Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why Democrats don't like the New York Times


The struggle for supremacy in American politics is usually seen as a closely fought battle for the middle ground. The two parties compete to win over the unassuming but pivotal figure that political scientists call the "median voter" - the swing voter in the ideological center, who plays the decisive role come Election Day. The theory of the median voter is inspired by the analogy of two stores competing for customers: if consumers are evenly scattered in a region, the stores' best strategy is to locate right next to each other; otherwise, they take an unnecessary risk of losing potential customers. Political parties, too, should seek the center. Like a pendulum, politics swings back to the middle when governance strays too far to the extremes.

It hasn't been seen this way for quite a while, it assumes that "the center" is this static entity, that people or advertisers can't sway public opinion, and that this mythical "center" never becomes obsolete.

Since the late 90's, however, the pendulum has appeared to be stuck. Despite losing the popular vote in 2000 and facing one of the most closely divided electorates in United States history, George W. Bush has governed largely to please his base, allied with a G.O.P. majority committed to goals that were demonstrably out of line with middle-of-the-road voters' views on many issues.

Since at least the late 70's media such as the New York Times were playing a "he said, she said" kind of reporting that obscured or failed to report plainly when one side or the other was engaging in what can only be called "bullshit."

... For all their current vulnerabilities, Republicans still enjoy a number of formidable advantages, grounded in a favorable electoral map and the character of contemporary majority rule. What's more, while many Democrats are crowing about Bush's free fall, most of these Republican advantages rest in Congress, not the White House. And unfortunately for Democrats, even a significant shift in public opinion toward the Democrats may do little to loosen the G.O.P. Congressional majority's grip on power.

This is not because Republicans enjoy an overwhelming edge. Far from it. To capture Congress in next year's midterm elections, Democrats need to pick up 6 seats in the Senate and 16 in the House - a modest swing by postwar standards, especially in the sixth year of a presidency, when the president's party often loses ground. Yet the veteran election-watcher Charles Cook recently placed the odds of Republicans losing even one chamber in 2006 at just 1 in 5. Understanding why a party that's so battered can still be so favored reveals a great deal about how the G.O.P. has insulated itself from the traditional swings of the political pendulum.

To begin with, Republicans enjoy a lead right out of the starting blocks thanks to the geographic structure of American elections. In the Senate, Republicans have a tremendous built-in edge because small states, which lean Republican, are so overrepresented. As a result, Democrats can win a majority of votes nationwide and still not gain control.

It took them this long to say it, but the subtext is that even the House doesn't exactly work democratically.

Still, the Democratic party is aware of these things, and is in fact targetting candidates. De Lay, for one is pretty vulnerable. Blunt could be too, if a strong candidate were fielded. Folks - even Republicans- don't like corruption, they don't like being impoverished, and they don't like profligate spending.

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