More on the Political Center and Capitol Hill

There is far less overlap between the two parties in the House--and the shift has been empirically rightward.

us-politics-republicans-democratsDoug Mataconis notes some very interesting graphs from Chris Cilliza in a post earlier this evening.  The basic lesson of Cilliza’s graphs are quite correct:  there has been a shift away from ideological overlap between the two parties, although the graphical representation in the presentation creates a false impression that the center has faded and that both parties have receded more to their respective ideological poles.  However, that is a misrepresentation created by the way the graphs are drawn.  Yes, the center, at least in terms of a legislative center, has eroded, but the erosion has not come about because House Democrats have gotten more liberal and House Republicans have become more conservative.  Rather, the political science is pretty clear:  the Democrats have not moved all that much, but Republicans have gotten substantially more conservative.

This has been well documented by political scientists at Voteview who have studied this issue for years.  For example, there is this graph from their page on polarization, which I am pretty sure I have shared before, that shows the parties on a liberal-conservative dimension from 1879-2010:

While it can be seen that Democrats have gotten somewhat more liberal in recent year, Republicans have gotten substantially more conservative.

Using the same data, and updating for the most recent Congress, political scientist Thad Hall, writing at Mischiefs of Faction, extensively analyzes both the Gingrich Congress and the two most recent congresses and finds that the current Republicans are far more conservative than those in 1995.  Indeed, he notes that the 1113th Congress (the current one) is substantially more conservative than the 112th.

Note the following:

 

In terms of Democrats and making the same comparison, the data shows the following:

when we look at the median member of the Democratic Caucus, there has been relatively little change in ideology. The median Democratic Caucus member in the 104th Congress would be very close to the Caucus median today. (By contrast, the median Republican from the 104thCongress would be a very liberal member of the Republican Caucus today.) As we move toward the “most liberal members” (from the 80th to 100th percentile) of the Democratic Caucus, there has been almost no change in ideological placement over this time.

So, setting aside anything else for the moment, the empirical analysis demonstrates that in just under twenty years the Republicans in the House have shifted substantially rightward.  Further, the that shift has been more rapid of late.

Voteview also has a post on this comparison:  The Shutdown: Boehner vs. Gingrich.

The changes in legislative behavior, whether one likes them or not, are not the result of both parties becoming more ideological.  Rather, the shift is on the GOP side of things.  This is not a startling revelation, to be sure, to observers of American politics, but this is not an impressionistic exercise laid out above, but rather one of using a consistent empirical measure over time and recording the changes.  In other words, it just doesn’t seem like the GOP is more conservative, by the measure of above, they clearly are more conservative.  So, to deploy (and negate) a common cliche:  both sides aren’t doing it.

This situation also, therefore, explains why many feel as if the Republican Party has changed, because it has.

(This is a quick and cursory treatment of a complicated issue–I very much recommend reading the posts linked and exploring the Voteview site).

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. I don’t entirely disagree with your argument, but to limit the blame for the loss of a political center to just the GOP strikes me as incredibly myopic. The Democratic left began its attack on the center of its own party when they targeted Joe Lieberman for defeat, and continued to do so with consistent attacks on the Blue Dogs that ultimately ended in their own defeat at the hands of the GOP in 2010.

    There are no innocent parties here.

  2. @Doug Mataconis: Lieberman was attacked from his left flank, yes, and then still was re-elected to the Senate.

    Beyond that, the empirics above are of the House (and they don’t really support your thesis). It is true that the southern conservative Dem is a thing of the past, but they have been replaced by even more conservative southern Reps.

  3. john personna says:

    As we’ve discussed, I think independent voters matter, and are undervalued in such discussions. Sure, they might “lean” in one direction or another for as long as a decade, but It’s quite possible that they are leaning against departures from moderation.

    When fully a third is independent, and has been for a long time, a discussion of where the parties are is incomplete.

  4. @john personna: These metrics are of members of congress once elected. The independents in question will have spoken in the given districts. Of course, as we have discussed before, the districts are not all bell curves of left-right-center voters. Worse, the nature of our electoral system creates a dynamic in which voters tend to see their choices as binary, and hence the leaner issue becomes relevant as a result.

    For that matter, despite the large number of voters who self-identify as “independent” (myself included), the fact is that there is not a 33% swing vote out there.

    Now, if we had a different electoral system, that spawned multiple choices beyond two, voter behavior would change (but that is a different issue).

  5. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I would argue that Joe Lieberman’s constituents targeted him for defeat. And quite successfully too since he ended up running as an independent.

    That tends to happen when you fail horribly to represent the interests of the folks who put you in office and Joe certainly did that.

    Now perhaps some of the Republicans facing primary challenges are in the same boat, but who exactly funded Joe Lieberman’s competitors from out of state a la Koch kids?

  6. (That should read : “left-center-right voters” above in my bell curve statement.)

  7. @Davebo: Except, that his constituents ended up putting him back in office anyway.

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    Thank you for this Stephen. I was going to respond to Doug’s post but you have done it for me. There may have been a slight movement to the left by Democrats but I’m not even sure that’s the case. On the other hand the Republicans have raced to the right trying to out do each other. The Clintons and even Obama represent a move to the center.

  9. Todd says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Seriously?

    Your response to Steven’s statistically supported argument is that Joe Lieberman (who pretty much gave the Dems the middle finger over the Iraq war) was primaried, and that southern blue dog Democrats are having a harder time winning as their constituents become more and more addicted to Fox News, Glenn Beck the Daily Caller.

    It’s not the same.

    The Republicans have consistently mounted primary challenges in recent years to incumbents who in no rational world could ever be mistaken for “moderates”.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Nice post, SLT.
    Lieberman was a lousy Senator for my State.
    He had no core beliefs or positions… He was all over the map…based pretty much on what was good for Lieberman or Israel.
    Doug has a fetish to defend.

  11. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think the 33% does swing, over time. It’s just a bit much to expect it to oscillate with high frequency.

    But yes, a structural problem has been that these independents have usually had a pick of two candidates decided in Republican and Democratic primaries.

  12. Davebo says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    True, but obviously not his democratic ones. And again, his problem was home grown, not from out of state.

  13. rod mantia says:

    in every good stat analysis there is degrees set off from the mean. lieberman represents a statistical anamoly. you can count on one hand the number of dems “primaried” for being too conservative. how can dems be blamed for remaining basically in the center left? blame shifting is SOP for the hard right and im not buying it. when one party abandons mainstream americans and demonizes them as they continue pushing for ideological purity well, as they say..dont bring none…wont be none. this vast gulf of dissonance is a debacle of their own making. its a gross overcompensation for the reality that our society has evolved. but as they abhor the concept, they havent. the center remains…in the center.

  14. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, Lieberman was rejected by the Democratic party for one reason alone-his support of the Iraq war. As I recall even you opposed the war. Not really a good example.

  15. Fine, I get it guys.

    I’m not a Democrat so whatever I say you guys are going to reject whenever it comes to criticizing anyone other than Republicans.

  16. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: You clearly you don’t get it.

    The critique of your posting pattern isn’t that you aren’t a Democrat, it is that you fetishize “both sides do it” to the point that you can’t acknowledge the facts Steven laid out.

  17. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “I’m not a Democrat so whatever I say you guys are going to reject whenever it comes to criticizing anyone other than Republicans”

    Wow, that’s some serious self-pity there.

    What everyone here is saying about Lieberman is true. He wasn’t “the center of the party” — he not only embraced the war, he literally embraced W and continue to support him against the Democrats.

    Why not say that the Ds are crazy liberals because they wouldn’t stand up to Zell Miller when he challenged Chris Matthews to a duel?

    Or better yet, why don’t you learn one small thing from liberals — when you’re wrong, admit it and move on. Because geting all pissy and sulking off doesn’t really make you look that good.

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, open your eyes. The Republicans have raced to the right while the Democrats have probably moved closer to the middle. Obama Care was originally proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation which now opposes it. You are a smart guy so wake up!

  19. Grewgills says:

    What is the Y-axis in the first graph?
    A Southern Democrat from the late 50s early 60s is more liberal than a Republican of that same era?
    It does seem to show the Republican Party making its sharp turn towards greater conservatism as more and more Southern Democrats became Republicans and solidified their political gains through the South and Mid West.

  20. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ron Beasley: He can’t wake up. Then he’ll have to admit that “both sides” AREN’T “doing it” and will have to turn in his Maverick Libertarian Blogger card.

  21. @Ron Beasley:

    The more relevant point is that there is a large segment of the OTB commentariat that simply rejects any crtiticism of standard Democratic talking points

  22. rod mantia says:

    i agree that dems have embraced many conservative ideas going back to the masterful triagulation of clinton. nafta, aca, monsanto, patriot act come to mind. but much of liberal thought has become broader in appeal and more extensive. obama is no purist liberal. and i seriously doubt that a hard left radical could gain nomination much less build a core shadow party among dems. who gains in all of this indies, not the teas. extremists come and go in each generation. centrists will grow in power as the gotp begins to feed on its own. that centrist repudiation of the hard right might be the only thing which saves the gop.

  23. Dave D says:

    @Doug Mataconis: So your argument has become: No both sides do it (in response to Steven’s post)
    Others: Not what the data shows.
    You: I understand I’m not a dem and most people commenting on OTB disagree with anything that criticizes Dems.
    Others: You’re wrong back to original data.
    You: “The more relevant point is that there is a large segment of the OTB commentariat that simply rejects any crtiticism of standard Democratic talking points”

    Glad that’s the more relevant point in an article about the disappearance of the center because the Right is moving much farther to the right. If the “both sides do it” troupe isn’t there, do you need to tell us “leftists” how we are so unresponsive to reality that doesn’t come from a WH talking point?

  24. Dave D says:

    @Dave D: I don’t want to misrepresent you, and I know you’re much more logical than this stream of arguments suggests. If I am wrong about the meaning and substance of your argument; let me know, because that is what I got out of it. Also I would be interested to see any metrics you have to support the both sides argument. I am sorry if I misconstrued your argument.

  25. Corey Mondello says:

    Dear Democratic Party of America and their supporters;

    IT’S TIME TO DUMP OR BE DUMPED !!!

    Time 2 Dump T-Party Democrats

    The Liars, Back Stabbers and Scum Bags of the Democratic Party
    (DINO/BlueDog/T-Party Democrats) have voted with Right-Wing Extremists and T-Party members of the GOP/Republican Party MANY times, MANY have told their Constituents that they SUPPORT and PLAN ON CUTTING Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

    If they act like T-Baggers, they ARE T-Baggers. They ARE the reason why so many people DO NOT VOTE!

    Why support a Political Party that acts like the Party you don’t want to support?!?!

    Why Vote ?!?!

    It will be YOUR OWN FAULT when you lose even long time supporters, whether it be that they stop voting completely, or put all their energy into a Third or Fourth Party candidate and movement.

