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I watched a video that said that Republicans pushed the nation to the right. But I am getting the sense that Republicans are in a sense "maxed out" in pushing to the right ideologically.

Are Democrats moving left pushing the United States as a whole to the left?

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    I doubt that the US is anywhere near maxed out on being right-wing Jul 18, 2021 at 12:26
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    How would you differentiate "push to the left" from "return to the center"? After all it depends on your reference points (and this is leaving aside the fact that the left/right distinction is quite reductive!) Jul 18, 2021 at 13:18
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    The use of "push" seems incorrect to me. That is, I see it as the people push by who they elect; the parties pull by who is elected.
    – Rick Smith
    Jul 18, 2021 at 16:23
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    This is a bad question, since it assumes that left and right are the only two possible directions. But what we see in the US today is far from a left-right dichotomy. Trumpism is almost antithetical to traditional conservatism, for instance. And is the growing public acceptance of things like gay marriage and marijuana legalization left, right, or something else entirely?
    – jamesqf
    Jul 18, 2021 at 16:49
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    In order to answer this question you should also factor in how the rest of the world sees American politics. From what I understand both parties are seen on the right compared to other parts of the world and it is a matter of one party being further to the right than the other.
    – Joe W
    Jul 18, 2021 at 17:35

4 Answers 4

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It is a bit misguided to cast this as a Republican/Democrat issue, since the origins of it go back before the Southern Strategy, where a large cohort of historically Democratic southern segregationists switched to the Republican party, reversing the conservative/liberal poles and laying the foundation for the modern (Rightist) GOP.

The US has been on a protracted slide towards social-liberal values since the late 1950s, in part due to post-WW-II ideology which held the US as the primary source and protector of (small 'd') democratic values for the world at large. Put simply, the idea that the US protected the weak against oppression solidified in the American consciousness, and that attitude contributed to the successes of the Civil Rights movement, Feminism, gay rights, union movements, and other ostensibly leftist (social-liberal) projects. Conservatives — or more specifically, fundamentalist Christians, economic (free market) adventurists, and white ethno-nationalists, all for very different reasons — have been fighting rear-guard actions against these sociopolitical changes, trying to preserve elements of the 1950s social order. They all pulled together under the GOP 'Big Tent' sometime in the 70s or early 80s (certainly by the era of the Moral Majority movement), despite having little in common except their opposition to progressive social changes.

It isn't that the Democrats have been pushing the nation to the left. The nation as a whole has been moving somewhat left: towards a more secular, technological, cosmopolitan society. The Democratic party has followed that trend while the GOP has steadfastly rejected it.

Up to this point, we see the normal push-me-pull-you struggle between progressivism and conservatism, a struggle that normally slows down change to a manageable level without really stopping it. However, the modern aggrieved political polarization is best described as an advancing decompensation on the fringes of the far Right over their repeated failures to stop or reverse these social changes. I mean, there are always those who decompensate in society, effectively losing connection with reality and retreating into an enclosed bubble where they can maintain an alternate version of reality. Think the Branch Davidians, various New Age cults, the isolationist militia movements of the 80s and 90s, the odd and sundry revolutionary groups that have popped up over the years... But beginning with the collapse of the HW Bush administration (under the mortgage lending crisis) and the nomination and then election of an African American president, large segments of the far Right lost their footing in reality under the stress, insisting that how they viewed the US was reality, and that the Democrats and liberals must have done something horrible to make the US not fit the way the Right perceives it. Add the FOX Network's propaganda paradigm and the tendency of social media to fracture into like-minded enclaves, and perfect conditions were created for a persistent, globally-scaled decompensation.

In short, the far Right now insists that their perspective is true and right, even if it involves Satan worshiping pedophiles, Jewish space lasers, massive undetectable election fraud, and secret nefarious plots lying behind a global pandemic. And they've reduced themselves to obstructionist, unfocussed guerrilla tactics. It isn't that they've 'maxed out' on Rightist ideology, but more that they've lost themselves in such a thoroughly alternate reality that conventional Rightist ideology is too much part of the real world that they are rejecting. They cannot be old-school Rightists without acknowledging that the ongoing social changes are (small 'd') democratically legitimate, and they cannot accept the legitimacy of these changes. So conventional Rightism has to go with all the rest.

