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An extraordinary coincidence?
November 7, 2012 7:54 AM   Subscribe

And think about it for a second: this is bizarre. If Americans are in fact divided between two extremely different political ideologies, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if each of those philosophies were to hold the allegiance of nearly equal blocs of support.

The Economist ponders how American politics can have a "divide [that] is simultaneously very narrow in numerical terms, and gaping in ideological or partisan terms."
Realistic arguments over policy take place on relatively narrow terrain: they are arguments over a top marginal tax rate of 35% or 39.6%, over a health-insurance system with guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions but with or without a mandate, and so forth. But in ideological terms, this is not what the political divide looks like. Republicans construe the Democratic positions on these questions as socialism and international decline. Democrats construe the Republican positions as social darwinism and militant imperialism. How you do end up with a populace split evenly between these radical belief structures?
posted by memebake (206 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
The pejorative characterization is extreme. The nominal difference in ideology is marked. The practical difference in policy is negligible.
posted by Xoebe at 7:57 AM on November 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


Tribal loyalty is a hell of a drug.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:57 AM on November 7, 2012 [23 favorites]


The media, meanwhile, and this can't be repeated often enough, is overwhelmingly biased towards producing exciting political races.

Yup.
posted by Artw at 8:01 AM on November 7, 2012 [42 favorites]


We have a near equal split because that's how you keep the big knot in the middle of the rope we're all pulling on in this political tug of war from moving anywhere. At the end of it, you have exhausted, sweaty people and nothing has changed.

Perfect for draining the will of the people.
posted by adipocere at 8:02 AM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


There was a point last night where Romney was 335 ballots ahead out of nearly 100 million votes. I know it was just a temporary thing as more results rolled in, but it was still pretty mindblowing.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:03 AM on November 7, 2012


This is a divide that's been there since the absolute beginning of the country, though. It's not something new. If you read Jefferson's papers and letters, he could be on Fox News--"I'm not SAYING George Washington is a royalist intent on taking the throne and making himself King, but he sure hung out with a lot of FRENCH ROYALISTS, if you know what I mean"--and a lot of Adams sounds like proto-MSNBC.

But yes, the horse race thing was particularly evident when the pundits tried to put Nate Silver in his place (and sounded exactly like the old baseball guys writhing against their own statistical revolution) for daring to say it'd be close, but Romney never really had a lead.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:07 AM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


At the presidential level is the Electoral College and the fact that you don't even need to count all the votes to know who won not a big factor?
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some pollster must have run the numbers on putting together a platform based on mixing-and-matching the planks of the Dems/GOP that has better than 50% support, right? Has anyone ever seen an article like that?
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 8:08 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pepsi and Coca Cola taste very much the same.

And yes, there are people willing to fight to prove these two drinks are in fact taste very different, or that one is better than the other, or whatever. And there are marketing people.

Otherwise there'd just be one cola. Or at least no real arguing about it.
posted by chavenet at 8:09 AM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


If the extreme ideological divide between Judge Judy viewers is any guide, this could make America very, very rich.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:09 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perfect for draining the will of the people.

I'm curious if you are implying that someone or some entity is working the levers of public sentiment, somehow ensuring equilibrium in each election cycle, in order to "drain the will of the people," and who specifically that might be? And are they today sitting in a hardened bunker, stroking a small cat and cackling softly?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:11 AM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


Wait, but the differences on women's rights, marriage equality, the place of religion in public life-- the whole cultural package-- and on the role of government versus the market (privatize everything vs maintain a public sector large enough to do what needs doing) are extreme. And the author has managed to ignore racial antagonism, entirely the province of one party. This is a weirdly flattened article that tries to persuade us that what it doesn't discuss doesn't matter. If you're female, gay, uninsured, live near a coastline, possess more melanin than Donald Trump, or know people with unsettled immigration status, you probably can't ignore these issues.
posted by homerica at 8:11 AM on November 7, 2012 [73 favorites]


This makes perfect sense to me. Liberals within the Democratic party would love to move their party further to the left (like with a single-payer health care system, for instance), but restrain themselves from it because doing so would make them lose support from the center and become unelectable nationally. Similarly, the Republican party has plenty of hard-liners that would like nothing more than to scrap the separation of church and state and all but eliminate what they call "entitlement" programs, but doing so would make them unelectable nationally.
So both parties are willfully aiming themselves at the 50/50 split with what they think is the slightest edge to themselves. Until more parties are added to the system, it will always be thus.
posted by rocket88 at 8:11 AM on November 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


We didn't have a near-equal split. This is a false narrative that isn't supported by the numbers.

Assuming he won Florida, Obama won both of his terms more decisively than either of Bush's terms, and the margin of victory for Clinton's two terms was only slightly wider than Obama's 2008 election.

Looking back historically (and not even considering the effects of recessions on incumbents), we see that Obama's margins were similar to or better than those held by W Bush (both), Clinton (both), Carter, Nixon (1), JFK, and Truman.

The more decisive victories were won by HW Bush, Reagan (both), Nixon (2), LBJ, and Eisenhower (both).

Let's stop pretending that the presidential race was even remotely close, just to satisfy the media's determined narrative of a sharply-divided nation. It's just not accurate, especially when you look at previous elections, or the polling data from the past 12 months. XKCD also put it very eloquently this morning.

The Democrats also had a great day in the Senate yesterday, and would have had a significantly better day in the House, had it not been for Republican gerrymandering.
posted by schmod at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2012 [47 favorites]


We didn't have a near-equal split. This is a false narrative that isn't supported by the numbers.

It's not supported by the electoral college numbers, but the popular vote was 50-48, which I think qualifies as "near-equal," though I can see room for disagreement with that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:21 AM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


True dat, schmod. Obama was leading handily until the media narrative about the first debate was that he "just didn't seem to care" - nothing about his policy, nothing about the actual debate points, just that he didn't care - and his figures plummeted to neck-and-neck. Then his people saw the numbers, he reacted, and he won without breaking a sweat.

The only even divide is the one the media desperately need to have us all see.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:21 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I was a kid, we befriended a family whose strict Roman Catholic conservative political bent was quite the opposite from our own. We had lots of other things in common - a love of reading, art, science fiction, outdoorsy activities, hanging out and having dinner (oh man they made the most amazing lasagna.) Sometimes we would argue about politics, even to the point of voices being raised, but then it was lasagna time and we would eat and laugh and talk about books and stuff.

We had vastly different opinions about politics, but we weren't enemies.


I tend to think that a large part of the divide is due to the splintering of the media and the redefinition of journalism. It used to be that everyone pretty much got their news from the same sources, more or less. There were opposing forces within that sphere, but for the most part, there was an attempt to keep things as objective as possible and everyone pretty much agreed that the stuff you saw or heard on the news and read in the paper was true, even if you didn't like it.



Now, we can choose the "news" that suits our taste, strokes our egos or stokes our outrage. We seal ourselves in closed circles of information. If a journalist is saying something we dislike, we can always find someone who will confirm that we are correct, and further closes the circle by casting doubt on every other source of information (the "liberal media" phenomenon is an excellent example.) In fact, anyone who doesn't agree with your version of the truth must be a traitor, and enemy, and a brainwashed idiot.


It's politically expedient, but few benefit. We have been manipulated into thinking we are mortal enemies. But we aren't.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:21 AM on November 7, 2012 [39 favorites]


Until more parties are added to the system, it will always be thus.

There will be no more parties added to the system so long as we have the current electoral structure, because additional parties can only function as spoilers. A successful third party would have to aim for the same fine balance as the two existing ones, and it's hard to imagine a three-way balance remaining stable: one of the parties would gain a temporary edge, and the other two would somehow join forces to counterbalance it.

Our electoral system is the problem, and the two-party "bitterly divided across a very similar set of ideas" situation we're stuck in is the consequence. It has been this way for generations and will continue to work this way for even more generations, unless we change our electoral system so that one can vote for a minority-party candidate without throwing away one's vote.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:23 AM on November 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


In a theoretically ideal democracy, any issues on which there isn't a 50/50 split should become fait accompli, leaving only the evenly divided issues to continue to wrangle over.
posted by ook at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


One sequence portrayed a student with a life-threatening pre-existing condition that until recently rendered him uninsurable, who has stopped talking to a conservative friend who refuses to support ObamaCare because he said it felt as though the friend didn't value his life. A conservative man describes being unable to continue talking to a former friend who supports a president he is convinced is destroying the country. Two sisters can't agree on who is being rude and condescending to whom after a furious falling-out over political philosophy.

Before the vote tally came in, I called up one of my best friends last night (whom I have known for over 17 years) and I told him that even though we were voting for different people, I knew that he had good reasons for voting for Romney and that I valued his friendship. It's because we do stuff like this - because we can agree to disagree without losing respect for the other person - that I have such close and loyal friendships. Conversely, when I hear stories of intolerance like the ones above, it makes me lose a little faith in humanity. In my opinion, people like this - who choose to cut ties when they hear something they dislike, instead of working to find common ground - tend to be very close-minded, and don't truly understand the meaning of friendship.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Schmod: We didn't have a near-equal split. This is a false narrative that isn't supported by the numbers.

Electoral College wasn't near-equal, sure. But the popular vote (and hence the split between the population) seems very near equal and has been for the last few elections.
posted by memebake at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Let's stop pretending that the presidential race was even remotely close, just to satisfy the media's determined narrative of a sharply-divided nation.

Yes, the electoral victory was decisive, but how is a 50-48 popular vote not a "sharply-divided nation"? Over 117 million votes cast and the difference was 2.5 million. In Ohio and Florida, the difference is around 1%. That's pretty remarkable.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:29 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you think about it, it's fairly inevitable in a two party system from a game theoretical point of view. It's like two gas stations either side of the road who compete only on price. They can either compete or collude. In either case the equilibrium outcome is that gas costs the same at both stations.
posted by unSane at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


"It's politically expedient, but few benefit. We have been manipulated into thinking we are mortal enemies. But we aren't."

What is power, if not the art of fear?
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've kind of been wondering this morning if the popular vote would have come out differently under a different electoral system.

It seems to me that under the current system a lot of people may not feel compelled to vote because they don't feel it will make a difference. Like if you're a Democrat in a red state why bother waiting in huge lines? Or if your a Republican in that same state same thing why bother if the outcome is fairly certain? In both cases it might not seem worth the hassle to a lot of people.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 8:33 AM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not supported by the electoral college numbers, but the popular vote was 50-48, which I think qualifies as "near-equal," though I can see room for disagreement with that.

Out of about 11 million voters. Gallup estimates that in 2004 only 55-60% of eligible voters actually vote. I don't think that we can assume that non-voter demographics match voter demographics.
posted by muddgirl at 8:36 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Democrats also had a great day in the Senate yesterday, and would have had a significantly better day in the House, had it not been for Republican gerrymandering.

This is an important point. Senate Democrats did fare surprisingly well in their statewide elections, and the success of House Republicans despite that speaks to the crucial importance of 2010 and the ten-year redistricting process. It's going to pay dividends for the GOP until 2020 at least.

Is it possible to determine what the make-up of the House would have been given yesterday's vote totals under 2009's congressional districts?
posted by Rhaomi at 8:38 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've heard that when you poll people on the actual positions, as opposed to parties, the split is not at all equal - the vast majority of Americans support more Democratic or left-wing policies.

sorry no citation - SO heard it on the radio (prob NPR/PRI/APM, BBC or CBC)
posted by jb at 8:38 AM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've heard that when you poll people on the actual positions, as opposed to parties, the split is not at all equal - the vast majority of Americans support more Democratic or left-wing policies.

It was a Pew research poll from a couple years back. It seems really hard to track down old Pew research studies, maybe because they produce so many of them.
posted by muddgirl at 8:41 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, Mister stupidsexyFlanders, I expect you to assume I'm not clinically paranoid!

Rather, I'm suggesting the opposite of what you think I said. That nearly exact down the middle behavior we keep seeing has to have some kind of feedback mechanisms keeping everything balanced on this knife edge.

We've all got our hands on those levers, but some have a firmer grip than others. Some (Koch Brothers) own some of those levers, but not all of them. It's a lot media-driven — can't monetize those eyeballs unless they're glued to a close competition — and it's a little bit a sense of fairness and a dash of oppositional defiance lurking within human nature. It's some Coke versus Pepsi. It's a lot sports, and if you have only one game every four years and three-fifths of the populace are convinced that this is the only way to interact with their government, everyone can go home afterwards and take a long nap. There's probably a dozen feedback loops keeping things right where they are.

I think that, in some twisted sense, we like it this way. If we didn't, we wouldn't be doing it, over and over again. You know how annoyed "the people" are with the two-party system? And yet we refuse to rid ourselves of anything but first-past-the-post, and from there Duverger's Law takes over because, deep down, that's the way unh-hunh-unh-hunh we like it.
posted by adipocere at 8:44 AM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've heard that when you poll people on the actual positions, as opposed to parties, the split is not at all equal - the vast majority of Americans support more Democratic or left-wing policies.

This may or may not be true, but since we don't elect policies it seems irrelevant. It also smacks of a "everyone out there agrees with me, they just don't realize it" style of politics that is fairly patronizing to the electorate.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:44 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos - the actual quote from the article:
If Americans are in fact divided between two extremely different political ideologies, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if each of those philosophies were to hold the allegiance of nearly equal blocs of support.
We don't elect ideologies, either. An argument could be made that support for a specific policy doesn't actually equal support for a particular ideology, but either way I think it's very dangerous to narrow this conversation to include only people who vote in a presidential election.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bread and circus ... just be sure to never, ever pay attention to the men behind the curtain.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


It would be very hard to control it this precisely, so it looks like two equally strong parties are the natural result of the US electoral system. If you want additional parties, you'll have to change the voting system.
posted by pracowity at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


memebake: "Electoral College wasn't near-equal, sure. But the popular vote (and hence the split between the population) seems very near equal and has been for the last few elections."

And that's the way it's almost always been. Let me cherry-pick some data:
2012: Obama     50.0%     Romney    48.0%   (2.0%)
2008: Obama     52.9%     McCain    45.7%   (7.2%)
2004: Bush      50.7%     Kerry     48.3%   (2.4%)
2000: Bush      47.9%     Gore      48.4%   (-0.5%)
1992: Clinton   43.0%     Bush      37.5%   (5.5%)
1976: Carter    50.1%     Ford      48.0%   (2.1%)
1968: Nixon     43.4%     Humphrey  42.7%   (0.5%)
1960: JFK       49.7%     Nixon     49.5%   (0.2%)
1948: Truman    49.6%     Dewey     45.1%   (4.5%)
1916: Wilson    49.2%     Hughes    46.1%   (3.1%)
1900: McKinley  51.6%     Bryan     45.5%   (6.1%)
1896: McKinley  51.0%     Bryan     46.7%   (4.3%)
1892: Cleveland 46.0%     Harrison  43.0%   (3.0%)
1888: Harrison  47.8%     Cleveland 48.6%   (-0.8%)
1884: Cleveland 48.5%     Blaine    48.2%   (0.3%)
1880: Garfield  48.3%     Hancock   48.2%   (0.1%)
1876: Hayes     47.9%     Tilden    51.0%   (-3.1%)
All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.
posted by schmod at 8:50 AM on November 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


It's not supported by the electoral college numbers, but the popular vote was 50-48, which I think qualifies as "near-equal," though I can see room for disagreement with that.

Here's the disagreement: Because the president is not elected by popular vote, they didn't campaign to win the popular vote. In a popular vote where there's exactly one number to maximize, they'd have campaigned very differently. They campaigned to win the electoral college, which meant a lot of excessive targeting that focused huge efforts on tiny numbers of people. Thus, the popular vote total is not really meaningful in terms of indicating division or polarization or relative support. In its current form, the popular vote is an artifact, not a tell.
posted by fatbird at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2012 [45 favorites]


I agree with jb that people aren't as divided on the actual issues as it would seem. Politics in popular culture has become sport; I've run across a lot of people (both conservatives and liberals) who don't understand the issues but blindly cheer for their "team" anyway. I was limited to watching network TV and Twitter last night and I had to turn off the TV because the look and feel was indistinguishable from a Monday Night Football game. It's not a game: elections determine policies and policies can determine who suffers and who prospers, who lives and who dies.

I was really sickened to hear that Obama played "How Ya Like Me Now" at his election night party - it made me want to take my vote back and give it to Jill Stein. We are never going to unite as a nation if we keep taunting and trash-talking and poking people. There are a large number of people out there who voted for Romney but aren't woman-hating money-grubbing bigots, they're just voting for their team, and as long as liberals paint all conservatives with the same brush, they're going to do that right back. Sometimes it doesn't feel any different than being told (as a ten year old growing up in Wisconsin) that I should hate Chicago Bears fans.*

* Reader, I married one.
posted by desjardins at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


One sequence portrayed a student with a life-threatening pre-existing condition that until recently rendered him uninsurable, who has stopped talking to a conservative friend who refuses to support ObamaCare because he said it felt as though the friend didn't value his life. A conservative man describes being unable to continue talking to a former friend who supports a president he is convinced is destroying the country.

I have an admitted liberal bias, but to me one of these is not like the other.

I don't see how you can observe that the right
1. believes -- with all their hearts -- a bunch of patent bullshit, and
2. opposes -- again, with all their hearts -- positions that they supported until recently
and conclude that these are animated by "philosophy" or "ideology."
posted by bjrubble at 8:58 AM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've heard that when you poll people on the actual positions, as opposed to parties, the split is not at all equal - the vast majority of Americans support more Democratic or left-wing policies.

I used to work in market research/political polling, and found this to be somewhat true. It especially amusing when people would articulate fairly moderate/ liberal positions down a line of questions, but when asked point blank would define themselves as conservative. VERY few people would outright say they were liberal.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:58 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went and ran an errand, and was thinking about this. My first post, cynical, is still somewhat true. The nuanced version of that is that despite real differences in the parties, the practical day-to-day differences for most people are small to nonexistent. However, there are huge differences for some groups of people. You can be sure that Obamacare will have a big impact once it is fully implemented. Sure, it's not single payer universal health care, but hey.

The real difference is in the electorate. There is a terrible signal to noise ratio.

Think of it this way: suppose the election were about pie. Apple versus Pecan. No other discussion, no ala mode, none of that. No policy differences. Just apple pie versus pecan pie.

Some people prefer apple pie, some people love it. Other adore pecan pie and hate apple pie. Some people have allergies. There are lots of reasons to have passionate opinions regarding pie.

The problem is, that's really what it boils down to: differences over non substantive issues. I am not suggesting that both candidates are pies, hence we get pie instead of cake; hey man, it's just a metaphor. Stick with me. Back to the pie election.

Anyway, if the election were over these two pies, you can imagine that it would boil down to pretty much a toss-up. 50-50. Throw in a little chaos, and you have 50.2% to 49.8%.

The problem isn't that the candidates are similar. The problem is that the vast majority of the electorate is so uninformed, the votes are essentially random. As if they were voting for pie instead of the presidential candidate and her party. And out of randomness...comes the 50-50 ratio. It's like flipping a coin.

There is a relatively small number of people who actually do vote on an informed basis. Those people decide elections, for better or worse. 170 million registered voters? Meaningless. Your vote still counts. Because most of those votes might as well be a coin toss. Or votes for pie.

By the way, I looooove me some pecan pie, but I'd go for apple. Pecan pie is too rich.
posted by Xoebe at 9:02 AM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


In my opinion, people like this - who choose to cut ties when they hear something they dislike, instead of working to find common ground - tend to be very close-minded, and don't truly understand the meaning of friendship.

And as a white heterosexual male in the USA, you have the immense privilege required to back up that opinion; after all, no member of the opposing political party is working tirelessly to remove many of the rights for which you and others like you fought long and hard; furthermore, all those rights were yours by default. Many hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens are not so lucky.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2012 [58 favorites]


In my opinion, people like this - who choose to cut ties when they hear something they dislike, instead of working to find common ground - tend to be very close-minded, and don't truly understand the meaning of friendship.

I'm a tie-cutter, and I take mild offense at this characterization. From my perspective, why do I want to be friends with someone who doesn't respect my bodily autonomy? Why do I want to be friends with someone who thinks my best friend shouldn't have the right to marry his partner, or that poor people should die rather than be able to afford medical care? That sounds like one pretty unpleasant person, and one that me and my social group would be happier without.

Clearly that's a whole heap of my own personal opinion and I'm helping to perpetuate the divide under discussion here, but while I respect your attitude of consensus building I guess I just don't understand it.
posted by jess at 9:07 AM on November 7, 2012 [24 favorites]


From my perspective, why do I want to be friends with someone who doesn't respect my bodily autonomy?

PRECISELY. Why on earth would I ever feel it necessary to show the slightest amount of friendship or respect towards people who are knowingly and willingly giving their overt support to someone working towards a position of power, from which they plan to treat me as literally subhuman? Fuck that forever.
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on November 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


Part of the problem is that it self corrects. Any media in the U.S. which tries to break this pattern is labeled biased Liberal, a Republican sham or fringe.
posted by Jernau at 9:13 AM on November 7, 2012


I can't find the poll where Obama was winning handily among Canadians, but I saw a similar survey for Greece that was Obama 75% - Romney 5%.
posted by ersatz at 9:13 AM on November 7, 2012


I'm a tie-cutter, and I take mild offense at this characterization. From my perspective, why do I want to be friends with someone who doesn't respect my bodily autonomy? Why do I want to be friends with someone who thinks my best friend shouldn't have the right to marry his partner, or that poor people should die rather than be able to afford medical care? That sounds like one pretty unpleasant person, and one that me and my social group would be happier without.

Right. But just packing up and leaving does nothing at all to help your social group. Indeed, it just makes them more of an alien minority.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:15 AM on November 7, 2012


By the way, I looooove me some pecan pie, but I'd go for apple. Pecan pie is too rich.

Luckily, Obama has the pie vote locked up.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:16 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This line from schmod's chart above is just a reminder of how little got done despite the most decisive victory in recent memory.

2008: Obama 52.9% McCain 45.7% (7.2%)
posted by chavenet at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, are we going to be hearing this "not really a mandate" blah for the next 4 years now the election is done with?
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I heard a piece on NPR yesterday, one of those short interviews with a voter. The interviewee was a woman who was talking about how torn she was, because she wants her glbt family members and friends to have rights, but she has a kid, and she wants the country to not go down the financial drain. She decided that her child's right to a fiscally responsible country is more important than her glbt loved ones having rights.

This? This is someone I would stop being friends with if we were friends. I'm not anywhere near as confrontational in meatspace as I am here, so I'd probably just let us drift farther apart and not make a big "You are dead to me!!" speech to her, but I'm just dumbstruck that she apparently hasn't considered that A) her kid might grow up to be gay, and might really hate that mom was all "your rights weren't as important to me as lower taxes;" B) even if the kid isn't gay, might really hate that mom was all "Your uncles Joe and Bill's rights were less important to me than lower taxes;" and C) that she somehow construed the Romney campaign's incredibly vague and hand-wavey fiscal non-policy policies as something other than total vaporware.

This shit is really, really personal to some of us. If a friend tells you that, for instance, money is more important to them than you are, I can't see it as somehow immoral or disloyal to make explicit what the friend is doing, and declare the friendship done.
posted by rtha at 9:23 AM on November 7, 2012 [42 favorites]


I'm a tie-cutter, and I take mild offense at this characterization. From my perspective, why do I want to be friends with someone who doesn't respect my bodily autonomy? Why do I want to be friends with someone who thinks my best friend shouldn't have the right to marry his partner, or that poor people should die rather than be able to afford medical care? That sounds like one pretty unpleasant person, and one that me and my social group would be happier without.

Because change is made by exposure not by (no matter how hard we'd like to believe otherwise) rational discussion or debate.

You want people to believe in gay marriage? Then they have to see gay couples just being regular old people. More importantly, their kids need to see it.
Want universal healthcare? Let them see the guy they go bowling with on Tuesdays lose his house because of a medical bill.

I'm not suggesting anyone needs to be besties with someone (on either side) who actively preaches ideas they find abhorrent but part of changing society is interacting with people opposed to you without turning them into the Other.
posted by madajb at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


PRECISELY. Why on earth would I ever feel it necessary to show the slightest amount of friendship or respect towards people who are knowingly and willingly giving their overt support to someone working towards a position of power, from which they plan to treat me as literally subhuman? Fuck that forever.