    If I wanted the T-Party to win the last few elections, I would of Zvoted for Mitt and Sarah.

    YOU have allowed the Democratic Party to move to the “right”, CONTINUOUSLY!!!

    It is NOT the people of America who have moved to the “right”, you see obvious evidence of this: We have a Black President, Gays can get married in many states, Woman have run for Vice President of the USA, etc.

    YOU have been moving to the “right” to win support and it HAS NOT worked. All YOU have done is make the country more and more a paradise for the 1%, which IS NOT what those who have supported you, want.

    YOU will be the reason of YOUR own demise and loss off power.

    Take charge and rid your party of those who support the “Right-Wing” agenda NOW!

    Smarten up and oust the Tea-Party members in your Party NOW!

    These are the guilty that I know of at this time, there are the enemies:

    Ron Barber – AZ, John Barrow – GA, Max Baucus – MO, Michael Bennett – CO, Tom Carper – DE, Chris Coons – DE, Joe Donnelly – IN, Dick Durbin – IL, Dianne Feinstein – CA, Heidi Heitkamp – ND, Dan Maffei – NY, Sean Patrick Maloney – NY, Joe Manchin – WV, Jim Matheson – UT, Mike McIntyre – NC, Patty Murray – WA, Collin Peterson – MT, Mark Pryor – AK, Mark Warner – VA, and YES: Obama

  26. Corey Mondello says:

    Ps just came across this ironically right after I posted the above comment:

    GOP Senate Candidate Addressed Conference Hosted by Neo-Confederate Group That Promotes Secessionism – Among the other speakers were Al Benson, former head of the Southern Independence Party and the author of a book claiming Lincoln was a Marxist.

    http://hnn.us/article/153720

  27. @Doug Mataconis: Speaking for myself, I don’t see the conversation, or at least not the post, as a question of criticizing one party or the other, it is to determine if the loss of the middle in the House has been created by the shifting of one party or both.

    There are three options:

    1) Both parties moved away from the center.
    2) The Dems went left and the Reps stayed put
    3) The Dems stayed put and the Reps went right.

    This is an empirical question and the answer is basically #3.

    Once it is established where the shift took place, we can then understand legislative behavior better. A key reason that negotiations have been so difficult is because one of the major parties has become more ideologically extreme.

    My point about Lieberman is this: yes, he was primaried from the left, BUT he isn’t a data point representing a moderate Dem primaried and then replaced by a more liberal Senator because he still won re-election.

  28. @john personna:

    I think the 33% does swing, over time. It’s just a bit much to expect it to oscillate with high frequency.

    There is some swinging, yes, but not 33% over time (which means that a lot of independents are actually strong leaners, if not partisans save in name only, despite their self identification).

    For independents to be a true force of consequence, electorally speaking, they have to oscillate with high frequency, else how are they really any different, on election day, than strong partisans?

    Put another way: once a ballot is cast for a D or an R it doesn’t matter what the self-affiliation is of the voter, the vote is either Democratic or Republican (or other, or course).

  29. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, Steven bought empirical evidence looking across 10’s or 100’s of thousands of votes and you bought “but hey, what about this one guy”, It might be time to admit your argument is weak.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    In all the discussion of the significance of Joe Lieberman (an outlier no matter what case you wish to make), no one has mentioned that he endorsed John Effing McCain for president. He endorsed the REPUBLICAN candidate for president and was obviously angling for the REPUBLICAN VP nomination(1). How TF was he supposed to be a Democratic nominee after that?

    _____
    (1) Apparently oblivious to the fact that there was no way McCain could nominate a VP who looked (even though he isn’t) even older than Effing McCain himself.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    I moved to CT a number of years ago and was almost disappointed when Lieberman chose not to run again, as I was really looking forward to voting against him. He became such a tool in his later years. It wasn’t when he became a Republican in all but name (as pointed out above he LITERALLY endorsed the Republican presidential nominee). It was when he so lamely debated Cheney. I didn’t know squat about Lieberman before then, but the sycophantic puppy-love hero worship demeanor he wore was pathetic. If he had a tail it would have been wagging non-stop. Cheney “schooled” him about how he had left government and gone into private business and made a success of it like a real man, and Lieberman failed to challenge him about Haliburton’s success during that tenure being almost exclusively due to government contracts. Instead Lieberman sat there like a four year old wide-eyed and entranced by some sham in a Batman costume.

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    which means that a lot of independents are actually strong leaners, if not partisans save in name only, despite their self identification).

    This. For a long time I would search for an R I could vote for, than I would hold my nose, clench my teeth and punch the card. All so I could claim to be an “independent”. What a joke it was. I’m a liberal, I vote Dem because whatever else, in my view, any Dem will be better than any GOP. And the latest extremist shift to the right by the GOP has only shown that I was right to give up on them.

    All of which leaves me on election day holding my nose and clenching my teeth and voting for Dems who in reality are not all that different from some of the GOPers I used to vote for. Around here, that is as liberal as it gets.

  33. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Fine, I get it guys.

    I’m not a Democrat so whatever I say you guys are going to reject whenever it comes to criticizing anyone other than Republicans. ”

    ‘If the law is against you, pound on the facts; if the facts are against you, pound on the law; if both are against you, pound on the table’.

  34. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s an old Missouri joke about the guy who moved from Missouri to Arkansas and raised the average IQ of both states. Something of the sort has gone on in the two political parties. Socially conservative Southern Democrats became Republicans. That has simultaneously made the Democratic Party more progressive and the Republican Party more conservative.

    The realities of fund-raising in which the most highly motivated people (who tend to be more extreme) contribute to campaigns and even House races have become nationalized account for much of the rest of the drift of the two major political parties. The other story of the last fifty years has been the growth of self-declared independents or people who claim no political party. According to Gallup they’re now a plurality of the American people.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    Amazing.
    We are seeing the complete Jenos-ization of Doug before our eyes. Lieberman is evidently Doug’s version of

    “but…Benghazi”.

    “…The more relevant point is that there is a large segment of the OTB commentariat that simply rejects any crtiticism of standard Democratic talking points…”

    In the past week or so we’ve just seen an almost complete capitulation to the fact that the Obamacare roll-out is pretty f’ed up. Do you read your own website?
    But….Lieberman.
    Sigh.

  36. Moosebreath says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “The more relevant point is that there is a large segment of the OTB commentariat that simply rejects any crtiticism of standard Democratic talking points”

    And the even more relevant point is that Doug apparently believes that any attempt to discuss actual data is to parrot Democratic talking points. While I am hardly surpised that devotees of Randian Utopianism are as unwilling as devotees of any other set of mystical beliefs taken on faith to acknowledge the existence of facts which go against their beliefs, it is nice to see confirmation of it.

  37. @Dave Schuler: Two points.

    1. But it has gone beyond just southerm Dems becoming Reps. The seats have goen from D to R and the Republican nominating electorate has selected more and more conservative candidates to fill those seats.

    2. I am not arguing that there aren’t a lot of people who self-identify as “independent”–I am pointing out that, ultimately, most of those voters are actually consistent voters for one or the other parties (i.e., nominally independent, but functionally partisan). There is a lit on this that if, time permitting, I will try and dig up for a post.

    The bottom line is: we are dealing with two categories: category one is “what do I call myself?” and category two is “how do I normally vote?”

  38. Rob in CT says:

    This may seem unrelated, but stick with me.

    I read this post by Chait today: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/10/keystone-fight-a-huge-environmentalist-mistake.html

    He argues that Keystone was always and remains a quixotic quest (at best) by environmentalists.

    The thing that jumped out at me was right at the start:

    “To an increasingly disillusioned environmental movement,” environmental activist Bill McKibben writes in the Huffington Post, “Keystone looks like a last chance.”

    There’s more that backs that up, making clear that in the face of the collapse of Cap & Trade, the movement needed something to rally around. Anything, in fact. Keystone became that thing.

    When you’re convinced you’re always losing and you’re running out of time, you get desperate and you tilt at windmills. Whether you’re an environmentalist hippy or a Tea Partier.

    Despair is not a useful emotion (simple to say, hard to avoid).

  39. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My point is that a plurality of Americans, probably soon to be a majority, don’t feel that either political party represents them adequately. We have a two-party system and, absent a major overhaul in our form of government, will continue to do so. Funding makes the viable candidates of those two parties increasingly extreme.

    I don’t believe that people reject identification with either party through petulance. And I don’t think that just because one candidate wins per district we should discount those who don’t find that either party represents them particularly well.

    I’m not a progressive. I vote reliably Democratic for the House. Where I live there really is no alternative.

  40. gVOR08 says:

    Steven’s chart breaks out Northern Democrats and Southern Democrats and aggregates all Dems. Southern Dems became more liberal and as a result, so did Dems on average. Were we, as a thought experiment, to take the Southern Dems out of this picture, we’d see only the Northern Dems, who shifted little or not at all from the late 70s on.

    As several pundits have pointed out with respect to this data, we did, in the real Congress, take the Southern Dems out. This chart really shows nothing much beyond the disappearance of the Southern Dems.

  41. Moosebreath says:

    @gVOR08:

    “This chart really shows nothing much beyond the disappearance of the Southern Dems.”

    I suspect that the something similar would be true, though to a lesser extent, if the Republicans were disaggregated. There has been a similar, though smaller, reduction in Northern Republicans over the last few decades, and likely the a large part of the change to the Republicans is that the Southern end of their party is more prevalent.

  42. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Here’s the problem – consider a hypothetical man, a pure moderate, a pragmatist who sits on the absolute center of the left-right scale. He’ll choose what works, what everyone else is willing to go along with. He is neither left, nor right, in ideology. He trusts (or distrusts) government and business equally.

    For the last ten years that man would have “leaned Democrat” because those were the choices offered him.

    Foolish data miners say “see, he was a Democrat all along.”

    No, it is about the choices offered. And I think these foolish data miners influence the future for the worse, because they under count, can’t see, where that man really was.

  43. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying also. I think.

  44. Snarky Bastard says:

    @Doug Mataconis: wahh — the facts don’t indicate that both sides do it, so whine about the facts

  45. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Put differently, the data miners, when they look at votes, collapse a continuous function (I think that’s right, math!) into a binary value.

    We want to know where someone lies on a scale of human experience, and we only see data ranging from 1-2.

  46. @john personna: I understand what you are saying, but a vote for a Democrat or Republican is still a vote for a Democrat or a Republican regardless of what is in the heart of the voter.

    I agree that self-identification, to Dave’s point, tells us something, but when those “independents” vote consistently for one party or another over X elections, they are functionally partisans during that amount of time.

  47. @john personna: If I say that I don’t if I eat chocolate or vanilla ice cream, but chose vanilla every chance I get, I am functionally favoring vanilla regardless of my protestations. I might some day switch, but that doesn’t change my immediate choice.

