2006 April 16 Sunday
Jonathan Rauch: Neither Party Has Ruling Majority

Jonathan Rauch argues that neither the Democrats or the Republicans have a governing majority.

For the last couple of decades, America has had, in effect, two minority parties. Both parties are dominated by ideological activists who are more extreme than the electorate. The Democrats are to the left of the average voter; the Republicans, to the right. Neither party can govern except in coalition with a large body of nonideological centrists, who feel (and often are) neglected by both parties. In 2004, both parties held their bases, but the Republicans improved their performance in the center. That won them the election, but it gives them little cause to relax. The center remains in neither party's camp; in the 2004 presidential race, independents split their vote evenly.

I would quibble with Rauch on whether the Republican Party's activists are to the right of the registered Republican electorate. The activists are not to the right when it comes to spending constraint. The activists are not small "c" conservative when it comes to foreign policy. The neoconservative Republican activists in control of Republican Party foreign policy are pursuing what they perceive to be Jewish interests in the Middle East and Europe (and harming Israel's interests in the process - fools).

If the Republican Party's elected officials were really obeying the desires of their conservative base then there would have been no Medicare drug benefit and we'd have a barrier wall on the entire US border with Mexico along with vigorous interior immigration law enforcement. Curiously, such an immigration policy would also appeal to most centrists and quite a few non-elite Democrats.

The Democratic Party has become so unmoored from the interests of what one might think is its working class base that it too isn't serving its base well. This is the bizarreness of American politics today. On key issues the elites of the two parties are closer to each other than they are to their bases.

What Rauch says about parliamentary majorities without a popular majority certainly describes the Republican Party today.

What the Tories then discovered is what ruling parties all too easily forget: There is no position more treacherous than having a parliamentary majority without a popular majority. With undivided power goes undivided credit, but also undivided blame. Worse, the possession of a parliamentary majority may embolden the party's extremists and lull the party away from the center, thus blocking, rather than advancing, progress toward a popular majority.

But my problem with this analysis is that the people in the Bush Administration who Rauch might (correctly) label as extremists are not really on the far right of the Republican Party. They are extremists pursuing ethnic interests of Likudnik Jews in foreign policy or of Hispanics in immigration policy. Or they are pursuing rather narrow economic interests. They aren't pursuing conservative policies for more limited government or more law enforcement. Quite the contrary in fact.

Bush has certainly pursued policies that caused a lot of blame to be heaped on Republicans. The Iraq debacle and the federal government's budget deficit come to mind. But these policies were not implemented to placate the Republican base. That's the tragedy of this situation.

This reminds me that before the 2004 election Tyler Cowen opined that the Republican spending spree was the result of their lack of a strong ruling majority.

I look less at what politicians say, and more at what kind of coalition they would have to build to rule. The high domestic spending of Bush I take as a sign of perceived political weakness ("we need to buy more allies"), rather than a reflection of Bush's ideology.

...

5. If Bush is re-elected, it affirms that a Republican can get away with jacking up domestic spending. Such a precedent is worrying for the longer run, not just for Bush's second term.

Irresponsible government therefore is the result of a need to buy off swing voters. If either party had a larger secure voting block it would have far less need to buy off voters.

Both major political parties in the United States want to get out of the current stalemate where a large center prevents either party from dominating. The Democrats want to return to the level of power they enjoyed during their New Deal golden era of a large governing majority and secure control of Congress. They hope to break the deadlock by use of the growing Hispanic minority. However, Steve Sailer relays from a tax accountant and reader the observation that the Hispanics aren't going to have the same interests and values as the elite Democrats:

One other thing about taxes and illegal aliens. The folks they are letting in, they are not going to be smart enough to actually comply with our complex tax laws and other regulatory obligations. So there is going to be an increase in the flouting of those laws. They also will not see the need of such regulatory burdens - why should they care about the environment, zoning laws, etc.

Most liberal-left Democrats are making a false assumption: Whoever votes for the Democrats will have the same values they do. Wrong-o sleighbell lovers. Half of Hispanics in America drop out of high school. Working class manual labor high school drop-outs aren't going to support the arts or public television or housing growth restrictions or pollution emissions reductions or embryonic stem cell research. They won't care or will see the regulatory state and tax collection agencies as obstacles to circumvent.

When the stalemate in American politics breaks up neither side is going to be happy with the result.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 April 16 03:10 PM  Politics Factions


Comments
Mik said at April 16, 2006 4:42 PM:

"Most liberal-left Democrats are making a false assumption: Whoever votes for the Democrats will have
the same values they do. Wrong-o sleighbell lovers. Half of Hispanics in America drop out of high
school. Working class manual labor high school drop-outs aren't going to support the arts or
public television or housing growth restrictions or pollution emissions reductions or
embryonic stem cell research. They won't care or will see the regulatory state and tax
collection agencies as obstacles to circumvent."

Replace word Hispanics with Blacks in the above. Everything stated is also true for Blacks. Political result of this disconnect between wishes of lower class Blacks and Demo elite? Black pols are completely subservient to Demo elites in all these issues. Money, influence, political horse trading causes Black pols support elites on thsese issues.

Care to explain what is/will be different for Hispanics pols?

Perhaps sleighbell lovers are much smarter than you give them credit for. After all so many of sleighbell lovers (I'm not sure what it means) probably are Ashkenazim, with IQ on the right tail of bell curve. You as IQ determinist should appreciate that.


Randall Parker said at April 16, 2006 5:24 PM:

Mik,

The difference is going to be their percentage of the total coalition. The Democratic Party's coalition is going to get much dumber.

Sure, on some issues such as embryonic stem cells the Democratic Party's elites will get their way because the masses won't care. But the issues that motivate the elites won't mobilize the masses and in some cases will turn them off.

D Flinchum said at April 16, 2006 5:41 PM:

I have on numerous occasions pointed out to my liberal Democratic friends that the immigrants that they are encouraging to come to the US and to whom they are encouraging the US to grant amnesty are absolutely not feminist nor are they gay-friendly. These folks are sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

Bob Badour said at April 16, 2006 5:52 PM:

Coming from a place where the multicultural indoctrination is much, much more advanced, the Democrats are building a dysfunctional nation that will eventually end with the various factions they coddle at each other's throats.

I find that very sad.


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