It becomes easier to dehumanize someone when you never have to interact with them. The Big Sort looked at how mobility factors into this, the internet acts as an echo chamber for this, the rise of partisan news networks like Fox essentially seals the deal: we can now exist in a totally insular political world wherein we are the last defenders of a cause of absolute rightness against the barbarians banging on the other side of our gates.

Cutting people out of your life just makes that much more likely that they'll retreat to their own echo chamber wherein you and people like you are considered evil.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


It worries me more that all this kneading and massaging has deliberately moved the middle so far to the right.

Like how every cop show in the last decade has featured invariably positive results from the threat of torture (for example -"You know what they do to suspected child molesters in lock-up, don't you?"). The threat of torture and death is now a tool of the righteous.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I was really sickened to hear that Obama played "How Ya Like Me Now" at his election night party - it made me want to take my vote back and give it to Jill Stein.

That is officially the goofiest thing I have read on metafilter all election season long. Congratulations.
posted by raysmj at 9:26 AM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


Obama's pie position already won him the support of Weebl and Bob.

This may or may not be true, but since we don't elect policies it seems irrelevant. It also smacks of a "everyone out there agrees with me, they just don't realize it" style of politics that is fairly patronizing to the electorate

but (actually seriously) - people should be electing policies. This isn't patronizing, it's a simple requirement of a functional representational democracy. It's a bargain: we as citizens get to vote for what our government is going to do, and the least we can do is actually think about what government does before voting. We don't need to know the details and there are people who will translate the positions into simple to understand terms, but we have to make a little bit of an effort to find out what politicians at least CLAIM to have as policies.
posted by jb at 9:28 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Right. But just packing up and leaving does nothing at all to help your social group. Indeed, it just makes them more of an alien minority.

I think it depends on whether the opinion of the "friend" is informed and carefully considered, or if s/he just voted for Romney because of the R next to his name. I wouldn't be friends with someone who directly says to me that gays are sinners or women are for making babies. So they feel isolated? So fucking what. Virulent racists have become an alienated fringe because sane people shunned them.

Now, if I engage someone in a conversation about WHY they voted for this or that Republican, and come to find out that they really hadn't considered the issues, or felt that Issue X trumped all others, then I might be okay with maintaining a friendship. Hell, I vehemently disagree with Obama on a few things (immigration enforcement, medical marijuana raids, drone attacks) but I held my nose and voted for him anyway. I would not expect an Afghani whose family were victims of drone attacks, or a woman whose husband had been deported, to be my best buddies.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]



This line from schmod's chart above is just a reminder of how little got done despite the most decisive victory in recent memory.


The president is the executive branch, not the legislative. Obama lost the house in 2010 -- and even before the Democrats were afraid to push stuff through.

I've heard good arguments that the US system has checks and balances that are too strong. Under a Westminster system, there is a unity of executive and legislative power -- and, while that can have drawbacks, it does get things done.
posted by jb at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Articles like this annoy me with the obvious false equivalence. Homerica is dead on in his assessment. This article allows people to safely conclude the problem is "vitriol" on both sides.

The party I voted for yesterday isn't spewing racial and religous hatred or perpetuating gender and class warfare. Doing that is extreme. Saying the other guy is doing that IS NOT extreme, or vitriolic, or outside the mainstream.
posted by herda05 at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


One thing that tends to get lost in this is that, with the exception of a small minority of people (who, by default, I assume to be near the top of the power structure) most people honestly believe that their expressed views are correct, right and good. They do not see it as denying a woman the autonomy over her body, they see it as trying to stop the killing of babies. There may be a great deal of cognitive dissonance and unexamined beliefs in there, but they have their views not because they are evil or want to discriminate against minorities, but because they believe these views reflect their values (see previous sentence about cognitive dissonance before going on about birth control, please).

I hang out on an evangelical blog that has slowly been shifting from conservative to moderate. The people are interesting and respectful. Every once and a while someone comes on who expresses rather extreme views (most recent example, calling Obama a baby killer). This person honestly believes this. Others may honestly think that taxes are too high and that our country's financial future is headed to disaster. People in the second group I think are wrong and uninformed, but they are not malicious (ok, Grover Norquist and Karl Rove, maybe).

Nobody ever does things for the sake of evil. They may have views that I consider immoral and possibly evil, but they come to these views either by not thinking that hard about them or by thinking they are the best thing for them/their family/their tribe (tribe being used to describe any group of people larger than a family).

tl;dr Most people try to be decent (with their definition of decent) and think they are decent people. Acknowledging this in debates and discussions is important.
posted by Hactar at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


jb: I've heard good arguments that the US system has checks and balances that are too strong. Under a Westminster system, there is a unity of executive and legislative power -- and, while that can have drawbacks, it does get things done.

With some of the radical extremism becoming mainstream in the republican party, I'd almost rather politics be paralyzed. It reduces the ability of the democratic party to do things, but it reins in the republicans from completely destroying things in a short time if they ever get fully in power.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mitrovarr - that's a good point, though I might also point out that a Westminster system opens itself up to third (and fourth and fifth, etc, parties) and that can lead to coalitions which can moderate things -- that's not working in the UK currently, but it has in earlier Canadian history (like Ontario in the 1980s).

What I wouldn't like to see is proportional representation without checks and balances -- I like proportional, but it can lead to truly extreme parties getting just 1 or 2 seats but then acting as king makers in the coalition (as happens in Israel). Proportional second houses seem to work better -- giving representation to minority views without giving too much power.
posted by jb at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


They do not see it as denying a woman the autonomy over her body, they see it as trying to stop the killing of babies.

I think this is more than a little overly optimistic; if these people actually cared about protecting human life, they would not vote to eliminate programs of support for the benefit these very same babies immediately after birth.
posted by elizardbits at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


jb we also have problems in Canada with our first past the post system, where the Conservatives got about 37% of the vote, and essentially can do whatever they want because they have a majority government.
posted by sauril at 9:45 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think of it this way: suppose the election were about pie. Apple versus Pecan.

Anyway, if the election were over these two pies, you can imagine that it would boil down to pretty much a toss-up. 50-50. Throw in a little chaos, and you have 50.2% to 49.8%.


Isn't the whole premise of this article that it's extremely unlikely such an election would be 50/50? Surely the nation isn't divided exactly in half on preference for apple or pecan. It's much more likely that 2/3 of people like apple or 22% like apple or 71% like pecan.
posted by straight at 9:46 AM on November 7, 2012


and who specifically that might be?

Ummmm the owners of this country...you know the CAPITALists. No not Joe bob six pack who calls himself a CAPITAList, but the people who actually have CAPITAL (i.e. the means to influence public opinion and buy elected officials).
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:48 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Under a Westminster system, there is a unity of executive and legislative power -- and, while that can have drawbacks, it does get things done.

More than that, because it's possible to get things done, you get less extreme things done. Between horse trading in Congress and moving the Overton window, legislation starts out silly and extreme and then gets pretzelized to get passed. In Canada, we get right wing legislation from right wing governments, but it's reasonably coherent legislation that does pretty much what they want to do. There's no poison pills to trade away, there's no positioning oneself as a mad bomber to be talked down. There's much less reward for being extreme.
posted by fatbird at 9:50 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


"What's gonna happen to the Arms industry, when we realise we're all one? HAHA! It's gonna fuck up the economy!"

-BHicks
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:50 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't the whole premise of this article that it's extremely unlikely such an election would be 50/50? Surely the nation isn't divided exactly in half on preference for apple or pecan. It's much more likely that 2/3 of people like apple or 22% like apple or 71% like pecan.

Right. But suppose that people don't just like apple pies or pecan pies, but they like some apple-pecan pie mixture. We start out with two bakeries, one that makes apple pies and one that makes pecan pies. But when the apple pie bakery is getting 2/3 of the market, the pecan pie bakery will start putting more apples in its pies, figuring that they can get some of those people in the middle.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:55 AM on November 7, 2012


Obama lost the house in 2010... Under a Westminster system

I suspect part of the problem in the US, apart from the divided powers, is that elections are so frequent and the campaigns so long. The winners don't have much time to get anything done, the losers have no reason to shut up for a while and let whoever got elected have their chance. Divisions are kept perpetually on the boil, and every point of difference maximized.

But I would guess culture plays a big part too.
posted by philipy at 9:57 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason there's such a wide divide is very simple - about half of Americans live in a fantasy world of beliefs completely unsupported by fact.

They believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and that he wasn't born in the United States. They believe that global climate change is the product of an international conspiracy of scientists. They believe that people choose to be gay (why anyone would make that choice is never explained).

I could go on and on, you all know the story.

There isn't ever going to be the possibility of a reconciliation between them and the rest of us. There isn't even a common basis for discussion. What's the point of discussing things with someone who believes that "just making things up" is better than researched facts and logic?

The irrational half either have to die out over time or individually each undergo a complete epiphany - which will only happen when reality pushes itself into their faces, and probably not even then.

It's bad news for the United States and the world that half the inhabitants of the most powerful country in history are deeply delusional and hostile to everyone else. This insanity will feature prominently in future histories of this time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:01 AM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


If political parties want opposed voters to 'live civilly with each other', maybe they should stop trying to intimidate their opponents' supporters out of voting. Just sayin.
posted by Kit W at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, this is just the article I was looking for. I was talking to my girlfriend last night about this - about how it seems very unlikely that there would be such an even split as we have seen for at least the last 4 elections (if I recall correctly). As is mentioned in the article, perhaps if both parties were very similar, trying to maximize their vote, it makes sense, but definitely not in this polarized way we have now.

Why shouldn't the conservatives be a rabbit group that hates the other side with, say, 45%, or 55%? How is it so nearly 50/50? The argument here is that the media, enjoying a controversy and seeking viewers, has driven it, but I'm not convinced. That seems a little too much like a conspiracy theory to me, and less like a mechanistic theory that could arise naturally.

Is there any psychological or statistical description of this phenomenon that anyone here knows? Do many other countries (or other periods of US history) see such even divides between disjointed political parties? Or do you think that media hypothesis really can explain it?
posted by Buckt at 10:05 AM on November 7, 2012


> Most people try to be decent (with their definition of decent) and think they are decent people.

This doesn't at all jibe with the mass hostility toward The Other and the endless warfare.

I think that a sizable minority of people try to be decent - but the rest, the majority, want to be able to pretend that they're decent and convince themselves and other people that they're decent - but without actually doing the decent thing.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:05 AM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


The reason there's such a wide divide is very simple - about half of Americans live in a fantasy world of beliefs completely unsupported by fact.

They believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and that he wasn't born in the United States.


12% of Americans continue to think Obama is a Muslim. 37% of those indicate that they plan on voting for him. "Dumb voters vote against what I support" is a really easy and comforting narrative, and I find myself falling back on it, but it's not really supportable.
posted by muddgirl at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


she wants her glbt family members and friends to have rights, but she has a kid, and she wants the country to not go down the financial drain. She decided that her child's right to a fiscally responsible country is more important than her glbt loved ones having rights...that she somehow construed the Romney campaign's incredibly vague and hand-wavey fiscal non-policy policies as something other than total vaporware.

It infuriates me that this narrative seems to have taken hold that the choice was between the economy and social rights. What evidence is there at all that Romney would have done anything for the economy? He had no plan!
posted by adamdschneider at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


The reason there's such a wide divide is very simple - about half of Americans live in a fantasy world of beliefs completely unsupported by fact.

They believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and that he wasn't born in the United States. They believe that global climate change is the product of an international conspiracy of scientists. They believe that people choose to be gay (why anyone would make that choice is never explained).


So, I'm assuming you're just trolling.
Because, if not, an attitude like this is why we get equal blocs of voters.
posted by madajb at 10:08 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was really sickened to hear that Obama played "How Ya Like Me Now" at his election night party - it made me want to take my vote back and give it to Jill Stein. We are never going to unite as a nation if we keep taunting and trash-talking and poking people.

Actually, if you really pay attention to the lyrics it is about a man in relationship admitting he hasn't been perfect, and in fact has been very bad, and is asking whether he is still loved and where he can go from there. It sort of implies the answer that he is still loved and is free to do as he wants without fear of affection being withdrawn but that isn't quite fully clear. Mostly it seems like a song about being on the relationship precipice where things can go either way. It isn't grovelling but it isn't triumphal either. Mostly to me it just feels human and pained to me.

Pretty much exactly the situation of a president seeking a second term.
posted by srboisvert at 10:09 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I called up one of my best friends...and I told him...I knew that he had good reasons for voting for Romney and that I valued his friendship.

Speaking as a Canadian, that's really, really weird, an indicator of tribalism too deep for me to fully comprehend. I have friends who vote conservative. I tend to vote socialist. I can't imagine feeling the need to say something like this to them. It wouldn't even be assumed that ballot box choices would not affect our friendship. It wouldn't enter our minds that it would need to be assumed.

I would be more likely to say "I can see that you're growing a mustache, and I suppose movember fundraising is is a reason for doing that. Because I value your friendship I'm not going to throw you out of my house."

What's really disturbing is that this is how the calm and level-headed Americans talk.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:10 AM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why shouldn't the conservatives be a rabbit group
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on November 7, 2012


Because change is made by exposure not by (no matter how hard we'd like to believe otherwise) rational discussion or debate.

On the one hand, I totally believe in this. I practice it in my own small ways by being out, and also I'm generally personable and friendly (in person, at least! I swear!) and I don't go being mean to someone in my office who I'm pretty sure voted for Prop 8 the last time around - we chat, we joke, we swap little stories about what we did over the weekend and so on. I know she likes me as a person. I have no idea if this has translated into me deserving rights.

On the other hand, I only ever see this plea aimed at progressives/liberals. It takes two to tango. I have hung out on some far-right/libertarian web spaces, and I have never seen one Tea Party type tell another Tea Party type that the most effective strategy for change is to keep their liberal friends and family close by listening, being kind, assuming the best, giving the benefit of the doubt, being persuasive, etc.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


I've heard that when you poll people on the actual positions, as opposed to parties, the split is not at all equal - the vast majority of Americans support more Democratic or left-wing policies.

I used to work in market research/political polling, and found this to be somewhat true. It especially amusing when people would articulate fairly moderate/ liberal positions down a line of questions, but when asked point blank would define themselves as conservative. VERY few people would outright say they were liberal.


Recall the thread a few weeks ago where almost everyone here came up agreeing with Jill Stein more than anyone else on policy. She came in at fourth place overall with about 0.3% of the popular vote -- but we may never know how much really because of states that kept her off the ballot and don't count write-ins.

Sigh.
posted by Foosnark at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2012


I suspect part of the problem in the US, apart from the divided powers, is that elections are so frequent and the campaigns so long. The winners don't have much time to get anything done, the losers have no reason to shut up for a while and let whoever got elected have their chance. Divisions are kept perpetually on the boil, and every point of difference maximized.

Yes, the short congressional terms are a major problem. I would make them 4 years in a flash. The constant campaigning that congresspeople have to do is insane. I'd also probably make Senate terms 8 years and cut the number of federal elections in half.

I would also ban political television ads. (Yeah, that's right, I don't believe in Free Speech(TM) but I don't have to because I'm Canadian). Television ads encourage a simplifying of positions and using emotions rather than argument. Also, they ramp up campaign spending.

In the UK, they get by perfectly well without political tv ads - they have airtime for all candidates and recently started airing televised debates, but the point is that no one needs tv ads. They can find out about the politicians from newpapers and the tv news, where actual points can be made.
posted by jb at 10:30 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I only ever see this plea aimed at progressives/liberals. It takes two to tango. I have hung out on some far-right/libertarian web spaces, and I have never seen one Tea Party type tell another Tea Party type that the most effective strategy for change is to keep their liberal friends and family close by listening, being kind, assuming the best, giving the benefit of the doubt, being persuasive, etc.

Guess it depends on where you are.

I live in a blue area of a blue state.
Most of the conservative folks I know are fairly adept at finding common ground, mainly because if they didn't, they'd find themselves with a rapidly shrinking friend circle.

But these are real-life interactions, where I've always found people to be more reasonable than online.
posted by madajb at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And as a white heterosexual male in the USA, you have the immense privilege required to back up that opinion; after all, no member of the opposing political party is working tirelessly to remove many of the rights for which you and others like you fought long and hard; furthermore, all those rights were yours by default. Many hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens are not so lucky.

Yeah this is wrong. Every American's rights and liberties are under attack regardless of creed, color, or sexual orientation. Its's called the NDAA FY 2012...google that shit. Kinda a derail so I won't belabor the point, but ...yeah.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Do not have a public inter-user spat in here, thank you.]
posted by cortex at 10:36 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I don't get all the hand wringing over this issue of "division" versus "unity". It is mostly manufactured drama to drive a media narrative.

For one thing, why shouldn't there be stark divisions? Over 300 million people live in the U.S. Are we to expect that they will all share the same ideas, values, and beliefs? Frankly it would be pretty damn creepy if they did. Like something out of a sci-fi novel where people's minds have been programmed by a central entity.

The U.S. is and always has been a place where cold fronts and warm fronts collide. Social and fiscal values clash along wide frontiers and spin off claps of thunder and bolts of lightning. To think this can or should be otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand this whole country, its origins, and its history.

It is this very friction that keeps this country vital and dynamic rather than fossilized and set in its ways. It is a sign of vigor that this is a place where people still mount passionate campaigns in service of their beliefs. I'm glad that the tea partiers are vocal and active. I'm glad that religious zealots can keep thumping their bibles. (I'm also glad they lost.) I'm glad that liberals can camp out outside Wall Street. I'm glad that fact checkers can call everyone on their bullshit. These things are NOT a sign of dysfunction like so many would have us believe. That this all still happens shows that our marketplace of ideas is a chaotic bustling bazaar and not an abandoned mall.

And we engage in this family fight largely without bloodshed. Go experience the daily life of a typical American city and what you'll find is people from all walks of life going about their daily business, interacting regularly, breaking bread across racial and class lines, without beheadings or assassinations or political imprisonment. That is the normal reality in this country, not a bunch of blowhards on a handful of TV stations yelling until their voices are hoarse to sell ad time.

This country is plenty "United". It's right there in the name. States are not seceding, common currencies are not falling apart (hello, EU). Don't be fooled by the media circus and the passionate debates. This is really not hatred (hello, Middle East) -- it is negotiation, and it is part of a long tradition that predates us all.

That said, thank heavens Romney lost.
posted by thebordella at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


madajb, I live in San Francisco, which is so blue that the political battles here are between progressive and liberals.
posted by rtha at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2012


It's pretty similar here in Seattle, rtha - we actually had one straight-up contest between a Democrat and a Socialist, with no Republican in sight, and the Socialist got 27% of the vote. Washington is not a blue state; Washington merely contains Seattle.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:46 AM on November 7, 2012


herda05: Articles like this annoy me with the obvious false equivalence. Homerica is dead on in his assessment. This article allows people to safely conclude the problem is "vitriol" on both sides.

The party I voted for yesterday isn't spewing racial and religous hatred or perpetuating gender and class warfare. Doing that is extreme. Saying the other guy is doing that IS NOT extreme, or vitriolic, or outside the mainstream.


I appreciate your point, from my distant point of view on the other side of the atlantic, the republicans seem to have more crazies.

But: it does seem to me that all the political debate in the US is emotionally amplified into 'OH MY GOD LOOK WHAT THE OTHER SIDE IS DOING NOW WTF!!!' - and I see both Dems and Reps doing that. Presumably, because the populace is so drained from all the adversarial politics that the only way to engage them is to perpetually persuade them that the other side is about to destroy everything good and great.

I don't see pros and cons of policies being rationally discussed (which, in the UK, for all our political theatre, we do somehow manage to do sometimes). I just see 'AARRGGHH THE OTHER SIDE IS NUTS YOU MUST DO SOMETHING NOW' from both sides, all the time.

Hence the 'uppingtheante' tag on this post.
posted by memebake at 10:47 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, are we going to be hearing this "not really a mandate" blah for the next 4 years now the election is done with?

I'd expect to hear the next few things ad nauseum now:

1. "not a mandate."
2. "Bush's support increased in his first term."
3. "less of a victory than Carter had."
4. "is anyone looking into these questions of voter fraud?"
5. "Mitt Romney wasn't conservative enough."
posted by Navelgazer at 10:49 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Presumably, because the populace is so drained from all the adversarial politics that the only way to engage them is to perpetually persuade them that the other side is about to destroy everything good and great.

Yeah, pretty much. I think it's also a serious problem that there is so much money to be made and such successful careers to be had as a political talking head whose job it is to pretty much just get on the teevee and wildly distort the facts from both sides solely for your own personal gain (ok, and for your network's gain).

clearly the answer is impartial robots.
posted by elizardbits at 10:52 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have heard every election year that the proof of how divided this country is is shown by the closeness of the vote. I think that's ridiculous.
I think it's still the median voter theorem. (but σ2 maybe got a little bigger)
posted by MtDewd at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


where is this "it's smart to isolate yourself from anyone who disagrees with you" meme coming from, because if i didn't know better, i'd say it looked like a pretty good means of ensuring that not only will peoples' ideas not spread, but also they'll form an echo chamber and start turning weird and unmainstreamable
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


and I have never seen one Tea Party type tell another Tea Party type that the most effective strategy for change is to keep their liberal friends and family close by listening, being kind, assuming the best, giving the benefit of the doubt, being persuasive, etc.
yeah let's use the fucking tea party as our metric for what works/is sane
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:07 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd expect to hear the next few things ad nauseum now:

Any of which are more palatable than "I am in the minority."
posted by Mooski at 11:08 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd expect to hear the next few things ad nauseum now:

Yeah probably. But "our side" would have been seen saying similar things ad nauseum if Romney had won. As in fact happened when Bush won.

And frankly it's not a lot different to what I hear about the outcomes of soccer competittions, where fans froth at the mouth about how evil the other team is, how the media are out to get us, how the referees are biased against us, yadda yadda yadda.

The dynamics that are going on here are not particularly rational.
posted by philipy at 11:12 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


And frankly it's not a lot different to what I hear about the outcomes of soccer competittions, where fans froth at the mouth about how evil the other team is, how the media are out to get us, how the referees are biased against us, yadda yadda yadda.

I feel like we should hold political elections to a higher standard than a professional sports game. Which is sort of a fundamental problem, actually.
posted by muddgirl at 11:19 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have better things to do than to reach out to people who truly believe I'm subhuman. I admire people who can handle that interaction with all my heart, but I'm too old and tired to cope with people who hate me and think I should be a second-class citizen when I'm not being paid to deal with it.
posted by winna at 11:25 AM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


PRECISELY. Why on earth would I ever feel it necessary to show the slightest amount of friendship or respect towards people who are knowingly and willingly giving their overt support to someone working towards a position of power, from which they plan to treat me as literally subhuman? Fuck that forever.

Because this is exactly, exactly, what the other side feels.

From the more conservative side, Democrats are knowingly and willingly giving their overt support to people working towards a position of power, who plan to make life harder for a group of people who overwhelmingly vote Republican.

Whichever of the two parties you vote for, you are voting to fuck someone. The choice of parties just determines who you are willing to fuck.

There is no moral high ground here.
posted by corb at 11:28 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whichever of the two parties you vote for, you are voting to fuck someone. The choice of parties just determines who you are willing to fuck.

There is no moral high ground here.


Yeah, I'm not willing to grant you even a little bit of that.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:34 AM on November 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


Yeah, as a progressive I'm having a hard time figuring out who my ideologies are going to 'fuck', but I'm probably biased. I would love some concrete examples.
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


From the more conservative side, Democrats are knowingly and willingly giving their overt support to people working towards a position of power, who plan to make life harder for a group of people who overwhelmingly vote Republican.

Yeah, okay, please show me on the Constitution where the bad mean Democrats tried to hurt you.
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on November 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


yeah let's use the fucking tea party as our metric for what works/is sane

That wasn't my point, and I apologize for making it so poorly.

My point, more clearly (I hope): I'm not holding the Tea Party up as a model of discourse, though you'd be hard pressed to deny that what they've been doing has actually worked pretty well in a lot of places (that it works is not the same thing as it being sane). I'm asking why this kind of "reach out, keep reaching out" rhetoric is generally only used by liberals/progressives at liberals/progressives, and what kind of actual effect does that technique have in the day-to-day connections that real people have when the people they're trying to reach are more engaged in "save traditional marriage keep your government out of my Medicare" rhetoric?