  48. Dave Schuler says:

    @john personna:

    Yeah, I think we’re on the same page here.

  49. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I’d say, practically, that winners shouldn’t care too much how many independents, and true moderates, they captured, because it’s a done deal. They won.

    Losers should definitely look at the underlying distribution, and how many more moderates they’d need to make their nut.

    I’d say right now Republicans blame “progressives” and don’t even stop to think that there are moderates to sway.

    I mean, that’s the root of the whole RINO and “a true conservative would win” thing, right? A basic misunderstanding of the underlying voter dynamics.

  50. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Those aren’t the choices, Steven, at least not where I live. I can choose either chocolate or nothing. That tells me nothing about my preference other than that I prefer ice cream to no ice cream.

  51. john personna says:

    IOW, the Republicans interpret “independent leans-Dem”‘ as off-scope, out of bounds.

  52. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I might paraphrase your point, and the point I believe@john personna: is making – the guy has no real preference re chocolate v/ vanilla; but the only brand of chocolate available to him has been diluted with toxic sludge. Knowing this, he always buys vanilla, but pines for the day when it was possible to buy chocolate.

  53. Scott O says:

    Chris Cillizza’s charts in Doug’s post show overlap on votes. If Republicans in the house are passing bills for the sole purpose of demonstrating their ideological purity, bills they know have no chance of being enacted, I wouldn’t expect there to be any overlap.

  54. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Those aren’t the choices, Steven, at least not where I live. I can choose either chocolate or nothing. That tells me nothing about my preference other than that I prefer ice cream to no ice cream.

    The GOP puts up nobody Dave? There is no write in option? Here where I live at least, the Dems always find at least one sucker to get beat up for 6 mos or so. And he is usually as far right as a Dem can go and still be called a Dem.

    I look at it as voting for vanilla or vanilla light.

  55. Dave Schuler says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Candidates either run unopposed or the Republican candidate doesn’t campaign. I don’t believe I’ve received campaign literature from a Republican House candidate in twenty years.

    It’s not limited to House seats. Republican candidates for the state legislature or City Council don’t send out anything, either. It’s not worth it. They already know they’ll lose.

  56. john personna says:

    @gVOR08:

    Right. Voters bought vanilla, rather than my tainted chocolate, and so the country’s going to hell, we’ll never have a chocolate majority again.

  57. michael reynolds says:

    Steven’s right. Self-identification is interesting but not convincing. Action trumps talk, the action in question being the casting of a vote. It’s become very popular to identify as independent. It sounds cool, but is no more real than any other fashionable label.

    The data shows just what my intuition has told me: that the Democrats in the House have not shifted significantly left or right overall, but Republicans have veered far to the right. This can only surprise people who are either out-of-touch with politics or addicted to “both sides do it.”

  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Candidates either run unopposed or the Republican candidate doesn’t campaign.

    Now that is weak. Our Dems down here at least show up for the debates.

  59. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Technically, an independent would be wearing no-label shirts, rather than identifying with a standard bundle of positions implied by American Apparel, Armani, or Old Navy.

    Yes, I have voted Democrat for President for the last 10 years.

    I still think high speed rail is a stupid idea for American population density and distribution.

  60. john personna says:

    Oh, and I think “equal pay for equal work” is a stupid idea for a market economy.

    Everyone bargains, when anyone is unhappy, they should shop around.

  61. jib10 says:

    @Dave Schuler: Not even differences in the primaries? In WA we have open primaries, everyone on the same ballot, everyone votes, no party affiliation, top 2 moves on. We can get really diverse primary ballots, at least on the West side. I have seen positions with not just tea party candidates running but true socialist (sometimes more than 1, they were fighting over something and the party split in two). Libertarians are always on the ballot, usually more than 1.

    The top 2 are almost always dems and repubs but for me anyway, I feel better about who gets elected because I got to vote for my special candidate at least once. I fly my freak flag in the primary and then vote like a solid home owning tax paying family man in the general.

  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @jib10:

    Not even differences in the primaries?

    My GOP Rep Jason Smith is getting primaried this year by the current Lt Gov Peter Kinder (I think he has decided he can not win another state wide race and I suspect he is right) This is Mr Tea Party against Mr “I like Pole Dancers” (guess which gets my vote) I suspect that Kinder would not have bothered except that this will be Smith’s first re-election campaign and may be vulnerable. I also suspect this will be a race to see who can get to the right of Mussolini first.

    The Dems around here never have a primary, as most of us have to work for a living and can’t put our lives on hold 6 mos or so for “the good of the party”.

  63. Todd says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    large segment of the OTB commentariat that simply rejects any crtiticism of standard Democratic talking points

    Where can I find these Democratic talking points?

    I mean, the Conservative talking points are easy to find. I just watch what 2 or 3 of my right wing friends post on FB, pop over to Breitbart or Daily Caller, and there they are.

    My more leftward leaning friends are not nearly so consistently on the same page. Occasionally they’ll be reading from the same book, and maybe even the same chapter, but not very often do their rants match nearly word for word with each other.

    As for the OTB commentariat, I can’t speak for anybody else, but personally I tend to reserve my strongest “rejections” for when a writer refuses to accept reality … and this is a perfect example.

    To say: “the (conservative) Republicans are more responsible for the current legislative problems in Washington”, is not a ‘talking point’, it’s a fact.

    Every time you try to pretend that “both sides do it”, you’re lying (whether intentionally or not). If both sides really were as equally radical, the government would still be shut down, and we would have busted through the debt ceiling … because the left-wing of the Democratic party didn’t get (or even ask for) anything in the bill that passed … even though the Republicans were clearly on the ropes (politically).

  64. john personna says:

    I guess Doug, one benefit of being a public figure on the internets, is that you get all these people trying to figure out what your deal is. lol.

    I think my deal is that I’m an ex-Republican who doesn’t like the madness and anti-intellectualism rampant in that party. I’ll “lean” progressive for that reason, but it isn’t really that hard to spot non-progressive positions that I hold. I think we might overspend on education and infrastructure, for instance. And so I drift along, left of right more visibly that right of left.

    I think your deal is that you won’t make that decision.

    You stack the deck to make both sides equally bad, and to justify the lack of decision on your part.

    “Don’t blame me, I voted libertarian.”

  65. Todd says:

    Or another example …

    If the Democrats were just like Republicans, we wouldn’t be arguing about Obamacare here lately .. because it never would have passed.

    There were many Democrats who believe that single payer (Medicare for all) is what we really need to do to fix the U.S. healthcare system, yet when push came to shove, they voted for the obvious mess that the PPACA is anyway … because they knew it was the best they were going to get right now.

    A large segment of the House Republican caucus would sooner cut off an arm than vote for ANYTHING that isn’t 100% in alignment with their “principals”.

    Not. The. Same.

  66. al-Ameda says:

    Thank you Steven, the charts clearly show that the Republican race to the further Right region greatly exceeds any Democratic Party move to the Left. In fact your data shows Democrats to be trending in a slightly more conservative direction since 2004-05.

    This is clearly counter to the argument that both sides are responsible for the polarized state of our politics today. Of course one can find some examples of Democrats who are polarizing because of their ideology, however, let’s dispense with the fantasy that both sides are anywhere near equally responsible for this cesspool.

    I believe that the recent government shutdown and leveraging of default as instigated by the GOP is a snapshot, a case study, that shows us exactly who is the cause of the recent political dysfunction.

  67. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I believe that the recent government shutdown and leveraging of default as instigated by the GOP is a snapshot, a case study, that shows us exactly who is the cause of the recent political dysfunction.

    No no no no…. Obama wouldn’t negotiate. See? He’s just as bad.

  68. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Steven’s right. Self-identification is interesting but not convincing. Action trumps talk, the action in question being the casting of a vote. It’s become very popular to identify as independent. It sounds cool, but is no more real than any other fashionable label.

    I live in Virginia. My ballot next week for Governor, Lt Gov, AG, State Delegate might go Libertarian, Democrat, Democrat, Republican. Does that make me a Democrat? Republican? Libertarian? Maybe I’ll write in Cthulhu and some other Elder Gods, because what difference does it make anyway? Our de facto two-party system makes it impossible for a political independent to actually take a politically independent action.

    Even independents by intent don’t seem to exist in any parliamentary system with which I’m familiar, because they have actual choices. This binary crap we have just isn’t serving us very well.

  69. rudderpedals says:

    @Dave Schuler: I’m only commenting to say “hear hear” on your point. Your experience literally mirrors mine in Indian River county where one not a registered Republican isn’t selecting any local officials because they were all chosen in the GOP primary and the Dems don’t run anyone.

  70. @john personna:

    Losers should definitely look at the underlying distribution, and how many more moderates they’d need to make their nut.

    I’d say right now Republicans blame “progressives” and don’t even stop to think that there are moderates to sway.

    I don’t disagree with that.

    But that is a future issue, not one of understanding or categorizing past behavior. I am talking about understanding a given election’s outcome and how that election outcome leads to legislative behavior.

    BTW: I think that our party system does a lousy job of representing the interest of the population, but I think that the outcome are seriously affected by structure. To stick the basics of the discussion: even if 33% are independents, the structure forces them into a binary choice (or, as Dave notes, perhaps no choice at all).

  71. @john personna:

    I mean, that’s the root of the whole RINO and “a true conservative would win” thing, right? A basic misunderstanding of the underlying voter dynamics.

    The problem is, the primary process and safe districts mean that the RINO loses the seat to the more conservative candidate.

    The structure of the nomination process and the structure of the district lead to the outcome (in many districts). This is the point that I keep trying to make.

  72. al-Ameda says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    No no no no…. Obama wouldn’t negotiate. See? He’s just as bad.

    Republican negotiation:
    GOP: Mr.President, repeal ACA or we will burn down the White House.
    Obama: No.
    GOP: repeal ACA or we will burn down only the East Room and the Oval Office.
    Obama: No.
    GOP: Final offer, repeal ACA or we will burn down the East Room – that’s it.
    Obama: No. Security? Confiscate their gas cans and matches, show them the door.

    You’re right, why didn’t he negotiate?

  73. @john personna:

    Yes, I have voted Democrat for President for the last 10 years.

    I still think high speed rail is a stupid idea for American population density and distribution.

    So, for the purposes of both analysis, but for practical outcome, you were a Democrat in those elections.

    That you oppose some subset of Democratic policies doesn’t change how you voted.

    Are you persuadable in your preferences? Perhaps so, but until you actually vote for the Republican, it is all potential and not action.

    I understand that there is a difference between a Yellow Dog Democrat and a persuadable voter, but what ultimately matter is the vote.

  74. @Mikey:

    Our de facto two-party system makes it impossible for a political independent to actually take a politically independent action.

    And there you go.

    And it is the structure of our electoral system that makes it thus.

