Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE END OF PRAGMATISM?....Are moderates an endangered species? I almost skipped this article in Sunday's Washington Post because I really didn't want to read yet another bout of handwringing about Red vs. Blue America. But once I started in I kept reading, and in the end it turned out to be pretty interesting and, unfortunately, pretty persuasive:

Hans Noel, a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the author of a paper called "The Road to Red and Blue America." In an interview, he said, "Most people say they are 'moderate,' but in fact the country is polarized around strong conservative and liberal positions."

....As it becomes more difficult to reach across the party line, campaigns are devoting more energy to firing up their hard-core supporters. For voters in the middle, this election may aggravate their feeling that politics no longer speaks to them, that it has become a dialogue of the deaf, a rant of uncompromising extremes.

....The notion of two tribes unhappily sharing a country is gaining strength among analysts, however. "It's huge," Noel said. "People in these two countries don't even see each other." And that's partly because of political segregation.

It's a vicious circle. As people become more polarized, they seek out their soulmates and this polarizes them even further. This in turn causes politicians to realize that they need to appeal to the poles in order to win, so they ratchet up the rhetoric. In the end, voters force politicians to extremes, and politicians eagerly feed the beast to get elected and the circle is completed.

I have long believed that there's a fair-sized majority of people in the center who are not represented by the increasingly strident leadership of either party, but after reading this article it's a little bit harder to maintain that faith. If the analysts are right it's depressing news for moderates.

I keep thinking there's an answer to this, but I can't quite verbalize what I think it is. And hell, it's probably wrong anyway. After all, how many moderate blogs are there?

Kevin Drum 3:14 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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