It is an undeniable good to try to keep connections alive and open, to keep conversation going, all that good stuff. It's also not something that should be required or expected only of liberal and progressive people. I would really love to see some prominent conservatives talk about the importance of this, and to get some real attention paid to them. That's not work we (progressives/liberals) can do for them; they have to want to do it themselves, and then do it. I don't see that happening now on the national level, although I know it happens more locally.
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on November 7, 2012


I'm a tie-cutter, and I take mild offense at this characterization. From my perspective, why do I want to be friends with someone who doesn't respect my bodily autonomy? Why do I want to be friends with someone who thinks my best friend shouldn't have the right to marry his partner, or that poor people should die rather than be able to afford medical care? That sounds like one pretty unpleasant person, and one that me and my social group would be happier without.

This is exactly what makes you a close-minded person (in this particular respect, not necessarily in general) - it's your assumption that just because somebody votes Republican, that he believes you shouldn't have autonomy over your body, or that gay marriage is wrong. Do you believe in every single position on the Democratic party platform? Of course not (if you do, I suggest reading up on the flocking instinct of sheep). Rather, you support them - despite their flaws - because there are a few significant policies that you feel passionate about. So why should Republicans be any different?

For example, my friend (who voted Republican) supports gay marriage and is a strong believer in feminism - but his driving goal, his cause celebre, is a hatred of government unions. If the Democrats were to stop supporting unions so fanatically, he would switch sides in a heartbeat - but as it stands, the union thing is a dealbreaker for him. I also loathe government unions, but for me, equal rights are more important (the Republican stand on abortion and gay rights is my "dealbreaker"), so I'm willing to hold my nose and vote for the Dems despite this. So even though our votes are in stark contrast to each other, me and my friend really agree on 95% of the issues - the only things we differ on are how important those respective issues are to us, and which ones are the dealbreakers.

If I were to construe my friend's Republican vote as him endorsing conservative principles, it would be every bit as misguided as if he were to take my Democrat vote as me endorsing government unions. You need to look beyond the vote itself and ask yourself what specific line items on the party platform the other person subscribes to - and conversely, which line items on the Democratic party platform are their "dealbreakers"). Otherwise you're simply "othering" them and refusing to engage with them as a human being - you're simply making them into a stereotype of their political party.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


There is no moral high ground here.

So...did you just stay home and not vote at all? Is that your high ground? Or did you try to figure out how to cause the least harm to the most people? Or what?
posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, are we going to be hearing this "not really a mandate" blah for the next 4 years now the election is done with?

You will be hearing that, but boy does it make no sense. To dominate the swing states like Obama did even amidst a still weak economy is a huge sign of confidence and support for the President. Anybody with half a brain could see the Obama win was obvious, but not so much this convincing a win.

I personally agree that the parties are not as far apart as people like to think on some issues. A few percentage points on taxes isn't the end of the world either way, but there are some issues where they are really apart.

I lean towards voting third party, but I do like the debate to focus on real areas of difference rather than the areas where the two party system might as well be a one party system.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:43 AM on November 7, 2012


Whichever of the two parties you vote for, you are voting to fuck someone. The choice of parties just determines who you are willing to fuck.

There is no moral high ground here.


I applaud your attempt to remain balanced and bipartisan here, but I'm sorry, there is an enormous difference between inflicting ideological injury against an historically privileged group and inflicting actual injury against an historically marginalized group.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 11:45 AM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


government unions

So just the National Federation of Federal Employees, then?
posted by elizardbits at 11:48 AM on November 7, 2012


For example, my friend (who voted Republican) supports gay marriage and is a strong believer in feminism - but his driving goal, his cause celebre, is a hatred of government unions.

That is a very strange definition of "support."
posted by griphus at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's kind of unseemly how my drool keeps getting all over me as I look forward to fucking over poor Republicans, but I guess that's just the drawback of voting to Fuck Them Over Hard.

god I hope I get to eat some of their babies.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:56 AM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


government unions

Hey everyone who is "opposed to unions": I will take you seriously when you start going after the police unions.
posted by dubold at 11:57 AM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


And are they today sitting in a hardened bunker, stroking a small cat and cackling softly?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:11 AM on November 7


That cat is huge. I mean, like, 20 pounds, which for a cat is humongous. He only seems small because the bunker is vast and cavernous.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:00 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate unions so much I am willing to sacrifice women's personhood just to fuck over unions

Take that, unions!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:05 PM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


If I were to construe my friend's Republican vote as him endorsing conservative principles...

But if he voted for Republicans, then that's exactly what he's done. It's all the same to the political party in question and the history books. There's no "tell us what niche interest has motivated this vote" box on the ballot.. you support a platform or you don't, and your friend's vote applies just as much to government control of my womb as it does to anti-union activity.

Essentially in the case of your friend he has chosen to prioritize his dislike of unions over supporting some basic human rights of his fellow Americans, and that is a quality that I personally am not interested in being around. If that's close-minded.. I'm pretty okay with that. (It's the old "well you're prejudiced against prejudiced people" argument!)
posted by jess at 12:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


So both parties are willfully aiming themselves at the 50/50 split with what they think is the slightest edge to themselves. Until more parties are added to the system, it will always be thus.

Not necessarily so. We have multiple parties in parliaments in Australia, at the state and federal level. But if you take all the "left" parties and add them up, and take all the "right" parties and add them up, you still get remarkably close to a 50/50 split on average.
posted by Jimbob at 12:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate unions so much I am willing to sacrifice women's personhood just to fuck over unions

Truly the greatest sacrifice a man can make!
posted by elizardbits at 12:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


madajb, I live in San Francisco, which is so blue that the political battles here are between progressive and liberals.

Yeah, we had some ads where the two candidates competed to show how much more progressive they were than the other candidate.
posted by madajb at 12:12 PM on November 7, 2012


Uhhhh... So what is the real reason for the apparently even split in the electorate? I didn't see any theories in TFA.

If I were to hazard a hypothesis, which paraphrases similar thoughts already espoused in the thread, I would say that in a two-party system where both parties have access to immense resources and know how to play the game in an extraordinarily sophisticated fashion, that a fairly even two-party split is likely to result. When one side makes gains, the other one can pull some more tricks to match them. Buy some more ads, or galvanize its base elsewhere, or whatever.

Again, I'm just hypothesizing, but this seems like the natural result of brinksmanship, rather than an indiction of a perfectly split electorate. An effect, not a cause...

I would love to see someone explore this idea in a more researched manner.
posted by hamandcheese at 12:15 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


So what is the real reason for the apparently even split in the electorate?

There is no real reason for it, because it's an accident of the campaigns working the electoral college. In a straight popular vote election, the outcome would almost certainly be very different because the campaigns would have been run differently. We really can't conclude anything meaningful about the apparently even split.
posted by fatbird at 12:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


elizardbits: "And as a white heterosexual male in the USA, you have the immense privilege required to back up that opinion"

Can we not do this, please?
posted by schmod at 12:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Essentially in the case of your friend he has chosen to prioritize his dislike of unions over supporting some basic human rights of his fellow Americans, and that is a quality that I personally am not interested in being around. If that's close-minded.. I'm pretty okay with that. (It's the old "well you're prejudiced against prejudiced people" argument!)

He's not prejudiced just because his priorities are different from yours. You're simply not looking at this in an empathetic way. Let me assist you with that.

To my friend, saying you support unions is like saying you support a Neo-Nazi group. That's how much he hates them (and with good reason). Now try putting yourself in his shoes. Imagine if I were a friend of yours and I came up to you and said "Hey Jess, would you like to support my political party? It's pretty cool - we believe in gay marriage, the right of women to control their own bodies, and the supremacy of the Aryan brotherhood." It would be pretty ridiculous to expect you to buy into that last line item simply because you support the other two things.

Now imagine that after you told me to get lost, and that you weren't interested in joining my crazy political party, I subsequently cut ties with you, and told all my friends how I couldn't respect you because you obviously didn't support gay marriage or feminism as much as I did. That would be pretty close-minded of me, right? Well, this is exactly what you're doing. Your argument above is the direct equivalent of if I were to go online in this scenario and say "Essentially Jess chosen to prioritize her dislike of Neo-Nazis over supporting some basic human rights of his fellow Americans, and that is a quality that I personally am not interested in being around. If that's close-minded.. I'm pretty okay with that." That would be hypocritical of me because if I really cared about gay rights and feminism as much as I claimed, the appropriate thing for me to do would be to win your support by eliminating the neo-nazi part of my platform - not expect you to overlook it simply to support the rest of my agenda.

