I noticed this Facebook comment on the page of a local Ithaca liberal Democrat, on a post criticizing Donald Trump:
Donald Trump looks like the warm-up act. Whoever follows him from the Republican party looks reasonable (and sane) by comparison.
The commenter didn’t use the term, but she was describing how Trump has moved The Overton Window. The Overton Window has been described as follows:
The Overton window is a political theory that refers to the range (or window) of policies that the public will accept.
The idea is that any policy falling outside the Overton window is out of step with public opinion and the current political climate, and formulated to try and shift the Overton window in a different direction, or to expand it to be wider.
Developed by the late Joseph Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the “window” refers to the range of acceptable political discourse on any given topic. As the Mackinac Center explains, “the ‘window’ of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election.”
The key to shifting policy lies not so much in changing politicians but in changing the terms of the debate. In other words, “The window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.” ….
The leftward pressure on the Overton Window has been relentless, with conservatives reduced to applying herculean effort to simply maintain the cultural and political status quo. Yes, the Tea Party has nudged Republicans just a bit to the right, but it’s a sign of the success of the Left that a relatively unchanged GOP can be labeled as ever more extreme and “reactionary.” And few realities show this leftist success better than the fact that the Window now enables expressions of overt leftist hatred and bigotry — against Christians, against conservatives, against whites, and often against Jews.
Then along came Donald Trump. On key issues, he didn’t just move the Overton Window, he smashed it, scattered the shards, and rolled over them with a steamroller. On issues like immigration, national security, and even the manner of political debate itself, there’s no window left. Registration of Muslims? On the table. Bans on Muslims entering the country? On the table. Mass deportation? On the table. Walling off our southern border at Mexico’s expense? On the table. The current GOP front-runner is advocating policies that represent the mirror-image extremism to the Left’s race and identity-soaked politics.
I can’t express how unsuited Trump is for the presidency — are we going to have a president so impulsive as to change his mind from “Let Putin handle ISIS, what has it got to do with us?” to “Let’s bomb the shit out of ISIS” and “I’ll handle terrorism so hard it’ll make your head spin” based on a single thing he saw on TV (San Bernardino) which completely changed all of his thoughts?
But he is useful for plowing through the colossal, coralled-over shipwrecks and dead hulks of leftist thought that clog the trade-routes of political expression and debate.
So getting back to that Facebook commenter, she’s in essence arguing that Trump has moved the Overton Window so far, that it opens up space for candidates previously viewed as unacceptable to everyone except actual conservatives.
And that candidate may be Ted Cruz, at least according to liberal New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, How Donald Trump Has Opened the Door for Ted Cruz to Win:
At the beginning of this year — back when the notion that Donald Trump might dominate the presidential race was a dystopian scenario as unimaginably remote as The Man in the High Castle — the most horrifying thing Republican insiders could imagine was a Ted Cruz nomination. In much the same way that Trump has set the terms of the presidential debate in ways that discomfited the party’s leadership and fired up the base, Cruz did the same in Washington. The intense loathing Cruz inspired among every professional Republican politician not named Ted Cruz made his nomination difficult to fathom. But the rise of Trump has changed many things, and one of them may be to grant Republican insiders a new perspective on just what unacceptable means.
Has the Overton Window opened for Cruz? Is he now the best hope of conservatives AND the savior of the Nation from Trump for establishment Republicans and Democrats?
The Bloomberg/Des Moines Register Poll of Iowa Caucus goers just released continues a series of polls showing Cruz surging into first place in Iowa:
Seven weeks from the caucuses, Ted Cruz is crushing it in Iowa.
The anti-establishment congressional agitator has made a rapid ascent into the lead in the GOP presidential race here, with a 21 percentage-point leap that smashes records for upsurges in recent Iowa caucuses history.
Donald Trump, now 10 points below Cruz, was in a pique about not being front-runner even before the Iowa Poll results were announced Saturday evening….
“Big shakeup,” said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll. “This is a sudden move into a commanding position for Cruz.”
Cruz, a Texas U.S. senator famous for defying party leaders and using government shutdown tactics to hold up funding for the Obamacare health care law and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, was the favorite of 10 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the last Iowa Poll in October. He’s now at 31 percent….
And there are signs Cruz may not have peaked in Iowa yet. Another 20 percent of likely caucusgoers say he’s their current second choice for president. Cruz hits 51 percent support when first- and second-choice interest is combined, again leading the field.
These charts are via Bloomberg Politics:
Iowa may not represent the entire Republican electorate, but with the Overton Window having been shifted or smashed by Trump, it may be wide open for Cruz to “save the nation.”
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