Why Democrats Have to Play By Different Rules

The Republicans are playing a different game.

Ezra Klein, who has a new book out on polarization in American politics, takes to the op-ed pages of the New York Times to answer an often-asked question, “Why Democrats Still Have to Appeal to the Center, but Republicans Don’t.”

He argues that, while the Democratic and Republican parties have dominated American politics since 1860, they’re constantly in flux. And that, while the Democrats have sorted left and the Republicans right in recent years, they haven’t done so in the same way. His thesis:

Democrats can’t win running the kinds of campaigns and deploying the kinds of tactics that succeed for Republicans. They can move to the left — and they are — but they can’t abandon the center or, given the geography of American politics, the center-right, and still hold power. 

Partly, it’s because the Democratic coalition is far more diverse.

Appealing to Democrats requires appealing to a lot of different kinds of people with different interests. Republicans are overwhelmingly dependent on white voters. Democrats are a coalition of liberal whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and mixed-race voters. Republicans are overwhelmingly dependent on Christian voters. Democrats are a coalition of liberal and nonwhite Christians, Jews, Muslims, New Agers, agnostics, Buddhists and so on. 

For this and other reasons, Democrats consume and trust a far wider variety of media sources than Republicans. That changes the nature of the debate within the party.

But, perhaps more importantly, as we’ve been arguing for quite some time here at OTB (see particularly Steven Taylor’s posts on the nature of our institutions and how they differ from those in literally every other country) the system effectively treats Democratic and Republican votes differently.

A party that narrows the sources it listens to is also narrowing the voters it can speak to. And political parties ultimately want to win elections. Lose enough of them, enough times, and even the most stubborn ideologues will accept reform. Democracy, in other words, should discipline parties that close their informational ecosystems. But America isn’t a democracy.

[…]

America’s political system counts states and districts rather than people, and the G.O.P.’s more rural coalition has a geographic advantage that offsets its popular disadvantage.

The upshot, then, is that the contest is asymmetric.

To win power, Democrats don’t just need to appeal to the voter in the middle. They need to appeal to voters to the right of the middle. When Democrats compete for the Senate, they are forced to appeal to an electorate that is far more conservative than the country as a whole. Similarly, gerrymandering and geography means that Democrats need to win a substantial majority in the House popular vote to take the gavel. And a recent study by Michael Geruso, Dean Spears and Ishaana Talesara calculates that the Republican Party’s Electoral College advantage means “Republicans should be expected to win 65 percent of presidential contests in which they narrowly lose the popular vote.”

The Republican Party, by contrast, can run campaigns aimed at a voter well to the right of the median American.

The GOP has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections but won the presidency three times. Ironically or frustratingly, depending on your perspective, the effect has been to get Republicans to double down on appealing to their constituency when democracy would have forced them to widen their aperture. Having garnered nearly three million fewer votes than the most polarizing Democratic nominee in decades should have chastened the party. Instead, they control the White House and the Senate and are seemingly bending over backwards to alienate non-white and non-rural voters.

Klein’s solutions are as logical and familiar as they are impossible:

We could do away with the Electoral College and gerrymandering; pass proportional representation and campaign finance reform; make voter registration automatic and give Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico the political representation they deserve. But precisely because the Republican Party sees deepening democracy as a threat to its future, it will use the power it holds to block any moves in that direction.

The irony is that the country and the Republican Party would both be better off in a more democratic system.

If Republicans couldn’t fall back on the distortions of the Electoral College, the geography of the United States Senate and the gerrymandering of House seats — if they had, in other words, to win over a majority of Americans — they would become a more moderate and diverse party. This is not a hypothetical: The country’s most popular governors are Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Larry Hogan in Maryland. Both are Republicans governing, with majority support, in blue states.

I would almost certainly rejoin that version of the GOP. I’d be much more at home there than in Elizabeth Warren’s, much less Bernie Sanders’, Democratic Party. But we’re unlikely to see it emerge any time soon. Not as long as they can win by losing.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Politics 101, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    James, if you haven’t seen it, I thought Kevin Drum’s build on Klein’s argument was quite good as well:

    https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/01/sorry-but-democrats-have-to-compromise-and-republicans-dont/

    Drum writes:

    The liberal share of the population has steadily increased over the past few decades, but it still tops out at 26 percent. That means Democrats need about two-thirds of independents to create a majority. And that means appealing to the center—or in some places to the center-right. It’s the only way to get to 51 percent.

    Republicans, by contrast, start out with 35 percent. If they manage to appeal to just the conservative portion of independents, they can get to 51 percent. So that’s what they do.

    Combine that with the issues Klein wrote (not to mention the ones you and Steven have been writing about for years) and it’s a bleak picture for progressives.

    I’d be much more at home there than in Elizabeth Warren’s, much less Bernie Sanders’, Democratic Party.

    While I understand what you are getting at, I still bristle at the idea of “Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Party” considering even after 2016 (or event the 2018 election of AOC who… you know, actually is a registered Democrat) he refused to actually join the party.

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  2. Teve says:

    Deleted because Bernius beat me by four minutes.

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  3. Kurtz says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m not the biggest fan of Klein, but he is smart and worth reading.

    I posted about this in another thread. It was centered on whether Trump supporters would move to the center if the GOP did. I’m skeptical.

    The ones he activated from non-participation are more than likely going to crawl back under a rock. The ones who went along with it will likely to follow the GOP anyway, even if the party moves toward their left.

    But a re-alignment in which the GOP moves toward the center is critical to the functioning of the Republic. It would also allow the Dems to function as representative of the whole Left rather than a tedious alliance of center-right and center-left.

    Perhaps more importantly, it would force Republicans to actually propose more ideas than tax cuts and deregulation.

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  4. mattbernius says:

    @Teve:

    Deleted because Bernius beat me by four minutes.

    One of the great thing about the last name “Bernius” is (beyond going really well with “Old Man” in front of it), is that it’s something that works really well when you action-movie-style yell it into the heavens in frustration while shaking your hands above your head.

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  5. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    I am skeptical of self-identification in polling.

    I think that Republican messaging has been ultra-successful in making people squeamish to identify as liberal. I also think people put a premium on being a moderate–it makes them feel more agreeable.

