Jonathan Rausch has written a very worthwhile article for National Affairs. His liberal bias shows through in the negative examples he reflexively chooses, but there’s a lot of troubling facts here (and any grownup should be able to supply his own negative examples if his offend).
- Only a minority in both parties (46% of Democrats, 44% of Republicans) told Pew they “like elected officials who make compromises with people they disagree with.” The essence of the U.S. Constitution is to require compromise as a condition of governing. In rejecting compromise, Americans are rejecting governance.
- The big change, he said, was that the parties, which once were both ideologically diverse coalitions, have sorted themselves out on ideological lines and offer increasingly extreme candidates to the voters.
- As of 2016, about 60% of Americans lived in so-called “landslide counties,” where either Trump or Hillary Clinton received at least 60% of the major-party vote; the comparable figure was 50% in 2012 and about 40% in 1992.
- Democrats are divided between market-oriented technocrats and self-declared democratic socialists. Republicans are in the grip of a populist takeover that defies the relatively libertarian, internationalist orthodoxy of their heretofore dominant Reaganite wing … We are not seeing a hardening of coherent ideological difference. We are seeing a hardening of incoherent ideological difference.
- [R]esearch by the University of Maryland’s Lilliana Mason finds that “the effect of issue-based ideology is less than half the size of identity-based ideology” in driving “affective” or social polarization)
- [W]e have shunted aside the gatekeepers and institutions that screened out sociopathic politicians before they reached the ballot.
- As [Jonathan] Haidt has said, tribalism may be pre-wired, but it is not hardwired.
- [T]wo institutions in particular deserve strengthening: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. This will no doubt seem strange. Aren’t the parties, almost by definition, the very font of partisan polarization? Actually, no. Paradoxically, partisanship has never been stronger, but the party organizations have never been weaker
I probably have said nasty things about smoke-filled rooms (how anachronistic is that!) undemocratically choosing candidates. Having seen the alternative now all too well, I miss those days, and repent of my mischievously pure democracy.
(Hat tip to George Will on this.)