So Close

2004-10-29

The fact that the last two U.S. presidential elections have been so close leads people to think that there is a great divide among the populace: blue America vs. red America, liberal Democrats vs. conservative Republicans, coastal elites vs. heartland populists, and all the rest. Perhaps. But perhaps there's a simpler explanation: each party has gotten really good at crafting its message to attract as many votes as possible. For example, Democrats don't talk about gun control anymore, because that turned off too many mainstream voters (lots of whom have bought guns for self-defense in the last 5 or 10 years). Since both parties have perfected such strategies, we've reach a kind of steady state in which each party receives about half the vote in presidential elections. The same reasoning applies to U.S. Senate elections in some "battleground" states (one of which seems to be my adopted state of Colorado). But most U.S. House elections appear to be foregone conclusions, mainly because of gerrymandering but also because urban politics are quite different from rural politics. The congresscritter from the House district in which I live has a safe seat and could basically hold her "job" for life, until and unless she decides to run for some other office, returns to real life, or inexplicably faces a challenge in the Democratic primary. The rise of so many safe seats leads to polarization or radicalization in more local elections, which gives the impression that Americans themselves are polarized; but I think such a conclusion is unwarranted, and that there is much greater diversity of opinion than the pundits and parties would have us believe.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal