Here's David Brooks, from an online conversation with Bob Herbert on the New York Times site:
The Obama administration has sent the country off to the right. The president is creating a counter-realignment.
Voters don't identify with the G.O.P. but the number of people who call themselves conservative is now near an all-time high.
Er, Bobo? Reports of that uptick are based on this Gallup survey, and while the percentage of conservatives is (disturbingly) high, it's barely higher than it's been at any time in the past 17 years:
Percentages calling themselves conservative, as recorded twice a year since 1992: 36, 39, 38, 36, 38, 37, 37, 38, 38 38, 38, 40 40, 38, 37, 37, 37 ... and now 40.
Um, that's not a huge, paradigm-shifting leap. To say the least.
Brooks goes on to say:
Meanwhile, Bill Galston, who served in the Clinton administration and is one of the smartest political observers I know, sums up the public mood nicely in an article in The New Republic:
Far more independents (35 percent) consider themselves conservative than was the case a year ago (only 29 percent)....
Galston says (and Brooks agrees) that this is because the public is moving rightward on a number of issues. That's true to some extent, as revealed elsewhere in the Gallup poll linked above.
But look at the chart -- the overall percentage of conservatives has barely budged. So what's going on?
Well, duh -- remember all those surveys showing incredibly low Republican party affiliation? What's happening is that right-wingers who used to think of themselves as Republican now call themselves "independent" -- because they don't think the GOP is wingnutty enough.
So it's not that independents of long standing are become more right-wing. It's that it's now cool on the (far, far) right to call yourself an independent. If Brooks knew what he was talking about, he'd know that.
(Via Balloon Juice.)