Latrobe native who teaches at Stanford says parties, not people, are polarized
There is a “polarization of the political elites” in American politics with Republicans and Democrats on the extremes of the political spectrum, even though there is no evidence the public they serve is so split, a Stanford University political science professor said Friday at St. Vincent College.
“The middle is still there, but it has no home in either party. There is no longer any (political) center,” Stanford professor Morris Fiorina told an audience of about 60 people at St. Vincent’s Culture and Policy Conference, which concludes Saturday.
The two parties are further apart than at any time in decades, said Fiorina, a Latrobe native. The most liberal Republican still is to the political right of a conservative Democrat, he said. They are polarized on an ideological level, not a personal one, he said.
The bases of the parties are so set in their stances that Democrats who oppose abortion do not speak out against it for fear of angering the party faithful, he said.
“I don’t think either party serves the public well,” said Fiorina, who has written widely on American politics, with an emphasis on representation and election.
The availability of money in politics does not make it easier for the parties to move closer to each other. Most of the money politicians rely upon to run campaigns does not come from their legislative districts, he said.
“Democrats use California as an ATM and Republicans use Texas,” said Fiorina, who also taught at Harvard and the California Institute of Technology.
Despite the gap between the political parties, Fiorina said, there is no evidence that the American populace is more polarized than it used to be.
“Public opinion is much more homogenous on issues than the political elite,” Fiorina said.
What has happened is, “People have widely distorted views of what the other party believes,” Fiorina said. For that, he blames the television news media.
For those thinking the party polarization might ease during four years of Donald Trump in the White House, Fiorina is not optimistic.
Trump has cobbled together a coalition of those who are conservative on social issues and liberal on economics, which has caused splits in both the Republican and Democratic parties, Fiorina said.
Tribune-Review staff writer.