Newly elected Rep. Mark Pocan said on Up w/ Chris Hayes today that Congress is less popular than “cockroaches and traffic jams.” Why is that? Well, the Republican Party’s extreme rightward shift over the last three decades may be largely responsible for just how dysfunctional Congress has become.
According to new data published this week by political scientist Keith Poole, Republicans in the House of Representatives are now more ideologically extreme than at any time since 1879. And as a result, the distance between the two parties, as measured by Poole, is larger than at any time in more than a century.
A lot of the credit for this trend, according to conventional wisdom, goes to the Tea Party. But Poole’s data shows that the Republicans’ rightward shift began long ago, in the late 1970s. And not only that, but even the most moderate Republicans — the tenth ideological percentile, or light red line in the chart above — are now as extreme as the most extreme conservative Republicans were in the 1970s. Put another way, the most conservative member of the House of Representatives in 1976 would, today, be considered the most moderate.
That’s how far the Republican Party has drifted.