the Dems have been far more consistent - read, extreme - in cleaving to their collectivist “ideological purity”. Socialism has had a loud voice in the Democratic Party, but capitalism has yet to find its political voice. The two ideological extremes are the primary combatants. The Left knows it. The Right doesn’t. The result: The political "middle" keeps moving Left.
In this regard, Ronald Bailey has a helpful article at Reason How Political Extremism Sways Elections and Public Policy. Contrary to the dogma that political extremism is harmful; it not only works but shapes the political direction of a nation. Bailey writes:
One new study shows that extremist arguments can be effective in shifting public policy debates. Another reports that voters do not penalize more ideologically extreme presidential candidates.
"Exposing people to extreme conservative policies makes them more likely to prefer moderate conservative policies relative to liberal ones, and vice versa," reports the New York University political scientist Gary Simonovits. Simonovits' study, which was published in the journal Political Behavior, is basically an empirical confirmation of how the "Overton Window of Political Possibilities" works.
As Simonovits explains, Joseph Overton was a libertarian policy analyst at the Mackinac Center who "argued that the range of policies or opinions deemed acceptable by the public is in a constant flux and can be shifted by introducing and defending ideas not yet 'on the table.'" Or as Daily Kos blogger David Atkins once summarized it: "You win policy debates by crafting arguments for extreme positions—and then shifting the entire window of debate."
A good analogy is going for a touchdown in football. Which is the better strategy; throw a “bomb” to get to the end zone in one play, or go for the goal line by making a series of first downs through plays that gain 4 or 5 yards at a time? The “bomb” would be great, but unlikely. The Left has been going for the socialist goal line one small gain at a time, and they’ve made steady progress. How? By preaching the extreme basics of socialism, altruism/collectivism, while settling for political “compromises” that always moves the culture toward socialism. As I wrote:
The Left will certainly compromise legislatively, such as Obama giving up on the “public option”, so long as the ball is moved toward its ultimate totalitarian socialist goal, as with ObamaCare. The Left will gladly forego the political first down on the first play, knowing that the GOP . . . will compromise on a three or four-yard gain. But the first downs will keep coming on four-yard gain after four-yard gain, as the drive toward the collectivist goal line continues. The Democratic Left represents one extreme, collectivism, and proudly and openly stands on those principles. It has never been “moderate” in regard to its ideological essentials.
The GOP, with rare exceptions, has abandoned the other extreme, individualism (if it ever really embraced it).
Bailey observes that extremism isn’t the only factor in elections. I think it’s far more important in swaying public policy. And I think history bears this out. Republicans have won their fair share of elections over the past 100 years. But the country keeps moving to the Left. Why?
The Right, led by the conservatives, almost always starts from the moderate position, rejecting outright the ideal of laissez-faire capitalism (Objectivists are the obvious exception). We Objectivists have always said that the political direction of a culture may wobble, but the general direction is determined by the extremes of political ideals, with the most consistent extreme winning. Given the Leftist intellectual’s greater (though perhaps not not always full) consistency, is it any wonder that the American political center keeps moving Left, toward socialism.
It’s time for the Right—the true Right, the advocates of individualism and its political expression, laissez-faire capitalism—to get extreme. That is, to state unapologetically its laissez-faire ideal. This way, people can compare where specific policies ultimately lead—which is, either to totalitarian socialism or fully free capitalism. Then we can compromise in a way that moves the culture toward more liberty, without contradicting our fundamental principles. A good concrete example of this strategy is to observe the way Objectivists approach the field of education: We proudly display our long term ideal, a free education market through the complete separation of education and state, even as we settle in the shorter term for universal school choice through tax credits, education savings accounts, or even charter schools. None of these policies represent a fully free education market. But each adds more freedom to education, and thus moves the ball towards our ultimate ideal. Then we will have a chance to reverse the trend toward collectivism and its statist political expression, socialism.
Extremism works. As I said above, “The Left knows it. The Right doesn’t. The result: The political ‘middle’ keeps moving Left.” To repeat David Atkins from Bailey’s article, "You win policy debates by crafting arguments for extreme positions—and then shifting the entire window of debate." Atkins said it in the context of Trump's shocking win over Clinton. And as Bailey observes, “Simonovits' research suggests that Trump's extreme anti-immigrant, protectionist, anti–free speech, pro–surveillance state, and racially divisive tirades may have the effect of shifting the Overton Window toward mainstreaming radically anti-liberty politics.” Which would suit the Left just fine. A more rights-violating government, albeit in the short term not much to the Dems’ liking, will in the long term work to their benefit.
But the overriding message is—Goldwater was right: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
“Extremism,” or the Art of Smearing--Ayn Rand