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America’s Political Spectrum: Left, Empty space, Far Right Outliers

©John Sherffius

This Sherffius cartoon is pretty accurate. It’s not so much that the middle is missing, it is the Center Right and merely Right that have disappeared from our political system.

I’m not enamored by Americans Elect or any third party effort at this moment because splitting the vote could elect someone who makes George Bush look like a scholarly statesman.

Nevertheless, I hope that groups like Third Way and politicians like Jon Huntsman and Rocky Anderson will lead us to deep political introspection after 2012.
– Iron Filing



  1. tim firch wrote:

    I think logicians have something called the law of excluded middle

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    The problem is we need some kind of a parliamentary system or something, something that favors more than 2 parties being around.

    Look at Europe for an example, the Pirate party recently captured some parliamentary seats in multiple places, and nationally has 9% support from European voters. They’ve even been successful at getting the Green’s to take their kinds of issues seriously, since the Green’s voters are the ones most frequently defecting to the Pirate Party.

    (The Pirate party is a party protesting extreme copyright/intellectual property laws, such as how ridiculously long copyright lasts, and attempts to stop infringement by disconnecting people from the internet for mere accusations of infringement rather than convictions).

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink
  3. Arthanyel wrote:

    I find all of these mono-dimensional spectrum depictions misleading. There are not, in fact, such clear divisions in the American electrate. The reality is that the significant people are not “Center Left” or “Center Right” or anything else – they are a mixed bag, leaning leftwards on many social issues (like we should have Social Security) and leaning right on many fiscal or defense issues (small government, strong military).

    I, for example, am a passionate defender of gun rights, a woman’s right to choose, a radical re-engineering and downsizing of the government, a strong social safety net, minimal government interference in business, and universal health care. Where do I fall on the spectrum?

    It is only the very recent past when the two parties became so polarized – the most liberal Republican is now more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. What we need is representatives that represent the people as a whle and not “moneyed Americans”.

    I have come to the conclusion that “$1, 1 vote” corruption of our system is at the core of the problem, and if we can fix that perhaps we can fix it all. What do you think?

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  4. Arthanyel wrote:

    Typo above – in line two it is supposed to say “significant MAJORITY of poeple”

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  5. westomoon wrote:

    Oh, please! Name me one member of the “far left”, despite all the loud cries of socialism.

    I couldn’t disagree with this cartoon/chart more strongly — we have lots of middle, the right is moving farther into the lunatic fringes every day, and what we now call “Left” is more conservative than Richard Nixon or Eisenhower.

    As to the “missing” moderate Republicans — there are plenty. These days, they’re called “Blue Dog Democrats”.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  6. Patricia wrote:

    Arthanyel: I think you speak for more people than you realize. Thanks. Interestingly, I remember reading about 30 years ago that the ideas you have listed for yourself (some conservative, some liberal) were what the future held for American politics. Now, I just hope we survive until it happens.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Filing wrote:

    Westomoon – I agree with you about no “far left” and I hinted at that in the title by using Left and Far Right as the only non-empty categories. You’re also right that many modern Democrats are basically Nixon Republicans.

    Arthanyel – You often speak my opinions better than I do, and that’s certainly the case now. I believe that we are still terribly polarized even within a multidimensional spectrum. I’ve often wished I could vote for one candidate for social issues, another for economic issues and yet another for foreign affairs!

    Money and power are certainly at the core of corruption. I think we have to get unregulated PACs out of politics but I don’t know how. We need to close the revolving door between government and Corporations/K-Street. Too many politicians and high-level appointees are influenced by anticipation of big paydays after they leave government.I’d also limit contributions to candidates to a more generally affordable $100.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  8. Duckman wrote:

    We need more people like Colbert to expose PAC’s

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink
  9. Unrepresented wrote:

    Ah, the old “political spectrum” … it’s a side-show to keep us occupied while our owners get about their business.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink
  10. Mike wrote:

    I second westomoon, the idea that what we need is a party between them is insane. Dems are in the center right now.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink
  11. Mike wrote:

    I’m heard the ex mayor of salt lake talking about his justice party. Sounded good to me…..

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Filing wrote:

    I was very impressed by Rocky Anderson, Justice Party, in an interview I saw but I can’t seem to find the video online. If someone finds it please let me know.

    The Desert News has a report about his announcement for forming the Justice party here:

    He seems to add a truly independent voice to the mix but I really can’t see him attracting votes from anyone but Obama.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  13. Do you really think the Democratic Party is “solid left?”

    Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  14. Iron Filing wrote:

    Chinagreenelvis (love your name)- I get so confused with these labels! They mean such different things to different people that communication is nearly impossible across the multi-dimensional political spectrum!

    To most vocal Republicans, the Democratic Party is way past “solid left” into radical socialist territory. I use Left currently to refer to Democrats that I would have called moderate 30 years ago. The average Democratic congressman now is a Nixon Republican no matter what Republicans call them. Blue Dog Democrats aren’t Democrats at all in my opinion.

    Sorry for the confusion but the meaning of words seem to be changing faster than I can keep up with. It reminds me of conversations with my parents and siblings who all believe in God but define God in such different ways from each other that I can’t tell what they’re talking about.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  15. Republican and Fox News rhetoric has shrunk the playing field in favor of the right. This is the only way they can get away with calling Democrats “leftists.”

    United States political parties occupy the top-right square of another simple model called the political compass. It measures the left-right liberal and conservative against the top-down authoritarian and libertarian. Compared to all of the options available in this scenario, Dems are merely on the left of the right.

    Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink