Looking for the political middle in Congress? It's gone.
There are any number of reasons for this disappearance -- partisan gerrymandering and closed primaries being the two most obvious -- but the numbers are unbelievably stark, particularly when you consider that roughly 30 percent of the electorate consider themselves political independents. (According to exit polling, 29 percent of people named themselves independents in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.)
The slide above also explains why there will be no grand or even big bargain on debt and spending -- or much of anything else -- anytime soon. The political incentive to make deals simply does not exist in the House and, in fact, there is almost always a disincentive for members to work across the aisle. (This is less true in the Senate where a centrist coalition -- Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Kelly Ayotte, Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor, Mark Begich etc -- exists although that coalition has shrunk in recent years too.)
The deal-makers -- as we have seen from the last month in the House -- are largely gone. The two people who do seem capable of crafting deals -- Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- come from a different time in politics. (Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972, McConnell in 1984.) The middle's voice in the House is so soft as to be almost non-existent. And it's hard to see that changing -- at least in the near term.
All of which means one thing: No deal(s).