  75. @Mikey:

    Even independents by intent don’t seem to exist in any parliamentary system with which I’m familiar, because they have actual choices.

    EXACTLY.

  76. (Although the issue isn’t parliamentarism, per se, but how proportional the electoral system is).

  77. george says:

    @Davebo:

    True, but obviously not his democratic ones. And again, his problem was home grown, not from out of state.

    Though at least in theory, a representative is elected to serve his whole riding, not just his party. That’s one problem with the huge split that comes about (and on the whole I think the graphs are accurate, its more the fault of the GOP than the Democrats) – politicians see themselves as representing their Party, not the constituency. And I’d say that’s just wrong; once in office, you should try to do the best for everyone, not just your base. And yes, I know I’m living in a dream world if I think that really happens much anymore.

  78. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Steven’s right. Self-identification is interesting but not convincing. Action trumps talk, the action in question being the casting of a vote. It’s become very popular to identify as independent. It sounds cool, but is no more real than any other fashionable label.

    I always thought independent in practice meant not consistently voting for the same party. For instance, in Canadian elections (lucky me, I get to vote in both the US and Canadian elections – like double duty in a dentist chair), I have in the last four elections (two federal, two provincial) voted for three different parties. I would argue that makes me an independent. I think though that its much more common in Parlimentary systems (with several viable parties with a fair amount of overlap between platforms) than in the US system, where the divide between the Democrats and Republicans has in the last decade become very hard to bridge.

  79. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So, for the purposes of both analysis, but for practical outcome, you were a Democrat in those elections.

    That’s like saying that since my store only sells small and large drinks, and you bought a small, you are a small drink buyer. End of market analysis.

    That is poor logic, and leads to poor choices.

    You are reinforcing that “I am a Democrat” and thus unattainable to “Republicans.”

    Again, bad analysis. And I’m saying that this poor political science contributes to the lack of interest Republicans have in wooing independent voters. “There are no independents,” etc. Bad logic repeated.

  80. al-Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I happen to think that the number of actual Independents is far less than polling consistently shows, and that is because many people mask their partisan preferences – it sounds good to tell a pollster that you’re Independent, and not subject to the messiness of the two-party struggle. I believe that at most there are perhaps 10% real Independents. The number is low because most people know that there is no place to go if you are Independent – no party, no electoral representation. The best you can hope for are Liberal Republicans or Moderate Democrats, so you have to affiliate with the party that seems less extreme on the margin, and many/most so-called Independents do just that.

    Also, in my opinion, most people are not ideologically pure or consistent. Speaking for myself: I hold a number of views on subjects that some might consider to be Republican or conservative-oriented – such as, I could support school vouchers, I favor a lessening of Sarbanes-Oxley financial regulations, I favor free trade and NAFTA, and could be persuaded to support tax simplification and a VAT approach. However, I vote Democratic Party because I feel that even by voting for a moderate Republican I am indirectly supporting the rest of a very conservative Republican agenda – on guns, reproductive rights, the intrusion of religious beliefs into our public institutions and so forth.

  81. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, it isn’t a “standard Democratic talking point” unless you want to say (data about reality) == (Democratic).

    I realize it’s great fun to claim “both parties are equally bad” and preen yourself about being a Noble Ideal believer in Libertarianism, but this is really saying you’re trying to find an equal balance between someone who thinks that a sensible meal is Italian and someone who wants to eat anthrax and tire axles.

    Don’t be silly.

  82. john personna says:

    Here is the simple reality. There are genuine partisans wh0read the election form, identify their party, and vote it. Those are counted votes for their parties. There is another group, still existent despite a cottage industry arguing otherwise, who examine candidates and positions. Those voters do not live in buckets. They are not counted votes. They are earned each election cycle, broadly by the two parties going as far toward the center as they can.

    To win you must win the vast majority of your party, with a slender majority of the center, the moderates. At a minimum.

    The fact that Democrats have been winning the independents does not mean the independents are Democrats.

    It means the Democrats have had a better message for the independents.

  83. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I hold a number of views on subjects that some might consider to be Republican or conservative-oriented – such as, I could support school vouchers, I favor a lessening of Sarbanes-Oxley financial regulations, I favor free trade and NAFTA, and could be persuaded to support tax simplification and a VAT approach. However, I vote Democratic Party because I feel that even by voting for a moderate Republican I am indirectly supporting the rest of a very conservative Republican agenda – on guns, reproductive rights, the intrusion of religious beliefs into our public institutions and so forth.

    What you just said was that the current Republican party could not reach you.

    Of course not, they don’t even try.

    I think 2000 was the last Presidential election when both candidates, after winning their primaries, tried really hard to run to the center. Bush’s compassionate conservatism was about making Republicanism palatable to those with social conscience.

  84. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Extra credit … if everyone was a closet partisan, why “undecided” voters?

    (“They’re lying” would be the pat answer to avoid.)

  85. Blue Galangal says:

    @john personna: Anecdotally, for the last 10 years my ex identified as Independent leans R and, practically, the only non-R vote he cast was for John Anderson in 1980. Until McCain fielded Palin. Had McCain chosen Lieberman, the ex would have voted for him. Gladly. But after Palin, he’s still Independent leans R and votes pretty much straight Democratic ticket right now. (If Huntsman had gotten the nomination in 2012, he probably would have voted for Huntsman; and I’m not sure he’ll vote for HRC.) But if you ask him, he’ll say he’s an Independent. For 30 years he’s voted R. Now he’s voting D.

    His chocolate ice cream definitely got contaminated with some toxic sludge there, and he’s gonna eat vanilla until it’s safe to eat chocolate again.

  86. john personna says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Until McCain fielded Palin. Had McCain chosen Lieberman, the ex would have voted for him. Gladly. But after Palin, he’s still Independent leans R and votes pretty much straight Democratic ticket right now.

    I’m not far from that myself. I think it shows that there is this potentially available band, which the Republicans choose not to seek.

    McCain and Romney had to move right for the nomination, and then couldn’t move back toward the center in the general. The Democrats held them to primary positions, but also their right wings were angry and unfulfilled.

  87. john personna says:

    @this:

    Bush’s compassionate conservatism was about making Republicanism palatable to those with social conscience.

    And no coincidence, Bush was the last Republican who won.

  88. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    Extra credit … if everyone was a closet partisan, why “undecided” voters?
    (“They’re lying” would be the pat answer to avoid.)

    I routinely discount the “undecided” voter count too – particularly in the case of prominent senate races or presidential elections. Why? Because in those cases there is already plenty of information out there and I believe people have valued it and discounted it, and have made up their minds.

    I place more value or credence in the “undecided” voter projection in the case of ballot initiatives, where people often haven’t examined the initiative and are not sure what it really is about.

    Also, sometimes “undecided” voters are (in my mind) similar to “Independents,” in that it sounds good to say to pollsters that you’re “undecided.” If that number is 10%, then (to me) it could be roughly equal to the number of “real” Independents out there. If it’s between 11%-30% it might be a harbinger of the number of new voters coming to the table, people who have been ambivalent about voting in the past, etc.

  89. john personna says:

    Another example:

    Poll: GOP, independent voters fuel Christie’s 61% approval rating

    The wrong lesson to take there would be “oh, well. NY independents are just closet Republicans,”

    rather than that Christie’s positioning had something to do with it.

  90. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Well, it might be something to introspect on, whether rejecting data really leads to understanding.

    (I think “undecideds” are a pool, constantly changing, of loosely connected voters. Someone might like Romney before the Cairo attacks, but move to unsure after. For reals. They might even end up voting Obama if Romeny doesn’t make a good enough play for their vote.)

    One of the key logical errors last election cycle was to think that the “undecideds” in September were the same group that was undecided in June. Some were, but there was surely migration in and out.

  91. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    No, Steven, I still don’t think you get it.

    People self-identify as Dems or Reps only when they feel that the party platform is a reasonable surrogate for their own personal beliefs and preferences. (In fact, they probably also need to feel that this will continue to be the case in the future, but let’s set that aside for the moment.)

    I vote for the candidates that I think will come closest to voting my interests. Neither party’s platform is a good match for my personal mix of fiscal conservatism, separation of church and state, limited safety nets, universal health care, education is too important to fund and manage locally, etc. etc.

    When I vote for a Democrat — which is almost always the case lately — that’s a contingent fact, no more significant than if I’d happened to vote almost entirely for brown-eyed people, or Saggitarians. It is simply not true that I am a de facto Democrat — I reject way too much of the Democratic platform for that to be the case.

  92. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    Well, it might be something to introspect on, whether rejecting data really leads to understanding.

    John, I try to understand polling numbers both, (1) as they are “happening” and published, and (2) after the fact – a kind of post mortem process. It is my personal version of social science and it surely is difficult to measure and account for behavioral influences and possibilities. I always try to be objective and not see in the numbers what I want to see, rather I attempt to see (guess, predict) what the most likely outcome will be.

    I’ve always been interested in elections and the political process, and I admit that I follow national and statewide (here in CA) elections in a manner similar to following a game. I’ve been hooked on this stuff forever.

  93. Nightrider says:

    All the bickering here is a nice example of the loss of the political center.

    A discussion of this issue has to include a campaign to end gerrymandering. That’s a big reason why the House is so dysfunctional and why the Senate is at least a bit better. A subtext of that issue is to question whether the creation of African-American districts in the South have done more harm than good. It isn’t the whole story – that rep from Wyoming isn’t going to change – but unlike many ideas it is an actually achievable goal that could make a real contribution toward lessening our debilitating hyper-partisanship.

    Any chart purporting to make a point based on continuous liberal/conservative ratings of Congressmen dating back to 1879 has got to be a least a little suspect. To show the GOP on that straight a line from 1979-1991 seems likely to be making some questionable calls in defining what it means to be conservative, no? I only point this out since some of you seem quite enamored of this “empirical” proof.

  94. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    It’s not generally that they have been lying, it is generally that they have not been paying attention. Most people aren’t political junkies. Most are quite the opposite and pay as little attention to politics as they can until the election, then better than 30% of them continue to ignore it as best they can and don’t vote.

  95. grumpy realist says:

    How much of declining to declare “Republican” or “Democratic” (particularly on anything official) is simply because of trying to keep off junk-mail lists?

    One of the reasons I’m still pissed at the ACLU. I donated with the explicit request that I not be placed on any mail lists of theirs and that my donation was a one-shot event. Seven years later, am STILL getting begging letters from them and “you need to renew your membership!” junk mail. (Hello? I didn’t ever request to be made a member.) I like their aims, but given their lack of ability to follow simple directions, I have no interest in any further donations.

    Ditto for why I never donate to Planned Parenthood any more. One donation resulted in years and years of junk mail. I had to move away from the US before they stopped pestering me.