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  6. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:
    I understand that position. Drum more or less addresses it in the post (and I think he’s right). Heck you more or less have the rebuttal in your comments:

    I think that Republican messaging has been ultra-successful in making people squeamish to identify as liberal.

    If people are that squeamish in response to a poll, what makes you think they won’t be equally squeamish in the voting booth.

    Additionally, I think it’s also easy to use the underlying logic to make a reverse argument — namely that due to the social stigma in may places with vocal support of the President, polls under-represent the number of people who will vote for him even though they say won’t do so when asked.

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  7. Teve says:

    @Kurtz:

    Perhaps more importantly, it would force Republicans to actually propose more ideas than tax cuts and deregulation.

    The tax cuts and deregulation message succeeds because their base is too clueless to understand it’s going to hurt them. But I tried to think in the past about how they could possibly broaden their appeal without alienating the base, and I haven’t succeeded.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius:

    I still bristle at the idea of “Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Party” considering even after 2016 (or event the 2018 election of AOC who… you know, actually is a registered Democrat) he refused to actually join the party

    Sure. I still bristle at “Donald Trump’s Republican Party.” But, if Sanders is the Democratic nominee, it’s de facto his party—and one suspects it’ll transform to fit him, if not to nearly the same extent as the GOP did to Trump.

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  9. DrDaveT says:

    I think this analysis almost gets to the core truths driving the current situation, but stops just short. I disagree with Dr. Taylor about the relevance of institutions at the moment. Team identification got us to where we are, but it is no longer the operative mechanism.

    At present, liberal vs. conservative is irrelevant. It’s all about information sources. People who believe Fox News and Breitbart are going to vote for Trump. The vast majority of people who understand what is really going on are not going to vote for Trump, no matter how conservative their tendencies and preferences. Our own Dr. Joyner is a good example of this.

    The election will be a referendum on whose facts you accept. That’s causally connected with institutional identification, but is now self-sustaining. It is quite possible that the liars have won — that the numbers of the fervent deluded will be sufficient to re-elect Trump. But make no mistake; if Fox News came out against Trump tomorrow, and held that position through the election, Trump would lose, institutions be damned.

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  10. Kit says:

    Republicans are overwhelmingly dependent on white voters

    Party A is composed of a factious coalition of rabbits, deer, sheep and chickens. Party B is composed of wolves. When one party defines itself in opposition to the other, just what sort of compromise is possible? Racism is the gift that keeps on giving.

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  11. Kit says:

    @DrDaveT:

    if Fox News came out against Trump tomorrow, and held that position through the election, Trump would lose, institutions be damned.

    If Fox News came out against Trump, it would be because Big Money decided that Trump was a losing proposition, either because he grew too dangerous, or because the coalition he represents no longer looked like a winning one.

    I feel that plutocrats are in the driver’s seat today, but at some point, perhaps already in the rear view mirror, the populist movement fuelled by the media will be too powerful to control. Trump already went toe to toe with Fox, and Fox put its tail between its legs.

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  12. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    Because labeling yourself liberal is different from voting for a liberal based on issues. Self-image isn’t the same thing as behavior.

    Even party ID is weird, most self-labeled independents are actually partisans. They just don’t see themselves that way. (I can get a cite if needed. I’m just at work right now.)

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  13. Jim Brown 32 says:

    The road to defeating any adversary in competition is to find the way to turn strengths into liabilities. The Republican party has an outsized strength in low population density areas. You’ll know that Democrats are playing to win when they expend resources to craft a rural message thats can build a coalition with their suburban voters…..and start to compete in these rural States.

    Frankly, even a good start would be messaging the Conservative elements of the key demographics already in their coalition. That would bring more black and Latino men, with Evangelical couples of color into the fold.

    I’m not sure winning elections is a priority of the Democratic party however. They seem far more interested in virtue signaling to the leftmost liberals and wokeness demonstrations than winning elections. I understand how weak the party’s are now days so perhaps there really not much that can be done to plan and carry out a better game plan.

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  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve:

    But I tried to think in the past about how they could possibly broaden their appeal without alienating the base, and I haven’t succeeded.

    Well, they could say they support SS and Medicare and health care, especially pre-existing conditions. Oh wait, they already lie about that.

    When talking about Republicans we have to distinguish between the top, the politicians, staffs, and major donors; and the base, the voters. The top are the ones who want tax cuts and regulatory relief and inaction on AGW. The base want health care and SS, They also want to ban abortion and maintain what they see as their rightful place in a natural order. They also wouldn’t mind a tax cut and they can always be conned into thinking they got one along with Exxon Mobile. The top know they can only get what they want by lying to the base and throwing them a bone now and again. The top wanted Kavanaugh and Gorsuch because they’re pro-corporate. If they also overturn Roe v Wade, the top can live with it, there’s always France for their grandaughters.

    This condition may not last as they elect more and more true believers, but it’s what we have.

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    Tangential to this conversation is Rethug efforts to suppress Dem voting groups that was discussed in James’ earlier post. Something that we should be aware of is that the Rethugs are going to come after the one person, one vote SC ruling from the 60’s. It won’t happen till they have at least one more conservative on the court, but that effort is hiding in the weeds.

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  16. Teve says:

    @gVOR08:

    If they also overturn Roe v Wade, the top can live with it, there’s always France for their grandaughters.

    California and New York are closer.

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  17. @mattbernius:

    and it’s a bleak picture for progressives.

    I would restate that as “a bleak picture for representativeness” (as well as a bleak picture for the positive effects of competition).

    I stress this because I think it is important to note that the issue is not (or, at least, it shouldn’t be) about progressives winning or what their prospects are. It should be about wanting representative democracy to be representative.

    (I am not saying you disagree, but the phrasing struck me).

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  18. Kurtz says:

    @gVOR08:

    Overturning Roe should just roll back abortion laws to the states. Blue states are unlikely to follow suit with anything really draconian.

    From an electoral perspective, it also takes the air out of a major driving force for GOP voters. Then again, they’ll just turn up the burner on their ridiculous “religious liberty” claims.

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  19. Teve says:

    @Kurtz: And/or they’ll start a new push to get it illegalized at the federal level.

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  20. @DrDaveT:

    I disagree with Dr. Taylor about the relevance of institutions at the moment. Team identification got us to where we are, but it is no longer the operative mechanism.

    But it is the institutions that allow team identification to gain the power it has.

    If we had different rules, the outcomes would be different. There is literally a world of evidence out there that demonstrates that fact. And reams and reams of quality research.

    Look: a different process to elect the president (literally any other system used worldwide) and we wouldn’t have Trump.

    And the way we allocate Senators is profoundly impactful

    (Just to name some easy examples).

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  21. gVOR08 says:

    Dyam, some years ago I stumbled across a good paper on ideological identification. On looking for it, I find my link is dead. Searching for it, I found a follow up paper that lists it as an unpublished manuscript, and I see my link is labeled as a “Working Papers” file. I haven’t taken time to read the follow up paper except to skip to conclusions where they say they confirmed the results of the older paper. In the meantime, I’ll quote my own note on it.

    The Monkey Cage blog had a reference to an interesting paper: “Pathways to Ideology in American Politics: the Operational-Symbolic “Paradox” Revisited ‘, Christopher Ellis Bucknell University, And James A. Stimson University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

    It was referenced in response to a David Broder column, the usual Broderist twaddle about how this is a center-right nation because two thirds of Americans surveyed identify themselves as “conservative”. Ellis and Simpson did a survey which agreed with this, but they went a bit further and found, as is usual, that a clear majority of Americans favor “liberal” policies, defined as a larger role for government. They find that a minority of “conservatives” support conservative policy. They identify one flavor of liberals and three flavors of conservatives and discuss the path by which people arrive at one of these flavors. They plot for many years the % of people who are operational conservatives, supporting conservative policies, and symbolic conservative, who self identify as conservative, but aren’t. There is a consistent roughly 20-25% gap.

    Liberals are simply liberal, or “constrained liberals”. They hold liberal views on economic and moral issues and call themselves liberal. Amongst people who identify as “conservative”, Ellis and Simson identify:
    * “constrained conservatives” who hold conservative views on economic and moral issues
    *”moral conservatives’ who hold conservative views on moral issues only
    * “conflicted conservatives” who don’t hold conservative views on either

    They feel the path for many “conservatives” is through religion. They belong to denominations that call themselves conservative, so that’s how they identify themselves, not being politically aware enough to recognize that their economic views may not be conservative.

    E&S’s more interesting thought is that liberal political elites know “liberal” is perceived negatively, so they avoid philosophy and talk about policy. Conservative political elites know that their policies are unpopular but “conservative” is popular, so they avoid policy and talk about philosophy. This leaves the unsophisticated and marginally engaged individual hearing from our supposed elites both conservative philosophy he likes and liberal policy he likes, and doesn’t realize they’re coming from opposite camps. Such an individual may well want to protect Social Security and the environment, be OK w/ gays and abortion, and regard himself as a conservative.

    I find it entertaining they apparently found no significant number of “economic conservatives” who hold conservative views on economic issues only, given the number of people I’ve had tell me they’re Republican because of economics but liberal on race and gays.

    While this paper indicates that maybe 20-25% of the electorate think they’re conservative, although they aren’t, I fear a couple of commenters above are correct that there’s an element of self fulfilling prophecy. They think they’re conservative so they’ll vote conservative.

    The moral for Ds would seem to be to focus on policy.

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  22. @DrDaveT:

    The election will be a referendum on whose facts you accept.

    And if we had different institutions to elect the president, all of our heartburn about which facts would win would be diminished.

    I would feel far more confidence of a Trump loss even if we just had a simple plurality system. It is only the Electoral College that really puts the outcome into serious doubt.

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  23. (And, as I repeatedly note, our institutions reinforce a binary choice, which increases and deepens polarization).

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  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: True dat, but the shopping and scenery are better in Paris. . But going a little deeper, abortion is better for them as an issue than as a victory. If they win on R v W they’ll need a new issue, and a federal abortion ban will be an obvious step.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Teve:

    California and New York are closer.

    And this is why, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, I would support means testing for abortions from people who aren’t state residents. We need to protect the sanctity of life conceived out of state by people earning more than $70,000/yr.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius:

    If people are that squeamish in response to a poll, what makes you think they won’t be equally squeamish in the voting booth.

    What makes you think they will?

    I expect there will be a lot of voters who say “I’m not a liberal, but… I can’t vote for Trump.” I don’t know whether that will be more than the number of people who say “I really don’t like Trump, but the Democrats nominated crazed socialist Amy Klobuchar…”

    The “plague on both their houses” types tend to be partisans who have rejected their label for social reasons.

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  27. Kurtz says:

    @Teve:

    I doubt that’s anywhere near a possibility. For one thing, public support is around 60% in favor of legal abortion.

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  28. gVOR08 says:

    @Kurtz: But someone around here, a Dr somebody, keeps pointing out how anti-majoritarian our government is. There are also strong majorities for strengthened gun regulation and against tax cuts for the rich. GOPs will go for a national abortion ban because they need the issue. If they win on Roe v Wade, they’ll find a way to cast themselves as oppressed.

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  29. Michael Cain says:

    @Kurtz:

    I doubt that’s anywhere near a possibility. For one thing, public support is around 60% in favor of legal abortion.

    OTOH, our legislative representatives, in both Congress and the states, are older, whiter, richer and more conservative than their constituencies. That’s not due to some sort of evil plan, it’s an inevitability based on who can afford to leave their means of employment (or leave it in someone else’s hands) in order to serve. Who’s the most under-represented group in any of the legislatures? Non-professional hourly wage slaves, who are almost certainly a majority of workers in this country.

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  30. Andy says:

    Just an administrative side note – Lately when trying to edit posts to fix a few errors (I almost always need to do this), I get a message that my edited post has been marked as spam. This happens even when there are no links in the comment.

    Not a huge deal, but I thought I would mention it since it’s something I’ve only seen recently.

    Edit: And it seems that my attempt to edit my main comment responding to the post actually unpublished my comment.

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  31. Andy says:

    (Note, this is a repost of my comment that disappeared – probably into moderation – when I tried to edit it)

    Ok, I think there are some problems with this thesis:

    1. We would probably not be having this conversation but for a relatively small number of votes in a handful of states. This is beating a dead horse, but bears repeating.

    2. The same arguments Klein is making can be directed at Democrats. The system for our elections has remained the same for a very long time and if Democrats are not competitive in that system then, as Klein states, “… political parties ultimately want to win elections. Lose enough of them, enough times, and even the most stubborn ideologues will accept reform.”

    Except Klein doesn’t want the Democratic party to reform to make it more competitive in our system, he wants to reform the system so that Democrats don’t have to change.

    And, it goes without saying (as we’ve debated here ad nauseam), that the changes Klein lists are simply not going to happen. So the “stubborn idealogues” bit is quite ironic. Hoping for the demise of the present system isn’t going to do anything for the Democrat’s electoral chances. If Klein is genuinely interested in seeing the Democrats win, then it’s completely counterproductive for him to suggest changes that everyone knows are not going to happen.

    It’s all akin to complaining about losing the Superbowl because field goals give 3 points instead of 4.

    The system is what it is, for all its imperfections. I’ve stated many times here that yes, it would be nice to have something better. But at some point, thinking adults like Klein should stop with the wishful thinking and deal with the reality that 2020 and future elections will be won or lost with the system we actually have.

    3. The whole GOP as the “white rural” party is overblown. Yes, it’s true that rural areas are part of the GOP base just as the urban cores are part of the Democratic base. But those numbers are small compared to suburban, exurban and small metro areas, which are the areas that actually win elections and are where a plurality of Americans actually live. And they are also the areas that are growing the most.

    And the fact is that Trump performed well in suburbia (better than Romney) in 2016 and that’s what won him the key states that handed him the Presidency. Similarly, the shellacking the GOP received in the 2018 midterms was due in large part because of suburban and exurban areas ditching the GOP for Democrats.

    Point being, both parties need to compete for these votes. The GOP can’t rely solely on rural voters and Democrats can’t rely solely on wealthy progressives and POC.

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  32. Michael Cain says:

    @Andy:

    Similarly, the shellacking the GOP received in the 2018 midterms was due in large part because of suburban and exurban areas ditching the GOP for Democrats.

    Ah, but which suburbs is important. Consider a partition of the states into three groups: the 13-state West (as defined by the Census Bureau), the 12-state NE urban corridor, and the 25-state Rest. US population is split roughly 45% in the West/NE and 55% in the Rest. In 2016 — and ignoring faithless electors — Clinton’s EC votes were 104 from the urban corridor, 98 from the West, and 30 from the Rest. Dem gains in 2018 were overwhelmingly — more than two-thirds — in the West/NE. Big gains in the California or New Jersey suburbs mean squat. There’s evidence of much smaller gains in states in the Rest, but for the most part not enough to swing things.

    My bet is the race is settled by six states: Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. If Trump holds Florida, things get dicey for the Dems.

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  33. de stijl says:

    It may not be tactical, but I vote for the person who advocates for policies I believe in.

    I just cannot be a tactical voter. It feels wrong. I have to act as my beliefs tell me to, or my brain will scream at me every waking moment. Loudly and insistently.

    Bully for you if you can. No moral disagreement from me. I myself cannot.

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  34. Modulo Myself says:

    I’m pretty sure that one of the rules the Dems have to play by is to be careful about how their popularity works. I can easily see a large projected Elizabeth Warren win in the popular vote driving a few voters in swing states to give Trump an EC victory.

    The problem on a national level is that even a centrist Democrat is going to have liberal and progressive Democrats around. Biden will not be able to make America go back to the culture of 1993, when conservatives felt ‘safer’, what with The Bell Curve, welfare reform, the free market defeating HillaryCare, and straight white men still being on top. The best he can offer is cultural amnesty for the idiots who voted for Trump.

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  35. @Andy:

    The same arguments Klein is making can be directed at Democrats. The system for our elections has remained the same for a very long time and if Democrats are not competitive in that system then, as Klein states, “… political parties ultimately want to win elections. Lose enough of them, enough times, and even the most stubborn ideologues will accept reform.”

    Sure, the Democrats have to adapt as best they can to the current conditions–and this is a point you have made before.

    I think, however, that you continue to underestimate how difficult that is, at least in the sense that the hill to climb is huge. It is almost insurmountable in terms of the Senate (this is, to adapt enough to have Dem representation in the Senate to come anywhere near to their prevalence in the broader society). In other words: even if Dems are extremely adaptive in House and EC elections, the Senate empowers Reps to block Dem policy, even if it is more moderated than is currently the case (whatever that would actually mean).

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  36. @Andy: I think my fundamental problem with your general position is that you seem to use the very real difficulty of reform as an excuse not to address the real competitiveness and representativeness issues the current system contains.

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  37. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And if we had different institutions to elect the president, all of our heartburn about which facts would win would be diminished.

    I’m not disagreeing with you about the past, or how we got here. The trend, though, is clearly toward a point where no electoral institutions you can propose will be able to get around the problem of a majority of Americans who believe a ton of crap that isn’t true, because they were deliberately fed that crap by a propaganda machine funded by Very Wealthy People.

    That’s my only point here — that the best electoral system in the world cannot overcome sufficiently widespread and effective disinformation.

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  38. QueSeraQueSera says:

    The GOP has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections but won the presidency three times.

    And Democrats have failed to win a majority of the popular vote in seven of the last 10 Presidential elections, but won the Presidency four times. If Hillary had won, that would have been three out of five Democratic Presidents who never got over 50 percent of the people to vote for them.

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  39. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think, however, that you continue to underestimate how difficult that is, at least in the sense that the hill to climb is huge.

    I agree it’s difficult but difficult as compared to what?

    Institutionally, it’s simply a fact that changing the Constitution is much more difficult than other measures Democrats specifically or the country generally might take. There is no iron law or institutional limit on which votes the Democrats could make a play for, so their current weakness in the EC is the product of their own making.

    I think my fundamental problem with your general position is that you seem to use the very real difficulty of reform as an excuse not to address the real competitiveness and representativeness issues the current system contains.

    On the contrary, I’m perfectly willing to address it – but I think it’s largely an academic question constrained by the practicalities. As a question of theory, I largely agree with you, but repeatedly pointing out that our system isn’t representative doesn’t tell us how to get from here to there. It only serves to delegitimize the current system while providing no program or realistically achievable alternative.

    And although you make your arguments from a political scientist’s point of view, framed in terms of optimizing representation, people like Klein and most others are making their arguments from an ideological or partisan point of view. And that is even more counterproductive because changing the Constitution is difficult enough, but it’s even more difficult if the proposed changes become a de facto partisan issue, which I’d argue it has. The merits of a more representative system are currently being drowned by Democrats who see it as a partisan opportunity and Republicans who see it as a partisan threat.

    So I return to real-world and practicalities and what is actually possible or achievable. I do actually want a more representative system, ideally a multiparty system. But I don’t know how to achieve that without destroying the present system – a very dangerous risk since we cannot guarantee that a better system would replace what we have now, and I certainly don’t trust our current crop of political leaders to write a new Constitution.

    And I think that’s my fundamental problem with your position – it’s too much academic theory and not enough realism and doesn’t pay enough attention to the practical aspects.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: I haven’t finished reading, but this leaps out at me:

    If Klein is genuinely interested in seeing the Democrats win, then it’s completely counterproductive for him to suggest changes that everyone knows are not going to happen.

    Klein is explicitly saying these won’t happen. He doesn’t then go on a tirade of “so stop wishing for it”, so it might be subtle. 😉

    His style is often a bit out of touch with our current media age of screaming.

    He also doesn’t seem to be advocating any specific changes as much as trying to explain how things are and the risks if they keep going without any chances.

    Navel gazing rather than claiming that innies or outies are superior. (Innies, definitely innies…)

    (David Brooks would claim that both innies and outies are inherently flawed and that the Burkeian ideal has no navel, as evidenced in Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic, and that we should all aspire to have no navel, a constant struggle for us all)

    (I think that might be more of a Doubthat thought actually…)

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  41. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    That’s my only point here — that the best electoral system in the world cannot overcome sufficiently widespread and effective disinformation.

    But, even with our bizarre information infrastructure, Hillary Clinton garnered nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. Yet he, not she, won the election because of our bizarre electoral system.

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  42. Scott F. says:

    @Andy: There is no iron law or institutional limit on which votes the Democrats could make a play for, so their current weakness in the EC is the product of their own making.
    I don’t see how this statement of yours is any more realistic than Dr. Taylor’s comments are academic theory. Which votes do you propose the Democrats make a play for in order to overcome their EC “weakness” that wouldn’t cost them more votes in return? For which segments of the Democratic coalition do you propose they abandon representation in order to bring WI reliably into the blue column? How do they get Janesville without stiffing their constituents in Milwaukee and Madison?

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  43. @DrDaveT:

    That’s my only point here — that the best electoral system in the world cannot overcome sufficiently widespread and effective disinformation.

    But you hit on the fundamental problem with democracy: voters are far from perfect in terms of their understanding and even when it comes to calculating their own self-interest. There is a reason that Aristotle argued that the best government was monarchy with a truly wise king (which he also pointed out was almost impossible to find, and whose progeny would be unlikely to perpetuate wisdom and why Churchill purportedly stated that democracy is the worst for of government except for all the others that have been tried).

    There is no perfecting the electorate. And while there are some serious problems with civic knowledge at the moment, it really wasn’t all the much better (but for different reasons and manifestations) a hundred years ago.

    The point is not that an electoral system (and other elements of design) fixes all ills. It is that it help ameliorate the problems those ills create.

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  44. @Andy:

    but repeatedly pointing out that our system isn’t representative doesn’t tell us how to get from here to there.

    If we (as a country) actually understood that fact, I would agree with you.

    I keep saying it, allowing my megaphone is pretty small, because it simply isn’t understood.

    It has only been part of the national conversation in the last half decade (maybe less) and it is has hardly penetrated the national consciousness. Quite frankly, I am not sure I have really convinced all the regulars here of the scope of the problem (but do note a lot of folks talk about it now). I know that the broader political press only partially gets it. Heck, even a lot of American-focused political scientists don’t fully get it.

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  45. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Klein is explicitly saying these won’t happen.

    Yet he’s still writing an oped about it in the New York Times.

    But Klein’s advocacy-through-nonadvocacy style is to rarely openly support specific reforms (though he has repeatedly called for DC and PR to become states), but to repeatedly point out how problematic X is and then leave enough breadcrumbs to the particular direction Klein wants the reader to go.

    I admit that I find his style is almost as annoying as Brooks’.

    @Scott F.:

    Which votes do you propose the Democrats make a play for in order to overcome their EC “weakness” that wouldn’t cost them more votes in return? For which segments of the Democratic coalition do you propose they abandon representation in order to bring WI reliably into the blue column? How do they get Janesville without stiffing their constituents in Milwaukee and Madison?

    There’s no secret sauce to satisfying every constituency in any party completely, it can’t be done. But with only two parties in a country of 320 million, it has to be done – the only viable way is through a coalition and a coalition requires intraparty compromise.

    As for which votes, Republicans have ceded a large part of the electoral field and abandoned a core part of their party. Democrats also lost many of the working-class, which was once an important base. Those constituents are “up for grabs.” And there is probably crossover between some in these groups and the 5-6 million who voted for Obama in 2012 and then voted for Trump in 2016. The question is whether Democrats are willing to try to actually appeal to these voters.

    What is the alternative? The fact is if Democrats want to win they need to do what’s necessary to win under the existing rules. If Democrats aren’t willing to do that (for whatever reason) then they will lose (again) and it will be their own fault.

    That’s just the cold hard reality and academic debates about the EC or Senate representation won’t change it.

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  46. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, even with our bizarre information infrastructure, Hillary Clinton garnered nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. Yet he, not she, won the election because of our bizarre electoral system.

    Of course. If the degree of disinformation and reliance on “alternative facts” were stable or decreasing, that would be good news. But it isn’t; the situation is getting worse every day. We now have Senators repeating the lies in public testimony, and not getting called on them.

    Trump arrived early, due to a confluence of events (e.g. the Comey letter) that allowed him to win even when the majority knew better. But Trump or his equivalent was inevitable, given the increasing success of the disinformation machine. Until we can reverse that trend, nothing else will suffice to restore sanity to our governance. Even eliminating the Electoral College wouldn’t help once the majority of Americans fervently believe those alternative facts.

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  47. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    There is no perfecting the electorate. And while there are some serious problems with civic knowledge at the moment, it really wasn’t all the much better (but for different reasons and manifestations) a hundred years ago.

    This is our fundamental point of disagreement. The “serious problems with civic knowledge” at the moment are the deliberate consequence of a carefully designed campaign of propaganda and disinformation, abetted by the politicians it benefits. This is not ignorance as usual. The difference is as stark as the difference between an ordinary anthrax outbreak and a biological warfare attack.

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  48. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    But Klein’s advocacy-through-nonadvocacy style is to rarely openly support specific reforms (though he has repeatedly called for DC and PR to become states), but to repeatedly point out how problematic X is and then leave enough breadcrumbs to the particular direction Klein wants the reader to go.

    I admit that I find his style is almost as annoying as Brooks’.

    Perhaps I don’t read him as closely as you do, as I don’t see the breadcrumbs. This might be why I generally like him.

    In fact, reading between the lines and looking for breadcrumbs, I see that structural reform isn’t going to happen (even though it would be better if it did), the current path will lead towards long term Democratic defeat, and so the Democrats must figure out how to be competitive in the solidly red states. Which is also basically the headline. And your main point.

    So, I feel like I’m missing something.

    The whole GOP as the “white rural” party is overblown. Yes, it’s true that rural areas are part of the GOP base just as the urban cores are part of the Democratic base. But those numbers are small compared to suburban, exurban and small metro areas, which are the areas that actually win elections and are where a plurality of Americans actually live. And they are also the areas that are growing the most.

    Depends on what your goals are. A presidential victory? Sure, but beyond that?

    With gerrymandering, the rural areas inside each state are often pretty solidly red, with their own house districts carved out to make sure the Republicans have an advantage there.

    And a lot of states are rural enough that it mostly offsets suburbia and the cities. Which is a mess for the Senate.

    Democrats need a rural plan, as well as a suburban plan. Even if the rural plan just means losing those areas by 20% rather than 30%. I do not know what these plans would look like, and who would have to be shoved under a bus, but I recommend a VW bus, as it is smaller and lighter than a real bus.

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  49. @DrDaveT:

    This is our fundamental point of disagreement. The “serious problems with civic knowledge” at the moment are the deliberate consequence of a carefully designed campaign of propaganda and disinformation, abetted by the politicians it benefits. This is not ignorance as usual.

    The reality is that for the the vast majority of people, it is very much ignorance as usual.

    Most people do not consume political news, ideological in nature or no.

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  50. @DrDaveT: It is not that I fully disagree. It is that I would argue that you are inflating the breadth and depth of the situation (insofar as it seems like you want to make the totality, if not near totality, of the problem).

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  51. Mister Bluster says:

    @QueSeraQueSera:..If Hillary had won, that would have been three out of five Democratic Presidents who never got over 50 percent of the people to vote for them.

    Hillary did not win so your “3 out of 5” statistic is meaningless. Republican President Puke won.
    He only had 46% of the popular vote. 2,868,686 fewer votes than Clinton’s 48%.
    What is your point?

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  52. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The reality is that for the the vast majority of people, it is very much ignorance as usual.

    As I said, this is where we disagree. I think you’re wrong about that.

    Most people do not consume political news, ideological in nature or no.

    And yet, they all magically somehow converge on the version of the story that Fox News and Breitbart are pushing. You cannot possibly think this is coincidence…?

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  53. An Interested Party says:

    The fact is if Democrats want to win they need to do what’s necessary to win under the existing rules.

    Well, considering who is currently president, under the existing rules the way for Democrats to win is to constantly and consistently lie about everything and make dozens of promises that they know they have no intention of keeping…it seems as though they need to produce the same kind of odious disinformation that DrDaveT mentions to beat Republicans at their own game…

    What is your point?

    The point is common among Trump flunkies…they throw up as much sand and grit as they can to try to obscure the truth…this is all old hat by now…

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  54. @DrDaveT:

    And yet, they all magically somehow converge on the version of the story that Fox News and Breitbart are pushing. You cannot possibly think this is coincidence…?

    The problem is you are conflating people you encounter (whether online or IRL) with “all”–that isn’t how it works. Sure, online you are going to encounter this. I have no idea what your real life circles are, so I can’t judge.

    We know from actual data (like viewership and readership, as well as via surveys) that most people are not engaged in the consumption of political media (or news of any kind).

    A lot of this is why parties are so important, and how someone like Trump can win. People often don’t know much of any substance about a politician, but they know if they, themselves, are Rs or Ds.

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  55. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If we (as a country) actually understood that fact, I would agree with you.

    I keep saying it, allowing my megaphone is pretty small, because it simply isn’t understood.

    I understand that, but that is a long-term project that will require sustained effort probably over decades and still comes with an uncertain future. By the time there is political support for something like that, it may not be as big of a problem anymore.

    But whatever the future holds, Democrats cannot wait around if they want to win.

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  56. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    We know from actual data (like viewership and readership, as well as via surveys) that most people are not engaged in the consumption of political media (or news of any kind).

    To paraphrase you, the problem is that you are conflating direct consumption of political media with any influence whatever by political media. Are you really willing to assert that people who do not listen to Rush Limbaugh or Hannity cannot be influenced by the things those men say?

    A lot of this is why parties are so important, and how someone like Trump can win. People often don’t know much of any substance about a politician, but they know if they, themselves, are Rs or Ds.

    Shockingly, they also know what their friends and neighbors and fellow-churchgoers and co-workers are saying. You seem to be dismissing this as irrelevant and immaterial. If it were, it wouldn’t be worth Russia’s time and money to poison that particular well.

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  57. @DrDaveT: Ok, you are right. ALL opinions (and their behaviors) held by GOP voters/people who don’t agree with you are the direct result of the right-wing media machine.

    And yes, I have been utterly dismissing the influence of said media utterly. I said numerous times that I think it is immaterial and irrelevant. That was my precise argument. You caught me.

    There is zero relevance to long-term partisan identity and people never use that identity to rationalize their behavior/dictate their voters. It is all the Russians, Breitbart, and Limbaugh.

