Trump is radicalizing the Democratic Party

For years, a cadre of left-leaning, political-science-aligned or -curious pundits have offered a simple diagnosis of what ails American politics: the Grand Old Party.

That’s not an oversimplification of the stance. In 2012, for example, my colleague Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann wrote a Washington Post column titled, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” The critique hinged on what they call asymmetric polarization—yes, politics is more polarized than any time in recent memory, but that is not (the argument) goes because both parties have become more extreme. Nor is it a factor of partisan sorting, the idea that while both parties used to have liberal and conservative wings, the Democrats are now a uniformly liberal part and the Republicans a uniformly conservative one. Rather, the Democratic Party moved slightly left, but the Republican Party has moved far right.

But what if the asymmetric trend is no longer so asymmetric? Recent polling from Pew finds, as one might expect, that not only are parties becoming ideologically homogeneous, but so are people. Two decades ago, or even one decade ago, most Americans had a mix of conservative and liberal views. That’s increasingly not the case. Today, 97 percent of Democrats are more liberal than the median Republican—an even more extreme concentration (by a hair) than across the aisle, where 95 percent of Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat.