Once again the New York Times’s “Invitation to a Dialogue” feature has gotten me riled up.

Yesterday’s “Invitation” author has come up with the idea that both political parties need to shed their extreme wings, which will somehow enable the remaining more moderate parties to arrive at the necessary compromises to overcome our chronic gridlock.  There are too many things wrong with this silly idea to be discussable in a letter short enough for the Times to print.   One obvious problem is that, as I have pointed out ad nauseum, there are effectively no moderates left among Congressional Republicans.   But what really pissed me off was the author’s ridiculous suggestion that there is an “extreme” wing of the Democratic Party that is comparable to the Republicans’ extremists.  Below is my letter to the Times in response.  Of course, they most likely won’t print it, but I won’t mind that if somebody at least makes the same point.*

Prof. Bartelmus tells us, “Neither Democrats nor Republicans have the courage to shed their extreme wings.” This implies a false equivalence.   I assume he recognizes that the government shutdown and near default on US government financial obligations were driven by Republican Party extremism.  The Tea Party program would eliminate large sectors of the federal government, rolling back much of twentieth century public policy.  What comparable behavior and proposals would he point to as evidence for the existence of a similarly extreme wing of the Democratic Party?  Who are the Democratic counterparts of Ted Cruz and Michele Bachman?

Political scientists utilizing rigorous studies of Congressional voting behavior have demonstrated that while the Democratic Party has moved just a bit to the left in recent decades, the Republicans have moved far to the right.  The phenomenon is called “assymetric polarization.”  Prof. Bartelmus’s premise of equivalent extremisms is not supportable.



* If you read the responses last Sunday to the preceding “Invitation,” you will see that my letter was not among them.  None of them, IMHO, was as good as mine.  Only one was seriously critical of the “Invitation” writer, who argued that Fox provided needed balance to the pervasive liberal bias of the mainstream media.  I don’t know where the Times gets these guys.



  1. Jeffrey Herrmann December 13, 2013 at 5:06 am

    Holy Moley! Does John Boehner read the New York Times? The day after the Bartelmus column, the scales fall from Boehner’s eyes and he exclaimed before the whole world:

    “I think they’ve lost all credibility,” Boehner said at his weekly briefing on Capitol Hill. “They pushed us into the fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government…And the day before the government reopened, one of these groups said, ‘Well, we never thought it would work.’”
    “Are you kidding me?” he shouted.

    Who knew that Boehner was a crypto-moderate these last three years?

    But that is just a diversion. You are right that there are no prominent — and maybe no obscure — leftie analogs to Bachman and Cruz.

    Do you think there will be a sufficient change in the electorate for the Democrats to recapture the House in 2014? Could the Repugnicans at the same time take over the Senate?

    • tonygreco December 13, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Of course, it’s much too early to make predictions about 2014, but since it’s fun, I’ll do it anyway. My best current guess is that the Dems will barely hold the Senate, and the Repubs will hold the House, but by a reduced margin.

      PS On Boehner, you will find this post interesting, especially the link he gives in his last sentence to his post of Dec. 11.

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