This is a very close parallel to what you're doing. It's close-minded and intolerant of you because you are conflating my friend's hatred of one thing (a hatred which is completely reasonable and understandable) with a hatred of something completely different. It's also hypocritical of you to expect him to overlook one part of your agenda (unions) to prioritize the other parts (gay rights and feminism). If you really cared about gay rights and feminism, you wouldn't bundle it together with the union agenda - you'd cut the union agenda out of your party platform in order to acquire a broader base of support. The fact that you're unwilling to do so means that you clearly prioritize the union agenda at least as much as the other parts, and therefore you have no right to judge others for not being willing to overlook it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:45 PM on November 7, 2012


There will be no more parties added to the system so long as we have the current electoral structure, because additional parties can only function as spoilers.

While I'm sure there's some good reason why this is a bad idea, on the face of it I'm okay with this, if the third party served as a voting bloc that could form a coalition with one of the major parties.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2012


To my friend, saying you support unions is like saying you support a Neo-Nazi group.

But see, that doesn't make sense. If anything in this conversation is like Neo-Nazis, it is the group that is organized around removing civil rights from a class of people by restricting abortion (etc.) rights.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:51 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't think anyone who believes that labor unions are directly comparable to Neo-Nazis has a particularly firm grip on unions, Neo-Nazis, history or reality in general and therefore doesn't really have an opinion worth considering. He can certainly vote what he feels, but the idea that you can extrapolate a general concept of ethics from a person who can easily compare the two groups doesn't hold water.
posted by griphus at 12:55 PM on November 7, 2012 [23 favorites]


But see, that doesn't make sense. If anything in this conversation is like Neo-Nazis, it is the group that is organized around removing civil rights from a class of people by restricting abortion (etc.) rights.

This is an empathy exercise, not a simile exercise. I'm not asking you to understand why my friend feels so much anger towards unions - I'm simply trying to get you to see the world through his eyes and understand why your expectation of him "overlooking" the union agenda in order to support the other line items is unreasonable.

We could get into a discussion of the evils that unions inflict in order to make you see the reasons for it, but I suspect that would take far too much time and would be a massive derail.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:56 PM on November 7, 2012


Sure, I can imagine that if my entire framework was skewed and I believed totally wrong things, I would have a different opinion. You're so totally right. This is a dumb argument.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


wolfdreams01 chose particularly poorly with the "neo-nazi" angle, but the place of neo-nazis in the structure of his argument is just "extremely disagreeable thing". Just mentally insert a different extremely disagreeable thing in its place and reread it.
posted by Jpfed at 1:00 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, I am using neo-nazis as an example simply to emphasize the ridiculousness of your claim that my friend should "overlook" part of an agenda to support the rest. My point is simply that "overlooking" part of a party platform is dumb and illogical. "Overlooking" the fact that part of the Democratic party platform involves support of a highly corrupt and broken system is like "overlooking" that the Tea Party is racist simply because you like their ideas about less government.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:02 PM on November 7, 2012


I think the article sort of misses the point. A first-past-the-post voting system will naturally gravitate towards two parties that are evenly matched and more or less centrist. The only thing that is remotely surprising is the Republican Party's shift towards the right. As a progressive, I find their ideas abhorrent, but someone like my mom votes Republican for lower taxes and doesn't believe they actually could do something like outlaw abortion. I would posit that, for the average American, the Republicans do remain within some approximation of centrist.

The only thing left to explain is why each party would demonize the other based on caricatures of their most extreme elements. But that wouldn't make much of an article.
posted by snofoam at 1:12 PM on November 7, 2012


Little known-fact: comparing your opponent's position to Neo-Nazis can Neo-Godwin the argument.

More seriously: I would cut off contact with someone who supported a Neo-Nazi party, like the British Nationalist Party, even if that party supported other things I agreed with, because basic human rights come first and I can't imagine having a relationship with someone who held racist ideologies. But how does this support your argument that people shouldn't cut off contact over political issues? Because if your friend really feels the same way about government unions as I do about Neo-Nazi parties, he should probably cut off contact with you for voting Democratic.

No analogy will work, because different positions really do have different levels of importance. Civil and human rights issues, for example, might trump social and economic policy -- it doesn't matter if one party might promise good economic policies if those policies also come with gross human rights abuses. And everyone has their own line where they cannot maintain a social relationship with someone. For me, that's actually pretty far to the left: I don't willingly socialize with people who don't support welfare. I feel that a generous welfare system is a sina qua non of a civilized developed country. That doesn't mean that I would be rude to co-workers or family members who don't agree with me, but we can't be friends because our moral values are too far apart. Not as far apart as someone who was a Neo-Nazi, welfare supporting or not, but far apart enough.
posted by jb at 1:21 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Isn't the whole premise of this article that it's extremely unlikely such an election would be 50/50? Surely the nation isn't divided exactly in half on preference for apple or pecan.

The people who don't have a strong preference for either apple or pecan don't vote (only an estimated 60% of eligible voters did this time, as I understand it). The rest are split roughly down the middle, occasionally joined by some of those other people who don't have a strong preference to settle things when certain key issues come to the fore.

I don't think anyone who believes that labor unions are directly comparable to Neo-Nazis has a particularly firm grip on unions, Neo-Nazis, history or reality in general and therefore doesn't really have an opinion worth considering.

No kidding. The original quote is "first they came for the trade unionists, and I did nothing because I was not a trade unionist." Independent unions (as opposed to the state-run ones like they have in China) have always been among the first targets of fascist/totalitarian movements, whether nominally right-wing or left-wing in ideology.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:21 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: "Bread and circus ... just be sure to never, ever pay attention to the men behind the curtain."

Coup - The Guillotine
posted by symbioid at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2012


If you really cared about gay rights and feminism, you wouldn't bundle it together with the union agenda - you'd cut the union agenda out of your party platform in order to acquire a broader base of support. The fact that you're unwilling to do so means that you clearly prioritize the union agenda at least as much as the other parts, and therefore you have no right to judge others for not being willing to overlook it.

This is what coalitions are made for.

And it's why the Republicans have cut off their nose to spite their face in this election - they looked only to the most extreme edges, and demonized anyone who advocated a moderate position on certain issues. Like abortion. They've gone from a party of "States should decide, and there should be restrictions, but it should be legal and available" to one perceived as "Some girls are easy to rape and hey it's god's will and don't kill babies."

There was some pundit who remarked that Romney deserved to be taken seriously in part because he had done the tremendously difficult thing of getting elected as a Republican governor in MA. Except, you know, that's hardly a rare thing in MA. Or in most of the other New England states. New England Republicans have been chased out of the power centers of national Republican circles, because they don't tend to cater only to the fringiest fringe of their party. It's a shame.
posted by rtha at 1:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


corb: Whichever of the two parties you vote for, you are voting to fuck someone. The choice of parties just determines who you are willing to fuck.

muddgirl: Yeah, as a progressive I'm having a hard time figuring out who my ideologies are going to 'fuck', but I'm probably biased. I would love some concrete examples.

I think I know what corb is getting at here, so I'll have a go at that:

I believe it is possible for some people on the right to genuinely believe their way is better for everyone in the long run (rather than just being self-interested etc, which is the usual way the left views the right), and such a hypothetical honest good-intentioned right-winger would argue thus:

"The left wing aim of redistributing wealth to help people in need is well intentioned, and I would allow some of that for the most needy cases. In general though, such hand-outs engender dependency and yes, lets admit it, possibly lazyness and lack of motivation in some cases. Also redistribution by the state is always inefficient and clumsy and slow. Its better for most people to have to fend for themselves to a large degree (excepting some extreme cases) and a country of people standing up for themselves will be dynamic and productive. Redistribution if left unchecked would grow to cover more and more cases and dampen the whole economy and although it would hurt the rich first, it would eventually hurt everybody. Thus (in corb's wording) voting for the left eventually fucks everybody"

I don't agree with that position, but I do admit the possibility that some people honestly think like that, and that they honestly believe their way is for the ultimate good of everybody.
posted by memebake at 1:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Of course, the fact that the system gravitates towards two evenly-split parties doesn't preclude temporary aberrations from that. I could see a rift in the Republican party between centrist and super-right. I don't think it makes sense on the left, because I think most progressives want good governance and are therefore willing to be more pragmatic.

The tea party crazies hate government and I think they would be willing to split off under certain circumstances. