Are Moderate Democrats the New Republicans?

Reacting to the asymmetrical polarization of the electorate.

Observing the wrangling over the latest COVID stimulus package, Brad Warthen concludes, “The role of Republicans is now filled by moderate Democrats.”

By “role” I mean “constructive role” or “traditional role.” The proper role of a loyal opposition, one that’s dedicated to contributing a point of view on the way to actually getting things done.

Which of course stands in sharp contrast to the embarrassing behavior we’ve seen exhibited in recent years by the loud, ranting, mentally dysfunctional remnants of the Trump-worshiping former GOP.

I noticed this frequently during the debate over the latest COVID relief bill. While people who wear the label of “Republican” sat on the sidelines making a shameful exhibition of themselves, moderate Democrats have steadily reshaped the bill, often in ways that normal, sane Republicans would have done back in the day.

Like me, he holds out faint hope that we will see a return of that particular species:

Maybe we could take these people — Joe Manchin and the others — and persuade some of the few, pitifully few nominal Republicans who still on rare occasion act like normal, thinking human beings (Mitt Romney, etc.) to join them. Get enough of them (a tall order), and then everyone could ignore the Trumpists, and we’d be back to the two-party system we once were used to — consisting of serious people with different viewpoints, constructively dealing with each other to shape legislation.

But of course, we’re nowhere near having a critical mass of them. Anyway, I’d hate to strip the Democrats of moderation that way. Do that, and the AOCs might actually start wielding the kind of influence among Democrats that the Trumpists like to pretend they do.

So for now, I’m sort of resigned to letting the bipartisanship go on between different kinds of Democrats. It’s not perfect. It would be nice for the Republicans to snap out of it and fill the position again themselves. But that’s not going to happen for awhile. The Götterdämmerung of the GOP is evidently going to be long, drawn-out, messy and painfully embarrassing to watch…

Given years of increasingly asymmetrical polarization, those of us with center-right sensibilities might well be better off, as Bill Kristol urges, fighting to steer the Democratic Party in our direction than engage in a futile effort to reclaim the GOP. And, considering that there’s a demonstrably better chance that the Democrats will nominate a Joe Biden than that the Republicans will nominate a Mitt Romney again, that’s the strategy I’ve pursued in the last couple of cycles.

While the Overton Window has decidedly moved in the direction of AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, it appears, for now, that that brand of Democrat is only electable in very Blue states and districts. Conversely, with few exceptions indeed, relatively moderate Republicans are all but shut out of the process because of the aforementioned asymmetry of polarization.

But that approach isn’t without consequence. If all the sane Republican voters leave for the other party, that leaves only the most rabid voters in charge. Instead of retaking the party being merely unlikely, it becomes impossible.

Given that the poles will occasionally align to give us Republican Presidents and Congressional majorities, that’s a problem. It is, however, not one for which I have a viable solution. (Getting rid of primaries and returning to elite candidate selection would likely work but there’s no prospect in sight of that happening.)

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trumpism didn’t kill the Republican Party, the party had long since run out of ideas. Conservatism died because it was vacuous bullshit that was exposed as bullshit by every encounter with reality. The GOP was a moral and intellectual wasteland, a decadent, weak Rome, easily sacked by barbarians.

    IOW, there is no ‘principled conservatism’ to return to. All that’s left is cultural resentment souring into hate, with an epistemological approach reduced to, ‘because I want it to be true, waaah!’ . Manchin’s position seems to be ‘liberal minus 10%.’ He’s as vacuous as a Republican, but I understand what he has to do to be elected by the backward goobers of WV. In that sense, yes, Manchin fills the Republican role, such as it is.

    But I really think it’s important to understand that conservatism died by its own hand, long before Trump, so nostalgic notions of a return to ‘principled conservatism’ are silly and out of date.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    While the Overton Window has decidedly moved in the direction of AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren

    I know, it’s been great!!! We’ve passed a $15 minimum wage, and $400 in UI, and gotten rid of the filibuster.
    Oh wait…we did none of those things. I guess that window hasn’t ACTUALLY moved that much.

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  3. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    If Trump didn’t kill it, he certainly presided at the obsequies.

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Warthen, is mistaken in blaming Trumpism, the predecessor is really McConnellism and the party of obstruction when a Dem holds the presidency. That said, centrist Dems have become the face of the moderate opposition that at one time would have been the moderates from the party out of power.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Agree. But I think you discount the Republican Party’s schizophrenia, an elite donor base dependent on conning a “populist” voter base.

    A side note. I’ve been noticing lately how many of the wealthy donors and “libertarian” ideological “philanthropists” are, if you will, the sons of John Galt. Trump himself, and his kids obviously, the Koch Bros, Betsy DeVos and her aptly named brother Prince, the Uihleins. Back to the founding, Barry Goldwater himself, Mellon Scaife, Olin.

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  6. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Atlas Shrugged should be taught in every high school in the country.

    As a delusional, morally bankrupt, juvenile fantasy.

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  7. While the Overton Window has decidedly moved in the direction of AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren,

    I would be interested in you expanding on this because while I think it is true that the broader political discussion has been more inclusive of the progressive wing of the party, I am less convinced that likely policy outcomes have.

    I do think that the Democratic Party has moved somewhat more leftward (although not as much as the Republicans have moved rightward), I have doubts about the degree to which the Overton Window has moved all that much (especially on average).

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  8. Beth says:

    I’ve tried to have a version of this conversation with the Very Online Leftists that I’m friends with. Trying to explain to them that the Democrats are actually a functioning coalition party is basically fruitless. As opposed to the Republicans that steadily pushed out their Liberals and Moderates and until the only thing left was a hardening lunatic fringe.

    However, I really wish that people would stop referring to Manchin and his wing of the party as “Moderates” or “Centrists”. They are Conservatives. Which fine, we are not going to push them out of the party for various reasons, it’s frustrating, but fine. It just goes to show how much the Republicans have both claimed and tarnished the mantle of “Conservative” that even someone who clearly is a “Conservative” cannot be labeled as such.

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  9. Also: while I take the point of the headline and of the post, the answer is no. The reason is that that “moderate Democrats” are just a handful part of a broader party coalition, not a distinct option for voters.

    The real answer is, I think, what this situation tells us is that Democrats are the only party currently willing to actually govern, and therefore it has to negotiate within itself to do so.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Isn’t the Overton Window about setting the boundaries of debate, not the outcomes?

    I would also point out that we just passed a Covid Relief Bill that didn’t raise the minimum wage to $15/hr, but is expected to cut child poverty in half. I don’t think there’s any way that would have stayed in if there wasn’t the $15/hr stalking horse on the edge to focus the opposition onto and give them a win.

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  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    the predecessor is really McConnellism

    Which is predated by the “Contract for America” and the Hastert Rule, IIRC, but since Newt and Dennis were the last of the “Great Republican Statesmen,” I guess I shouldn’t be mentioning it. Oopsies…

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Also, with the Republicans taking themselves out of the debate, the rightmost edge of the Overton Window has moved towards the center.

    “They’re banning Doctor Suess!” Is not a useful contribution to a discussion on how to help Americans weather the pandemic.

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  13. @Gustopher: I guess it depends on whether the concept it supposed to mean “things we are willing to at least talk about” versus “things we are willing to actually do” in terms of what is supposedly mainstream.

    I am mostly reacting, I think, to the word “decidedly” in James’ description.

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  14. @Gustopher: Perhaps so. The reality is that “the Overton Window” is a rather vague construct, ultimately.

    But, fair points.

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  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: The schools can’t even teach 1984 effectively any more. And sadly, there are more objectivists in the education system than you realize. Over the years, I guest taught for teachers presenting both Anthem and The Fountainhead. What the teachers were doing with them was… well… let’s just leave it as not as illuminating as you might have hoped.

