Moderate voters?

James Taranto (WSJ) writes,

Those old enough to remember the decades before the ’90s, then, may tend to see permanent majorities around the corner because they expect a return to normalcy. Mr. Fiorina, by contrast, argues that frequent shifts in political control are now the norm because of the way the parties have changed. He rejects the common view that American voters are “polarized.” Instead, he says, the parties have become polarized, in a process he calls the “sorting” of the electorate.

So we have parties captured by extremists, and voters trying to find the moderates. Possibly related: Nassim Taleb’s forthcoming book.

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13 Responses to Moderate voters?

  1. Handle says:

    Sigh, we cannot remind ourselves of the fundamental lesson of the last election often enough: we all need to profoundly lower the status and credibility of political scientists and the journalists who can’t stop themselves from covering them.

    There is no ping-pong in California anymore. Ping pong is what happens for a brief time during a statistically noisy trend gradually but steadily moving from one unbalanced value to another. Good grief, Fiorina lives there! He’s old and has personally witnessed the whole thing, from ground zero, and from the perspective of a “political scientist” no less. He ought to know better.

    To its credit, the article did not leave the reader impressed with Fiorina’s theory. Voters want moderate solutions, but those moderate solutions require acrimonious, party-line votes, and it’s a successful strategy for the opposition party to rail against them, because their voters reliably get extremely angry about those moderate solutions …

    Come on. “Oh, but if we add another tweak …” Give me a break. This is just embarrassing stuff. Our society’s intellectual life is rapidly collapsing before our eyes.

  2. edgar says:

    just gimme a proportionally representative, multi-party, parliamentary system of government

  3. Matthew Young says:

    Westward migration as created a tripolar trade out here in the Southwest; Mexico, California, Texas. There is no balanced structure relative to DC and the North East. So we are back to regional rotation, rebalance by regional shift over the election cycles.

  4. Lord says:

    No. The Kaiser polls show the middle no longer exists. There is one segment that adapts to the changing world and another than clings to the way it was. Losers think if only they appealed more to the mythical middle they could win, while winners know it is their base they must satisfy even though it means being limited to a bare transitory majority that can’t accomplish much or for long. For in the land of electoral politics, from districting to college, majorities are minorities and vice versa between numbers and representation and it is best not to forget that.

    • Rick Hull says:

      > There is one segment that adapts to the changing world and another than clings to the way it was.

      Alternatively: one culture that preserves what works and has good outcomes vis a vis Charles Murray, and one culture that hates their parents, runs away from home, stumbling blindly into the wilderness, losing, dropping, or rejecting anyone who stumbles or looks rearward longingly.

      Back to the purely political realm, I think we get polarizing politics because we have a heavily (flawed) polarizing electoral system.

  5. Thucydides says:

    Fiorina is obviously a Democrat. With things going well in the economy, and the advantages of the pro-Republican partisan gerrymandering that occurred after the last census, it seems unlikely the Democrats could win the House, though they have high hopes.

  6. BC says:

    First-past-the-post leads to a two-party system, and in a two-party system median voter theorem determines the winner. So, the obvious question is why the two parties would allow themselves to become more polarized instead of trying to capture the median voter. Fiorina claims the cause is primary campaign contributions from out-of-district donors, who tend to be more ideologically extreme. That should probably be broadened to note that activists more generally (not just donors) seem to have more influence over primaries, a result of the “democratization” of party nominations which decreased the influence of party bosses.

    Even so, it’s still a mystery as to why the parties do not follow median voter theorem to maximize probability of success if through no other mechanism than natural selection. (Candidates that appeal to median voter should be the ones that survive; the extreme ones should get filtered out in the general election.) Why are activists and out-of-district donors content to select extreme primary candidates that are unlikely to appeal to median voter in the general election? One possible explanation is that they don’t really believe that the election results will matter in terms of policy outcomes, which the article also discusses. However, if changes in party control produce very little difference in policy outcomes, then that would suggest the opposite of polarization. Could we have reached a point where our politics is so bitter because the stakes are so low? See Sayre’s Law [].

    • Dain says:

      Here’s an idea: those elected to presidency in the general election still are appealing to median voters, it’s just that those observing politics – the motivated minority – are getting more ideological and so see the middle of the road route as conceding too much to the other side’s influence. Ergo Obama is a Muslim Communist and Trump is Mussolini reborn.

      But back to the mainstream media’s vantage point. Even the softly Democrat centrist pundits are gradually drifting leftward in tandem with the more extreme explicators of their general proclivities, so see nominally right-wing fuddy duddies as much further right than they really are.

  7. Roger Sweeny says:

    Median voter theorem assumes everybody votes, or at least a representative segment does. But that’s not the case. People who care the most come out to vote. They are disproportionately non-moderate.

  8. collin says:

    So we have parties captured by extremists, and voters trying to find the moderates.

    The reality of Trump and Clinton is both were moderates on most issues. Trump was able to a moderate outside of Immigration by promising to Social Security and Medicare. (And he sounded like a Midwest Democrat on trade.) Clinton plans were fairly moderate family leave stuff that has minimal impact on nation.

    So will their permanent majorities?

    I am with Sean Trende that notes the positions and populations change over time and Political Parties change a lot quicker than they did in the past. (Notice some of Republican gerry-mandering may backfire in the House 2018 Midterm.) Even as a California Democrat I played Reagan speeches from Youtube for kids and they are amazed that he is calling for ‘The Wall’ and actually spoke well of Illegal Immigrants. (And I have voted for Republicans in down ballot state elections.)

  9. Tom G says:

    It is primarily the Dems, and the Dem media, which now claims that “enforcing the laws, as written and passed, is extremist” — my understanding of so many current Dem complaints.

    Enforcing the current law is never extremist, when they are stupid or racist or negative.
    It might be bad, and it might be better to NOT enforce the law — such as Dem Jim Crow laws — but to label those who want enforcement as radical is false, is demonization.

    Reps are full of moderates. It’s the Dems who are radical, and label all those who are moderate, who disagree with their radical agenda, “extremists”.

    It’s like calling Fox news extremist because they do have some Rep supporting news people, as well as Dems. While most other Dem exclusive media has only extremist Rep haters.

    The Rep “Tea Party” folk were moderate — but the Dems demonized them as extremists.

    False Demonization has been working for the Dems. It failed against Trump. It’s going to be used against all Reps in 2018.
    I don’t think it will succeed as much as the Dems do, but I know it works some and it might be successful again.

  10. Matt says:

    “So we have parties captured by extremists, and voters trying to find the moderates.”

    Do we, though? Sure, anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence at all but what I see is a lot of “Holding your nose and voting”. In other words, parties captured by extremists and voters voting party line “To keep the other guy out of office”.

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