March 7, 2010

Rhode Island at the National Level: Left and Leaving

Justin Katz

You saw this, perchance?

Rhode Island's delegation to the U.S. Senate is the nation's most liberal, with Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse tied in the number one spot, with partisans from three other states. All five scored 88 on the liberal composite scale....

It's difficult to place Rhode Island on the left-right spectrum in the House of Representatives because one of its two Democratic Congressman, Patrick J. Kennedy, missed too many votes to be considered in the rankings. ...

Rep. James R. Langevin ranked 124th among House liberals with a composite rating of 74.2 on the liberal composite scale of 100.

Rhode Island is deep, deep blue, in a political sense, but as we've been discussing for quite some time, its politicians are well to the left of the population. The problem is that the political machinery and deal making between factions have opened up a channel for our national representatives to be the safe ciphers of the Democrats' way-left base.

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Pols to to reflect the active base. On the right, the pols are also much further to the right than the general populace - RIck Perry in TX being a perfect example (after all, LBJ was more of a Texas type dude).

The reason is simple - the dedicated base is who comes out in the primary elections, so pols have to court that audience.

Posted by: Stuart at March 8, 2010 10:15 AM

The assumption here is that the Congress accurately reflects the politics of the electorate. Total nonsense of course, but let's pretend the Congress is not a deeply conservative institution awash in corporate cash designed to make sure it stays that way.

I thought you tea bag folks understood that. I'm guessing that at least the real right-libertarians are with me on this one.

Posted by: Russ at March 8, 2010 10:51 AM

Not sure what a "right-libertarian" is, but the corporatism of our government, and Congress specifically, disgusts me more than anything, Russ. As long as government is made of human beings, it will always be bought and hijacked by special interests. It is just the nature of the institution, and to think it could be any other way is naivety. The answer is to keep government small and limited in its power, make the gun on the table less powerful.

Posted by: Dan at March 8, 2010 11:08 AM

Wikipedia does a decent job defining these terms...


I just saw that Sirota wrote about this over the weekend...

When you look past the craziness, chaos and confusion of politics these days, you still find roughly two major schools of thought that aim to explain What's Fundamentally Wrong.

The first says America is paralyzed by a political system that is too democratic -- too responsive to citizens' whims. This is the religion of almost everyone in the permanent Washington elite, regardless of party. Its canon mixing paeans to noblesse oblige with shrill authoritarianism is most clearly articulated by high priests like The Washington Post's David Broder and The New York Times' Tom Friedman. The former has said democracy threatens to make "official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion"; the latter dreams of Chinese-style dictatorship.

"One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages," Friedman recently gushed, adding that the chief "advantage" is the ability of despots to "just impose" policies at the barrel of a gun.

By contrast, most people living outside of Washington (i.e., the Rest of Us) see America harmed by a political system that is too undemocratic -- too controlled by moneyed interests, unaccountable lawmakers and a servile press. An organizer friend of mine sums up this view by saying, "The best kind of politician is a nervous politician" -- and the trouble is that gerrymandering, extended terms, incumbent fundraising advantages, obsequious media coverage, lame duck-ness and other travesties make sure few politicians are ever nervous about keeping their jobs.

The idea that the most "liberal" in Congress (especially the Senate) hold views somehow in line with what the left or frankly in many cases what most working Americans actually believe is laughable anywhere but on conservative blogs like this one.

Here's the Political Compass for all US states (here's RI split out for ease of reading). Essentially, U.S. Democrats are a center-right party anywhere except in the bizarro world of U.S. politics where their views are stood up as synonymous with "the left".

Posted by: Russ at March 8, 2010 11:49 AM

My confusion about the meaning of "right-libertarian" stems from the multiple possible meanings given within the wikipedia article you reference.

If I introduced myself as a "right-libertarian" does that mean that I am for...
-massive defense spending?
-greater facilitation of religion by government?
-strict immigration controls?

Those are all things associated with the "right" in American politics, and they could be seen as totally inconsistent with the anti-collectivism that could also be called "right-libertarianism." In fact, I do reject all those things, precisely because I am an anti-collectivist. Does that make me a "right-libertarian"? I don't know. Seems like an overly broad and somewhat self-contradictory label.

Posted by: Dan at March 8, 2010 12:31 PM

I ascribe to the Humpty Dumpty view of language: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less... The question is which is to be master – that's all."

Impenetrability! That's what I say!

As to confusion over left/right, etc. I ascribe to the definition of terms as used in the Political Compass site and disavow any association with the left/right nonsense that passes for analysis in the mainstream media.

Posted by: Russ at March 8, 2010 1:46 PM

Russ-when we met I knew why liked you.You,like myself are undeterred by party line type stuff.We disagree about 70% of the time.
I am an American nationalist,non racist,pro legal immigrant,anti illegal alien,anti neocon,supportive of absolutely necessary military action,against adventorous use of the armed forces,and very confused about health care.
Oh yeah,and don't EVER try to disarm me.
Stay on the site please because you always bring a challenging argument.
Unlike kamreka and RIF we're not looking for a backrub around here.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 8, 2010 3:19 PM
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