Three cheers for Ryan Lizza. On "Morning Joe" on Monday morning, he refuted the conventional Beltway wisdom that "both sides" are to blame for the political gridlock in Washington.
January 23, 2012

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Three cheers for Ryan Lizza. On "Morning Joe" on Monday morning, he refuted the conventional Beltway wisdom that "both sides" are to blame for the political gridlock in Washington.

MEACHAM: What does the White House, I should say attribute the polarization to at this point and if the identified the problems can they do something to solve them?

LIZZA: I think two things that aren't that complicated, polarization, two parties moving to the left and right, but it’s not just polarization and I think where a lot of reporters have trouble describing this phenomenon accurately. Frankly, you have one party that has gone much farther to the extreme than the other. The Republican party has been pushed much farther to the right than the Democratic Party. So we don't have polarization, we have asymmetric polarization.

SCARBOROUGH: I just want to state for the record -- let the record reflect, I disagree. Go ahead. This is your time.

LIZZA: I think there’s some pretty, if you look closely at some of the political science behind that – I think you’d have a hard time making the case that the Democrats in Congress have gone as far to the left as the Republicans have gone to the right.

Scarborough lamely tried to refute Lizza’s point by suggesting that what unnamed Democrats said about George W. Bush was just as bad as what Glenn Beck is saying today about Obama. That’s nonsense, of course – there were no elected Democrats comparing George W. Bush to Hitler on the floor of the House or calling him a racist on national television.

But political rhetoric isn’t what Lizza was talking about.

As Nate Silver demonstrated with hard data, the Democratic Party is still a party primarily of moderates, and the GOP is totally dominated by conservatives. And even that doesn’t take into account how far right the scale has been titled over the past 30 years.

Back in the '50s, an era conservatives romanticize, Dwight Eisenhower presided over a 91% marginal rate on the wealthy and launched the biggest public works project in US history -- which was paid for by tax increases.

During the '80s, another favorite decade of the right-wing, Ronald Reagan raised taxes 12 times -- including one of the largest tax increases in U.S. history -- and signed a bill that provided a path to citizenship for immigrants. Both of which would be unthinkable in today’s GOP.

Today, we live in an era in which a 35% tax on the highest earners constitutes tyranny, a $787B emergency measure to stave off a second Great Depression – over a third of which was tax cuts – is characterized as a historically unprecedented spending binge -- and the GOP's answer to immigration is to forcibly deport 12M people. Not to mention the fact that Senate Republicans have used the filibuster more than any other minority in history -- and that now it's commonplace for Republican presidential candidates to argue that the most popular programs of the New Deal and the Great Society should be eliminated.

Lizza should be applauded for getting this right. This “both sides have become equally extreme” stuff is just lazy and uninformed -- and should be throughly refuted every time it comes up.

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