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    Very sad to see an otherwise pretty good answer becomes a one side bashing un-necessarily. Where is the far-left fraction in the Democrat Party, as both far-right and far-left are extremes that are largely responsible for the moral decay/confusion/conflict of this society?
    – r13
    Jul 18, 2021 at 20:01
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    @r13: The far left is mainly composed of environmentalists, social justice people, 'occupy' movement activists, and a few of the more radical social democrats, who may at times be bothersome but haven't yet lost their connection to the real world (not like some of the crazier leftist groups of the 60s and 70s). False equivalence is false equivalence, and it's very sad to see people unwilling or unable to make the necessary objective assessment that conservatives have most of the blame for our current situation. Jul 18, 2021 at 20:27
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    It is exactly the point I wanted to make - why tangle/taint the otherwise a well-constructed answer with personal views/bias, which you are entitled to express in a debate or blog, but obviously is not relevant to the question.
    – r13
    Jul 18, 2021 at 22:21
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    What "far-right" has to do with the question " Is the Democratic Party pushing America to the left?" Are you reasoning that because of the existence of the far-right, so the Democratic Party pushing America to the left to just the boat? Wow, what a grand theory!
    – r13
    Jul 18, 2021 at 23:56
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    @r13: 'm suggesting that the nation as a whole has moved to the left, and the Democrats have merely followed. The far Right is the reactive portion of the conservative movement, which isn't simply objecting to or trying to temper this left swing, but is actually asserting a semi-mythological version of how the US once was as though it were factual truth (and making itself a bit crazy in the process). Jul 19, 2021 at 0:40
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That would depend entirely on what you mean by left and right.

If you wanted to measure "push to the right" in terms of, say "fiscal responsibility", it is trivial to find plenty of people who will argue that the GOP did not push the USA to the right in the slightest.

If you look at the ACA and it's acceptance by a majority of Americans, it can easily be argued to represent how Democrats pushed the USA to the left.

And plenty of examples to argue the opposite exist.

What truly happened is that there has been a significant shift in values of the GOP, where it has embraced some more extremist elements. Calling the integration of these extremist elements, which are ranging from Tea Party to QAnon - with Proud Boys and others in between - "Pushed to the right" is one way to look at it. But if you define the political right as traditional Conservatives, I'd argue the GOP and the USA as a whole has drifted away from them.

At the same time, there has been a comparatively smaller shift in values of the Democratic Party. Sure, you can break that down and pick some elements with which you can argue that it has moved to the left on those elements, but by focusing on others you could also argue the other way.

To complicate things further, if we look at right/left as purely conservative/progressive, the simplified goal of conservatives is not to change things "back" to some mythical past*, but to preserve things as they are, while the goal of progressives is to embrace change. In theory, whenever progressives establish a change that does work (e.g. ACA), within a few years it will be conservatives fighting to preserve that change. Which makes it near impossible to undisputedly claim a country moved more to the left, or to the right, absent a truly earth shattering shift in public sentiment.


*1. that's not being conservative, and 2. it's disputed if that's right wing or not.

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There is definitely a reformist movement within the Democratic party (Bernie, Taylor, et. al.) that pushes towards a more socially responsive government to address prevailing socio-economic problems, including: public health, education, climate change, incentive to the alternative energy industry, minimum wage, etc. These are problems that the free-market system and traditional government actions have consistently fail to solve viably, or at most have provided temporary relief for. This form of government involvement is in direct opposition to the conservative’s small government ideal (as proposed by Reagan).

However, there is lots of misinformation and disinformation regarding this reformist movement. First, the conservatives try to characterize them as radical left, marxist-lennist, etc. Yet, their policies are more social-democratic than radical; i.e., they are not proposing the abolition of private ownership, but the redistribution of wealth through taxes, etc., to solve these problems. Thus, their classification as marxist-lennist, radical left is improper (even if any of its members are or manifest themselves in support of such oppressive regimens as the Cuban one and against the US embargo).

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I think it's pretty clear that they are. What policy issues have Republicans and the right conclusively won in the past ~100 years? Pretty much just gun rights as far as I can tell, and even there one can make an argument they've lost at least some ground. Abortion, gay marriage, the welfare state, drug legalization, environmentalism, healthcare, all of these topics have seen right wing defeats over and over again.

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    But if you look at traditional conservatives, many of the things you list are what they'd consider personal matters, and not the business of government unless you do it in the streets and scare the horses :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jul 19, 2021 at 2:16
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    How do you know the push is caused by the Democratic party? Jul 19, 2021 at 8:50
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    @user253751 Who else is pushing for the left in the US?
    – Ryan_L
    Jul 19, 2021 at 15:49
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    @Ryan_L maybe the general population as other answers have stated Jul 19, 2021 at 15:58

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