Party’s drift to the extreme right, which it claims is the main cause of our national dilemma.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.