There is an almost overwhelming argument from the "mainstream" political punditry, led by David Broder, that both the Democratic and Republican Parties have been taken over by "extremists." It is one of the fundamental tenents of Village philosophy that the extremists are ruining America, especially on the left, and must be shunned at all costs. However, it turns out that the so-called "extremes" are actually the ones who feel the most left out, not the "middle."
According to a recent Gallup poll, 25% of Americans feel either than the Democratic Party is "too conservative" (8%) or that the Republican Party is "too liberal." (17%) Both of these positions would generally be considered "extremist," at least within national American politicsl discourse. 25% is a fairly sizable "extreme," but so be it for the purposes of this post.
Now, assuming that we are dealing with a rational country (I know that is a big assumption), let's assume that the 8% who felt Democrats were "too conservative" also thought that Republicans were "too conservative." Further, let's assume that that 17% of the country that thought the Republicans are "too liberal" also though that the Democrats are "too liberal." Taking these groups out of the picture, we are left with the following view of the two parties according to Gallup's data:
Democrats: About right 42%--29% Too Liberal
Republicans: Too conservative 35%--34% About Right
Not only does this make the Democratic position look very strong relative to the Republican position, but it also shows that, at the absolute most, 29% of the country thinks that both Republicans and Democrats have gone too far in abandoning the center. If all 29% of the country who are "non-extremists" but think that the Democratic Party is "too liberal" also think that the Republican Party is "too conservative," then 29% hold the Village view that the extremists are taking over both parties. While that is just over the 25% of the population who would be considered "extremist," it is hihgly unlikely that that all of the "non-extremists" who think that the Democratic Party is too liberal also think that the Republican Party is "too conservative."
I asked Gallup if they kept data on how many people thought both that the Democratic Party was "too liberal" and that the Republican Party was "too conservative," but unfortunately they did not. Still, even lacking the specific data, it is extremely likely that many, if not most, of the "non-extremists" who think that the Democratic Party is "too liberal" are probably people who think that the Republican Party is "about right." As such, one possible way to estimate the number of people who hold the Village view comes from a study of perceived new media bias from mid-2004.
The study showed that 53% of self-identified Republicans believed the news media was biased in favor of Democrats. This sort of partisan perception ("I'm a Republican and the media likes Democrats too much") is comparable to believing that the Republican Party is "about right" and that the Democratic Party is "too liberal." So, if we assume that 53% of those who feel the Republican Party is "about right" also feel the Democratic Party is "too liberal," that means we are probably talking about 11% of the country believing that both parties are too extreme (0.29 - (0.35 * 0.53) = 0.11). That is about half as many as the 25% of the population who feel left out on the "extremes."
While I don't have any specific data to back up that there is far more "mainstream" political media whining about both parties becoming too extreme than there is about both parties being sell-outs in some capacity, but I would be absolutely gobsmacked if the margin wasn't at least 10 to 1. This is even though there are roughly twice as many people who feel left out at the edges. Kind of makes you wonder how most "mainstream" political media was taken over by such a narrow segment of the population.