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Who Has Real Power Inside Their Party Caucuses In Congress? And Who Doesn't?

Bloomberg published a column by Jonathan Bernstein this morning before dawn demonstrating the difference between the power of the far right in the House— which really is far right— and the so-called far left, which isn’t far left at all to begin with. His point is that “the power of ideological outliers is very different between the parties… Mainstream liberal Democrats [generally corporate whores and careerists]… are not afraid of disagreements with the House Progressive Caucus. Indeed, many of them appear to delight in contrasting themselves with those who are more liberal. Mainstream Republicans, however, are terrified of any significant criticism from those who call themselves extreme conservatives [now we’re talking about MAGAts, Neo-Nazis and outright fascists]— which allows those radicals to bully the rest of the party. We saw the results recently, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitting that Ukraine aid would probably be cut off if he becomes Speaker, even though the House as a whole would certainly have the votes for additional aid packages and even within the Republican conference there will likely still be a majority for continuing to support that beleaguered nation.”

Bernstein insists that what he calls “very liberal Democrats” have some influence and that, after all, “many of their proposals were included in bills passed by House Democrats during this Congress, even if in most cases they didn’t have the votes to win in the Senate. Overall, Democrats had a very liberal-friendly agenda [even if that is different from a PROGRESSIVE agenda], the result in large part of a presidential nomination process in which mainstream liberals [again, NOT progressives] prevailed over strong showings from Senator Bernie Sanders (and to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Warren). Just as important, those who wanted to make the party less liberal were wiped out early. But the most liberal Democrats can’t simply bulldoze their way over the rest of the party as radical Republicans in the House do on a regular basis. Nor are they willing to risk harming the party by pressing too hard on their differences. [<>Only 6<> held the line and, despite withering fire from their own party establishment, stood by their values and constituents.]… It all adds up to a party that is surprisingly good at navigating their differences— and able to pass bill after bill despite extremely narrow margins in both chambers of Congress. The contrast to the dysfunctional Republican Party in Congress, held hostage to the whims of the most radical members, couldn’t be more clear.”

Could anyone imagine a Democrat in Congress threatening Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer or Jim Clyburn the way Marjorie Traitor Greene and Matt Gaetz have threatened Kevin McCarthy? Last week, in an adaptation from his new book, Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind, Robert Draper noted that "In Greene’s view, a Speaker McCarthy would have little choice but to adopt Greene’s 'a lot more aggressive' approach toward punishing Biden and his fellow Democrats for what she sees as their policy derelictions and for conducting a 'witch hunt' against former President Trump. 'I think that to be the best speaker of the House and to please the base, he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway,' she predicted in a flat, unemotional voice. 'And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it. I think that’s the best way to read that. And that’s not in any way a threat at all. I just think that’s reality.' Though the 48-year-old self-described 'Christian nationalist' possesses a flair for extreme bombast equal to that of her political role model Trump, Greene’s assessment of her current standing within the Republican Party— owing to the devotion accorded her by the party’s MAGA base— would seem to be entirely accurate."

Writing for The Hill Yesterday, Erin Norman, the senior messaging strategist at State Policy Network, talked about why many Americans are concealing their true political beliefs. The Hill neglected to mention that the State Policy Network is a Heritage Foundation spinoff, basically a very right-wing network of conservative think tanks built around the idea of battling unions, privatizing Medicare and shrinking the ability of government to protect consumers and taxpayers from the depredations of… the corporations that finance these right-wing think tanks. They get their financing from Koch industries, Philip Morris, Kraft Foods, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, Facebook, Microsoft, the Castle Rock Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. But, The Hill didn’t think any of this information was relevant and presented Norman as a senior messaging strategist, rather than as someone who constantly writes OpEds demonizing Joe Biden.

So what’s she whining about now? “[H]ow deeply American adults are affected by social pressure to fit in, especially when it comes to hot-button political issues that came to light in a study by Populace Insights, another right wing think tank. The Hill didn’t mention Populace Insight’s ideological bent either. Norman wrote that “The report’s findings suggest that American popular culture, and the desire to fit into it, makes the American people look far more politically extreme than they really are. The study uses a clever methodology to measure agreement with statements that people might feel social pressure to reject, even in a private online survey. Differences between stated and privately held opinions were as high as 14 percentage points among all Americans and soared even higher among certain subgroups.” Needless to say, they discovered that Americans are more right-wing than they say they are. Here’s Norman’s propaganda, which you can expect to hear being mouthed by nuts like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz soon:

Millennials, who have spearheaded the progressive left in the last decade but recently transitioned from youthful activism to the responsibilities of parenthood, are privately much more conservative when it comes to education issues. Three-quarters privately believe parents should have more influence on school curriculums (+26 points compared to their public opinion) and have significantly more private doubts about racism and gender ideology being taught in schools.
Additionally, the youngest voters, those under 30, are privately rejecting ideals that are frequently associated with their generation. Just one-in-four privately believe CEOs should take public stances on social issues. What’s more, privately, the belief that racism in built into America drops from 65 percent to 42 percent. The way voters, including this youngest set, privately shy away from the most progressive beliefs may be part of the reason President Biden’s net approval rating fell 7 points during the week in which he announced a wealth-redistributing student loan forgiveness plan.
That is not to say real differences don’t exist between different age cohorts or political parties, because they do. But within the safety of an individual’s mind, almost every issue takes a step away from the accepted view of a self-prescribed tribe: Republicans are less set on overturning Roe v. Wade and have more reservations about turning the internet into a completely unregulated free speech zone. Democrats are less enthusiastic about masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and half as likely to think colleges should censor speech.
Although many staunch partisans take a step back from the party line in their heads, their publicly pronounced stances have created an environment where independents, as well as certain racial minorities, are the least comfortable sharing their views in public, according to the study’s key findings. It is telling that one of the smallest differences between public and private opinions among various demographic subgroups comes when asking people if they have avoided saying something they believe for fear of offending someone. Half of Americans recall such an instance in the past year.
Perhaps this chilling environment helps explain why trust in American institutions has plummeted in recent years. If our society has created an environment where people do not feel free to share their opinions, the default expectation may now be that everyone is hiding something. It might also explain the rise of political candidates of otherwise questionable experience and ability that have been successful with a simple “say it like it is” campaign strategy.
Unfortunately, there is no way to legislate people into being honest in conversations about current affairs. This problem must fall to civil society. One of the easiest things individuals can do is stop using politics as a litmus test for friendships and other social interactions.
Despite many articles encouraging people to embrace tribalism and cut out the “others” from our lives, psychologists have found that making friendship contingent on matching political views is not compatible with the strong relationships humans need to flourish. In solid friendships, individuals will have the intimacy needed to share true opinions, which improves the lost art of tolerating disparate views. In this way, we will be able to find common ground and rebuild trust in individuals and institutions that may not act according to our preferred political beliefs.



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