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Moderate voices go silent in new House of Representatives

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Don’t expect much bipartisan moderation from the newly sworn in 112th U.S. House of Representatives. The new cohort is likely to be “the most conservative House of the entire postwar era,” even when compared with the Newt Gingrich-led House of 1995-97, says Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz. His analysis of the midterm elections appears in the January 2011 issue of PS: Political Science and Politics.

Both parties saw a dramatic decline in the number of moderates elected to office. As a result, the ideological distance between the average Democratic representative and the average Republican representative has increased dramatically, leaving the House more polarized than ever, he says.

The most likely result “will be two years of continuous confrontations in almost every major policy area between both President Obama and a Senate in which the balance of power is still held by moderate Democrats,” Abramowitz says.

During the Gingrich era, moderate Republicans outnumbered strong conservatives by a wide margin. In the 112th House, however, very conservative Republicans greatly outnumber moderates, Abramowitz says. 

“Moderate Republicans held the balance of power in the Gingrich House, but they will have almost no influence in the 112th House. As a result, pressure on the House leadership to pursue a hardline conservative agenda is likely to be much stronger, and opportunities to reach bipartisan agreements with Democrats are likely to be much more limited if not nonexistent,” Abramowitz notes.

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