Hilarious Study Reveals How Conservative Americans Turned Into ‘Right-Wing Extremists’

A Pew Research Center study wants us to believe Democrats haven't changed in 50 years, but Republicans have gone far off center. This is our corrected version of that skewed picture.

Pew has its graphic of its "results"; this is a corrected version.

By Tom Gilson Published on December 8, 2023

Years ago, in a crowded pickup lane at the Ontario, California airport, a driver in a convertible got mad at me for not opening up a parking space like he wanted me to. I don’t remember exactly what I did wrong, but I do remember — true story now — how he screamed at me. “Why didn’t you signal you were going straight?!!”

I burst out laughing. I don’t suppose it sweetened his foul mood any, but I couldn’t help it. People who make a public display of not knowing their right from their left from their straight ahead are hard not to laugh at.

We’ve got that problem in politics now. I keep hearing myself described as a “right-wing extremist.” You probably do, too. It’s puzzling, since I don’t hold any views today that would have been “extreme” a few years ago. I haven’t changed, yet somehow I’ve turned into a “right-wing extremist” anyway.

How did that happen? Did I take a sharp right turn, and forget to signal it?

Ready for a Good Laugh?

I think you know the answer already, but this picture tells it better than anything I know. It’s a cleaned-up yet accurate version of results from a 2022 Pew Research Center study on politics from 1971-72 until 2021-22. It’s almost as funny as the man who didn’t know the difference between turning and going straight.

What they want this to show is that American politics has grown increasingly polarized since 1971, and it’s all Republicans’ fault. Democrats are no further from the center now than 50 years ago, but Republicans have jumped far to the right.

Pew even put numbers on it. Democrats have shifted just 0.06 points to the left since 1971, while Republicans have moved more than 0.25 points to the right. I don’t know what these points stand for, but the “point” is, Republicans have careened far off center, more than 4 times as much as Democrats have.

And who could argue? What Democrats stood for in 1971, they stand for today. No difference at all. (Blink, blink.)

No Change on Marriage Policy?

Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in 1971, “Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.” He hoped his generation would be “one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

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And every Democrat believes that today. No change since 1971. That blue line hasn’t budged a bit.

President Bill Clinton said in 1996, “I remain opposed to same-sex marriage.” Also in 1996, Democrats stood in strong support of man-woman marriage, with 64% of House Democrats and 70% of Senate Dems voting for the Defense of Marriage Act. And they haven’t changed a bit since then. I know, because the Pew picture tells me so.

No Change on Border Policy?

In 1996, the Democratic Party Platform included:

Today’s Democratic Party also believes we must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it. …  In 1992, our borders might as well not have existed. The border was under-patrolled, and what patrols there were, were under-equipped. Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again.

No change there, either. It wouldn’t surprise me if they copied and pasted that right into their 2024 platform! Because as Pew tells us, Democrats have hardly budged on anything in the last 50 years.

I’m afraid I don’t have any Democrat statement to quote from before 2000 on puberty blocking or surgical “sex change” for minors. Of course, no one was talking about it then. I suppose that must mean they’re not interested in talking about it now, either. (Blink, blink.)

Time to Take the Blinkers Off

Okay, enough sarcasm. I’ve revised the Pew Center graph to show what’s really happened over the past 50 years. (I’m sure this understates the problem, but I didn’t see much point in trying to draw it to scale.) The center line ought to stay straight, but it’s turned left, and forgot to signal.

If Republicans are further from the “center,” it’s only because that “center” has shifted far to the left. And the only reason it’s shifted that way is because the left says so. They’ve boarded a plane flying left, and they’re dragging the “center” along behind them like a tail flapping in the wind.

This isn’t just me as a conservative whining over being slapped with the “extremist” label. This is clear data showing how even a respectable research firm like Pew can’t tell their right from their left from their center.

The Truth: Another Case of Dishonest, Self-Serving Rhetoric

Or, more likely, they don’t want to tell. They don’t want to signal. Because what this represents is another manipulative rhetorical strategy to make the far left look normal, and the solid conservative right look like we’ve jumped off a cliff to the right. It’s dishonest, it’s insidious, it’s demonstrably wrong and stupid. Yet here it is. It’s almost everywhere in mainstream media.

So I’ll correct what I said a moment ago. They didn’t forget to signal; they chose not to instead. Signaling would mean admitting they were doing it on purpose. They built up the “extreme right-wing” lie intentionally, for false and self-serving purposes. And they sit there and scream at us, like we were the ones to blame for it.

I wish we could laugh it off as easily as I did the man at the airport. We’ve got work to do on our own signaling — our messaging, that is. And we’d better be very sure we get on a straight heading, and hold firm there.


Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality

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