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  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    The schools can’t even teach 1984 effectively any more.

    Oh, I think they have been quite effective. Only they have taught it as an instruction manual, and not a cautionary tale.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @Steven L. Taylor: @Gustopher: Joe Biden is certainly governing well to Barack Obama’s left on social policy. The whole “equity” initiative and his LGBTQ policies would have been unthinkable in 2016 and are barely being commented on now.

    The $15 minimum wage easily sailed through the House and may well have a majority in the Senate. It was stymied by a parliamentary ruling that it could not be considered under reconciliation and there aren’t the 60 votes to override the filibuster.

    The $1.9 Trillion “COVID relief” package was mostly a massive welfare bill only tangentially related to COVID and included child benefit that would have been unthinkable two, much less five or ten, years ago. Yes, it was a one-time deal but it’ll almost certainly become a baseline now that it’s happened, as not making it permanent will be seen as a “tax hike.”

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  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I won’t presume to speak for James, but I’ll note that the Overton window typically refers to discussion, punditry etc., not legislation. We are, as@Daryl and his brother Darryl: notes, talking seriously about things we hadn’t in the past. I’d add UBI, and although everyone writes off Occupy, wealth inequality. I don’t see much prospect much will be done, but talking about these things is a start.

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  19. Andy says:

    There are a couple of ways to look at this.

    In terms of policy, I think we are effectively in a one-party situation given that the national GoP really has no unifying policy goals except tax cuts. From that angle, it makes perfect sense for those in Kristol’s camp to try to move Democratic policy rightward.

    In terms of power, there will never be a one-party state and there are millions of Americans who oppose the Democratic platform even as the current political system has not given them any coherent policy alternatives. Negative partisanship will continue to drive a non-trivial number of Americans, so Democrats shouldn’t expect everyone to start loving their flavor of ice cream even if it’s the only one in town right now.

    But again, power abhors a vacuum. The vacuum created by the failure and internal division in the GoP won’t last.

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  20. MarkedMan says:

    James, I think the core of what you are saying is correct, in that only Democrats actually govern and enact policy so if governance and policy matter to you, you need to have a seat at the table.

    Where I think you are wrong is in defining such an effort as “the opposition”. While a two party system is necessarily one of opposition since it is a zero sum game – for the parties. An intra-party scrum with a set of interest groups each promoting what is most important to them does not have to be a zero sum game. A victory for one interest group does not inevitably mean a defeat for another.

    Put another way, the party system has inevitably led to defining success as stopping the opposition from “winning”. We have moved to the point where the Republican Party literally sees no other purpose for itself (well, except for goodies to their patrons) than stopping the Democrats from “winning”. We have the possibility that for a few years at least we could have a system focused on competing interests rather than mindless Party rivalry.

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  21. mattbernius says:

    I agree with most of the article. I will grind my usual axe about the word choice here:

    Given that the poles will occasionally align to give us Republican Presidents and Congressional majorities, that’s a problem.

    I think “occasionally” undersells the underlying regularity that Republicans will win control of the White House and Congress as a “majority minority” party. Which again, is why we are seeing the continued focus on gerrymandering, voting restrictions, and general disenfranchisement. And even beyond that, a geographic political section just bakes that advantage into the system for the foreseeable future. That’s going to maintain the status quo you have mentioned for the foreseeable future.

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  22. Scott F. says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Considering where the Overton Window was situated in the US during Trump’s term, a move along the political spectrum “in the direction of” Sanders and Warren has a LONG way to go before the window would include the policy preferences of most progressives. It would have to move a great deal further in the left direction before it got any positions that would be radical in comparison to centrist politics across OECD countries.

    Warthen and apparently James need to raise the specter of leftist extremism to counterbalance the easily observable extremism present on the right today. Otherwise they are afraid the pendulum will swing past the center line as more and more people come to flee the vacuous white nationalism of the GOP.

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    Someone – and I’m sorry, but it escapes me – made the point that the American people agree with Democrats on policy, but do not agree with Democrats on culture and what might be called attitude or even style. Minimum wage hike? Wide support. Stimulus checks? Wide support. Infrastructure, ditto. What they don’t like is the scolding, condescending attitude of smart-asses (like me), and the brainless, self-owning slogans like ‘Defund.’

    There is an asymmetry in that when conservatives belittle us, we don’t really care, because we know we’re right. When we ridicule them it burns because they also know we’re right.

    The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Conservatives know in their shriveled little hearts that they’ve lost the fight and the plot. They’ve been trapped in the anger phase for a while, we should encourage them to advance to the bargaining stage, essentially by bribing them with policies that put money in their pockets.

    If we want to win we need more policy, like the relief bill, like minimum wage, like infrastructure, and less decrying and condemning.

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius:

    I think “occasionally” undersells the underlying regularity that Republicans will win control of the White House and Congress as a “majority minority” party.

    I agree that the decks are increasingly stacked. If HR1 were to get through—and that’s a big If—it would certainly undercut the GOP advantage in the House modestly. But, more importantly, multiple states have shifted in the blue direction over the last 20 years while none have gone the other way. That’s bad news for the GOP.

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  25. EddieInCA says:

    One party advocates for fairness for everyone. One party favors the super rich.
    One party advocates for more people voting. One party chooses make voting harder.
    One party advocates for spending to be offest by raising taxes. One party prioritzes tax cuts over deficits.
    One party represents the majority of the citizens. One party represents the minority.
    One party wants to include more people in the American Dream. One party wants the American Dream for only white religious people.
    One party supports healthcare for all. One party supports “Let’m die”.

    But…. Gods, Guns, and Abortion, doncha know?

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  26. Just nutha says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: point taken. But the most interesting takes students bring is a sort of “love in the time of dystopia” take.

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  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    The $1.9 Trillion “COVID relief” package was mostly a massive welfare bill

    Frankly that’s either intellectually dishonest, or you have difficulty with the abstract reasoning required to see that helping people impacted by COVID is indeed COVID related. One study showed that 85% of this bill goes to COVID, and that was before the minimum wage and other items were removed.
    Any quibble over this bill, IMHO, comes down to who gets $1.9T…whether it is welfare for the wealthy and big corporations, or for people who actually need it? Because that’s the REAL difference between the parties at this moment.

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  28. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, more importantly, multiple states have shifted in the blue direction over the last 20 years while none have gone the other way.

    I agree with your general point but since this thread seems to be all about quibbles, I’ll point out:
    -Ohio
    -Indiana
    -Missouri
    -Florida
    -Possibly Iowa (assuming 2018 is an outlier)
    -And likely a slew of Mountain/Plains/Midwest states that were already pink and now are deep dark brick red.

    From an electoral college standpoint, the only state there that really helps the GOP is Florida.

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  29. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    ETA: Florida and Ohio. Obviously any swing in a state affects the electoral college, but those two states have many more EV’s than the other states.

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  30. Michael Cain says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, more importantly, multiple states have shifted in the blue direction over the last 20 years while none have gone the other way. That’s bad news for the GOP.

    That’s just not true. As I mention regularly, the two most important changes in political geography over the last 30 years are the GOP largely capturing the Midwest, and the Democrats capturing much of the West. The former gets referenced all the time — eg, the failure of the “blue wall” in 2016. The latter is largely ignored. One example is the enormous fuss being made over Democrats winning two Senate seats in Georgia. But if the Interior West hadn’t flipped four Senate seats across 2018 and 2020, those Georgia seats wouldn’t have mattered a lick.

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  31. Michael Cain says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    And likely a slew of Mountain/Plains/Midwest states that were already pink and now are deep dark brick red.

    You need to drop the “Mountain” from that statement. Across the eight states of the Mountain/Interior West, nine of the US Senators are Democrats, up from three in 2001. In four of the eight, the House delegation is now majority-Democrat.

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  32. @gVOR08: That’s fair.

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  33. Raoul says:

    So the way I read this post is that now that the old Republican Party leadership has ruined its party let’s now move to the other party and ruin that one too. I’m talking about Iraq, cutting taxes to raise revenues, retrograde judges, no concern for labor or the environment. Don’t become a Democratic Party member for expediency but instead adopt its principles, otherwise, stay away, you are a cancer.

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  34. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The real answer is, I think, what this situation tells us is that Democrats are the only party currently willing to actually govern, and therefore it has to negotiate within itself to do so.

    Intra-party negotiation is part of the art of legislating. By eliminating that need, Republicans get to magnify their significant electoral and ideological structural advantages.

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  35. David S. says:

    @MarkedMan: In all fairness, James isn’t the one who used the term “opposition”; the term is from the article, and is referencing the Westminster standard of a “shadow government” whose job it is to be the “loyal opposition”. It’s an official title at least in the UK, so the accuracy of the term is rapidly less relevant.

    Ironic, though, that multi-party systems have formal opposition teams but two-party duopolies don’t.

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  36. gVOR08 says:

    @EddieInCA: Generally agree whole heartedly, but not with this.

    One party wants to include more people in the American Dream. One party wants the American Dream for only white religious people.

    The party of the second part want a libertarian wet dream for their “sons of John Galt”, referring back to@gVOR08:, donor base. They have no interest in improving the lives of their voter base, white Christian or otherwise.

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  37. Kurtz says:

    @David S.:

    Thanks. The Westminster system seems opaque to me.

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  38. Northerner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    IOW, there is no ‘principled conservatism’ to return to.

    Maybe not in America, but there are many in other parts of the world. Angela Merkle for instance is a conservative. Though I suspect the GOP would rather follow the lead of an American socialist than a European conservative.

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  39. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I’m coming in late, but…

    One party represents the majority of the citizens.

    Not necessarily, according to the citizens. A new Gallup pole shows that 50% of Americans consider themselves to be Independent (D & R both come in at 25%).

    Another Gallup pole shows that neither party seems to be representing a majority.

    Sixty-two percent of U.S. adults say the “parties do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is needed,” an increase from 57% in September. Support for a third party has been elevated in recent years, including readings of 60% in 2013 and 2015 and 61% in 2017.

    While the Electoral College and it’s “majority” requirement (rather than plurality) means–at least for the time being–it’s extremely unlikely that we will be seeing a President from the Fluffy Bunny party any time soon, Congress is another matter altogether.

    Aside from inertia, there is nothing preventing one or more strong third parties from taking over significant seats in Congress. The reason it hasn’t happened–despite 2/3 of the country saying it should–is that no third parties have their act together. Greens and Libertarians show a glimmer of promise, but then they screw it up by not having clear platforms and letting the fringe aspects take control.

    I’ve said this before: AOC and her section of the Dems could create the Socialist Democrat party and run under that banner. They’ll likely win their districts handily. If Amash could take control of the Libertarian party and coral it to a “center-right” party that focuses on fiscal responsibility and social freedom, he could appeal to a lot of people.

    I would love to see 6 or 7 parties in Congress, and Presidential candidates having to build a coalition of support.

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  40. EddieInCA says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    @EddieInCA:

    I’m coming in late, but…

    One party represents the majority of the citizens.

    Not necessarily, according to the citizens. A new Gallup pole shows that 50% of Americans consider themselves to be Independent (D & R both come in at 25%).

    Oh stop it. If 50% of the public were really independents, Independent candidates would win a whole lot more elections. Given our binary system, people vote either R or D. Based on the last 20 years of local and national elections, more people vote for Dems than Repubs. The GOP only has majorities because of gerrymandering and the Electoral college. In your state of WI, it’s especially bad:

    https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/2020-election-again-shows-lopsided-republican-legislative-maps/article_d0c11425-df16-5d0b-a3e8-4954e7897652.html

    In NC it’s even worse. https://www.wunc.org/politics/2018-11-09/dems-win-more-votes-reps-win-more-seats

    So spare me your libertarian theories and bullshit psuedo analysis. In the real world, Dems get more votes in most states, yet don’t get the proper representation because of gerrymandering.