  96. Grewgills says:

    There are some true independents and john may be one of them, but their numbers seem to be considerably smaller than self reporting would indicate. It is analogous to polling people asking if they are open minded or if they evaluate all possibilities before making a decision. That sounds like the more reasonable position and people like to think they are reasonable. In reality most independents lean pretty strongly in one direction or another, even if they pine for a day when they won’t.
    For the ice cream analogy: when the neopolitan ice cream goes in the freezer, the average person doesn’t want to take equal portions of each flavor.

  97. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Well, it’s a pretty happy thing for me that I have an explanation consistent with self-reports. I don’t need to say that people who think they are independent, and wooable are not. I don’t need to say that people who are undecided, really are.

    It is simple and consistent to say that there is a moderate middle, which is theoretically reachable by either party. That is evidenced by people who sway before deciding.

    @Grewgills:

    I agree that low-information voters are part of it, but especially low-information and non-ideological voters. The two might even go hand-in-hand.

  98. john personna says:

    Ah, I found that article (mentioned in my first comment) in my history buffers (from CBS News):

    Who’s in the American Center?

  99. Ken says:

    @grumpy realist: I realize it’s great fun to claim “both parties are equally bad” and preen yourself about being a Noble Ideal believer in Libertarianism, but this is really saying you’re trying to find an equal balance between someone who thinks that a sensible meal is Italian and someone who wants to eat anthrax and tire axles.

    This brings to mind David Sedaris’ comments about the 2008 election, which are equally applicable here:

    “I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

    To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”

  100. Neil Hudelson says:

    @john personna:

    High speed rail shouldn’t be a one size fits all policy. It’s stupid for population density in some places. Would it work in Montana? Of course not. In the Midwest, alternatively, Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinatti, Columbus, Dayton, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, and Milwaukee are all within 150 to 250 miles of each other (respectively–with Nashville being a bit of an outlier) and a high speed rail network is vastly more efficient to move people between these cities rather than using small turbo prop and shuttle jets.

  101. john personna says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    We have a fairly efficient transit system in this country. It charges a fair premium for air travel. It relies heavily on personal automobiles. But:

    The percentage of workers who usually travel to work using public transportation has remained at about 5 percent since the 1990 Census. [2009 data]

    Isn’t it a little crazy to say that the public transportation problem to crack is to get the premium market?

    I’d suggest that you could simply tax that air travel, and dispense with a good fraction of it. And then concentrate on getting another 5% of workers out of polluting and low mileage junkers.

  102. john personna says:

    (It might even be a bit “limousine liberal” to concentrate on changing the patterns of airborne business travelers.)

  103. Rob in CT says:

    Looking at the line chart again… I get splitting out Southern Dems and Northern Dems, but I’d like to see it with Northern and Southern Reps also sorted.

    The regional effect is part of the mix here. I think what we’re seeing could be described as the Dixification of the GOP.

  104. Rob in CT says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I don’t really see high-speed rail working outside of the NE Corridor and possibly CA (though I think CA’s current project sounds like a boondoggle).

  105. Rob in CT says:

    Steven’s right, IMO, that it’s worth clicking through to the Voteview page on polarization. There are some more interesting charts.

  106. @john personna:

    Again, bad analysis.

    It all depends on what one is trying to analyze. You are conflating past actions, present actions, and future potential action. They are not the same thing.

    Yes, people can change in the future. Yes, parties can adapt to the electoral marketplace. However, to understand 2012 one has to look at 2012, not what might could be the case in 2022.

    You are mixing categories.

  107. Pharoah Narim says:

    @john personna: You had me at Pragmatist…..

  108. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I should have tied the analysis to political strategies earlier in the conversation, but that’s where I’ve been. That is my frustration.

    Perhaps when some political scientist says “these voters are independent leans-Dem” he only means in the past, but … no there is a bigger problem here. It cuts across disciplines. It’s big in finance. Past behavior is studied, and then used for the future, because the data is available.

    BTW, that “American Center” link has a lot of good data. Especially note the roll-over results for each question.

  109. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    California has a problem that other regions might share … if you want to do high speed rail down to civic centers, you’ve got to tear up a lot of expensive real estate.

    If you need a station out of town, what’s the point?

    Oh, and remember that in the US whether he came by air or by train, that business traveler is most likely going to rent a car.

  110. Rob in CT says:

    California has a problem that other regions might share … if you want to do high speed rail down to civic centers, you’ve got to tear up a lot of expensive real estate.

    See also: Acela ain’t all that fast for a reason.

  111. george says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I routinely discount the “undecided” voter count too – particularly in the case of prominent senate races or presidential elections. Why? Because in those cases there is already plenty of information out there and I believe people have valued it and discounted it, and have made up their minds.

    I think you’re assuming many people follow politics much more closely than they in fact do. I know quite a few people – some very well educated in general (university profs in the sciences in particular fit this category) who don’t look at what’s going on in an election until the last few weeks, and sometimes not until the last few days.

    The information is out there, but many people don’t like politics, and treat it like a visit to the dentist (my apologies to any dentists reading this forum, but its true) – something they’ll put off as long as possible. And its not even necessarily a bad tactic, at least from a science/engineering point of view. Putting off an irreversable decision where there’s no chance of speeding up the process until all possible information is generally a good idea. Why not wait until much of the early campaign dust has settled? You can’t vote before election day anyway, so there’s not much benefit to following it beforehand if you don’t enjoy it. And then if you happen to get one of those annoying pollster calls, you say undecided because the option “haven’t even thought about it yet” isn’t specifically offered.

    Political forums give an unrepresentative sample of the general interest in politics. In Canada, the day after a big election, most of the talk will be on the outcome of the hockey games, not the election. And the hockey game will in general generate stronger feelings. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, but that’s the way it is for many people.

  112. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Wait a second.

    If we stipulate that these measurements only apply to the past, what meaning would “independent leans-Dem” even have?

    Nothing, right.

    Because it’s over, and the particular choice (like Bush v Kerry) is water under the bridge. The ONLY reason to even argue “independent leans-Dem” is because you think it WILL apply past Kerry.

  113. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Count me in as someone who is very skeptical of the idea of the independent voter. In reality, each party is a bundle of policies. You get to choose the Democratic bundle, or the Republican bundle, you don’t get to choose a la carte. If you have been voting Democratic for the past 10 years, it means that you like the Democratic bundle and are in reality a Democrat. It’s no use saying, “I just vote Republican in the past, but now I vote Democrat. However if the Republicans adopted A different bundle of policies, I would totally vote Republican.” The Republican Party is the Republican Party bundle, and if it adopted a different bundle of policies it would not be the current Republican Party. It would be some other nonexistent party. The bottom line is that you are effectively a Democrat if you are a repeat long term Democratic voter. Now you don’t have to agree to everything in the bundle to be a Democrat. You just have to agree with the core of the bundle to be a Democrat. For example, you could disagree on the importance of urban mass transit or rail travel, and you can still be a Democrat. I myself have such misgivings. For example, I’m still not really sure yet what I think of the keystone pipeline deal. The important thing is that I agree with the core of the bundle. The results of the 2012 elections confirmed the idea that there really is no large number of independent voters. In the end, 51% chose the Democratic presidential candidate, 47% chose a Republican one, with 2% voting for somebody else. That shows that there were really very few people equidistant between each bundle. In the end, they chose one or the other.

  114. C. Clavin says:

    Here’s Paul Ryan in his opening remarks to the Budget Conference:

    “…So I want to say this from the get-go: If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere. The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy….”

    Patty Murray in her opening remarks:

    “Compromise runs both ways…While we scour programs to find responsible savings, Republicans are also going to have to work with us to scour the bloated tax code– and close some wasteful tax loopholes and special interest subsidies. Because it is unfair — and unacceptable — to ask seniors and families to bear this burden alone…”

    So there’s your both sides do it.

  115. Tyrell says:

    Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Humphrey, Fulbright, Dirksen, Russell, Ervin, Mansfield: where are these kind of leaders now? Not in politics. The difference? Those were statesmen, not political opportunists.

  116. john personna says:

    @Stonetools:

    That “American Center” infographic says that there are many of us floating in the middle.

    Again, I hear you saying that since Republicans can’t (or won’t even try to) capture that ground, it contains “Democrats.”

    Well, in that sense it will, until some Republican reinvention comes along which extends the party’s reach.

    But if it’s a Republican political choice to make, it says it is less about the partisan identity of the center.

  117. john personna says:

    @Tyrell:

    Nixon?

  118. Mikey says:

    @Stonetools:

    In reality, each party is a bundle of policies. You get to choose the Democratic bundle, or the Republican bundle, you don’t get to choose a la carte.

    And that, to me, is a major–perhaps THE major–failing of the American political system.

    I don’t disagree with the concept of parties as bundles, but what we have is two huge bundles we “must” accept, whether or not we agree with more than 51% of the contents of either, and no other choice that even has a chance.

    And then we have to accept whatever label the bundle we (very begrudgingly) chose applies to us.

    (And I still want to know what label applies to someone who votes Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic, all in the same election.)

  119. mattbernius says:

    @Todd:

    Every time you try to pretend that “both sides do it”, you’re lying (whether intentionally or not).

    I don’t think it can be called lying unless the person who is making the statement knows/believes it to be false.

    Rather what it is is ignorant. And, given the amount of data someone has to deny to make the statement, it’s better called *willful ignorance.*

    Not that remaining willfully ignorant is all that better than flat out lying.

  120. Tyrell says:

    @john personna: Nixon: did the conservative talk, but did not walk the talk. The ultimate pragmatist and a centrist by all accounts; and his record: met with Russian leaders, unprecedented trip to China, EPA, more funding for social programs, ended the draft, lots of other things.

  121. Rob in CT says:

    And I still want to know what label applies to someone who votes Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic, all in the same election

    There probably isn’t one label for this, even “independent.” I’m a registered Dem and I might do that under the right circumstances. Admittedly, I’m less likely to do it now than I was 10 years ago, before I decided I would sign up for Team Blue.

    There are some “real” independents. But it’s also true that whenever one party’s “brand” suffers, a chunk of their voters start calling themselves independents (out of embarrassment). Perhaps if they *stay* embarrassed, they really do become independents. But most will come home again. IMO. This is not a belief I hold all that strongly.

  122. mattbernius says:

    @DrDaveT:

    It is simply not true that I am a de facto Democrat — I reject way too much of the Democratic platform for that to be the case.

    The thing is that “true” (ideological pure) party members rarely exist.

    What this system creates are “functional” party members – often independents who relatively reliably over time, vote for one party or the other. And so, until the Republicans shift or you simply stop voting, if you reliably vote Democratic, in terms of your political expression, you are a de facto Democrat.

    There is a key caviat here — that we need to appreciate that voting patterns change depending on the level of the election. It’s entirely possible to be a libertarian in local politics, a republican at state level, and ultimately a democrat at the national level.

