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November 07, 2006

Comments

Sam

DFL took the entire Minny state legislature, Kitty! Be happy! (Still don't know about the guv - I'm guessing Smiley McNoTax is staying, though.) Wish you were here...

Jonathan

I've been thinking a lot about that lately, and I have a theory.

I think it's inherent in the two-party system. If last night demonstrated anything, it's that elections are won or lost in the center. "Core" dems and reps (e.g. faithfully liberal or conservative) will always vote party-line, for a variety of reasons, but can be counted on to guarantee at least a minimum number of votes for their parties' respective candidates. These are the "a bad x is always better than a good y" types. You don't need to campaign for these folks - just show up. Nothing will shake their faith shot of a serious core disillusionment against their personal world view.

The number of "core" dmes and reps can vary somewhat over the years, I believe, and is probably not consistently 50-50 (if it is, then my whole theory is off-base). It may be the case that, as of late, the core balance has been 50-50, but if I'm right, it's simply a historical fluctuation.

Which leaves everyone else - independents, moderates, mostly. The cores of each respective side play to the moderates, and that's where the 50-50 gets established. Congress is set up around a two-party system, which means that whoever holds the majority, runs the show. Angling for control, each core must move towards whatever natural middle exists, expanding the party's platform to include as much of the middle as possible. Each party, starting from politically opposite directions, "grows" towards each other. This establishes a tilting point, that natural middle, where someone who is slightly more conservative will tend towards the reps, and vice-versa. Loyalty also plays a role here - once someone aligns themself, they'll likely stay with their side, providing some degree of stability. The parties are continually "tweaking" their platforms and ideologies through the years to capture as much of the center as possible, in the eternal power struggle that is our democracy.

This leads to two results:

1) Even if the country as a whole moves conservative, you won't see a landslide republican takeover for very long (same goes for the dems). Rather than dwindling into the margins, the dems will start shifting to the right, again reaching for the center, until they once again hit that tilting point. Balance will be restored, albeit with the whole system more conservative, and the dems recapturing the more "liberal" of the conservatives. (Side note: this is very likely what happened yesterday, to some extent. The country has arguably been moving right over the last few decades, and the dems finally woke up and started moving with it. Note the lack of stumping on gay rights, abortion, gun control, etc. in this past election - all hot-button conservative issues that have met with a degree of popular resistance as of late.)

2) This expected drift of the parties means that a party's core also drifts with time. As the reps drift further right, some of the core starts moving towards the center - and may eventually switch sides, if they get far enough past the tilting point to overcome loyalty. Witness several state elections this past year, where noted previously moderate republicans switched sides.

All this is, of course, subject to scandals, unpopular policies, etc. which nudges things one direction or antoher for any given election cycle.

Kudos if you read this far...

kate

You know Jonathan, that is a very thought provoking theory. I like thinking about the whole spectrum as a tilting scale. Thank you for your comment!

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