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  41. Kurtz says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Aside from inertia

    No. There are structural reasons for two parties. There have been countless posts by our hosts explaining how the process of our elections results in two parties.

    It’s not just inertia. In order to be an effective legislator, a third party member would still end caucusing with one of the parties. Those rules could be changed, of course, but the incentives favor joining one of the two bigs.

    Voters don’t behave the way you think. This has been pointed out to you many times. Declaring independence isn’t the same as behaving independently.

    People like to believe they are independent thinkers, that they form their own opinions, and that they are open minded. But there is little evidence to support that. Outliers? Sure. But they are rare.

    There is some irony in you making this same argument despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, while claiming that you’re independent.

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  42. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    So spare me your libertarian* theories and bullshit psuedo analysis.

    Spare me your condescension and bullshit reactions.

    63% of Americans–according to Gallup–say that they want a 3rd party.

    Oh stop it. If 50% of the public were really independents, Independent candidates would win a whole lot more elections.

    Yes–if, as I said, any 3rd parties had viable candidates to put forth. An independent got 45.3% of the vote in Alaska in the 2020 congressional race. That’s a damn fine showing. If we had 3rd parties that actually had solid platforms and reasonable candidates–for Congressional seats and below–we’d see a lot more of them in elected positions. The problem is that none of the third parties ever put up a candidate that’s worth a shit. Justin Amash running under the “Conservative Party” banner would be a solid bet to win a Senate seat. AOC, Bernie, and others could easily win their districts if they changed their party from “Democrat” to “Democratic Socialist”–that is, after all, the platform they campaigned and won on. (Oh… btw? Bernie is an Independent and keeps getting elected. That shows that platforms can be more important than party affiliations.)

    62% of Americans say we need a 3rd party (and based on where those people are politically, they’re actually talking about 2 or more third parties). Your position is that all those people are don’t know what they believe. Or Gallup doesn’t know how to conduct a survey.

    I thought you lefties were supposed to be all about listening to the science. The science says that neither party is serving the people.

    So…. Would you like to debate the topic politely?


    * For the record: I am not a libertarian. I once said “If I had to align myself with a party, I would say I lean more towards libertarian”. So every time you paint me with that “Ayn Rand” brush, you’re simply showing that you’re not interested in actually hearing what someone outside your bubble has to say–even if they mostly agree with you.

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  43. EddieInCA says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Wow. Talk about missing the forest from the trees. You ignored the gist of my comment.

    Here again: More people vote for Dems, yet the GOP ends up with the majority of seats. That has nothing to do with the third party fantasy to which you continue to ascribe. That’s an issue that “independent’s” won’t help. You continually say that the Dems go “too far left”. And I’m saying that it’s not true. More people vote for the Blue team than the Red, yet don’t have the results that show that, due to gerrymandering and the electoral college. Independents won’t help that. And despite your non-libertarian beliefs, one major party does actively try to govern nationally. The other one doesn’t. The Greens, Libertarians, and Constitution parties are a joke – and not serious in any manner.

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  44. DrDaveT says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Not necessarily, according to the citizens. A new Gallup pole shows that 50% of Americans consider themselves to be Independent (D & R both come in at 25%).

    You are missing the important distinction between policy and labels.

    If you poll Americans on what actual policies they favor, the answer is overwhelmingly “policies promoted by the Democratic Party”.

    If you poll them on how they self-identify, the answer is much more “I don’t identify with any political party”.

    The implications are left as an exercise for the student.

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  45. Andy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Aside from inertia, there is nothing preventing one or more strong third parties from taking over significant seats in Congress. The reason it hasn’t happened–despite 2/3 of the country saying it should–is that no third parties have their act together. Greens and Libertarians show a glimmer of promise, but then they screw it up by not having clear platforms and letting the fringe aspects take control.

    I’ve said this before: AOC and her section of the Dems could create the Socialist Democrat party and run under that banner. They’ll likely win their districts handily. If Amash could take control of the Libertarian party and coral it to a “center-right” party that focuses on fiscal responsibility and social freedom, he could appeal to a lot of people.

    I don’t think that is correct. The two parties are too entrenched and the system we have strongly incentivizes having only two effective choices.

    If AOC ran in her district as a Democratic Socialist then someone else would run as a Democrat and split the vote. Why would AOC or any politician willingly open themselves up to such competition? That’s the entire advantage of having a safe district. Bernie Sanders only gets away with being an independent because he has de facto Democratic party support which prevents Democratic challengers in the primary and the general election. That’s convenient for Bernie, he gets to have his cake and eat it too.

    AOC and Bernie are smart and know how to work the system to their ideological advantage because they understand that working under the Democratic banner even though they ideologically align with the DSA is the most effective method for them to achieve office and influence national politics. In a multi-party system, they would almost certainly leave the Democrats for the DSA, but we’re not going to have a multiparty system without rewriting the Constitution, which probably means never.

    The same goes for someone like Amash.

    The last serious third-party threat was Ross Perot in 1992. Partisans on both sides have worked diligently ever since to make sure something like that never happens again. Neither party is at all interested in challengers and are doing everything they can to ensure elections are forever and always a binary choice between the Democrats and GoP. Even the HR1 election reform bill, ostensibly about improving democracy and representation, contains provisions designed to disadvantage third parties even more than they already are. And the reasons they want to limit that are crystal clear.

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  46. wr says:

    @Kurtz: “The Westminster system seems opaque to me.”

    I agree. Why is it that it’s always one of those little yappy things that wins best in show, and never the hound?

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  47. wr says:

    @Andy: “If AOC ran in her district as a Democratic Socialist then someone else would run as a Democrat and split the vote.”

    In New York there is a lefty third party — the Working Families Party. And just about every “member” who runs as WFP ALSO runs on the Democratic line. It would indeed be hard to imagine someone like AOC deciding to run solely as WFP.

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  48. James Joyner says:

    @Neil Hudelson: @Michael Cain: I think you’re starting the clock at an earlier point (1980ish) than I am (2000ish). In the 1980s and 1990s, the Blue Dog Democrats essentially went away, becoming Republicans. That’s a party realignment but not a change in the political character of the states. In the last 20 years, though, states like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia are becoming much, much bluer owing to in-migration and demographic shifts.

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  49. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    you have difficulty with the abstract reasoning required to see that helping people impacted by COVID is indeed COVID related.

    Relatively little of the money is doing that, which I support. Because we had such massive shutdowns a year ago, I supported that bailout. I even supported doing it recklessly, without worrying about targeting the money, because it was such an emergency. But that’s not where we are now. Most states re-opened their economies months ago.

    I’m for helping, say, restaurant and theater workers who have been greatly impacted. Make them whole. But we’re sending the same checks to office workers who have been working from home for a year and actually saving money.

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  50. JohnMcC says:

    @wr: Back so long ago that it was probably Interglacial, there were 4 parties nominating candidates for Mayor of NYC. Astonishingly, one was called “Liberal Party” and the other “Conservative”; they were that clever back then.

    John Lindsey ran after being nominated by both the Republican Party and the Liberal Party. WFBuckley ran as the Conservative as a sort of protest candidate. He was such an off-the-wall character as an actual candidate that some reporter asked what would be his first act if he won. “Demand a recount!” he said.

    @Mu Yixiao: I really appreciate your posts. I think that politics is much less reasonable than you take account of, yes, and much more cynically operated. But it’s always worthwhile to read your thoughts.

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