    Partisanship is irrelevant.

    Institutions don’t matter.

    It’s all about information sources.

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  58. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    A lot of this is why parties are so important, and how someone like Trump can win. People often don’t know much of any substance about a politician, but they know if they, themselves, are Rs or Ds.

    I was trying to get at this on one of Joyner’s posts. Well, sort of anyway.

    My frustration with people isn’t disagreement. My frutration in general is apathy. Not the kind reflected in skipping the voting booth; the kind reflected in not taking your vote seriously enough to pay attention.

    Yes, there will be fundamental disagreements on the proper role of government in the economy, foreign policy, etc. Joyner and I would be good examples of that. But both Joyner and I at least care enough to think beyond talking points and soundbites. My guess is we both largely ignore TV news, as well.

    It’s one thing to look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and see that parties functioned as the primary cue, because the information infrastructure was slow.

    Once TV and radio came along, candidates and officeholders could address the nation, but it was still scheduled. Print media has a limit on space. So even with advances in mass communication, party should have remained an important cue for a voter.

    Yang built an infrastructure for support slowly by posting his platform on a website and running ads to get people to go there. But he didn’t gain traction until he made the early debates. And in the end, it (likely) wasn’t enough. It doesn’t matter whether he has the most detailed, substantive platform, because even junkies will likely eschew it for the vapid messaging.

    The communication limits are gone. Message dissemination is instant, and more importantly, asynchronous. We don’t need party as a cue anymore, but according to Pew, the number of truly independent registered voters is around 7%.

    And the small share of Americans who are truly independent – less than 10% of the public has no partisan leaning – stand out for their low level of interest in politics.

    These are the people who swing state-wide races for governor, US Senate, and President. Understanding complex issues takes time and effort, and the truly independent voters don’t give a shit, so their views are unlikely to be well-substantiated.

    When I pointed out that the internet allows for sharper communication, Joyner responded in the other thread that, “Twitter isn’t real life.” In principle, I agree. But to argue that it is divorced from real life is absurd, especially given Trump’s use of it. When he tweets something, his supporters fawn. When he tweets something, the opposition reacts. When he tweets something, the leaders of foreign countries pay attention. When he tweets something, it’s a China Brain–the schizophrenic body politic springs into action.

    Not to mention that dialogue between citizens is basically snark and dime-store assertions. Twitter is just an inappropriate space to discuss complex topics. I’m reminded of Neil Postman’s argument about TV: the best things on TV are junk. It just doesn’t have the form to convey nuance. The best things on Twitter and Facebook are cat memes, dog pictures, and younger Millenials/Gen Zers not understanding Seinfeld.

    But the point is, as many thoughtful posters as there are here, most of the internet, indeed most people’s thought process offline, isn’t like that. Most of it, even when space allows for actual discussion, consists of the Guarneris and Paul Ls of the world taunting and preening. The irony of course is that even looking at the form and structure of anything substantive they post is a dead giveway that their rhetoric far outstrips the rigor of their assertions.

    Instead of interrogating their own views, they lash out at people who have spent the time and effort. This isn’t aimed at the Right, the problem is ubiquitous.

    And its not like we are perfect. When I post, I have a choice to make: make it well argued and precise or post it quickly and risk not articulating certain points clearly enough. The former sometimes requires a little research (and quite often, I find that something I thought was not so justified) and by the time it gets posted, the thread is dead. And, sure, getting my thoughts on paper is helpful to me, but I want it exposed to other smart people so that I can check it for unacknowledged errors.

    This thread is a good example. I’ve wanted to respond to Andy’s argument that the Dems need to do more to appeal to rural white voters. But by the time I can do it the right way, the thread may be dead, and the best benefit I get from posting is lost.

    This isn’t a shot at our amazing hosts. It just is what it is.

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  59. @Kurtz:

    It’s one thing to look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and see that parties functioned as the primary cue, because the information infrastructure was slow.

    Once TV and radio came along, candidates and officeholders could address the nation, but it was still scheduled. Print media has a limit on space. So even with advances in mass communication, party should have remained an important cue for a voter.

    The dynamic has changed, but the basic behavior remains in force–party is a powerful cue.

    But it isn’t just because people are lazy or uninformed (although they often are), but is because party affiliation is often more important than the question of the relative nature of two candidates.

    Parties control legislatures and dictate things like legislation and judicial confirmations. They are collective actors.

    The problem right now is not that people don’t inform themselves (although, yeah), but that our system forces us essentially into a binary choice.

    I am sure that I follow how the changing media environment changes any of that, or even the need/role of parties as cues.

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  60. Nickel Front says:

    @DrDaveT:

    People who believe Fox News and Breitbart are going to vote for Trump. The vast majority of people who understand what is really going on are not going to vote for Trump

    Ah, good. We’re back to the “only my side tells the truth and presents unbiased information” argument.

    You need to come to terms with the fact that people are sick and tired of your attitude. Non-fox outlets have been pushing this Russian collusion lie for 3 years now, despite all evidence. There’s a reason they are called Liberal Hacks.

    Trump voters know exactly what’s going on.

    And Trump vs an Avowed Communist?

    If Bernie were to somehow win, God help us all.

    Trump says mean things (oh no!), Bernie truly is a threat to this country. I know you guys value those Norms, so I’m certain you could never vote for him.

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  61. @DrDaveT: @Steven L. Taylor: And look, I apologize for getting overly cranky. I certainly accept the role played by media in our current polarization (although I think it more a chicken and egg issue than I think you think it to be).

    My frustration is the highly didactic nature of your approach. When I say “It’s all about information sources” I am quoting you.

    Even for all my seeming monomania about institutions, I never have said (I don’t think-and I was wrong if I did), “It’s all about institutions.”

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  62. Kit says:

    @Kurtz:

    When I post, I have a choice to make: make it well argued and precise or post it quickly and risk not articulating certain points clearly enough.

    Post of the week. But a small correction: it’s well argued or concise or quick. I must waste a couple of hours every week on posts I never send. And I’m sure that I’m not the only one. And add another hour every day just to keep up with the articles and comments. Still, OTB is the only place like this I know. And for a few dozen kindred souls, it’s irresistible.

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  63. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I deleted the part of my post acknowledging the other roles that parties play. And yes, I agree with you that the system dictates the binary choice.

    But the relationship between parties and constituents is bidirectional. If voters actually demanded more for their vote, I think the parties would change. Meaning, if voters actually supported candidates with thorough proposals, then it would become a necessary thing for candidates to do in order to win.

    Candidates are rewarded by votes while avoiding anything of substance. And I really doubt that people cast their vote for individual candidates thinking about the other functions of parties.

    The Yang example was intended to show that an unknown within the party structure could garner support by actually laying out a specific, detailed vision. If he and Warren were leading the polls, perhaps with Bernie running close to them, it would be one thing.

    But it’s not. Biden isn’t an articulate policy wonk. Buttagieg is talented, but has walked back some of his earlier proposals, and seems more like a skilled politician than a person interested in strong policy-making. Though I think he would make a fine President, he is a lot like Obama, not exactly policy oriented.

    I get that Trump as an opponent changes the calculus a bit. But if well crafted and well articulated policy proposals were a winning strategy, we would have a better functioning system.

    This is on Democratic primary voters. Granted, there are centrist Dem voters. But they only match numbers with the Left portions of the party when combined with the share who are moderate (not liberal, not conservative) Dems.

    But they are really only Dems because of the position of the GOP relative to the center, or they’ve just always been Democrats. My money is on the latter being far more common than the former.

    Granted, actual policy-making occurs in the legislature, but the President sets the agenda and has the stature to weigh in. A popular President can really force Congress to act. But it’s worth noting that because Presidential candidates get more attention, this depiction is even more pronounced for Congressional races.

    Bottom line, it ain’t enough for voters to pull the lever for a letter. We get the politicians we deserve. Given the general lack of intellectual seriousness of American culture, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that we have politicians more interested in the title than they are in their function as policy-makers.

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  64. Kurtz says:

    @Nickel Front:

    When you use quotes, it is expected to be a quote. You just put words in Dr. Dave’s mouth, revealing that you are uninterested in trying to understand his point.

    The Russia collusion story was not a lie. Read the Mueller report. There were tons of contacts and connections between the campaign and Russian agents. Including a high profile meeting at Trump Tower involving a Russian Agent and senior campaign officials to supposedly discuss an adoption policy.

    Regardless, the report didn’t exonerate Trump, despite what Barr’s summary claimed, the latter of which was repeated without qualification by Fox and Breitbart before any media had even seen the former.

    Even more damning, the report outlines ten instances of obstruction, but following DOJ guidelines, showed restraint by not directly calling for an indictment.

    This isn’t the board to conflate socialism and communism. They are related, but two different things. Bernie is definitely not one of those things and only arguably the other.

    Fun fact: Orwell considered himself a Deomcratic Socialist. I would love to see you burn your copies of 1984 and Animal Farm. Feel free to send a link when it’s done.

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  65. Kurtz says:

    @Kit:

    Thanks. And yes, concise would have been better.

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  66. Andy says:

    Just for some perspective, only about 1% of the US population (3-4 million) watch Hannity, the most-watched Fox News show last time I checked. The median and the average age is right around 65. Only about 500k are in the 25-54 demographic. Maddow’s numbers and breakdown are almost identical. So it’s mostly old farts watching political TV shows and I’d guess at that age, their political values are probably pretty much set in stone.

    It’s hard to say how much of that content filters down to regular people. Certainly some in the Twitter bubble will see it, but I doubt it makes it very far.

    Most people don’t have time for political BS. They aren’t lazy, they simply have more important things to do than obsess over every daily moronic happening in Washington.

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  67. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    Yes, but that’s not what I am referring to in my posts. I avoid TV news as well. But my point is consistent. People should pay attention to policy. Most the news shows are propagandic one way or the other. And I don’t mean in the Ellul sense. I mean they are produced to provoke outrage. When I criticize Fox, the same criticism applies to MSNBC as well.

    As far as Breitbart or Slate or whatever. People need to stop pretending they’re the same type of organization as NYT.

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  68. Jax says:

    @Kurtz: And therein lies the problem. People are not going to pay attention to policy, they’re going to go with what they know. It’s not that people are pretending, it’s that it’s all “The News” to them, regardless of their “bubble”. I know senior citizens on both sides of the fence that literally cannot tell the difference between fake news and real news, they were trained to believe “The News”. You could put any random talking head up there sounding “very serious”, and they’d believe it, because that’s what they grew up with. Millennial’s have at least had some training in differentiating “fact” from “opinion”.

    I’m a big fan of schools teaching this, in this day and age. Being able to understand the difference between a scientific study and an opinion page is huge, and we apparently dropped the ball on that in the 80’s.

    In our defense, “the internet” was still in diapers, and I was still doing “nuclear bomb” drills where I would hide under my desk, soooo……

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  69. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And look, I apologize for getting overly cranky. I certainly accept the role played by media in our current polarization (although I think it more a chicken and egg issue than I think you think it to be).

    I would have phrased it more as “we have gotten to the point where the media polarization is severe enough that party identification (while real, and strong, and a driver of where the media polarization came from) is no longer necessary for voter polarization to be self-sustaining”.

    My frustration is the highly didactic nature of your approach. When I say “It’s all about information sources” I am quoting you.

    Does the above more nuanced explication of what I meant help?

    Even for all my seeming monomania about institutions, I never have said (I don’t think-and I was wrong if I did), “It’s all about institutions.”

    To be honest, you have in fact given the strong impression that you think “it’s all about institutions” — not by coming out and saying those words, but by dismissing or downplaying every suggested additional factor that anyone introduces to the conversation.

    I take you at your word that this was not your intent. Are we in closer agreement than I thought, or at least now close enough to understand where we actually disagree?

    ETA: And thank you for following up with this very reasonable coda. I, in turn, apologize for coming across as a didactic monomaniac :-).

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  70. @DrDaveT:

    Are we in closer agreement than I thought, or at least now close enough to understand where we actually disagree?

    I think that without a doubt we agree more than we disagree.

    ETA: And thank you for following up with this very reasonable coda. I, in turn, apologize for coming across as a didactic monomaniac :-).

    Thanks/on to the next bit! 🙂

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