    The challenge of our primary system, which Steven points out, is that the most ideologically party members among us are the ones who ultimately have the most sway over the selection of candidates. Which means that the “independents” are defacto moved by the limited candidate options available to them.

    And, thus, while the “independent-still-voting-Republican” might not have moved far to the right, in certain districts, they are still helping elect far right Conservative candidates (or ending up shifting Democratic or not voting for a major candidate out of protest).

  123. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    People say a lot of things. They like to say, ” I’m an independent. I think rationally. I pick the candidate and the policy, not the party. I float freely between the two parties. I’m definitely not one of the sheeple. No one owns my vote!” And then they reliably vote, election after election for one of the two parties.
    In reality, a thoughtful candidate consider each “bundle “of policies a party promotes, selects the bundle they like, and chooses that bundle. Its like choosing a cable bundle; you won’t like all the channels in each bundle, but if you like enough channels, you’ll choose that bundle. If you like the pro-civil rights, pro-voting rights, anti-flirting with default bundle, you’ll choose the Democratic bundle. If you like the anti-abortion, no-taxes-ever, voter suppression, business-is-always-right bundle, you’ll go Republican. You pays your money and you makes your choices.

  124. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    Is that what the CBS data really shows?

  125. john personna says:

    @mattbernius:

    And so, until the Republicans shift or you simply stop voting, if you reliably vote Democratic, you are a de facto Democrat for all intents and purposes.

    My original complaint was about this thinking. Steven agreed a bit, but kind of put it on me that I was the one extending past results to future elections, and not everyone else.

    Well, see.

    The CBS analysis ends (emphasis mine):

    The new mainstream is deeply pessimistic about both but 2016 candidates take heed: The center is ready to swing. It leans Democratic but a majority agree with a mix of Republican and Democratic ideas, and about the same percentage self-describe as neither liberal nor conservative.

    Certainly the center won’t swing if Republicans don’t move, and Democrats don’t screw up [but that does not make the center reliable Democrats.]

  126. stonetools says:

    @Mikey:

    (And I still want to know what label applies to someone who votes Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic, all in the same election.)

    Confused? An outlier? Either would be apt.
    In general, most people agree 75 per cent with one party’s bundle, or the other. For example , there are very few people who are both marriage equality and pro-life. They generally fail into one camp or the other. That’s because people are people, first of all, before they are voters. If you are a conservative evangelical, you are going to be anti-abortion, and anti-marriage equality, and most likely Republican. Indeed, you are probably going to give great weight to the anti-abortion channel in the bundle. I certainly know evangelicals who look no further than a person’s stance on abortion in deciding which bundle to choose.

  127. Neil Hudelson says:

    Political consultants and managers tend not to use “strong” “lean” and other modifiers (some do…but not many). More often voters are ranked by their votes themselves, based on the last four elections (usually two primaries and two generals, but sometimes four general elections are used–depending on how you want to analyze your data).

    So a 4/4 voter would have voted for the Democrats four out of the last four elections.*

    What is nice about this is that it clearly indicates the voter preference, but doesn’t assume past results indicate future success. Every election can turn a 4/4 voter into a 3/4 voter if you do your job poorly, and every election can turn a 0/4 voter into a 1/4 voter (less likely) if you do exceedingly well at your job.

    *Not to confuse the issue–data like this will also be for how many times they vote period, and their likely ability to be targeted by a GOTV campaign. So sometimes 4/4 can mean just “voted four times–for any party–in the last four elections.”

  128. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    In general, most people agree 75 per cent with one party’s bundle, or the other.

    Do you have a poll for that? It seems at odds with the CBS New study.

  129. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    I give much more weight to how people VOTE, than to what people SAY.
    If you want to know what people believe, watch what they do, not what they say.

  130. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    Do you understand the problem of mapping a continuous function into two output values?

    (Other than that, “most people agree 75 per cent with one party’s bundle” was a remarkably “truthy” claim.)

  131. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: I am a loyal member of the southern wing of the Democrat party; and that is since the early ’60’s. I have never claimed to think rationally.

  132. Matt bernius says:

    @john personna:

    Certainly the center won’t swing if Republicans don’t move, and Democrats don’t screw up [but that does not make the center reliable Democrats.]

    I don’t believe I ever made any claim of reliability. All I stated is if in the last four elections you voted for a Democrat, then despite what you call yourself, you are a defacto democrat. That doesn’t ensure future behavior. But as you point out changes in behavior require external changes.

  133. john personna says:

    @Matt bernius:

    Consider a black box. On the inside is some continuous function. You look at outputs. In your example, you see D-D-D-D.

    Well of course all that can tell you is “Democrat,” because you aren’t looking in the box.

    The CBS News study breaks it down (looks inside the box) a number of ways. If we are willing to do that, we can tell with much greater resolution what pitch is needed to move a voter.

    The CBS data differentiates one D-D-D-D voter from another.

  134. john personna says:

    (Some seem to be saying that the output of the black box is all we need, which I think is madness. Or worse, it is selective thinking, confirmation bias.)

  135. @john personna:

    You look at outputs. In your example, you see D-D-D-D.

    Well of course all that can tell you is “Democrat,” because you aren’t looking in the box.

    But if one is studying a specific election, or even a series of elections, the output is what matters.

    If one is seeking to study something else, then looking in the black box is a good idea.

  136. @john personna:

    If we are willing to do that, we can tell with much greater resolution what pitch is needed to move a voter.

    Indeed. But that is about future strategy of given parties, not studying a given election.

  137. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I mentioned a contradiction above.

    If it is “one election” is it really about “D” and “R”?

    As opposed to about Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones?

    Call me a pedantic logician, but I think have found a crack in the logic.

  138. @john personna:

    Call me a pedantic logician, but I think have found a crack in the logic.

    I take the point, we have a candidate-centric system. So yes, only one election for one singular office cannot, necessarily, reveal partisan preference.

    I get your point about the fact the people can change their minds in the future, and that parties can try to market to such person. Beyond that, I am not sure what you are trying to demonstrate.

  139. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I take the point, we have a candidate-centric system. So yes, only one election for one singular office cannot, necessarily, reveal partisan preference.

    I get your point about the fact the people can change their minds in the future, and that parties can try to market to such person.

    Right.

    Beyond that, I am not sure what you are trying to demonstrate.

    That was about it.

  140. john personna says:

    Oh, lest anyone think that a multiple election series is that much better than a single … it takes surprisingly more samples than you might expect to gauge probability.

    There is a whole series of experiments on this using human subjects, and bags of colored balls.

  141. Mikey says:

    @stonetools: Well, I’m certainly not confused, so I guess I’m an outlier. Does that make me one of those unicorns, a “True Independent?” I don’t know. I have several different and not necessarily overlapping motivations for splitting my ticket that way, some of which do have to do with parts of a party “bundle” (the Democrats on social issues) and some of which don’t (the desire to give a third party a chance at automatic ballot access in the next election).

  142. Todd says:

    @mattbernius:

    I don’t think it can be called lying unless the person who is making the statement knows/believes it to be false.

    Rather what it is is ignorant. And, given the amount of data someone has to deny to make the statement, it’s better called *willful ignorance.*

    Not that remaining willfully ignorant is all that better than flat out lying.

    I don’t disagree. Using the word “lying” was probably a bit lazy on my part. I’m just not real sure what the right word is. If it was someone I didn’t know, then I might buy “ignorant”, but I’ve been reading Doug’s stuff for too long to believe that he’s ignorant.

    Who knows, the explanation could be as innocuous as he’s just being a smart blogger … I’d imagine just about every one of these “both sides do it” debates probably generate a fairly decent amount of page views. 🙂

  143. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Indeed. But that is about future strategy of given parties, not studying a given election.

    In that case I fail to see the relevance. Of course one can simply map past outcomes. But unless one wants to analyse the reasons for the given output (for which the independent leans etc. label would be relevant) what would be there to discuss beyond “A got 10 votes, B got 6”?

  144. Moosebreath says:

    @Tyrell:

    Or, as Will Rogers said, “I don’t belong to any organized party. I’m a Democrat.”

  145. grumpy realist says:

    Much to my surprise, I think I’ve drifted over the years into what would be called a “Rockefeller Republican.” I’ve had enough of my do-gooder instincts knocked around (some people are just going to eff up their lives, no matter how many chances they get to pull themselves together) that I’m probably not the same form of Democratic voter that my parents were. I’m grumpy enough about open-ended entitlements to want “death panels” and hard slaps on the wrist for people who refuse to take care of their own health. (Those buggers who insist on being couch potatoes and their right to eat a Paula Dean Southern diet and chow down on deep-fried butter? Let them pay for their own heart and diabetes medication.)

    Unfortunately, there are no Rockefeller Republicans left. People who believe in science and technology. Investment in R&D. Business, but business as something aside from greed. Entrepreneurialism that helps society beyond a paycheck.

    So I’m left voting with the Progressives, because the other side seems to have lost its collective mind. I really wonder what the Teahadists expect is going to occur, if they manage to ever grab real power. It’s not going to be a peaceful return to an Arcadian existence, no matter what they think.

  146. Todd says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I know how you feel.

    The first vote I ever cast in a Presidential election was for George H.W. Bush. It’s a vote I would make again today if I could … although actually, policy wise, Barack Obama isn’t terribly removed from George H.W. Bush … so in a way, maybe I have.

  147. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Do you understand the problem of mapping a continuous function into two output values?

    Nope. I can count, though. I do know that all those people with their middling opinions resolve their doubts and vote for one bundle or the other on Election Day. Now I’m not sure how those Minivan Moderates, Whatever Mans, and MBA Middles ( talk about your truthy categories) resolve their differences, but they somehow do and pick one bundle or other. The survey shows that they don’t agree 100 per cent with one bundle or the other , but they agree with enough of a particular bundle to choose.
    What’s also true is that nowadays, you know exactly whatever you are getting in each bundle. On a whole laundry list of items, (abortion, marriage equality, taxes, regulation, civil rights, transportation, climate change) you know what you are getting if you choose a Democratic or Republican candidate. Once you could mix and match, but these days there is rarely a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican. The Big Sort has happened.

  148. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Without the methods and numbers of actual people that fit each of their ad hoc groupings, the information in that poll isn’t so useful. How many “whatever men” are there? If they really are “meh about politics”, are they likely to vote?
    They make broad assumptions based on each question that assume points not in evidence there. For instance, based on the question

    Thinking about the next few years, how optimistic or pessimistic are you about politics in this country?

    they come out with,

    The people of the center are overwhelmingly (79%) down on politics, and it’s clear why. Almost one in two feel that the system is broken and that politicians are “always” disappointing—and a majority believes the constitution can no longer provide guidance on many modern problems.

    Two of the four ad hoc groupings of the four that make up the ‘middle’ answered 4 out of 7 on the above question. How does that translate into 79% of them being down on politics? Where does the 50% of people feeling “the system is broken” and “politicians are always disappointing” come from?
    This poll, as presented at the link, provides little or no meaningful information. It is a taking off point for a conversation perhaps, but not much beyond that.

  149. Grewgills says:

    That the middle has to make a choice every couple of years does not negate the existence of that middle.

    There are a substantial number of people who object to both abortion and the death penalty, or are both for progressive taxation and against gay marriage, etc. Neither party is a comfortable fit for a politician that represents them. That places them in some sort of constantly shifting and not necessarily moderate middle. I do think most of them lean.

    The characterization of the middle* as necessarily moderate is one of the unfounded assumptions made in all of these polls. Moderation is about tone and willingness to compromise, not on the specific ideological starting points.

    *defined here and seemingly in the polls as people with some views represented by each party

  150. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    One of the dangers with infographics is that they can be too cute. I think the graphics, especially rolling mouse-over, have a lot, but they are reductions from raw counts of course. Also:

    7 More Things About the New American Center

  151. john personna says:

    “The finding that was the most striking [from the survey],” says Franklin, “was the size of the Center. It’s a majority, with more than fifty percent of Americans refusing to view politics and policy through a strict partisan or ideological lens. They do care strongly about certain things, but those things don’t fit neatly into the category of left or right.”

    I think I have been visited with quite a bit of out-of-hand rejection of that possibility above.

    If you were good, you’d now consider how this new data changes your outlook.

  152. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    if you reliably vote Democratic, in terms of your political expression, you are a de facto Democrat.

    But that’s just it — I do NOT “reliably vote Democrat”. I reliably vote my beliefs, and my beliefs (while they have evolved over time) are more stable than the platform of either party. The line between them washes back and forth over me. It doesn’t matter how many times in a row I’ve voted for Democrats; next year a moderate Republican with ideas like mine could come along and get my vote.

    A Democrat is someone who votes for people because they are Democrats; a Republican votes for people because they are Republicans. That isn’t me.

  153. DrDaveT says:

    @stonetools:

    In general, most people agree 75 per cent with one party’s bundle, or the other.

    Strong claim; got a cite for that?

    Personally, I’m skeptical. I know too many people who can’t stand 50% of either party’s positions. That’s especially easy now that neither party stands for fiscal responsibility.

  154. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Corey Mondello: Lincoln was a Marxist before Das Kapital was even written? Wow! I’d like to get that time machine.

  155. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:

    A Democrat is someone who votes for people because they are Democrats; a Republican votes for people because they are Republicans. That isn’t me.

    What you describe is a true partisan and yes, most people are not that, but most have chosen a side. A Democrat or a Republican is also someone who agrees more with the policies and priorities of that party and consistently supports that party. Every once in a while you have a politician that will drive some to vote across party lines either by being particularly charismatic or egregiously bad, but the broader pattern remains.

  156. george says:

    @stonetools:

    Nope. I can count, though. I do know that all those people with their middling opinions resolve their doubts and vote for one bundle or the other on Election Day. Now I’m not sure how those Minivan Moderates, Whatever Mans, and MBA Middles ( talk about your truthy categories) resolve their differences, but they somehow do and pick one bundle or other. The survey shows that they don’t agree 100 per cent with one bundle or the other , but they agree with enough of a particular bundle to choose.

    Ignoring the people who didn’t vote at all (something like 30% of the voting population – often because they’re independents who don’t like either party), were the percentages of votes for the two parties identical in each district for the President, Congress and Senate? And then the same for state votes (Governor, senate etc)? To the extent they weren’t, people weren’t voting bundles (and that’s assuming you didn’t have other kinds of cross mixing going on which would mimic bundling).

    I have relatives who regularly vote Democrat presidentially, Republican senate, and either/or congress. And either/or in state elections. They’re not confused nor ill informed (they’d argue, intelligently, that they’re informed enough to find much to dislike in both parties, and as often or not go by the individual candidate on the grounds that both “bundles” have major discrepencies with what they think is best for them and the country, so they might as well go by their assessment of individual character). I think you make the mistake of assuming that because the choice between bundles is clear for you, it must be for everyone. People really aren’t that simple, or uniform.

    Think of it like quantum mechanics. We don’t know the state a particle is in until it is measured. That doesn’t mean it existed in that state prior to the measurement – in fact, it now seems almost certain that the measurement temporarily forced the particle into one state, while most of the time it exists in a mixture of states. I think elections do the same with many voters – they’re a mixture of interests and issues. And even then, the elections often don’t force them to vote a uniform bundle – long before gerrymandering went crazy, people would vote differently for President, Congress and Senate, and of course, for state elections. People are much more complex and less politically consistent than your bundle theory of voting suggests.

  157. The one part of this conversation that I am having a hard time understanding: many seem in denial about the fact that, despite the whys of the matter, or the what-might-bes of the matter, most people end up voting R or D in a given election. And, moreover, they tend to vote R or D election-to-election. The true swing voter (defined as someone who changes frequently within and between elections) is rare. And while it is the case that a large number of persons do no wish to self-identify are Republicans or Democrats, they still end up voting Republican or Democrat. When studying elections, their outcomes, and their impacts, it really doesn’t get any more fundamental than how many votes were cast for the candidates of a given party.

    Further, while we like to say we “vote our values” or we “vote for the candidate” the bottom line is that parties serve a sorting functions based on values, and therefore the odds are that one’s values are more likely to align with the candidates of one party over the other.

    Beyond even any of that, the outputs of the process are what they are: a number of votes for Ds, Rs, and a smattering of third parties.

    Yes, we can (and should) ask why voters voted as they did. Further, we have to understand how the institutional parameters of the system (e.g., single member districts with plurality winners, the geographic distribution of ideological disposition, primaries, the electoral college, etc) affect the kinds of choices we have.

    We do need more choices. We do need to allow the various interests that exist in our citizenry to be better represented in government. The problem is: we are highly unlikely to get those choices given the current design of our system. The ay we elect the House has the tendency to constrict the number of parties and this is exacerbated by the way we nominate candidates. So many may be independents, moderates, centrists. or whatever, and yet they will (if they vote) end up mostly voting R or D. And, quite frankly, given the current configuration of the GOP, this group of voters will likely vote D.

  158. Rob in CT says:

    A Democrat is someone who votes for people because they are Democrats; a Republican votes for people because they are Republicans

    Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with this right here.

    I don’t vote for Dems because they’re Dems. I vote for Dems because I typically agree with the Dems on things, and/or I’m horrified by the Republicans.

    If/when I find a Republican espousing views that match me better than a Democrat, I’d certainly consider voting for the Republican (if it’s nation-wide office, I’d still hesitate, though, under present circumstances). The hell of it is, there is basically no chance of that happening now, because the Parties have sorted ideologically. Even here in Connecticut, Republican candidates run out GOP boilerplate that turns me off. So I keep voting Dem (and my registration allows me to vote in primaries, which matter).

  159. Moosebreath says:

    @Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker:

    “Lincoln was a Marxist before Das Kapital was even written?”

    I have certainly read Marxists who claim Lincoln would have supported them, as someone who advanced from poor beginnings, though the actual evidence for that is slight (indeed, Lincoln’s views were heavily influenced by Henry Clay, who was a great supporter of business interests). I also read years ago a book of letters between Marx and Engels commenting on the American Civil War as it occurred (and rooting for a Union victory, as they viewed the South as being largely dominated by aristocrats, while the North was more favorably inclined to the proles).

  160. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well, I thought my “remember the middle” and “remember the underlying distribution” mattered, because the top graphics, on the divergence of the parties wasn’t telling the whole story.

    I think it sheds light on the nature of election losses.

    If there are “more than fifty percent of Americans refusing to view politics and policy through a strict partisan or ideological lens” there are that many voters to be claimed with a less ideological strategy.

    And yes, the party that “diverges more” from the center, has a harder time.

  161. john personna says:

    Put differently, the media have told us of a barbell political distribution for years, with weight at both ends, and not at the center.

    It turns out that might be the output of the black box (who is elected), rather than representative of the inputs (where the voters really were).

    If the population is not a barbell, or even better has a bulge in the middle, we are so much better off.

  162. @john personna: In that case it is the media being lazy and making incorrect assessments of what Ds and Rs mean.

    Indeed, the media does a spectacularly bad job on this issues, and hence many stories are filled with false equivalencies and the “both sides do it” narrative.

    The data in the post is supposed to point us in the direction of a corrective.

  163. john personna says:

    Here is a Gallup pronouncement, reported by Doug in September:

    The list of most polarized years makes it clear that Obama’s highly polarized ratings may be as much a reflection of the era in which he is governing as on Obama himself. The last nine presidential years — the final five for Bush and Obama’s first four — all rank in the top 10. Thus, it appears that highly polarized ratings are becoming the norm, as Americans aligned with both parties are apparently not looking much beyond the president’s party affiliation to evaluate the job he is doing.

    They determined this by looking at “Democratic Approval Rating” and “Republican Approval Rating” and comparing the two.

    I really don’t think they asked the independents, at all.

  164. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So many may be independents, moderates, centrists. or whatever, and yet they will (if they vote) end up mostly voting R or D. And, quite frankly, given the current configuration of the GOP, this group of voters will likely vote D.

    This. And because the candidates are — generally speaking — chosen through a primary process which caters to the most ideological of party voters, it’s difficult (though not impossible) for changes to quickly take place.

    This get’s to the great “friend” of the swing voter – “generic.”

    The generic Republican or Democrat is one that the independent can project themselves onto and imagine the Republican or Democrat that *they* would vote for.

    But the problem is once the choices cease being between generics and switch to actual candidates everything falls apart. And, while past voting issues are not promise of future success, they do suggest a direction, especially when one looks to the difference between the two candidates running in that particular election.

    I mean, remember how many commenters here — who ultimately either voted for Obama or punched out all together — wrote that Huntsman was a Republican “I could vote for.”

    The center is always “threatening to swing” — and has been for just about every Presidential Election in recent memory. The thing is that it hasn’t actually swung all that much.

    That said, the general nature of things suggest that despite the low approval ratings of Republicans, Democrats shouldn’t count the White House as theirs in 2016.

  165. mattbernius says:

    @DrDaveT:

    It doesn’t matter how many times in a row I’ve voted for Democrats; next year a moderate Republican with ideas like mine could come along and get my vote.

    But — perhaps with the exception of at the State and Local levels — the very system is currently rigged to ensure that moderate Republicans are unlikely to “come your way” because the nominating process is generally controlled by the most ideologically *pure* partisans.

    So again, you may not consider yourself a Democrat, the fact that the Republican Party is trending towards radical candidates continues to make you (along with many of us) de facto Democrats in terms of your expression.

    That doesn’t mean that you’ll always vote Democrat, but from your comments, it seems pretty clear that the trend in your voting patterns is towards Democrat. And until someone external changes, do you really expect that to change? And how likely, in the present climate, is that external change?

  166. john personna says:

    @mattbernius:

    The center is always “threatening to swing” — and has been for just about every Presidential Election in recent memory. The thing is that it hasn’t actually swung all that much.

    As I say, of course not, because the Republicans have not even tried to make this happen.

    They have been caught in this weird belief that “a true conservative” can win.

    (Or, in moments of candor they admit that they’d rather lose with “a real conservative.”)

    If they were smarter, they would have picked McCain or Romney as they were, and would not have dragged them right in the primaries, ruining their broad appeal.

  167. Todd says:

    Like many here, although I’m a registered Independent, I tend to vote fairly reliably Democrat lately. However, I too don’t consider myself a Democrat. This is primarily because I don’t necessarily want to see the Democrats win every (political) argument.

    As long as the Republicans continue to elect radicals, then let them control the party, I will most likely continue to vote for Democrats. But I really do want to see a viable Republican party return to the national stage … whether I end up voting for them or not … simply because I think our current situation is unhealthy, and I don’t believe that seeing the Republican party totally implode, leaving us with essentially 1-party dominance for most national offices would be any healthier over the long-term.

  168. mattbernius says:

    @john personna:

    As I say, of course not, because the Republicans have not even tried to make this happen.

    They have been caught in this weird belief that “a true conservative” can win.

    But that’s many of our broader point — and why while the CBS poll provides a valuable data point, it needs to be fitted into a larger system.

    To Steven’s point, the GOP has for any number of reasons moved more towards the right. And given the current nominating system, which is dominated by a mix of “party faithful” (albeit faithful to different aspects of the party platform), it’s unlikely that the party is going to shift it’s present course (a point that you appear to agree with).

    So while it’s *possible* for a center shift, and many of those folks starting to vote Republican, we need to ask if it’s probable given the current configuration of the parties.

    So to some degree, a more useful poll would focus on what’s the direction of the “Republican Base” versus what’s the direction of independents. Because, at this point, the Republican base has more control over the process (and the behavior of the independents) than the Independents themselves.

    If the general mood of the Republican Party is RINO hunting, then lots of independents will continue to be de-facto Democrats for the forseeable future.*

    * – though it’s entirely possible that continued low approval ratings for Obama + a very charismatic Republican Candidate for President could narrowly flip the White House (see Bush/Gore).

  169. mattbernius says:

    @Todd:

    As long as the Republicans continue to elect radicals, then let them control the party, I will most likely continue to vote for Democrats. But I really do want to see a viable Republican party return to the national stage … whether I end up voting for them or not … simply because I think our current situation is unhealthy, and I don’t believe that seeing the Republican party totally implode, leaving us with essentially 1-party dominance for most national offices would be any healthier over the long-term.

    I think most of us resemble this statement.

    Again, part of the problem is that many here seem uncomfortable with the idea that our political action (which for most of us is restricted to voting) apparently diverges from our personal political philosophy.

    The thing is that action and philosophy routinely diverge in most aspects of our lives.

  170. john personna says:

    @mattbernius:

    The people I’m responding to are the people who don’t put the CBS data at the center of the narrative.

    It is the center. It is the distribution that determines the electability of a Democratic or Republican candidate.

    So while it’s *possible* for a center shift, and many of those folks starting to vote Republican, we need to ask if it’s probable given the current configuration of the parties.

    That’s a good example of the reverse narrative. The center does not need to “shift” to flip their vote one way or another.

    In a concrete example, I think a Republican who campaigned on fixing Obamacare could win pretty handily in 2016.

    That is the party’s decision to make. The center doesn’t have do do anything.

  171. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    In a concrete example, I think a Republican who campaigned on fixing Obamacare could win pretty handily in 2016.

    So do I.

    However I’m not sure that Republicans want to “fix” Obamacare, I believe that they want to repeal it.

  172. Todd says:

    Interestingly, one of the best jobs leads that I have right now may bring me to a location with a very competitive congressional election (I was there on temporary duty last fall, so saw all the commercials/debates during the race).

    The current representative made @Corey Mondello‘s list of “Democrat Tea-Party members (lol, now there’s an oxymoron for you)”

    These are the guilty that I know of at this time, there are the enemies:

    Ron Barber – AZ

    I guess that probably qualifies him as a “moderate”. (note: this was Gabby Gifford’s district)

  173. mattbernius says:

    @john personna:

    In a concrete example, I think a Republican who campaigned on fixing Obamacare could win pretty handily in 2016.

    AGAIN what are the possibilities that a Republican who wants to “fix” Obamacare (someone who at the national level will openly say that “its not going away”) is going to win the nomination?

    Especially given the current trajectory.

    Also, I question the idea that the center isn’t shifting. There are countless issues where it’s pretty clear that the center has moved in one direction or the other (gay marriage is an example).

  174. Rob in CT says:

    Regarding Lincoln and Marxists, I’d guess Marxists would have to hang their hats on this:

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

    Which kinda gives me warm fuzzies and all, but is hardly Marxist. Lincoln, along with just about all Republicans of the time, bought in to the idea of self-improvement via labor: you work a job -> you save -> you open your own shop/small farm/small manufacturing business. It was sort of a life cycle idea. And you see it echoed today a lot (this ideology hasn’t changed much since the mid-19th century), when people talk about folks in minimum wage jobs. “Those are supposed to be entry-level positions, and you work your way up! Take classes, improve yourself.” [which, to be clear, isn’t so much wrong as it is incomplete]

    edit: also, too: the mid-19th century GOP free-labor self-improvement theory made a lot more sense then than it does now, given the fact that now we don’t have millions upon millions of acres of “free” land to take by force and redistribute to our citizenry (mother of all welfare programs? I report, you decide).

  175. David M says:

    @john personna:

    In a concrete example, I think a Republican who campaigned on fixing Obamacare could win pretty handily in 2016.

    I think it would be extremely difficult for this to be a credible campaign promise.

  176. john personna says:

    @mattbernius:

    AGAIN what are the possibilities that a Republican who wants to “fix” Obamacare (someone who at the national level will openly say that “its not going away”) is going to win the nomination?

    That’s pretty much where I’ve been, throughout this thread.

    I’ve just made sure the emphasis is on the Republican party, which decides [its campaign strategy], rather than any idea of a diminished middle, a polarized constituency, etc.

    If there was one thing I’d want to stick, after this thread it is that blurb about the size of the middle.

    “The finding that was the most striking [from the survey],” says Franklin, “was the size of the Center. It’s a majority, with more than fifty percent of Americans refusing to view politics and policy through a strict partisan or ideological lens. They do care strongly about certain things, but those things don’t fit neatly into the category of left or right.”

    And then sure, we can fault the Republicans for a primary process, and extremism among their activists, for moving away from that center.

  177. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    They manufacture that majority though. Only 36% of their center identifies as independent. 36% of their center id as Dems and the remaining 28% id as Repubs. If you cull off a third of each party and assign them to a middle designed to fit your narrative then you can say the middle is the majority.

  178. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    36% is still a solid slug, and supports the idea that a “party” can’t win on its own.

    Also, I find their argument that people are identifying with old party frameworks to be somewhat convincing. Near the ideological center someone may still think of himself as Republican, while not liking “these Republicans, these days.”

    Perhaps James fits that description.

  179. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    That is 36% of their center, that is a bare majority, so at best 20% of the whole pie.
    The members of this center that ID themselves with one party or the other are probably voting party line or very nearly so.
    To be clear, I wish it were so that there was a large, winnable center; because my side is the only one putting in any effort to woo them. Alas, I think there are more people that think of themselves as independent that aren’t. The proposition that the opposite is true, doesn’t seem to be born out by how voters consistently split election after election.

  180. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I knew that:

    Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in ’11

    So, they have a method that moves some self-identified independents OUT of their middle, and some self-identified partisans in.

    You can’t really take half of their method there.

  181. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    I knew that:
    Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in ’11

    40%? There is a lot of misleading going on in THAT poll. It begs the question: How did our politics get so polarized if 40% of us say we’re “Independents”? Presumably most of those “Independents” vote, and therefore voted for the people they (and we) complain about.

    Oh well.

  182. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    But — perhaps with the exception of at the State and Local levels — the very system is currently rigged to ensure that moderate Republicans are unlikely to “come your way” because the nominating process is generally controlled by the most ideologically *pure* partisans.

    That’s a recent, hopefully temporary aberration. You conveniently left out the part of my comment where I already told you that the line between parties has washed back and forth across me in the past.

    Yes, the Congress is more polarized today than at any other time since the civil war. That’s not a stable equilibrium; it will break eventually, one way or another.

    In the meantime, I’m still neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Just because I’d rather eat mud than mercury doesn’t make me a mud partisan.

  183. george says:

    @al-Ameda:

    40%? There is a lot of misleading going on in THAT poll. It begs the question: How did our politics get so polarized if 40% of us say we’re “Independents”? Presumably most of those “Independents” vote, and therefore voted for the people they (and we) complain about.

    Oh well.

    You sure most of those 40% vote? According to Wikipedia, something like 45% of eligible voters didn’t vote, its quite possible that many of those would be people who respond as independents in polls.

  184. DrDaveT says:

    On reflection, I think I see what’s going on here. @mattbernius et alia are treating “Republican” and “Democrat” as constants, while the allegiance of individuals to those constants is changeable. Rather as if we were talking about football teams, rather than politics.

    I believe that this is the way politicos and wonks think of the world, but it is fallacious. The clear evidence of history is that what it means to be a Republican or Democrat changes dramatically over time, while individual preferences remain relatively constant.

    This is why pandering is such a problem: the only easy way to bring voters over to your side in droves is to tell them what they already want to hear, not to make them want to hear what you’re preaching. It takes a real statesman to make the people want something they didn’t already want. We ran out of statesmen a while back…

  185. @DrDaveT:

    On reflection, I think I see what’s going on here. @mattbernius et alia are treating “Republican” and “Democrat” as constants, while the allegiance of individuals to those constants is changeable. Rather as if we were talking about football teams, rather than politics.

    I don’t think anyone is treating these things as constants nor as sports teams.

    The issue, for the most part in this discussion, although not as much in the post, is attempting to reconcile the difference between self perception (self-identification as measured by polls) and actual outputs (votes). The math is simple and the basic point quite clear: despite the fact that a lot of people identify as “independent” (or whatever non-partisan term one prefers) the bottom line is that they mostly end up voting for Ds or Rs. And, moreover, a lot of people who don’t want to identify as R or D nonetheless consistently vote for one of the two main parties.

    The votes, once deposited in the ballot box, care not for how the the voter identifies in his or her head. (And, indeed, I am not sure why this would be at all a controversial position as the most definitive, concrete aspect of this conversation is the tally of votes over time).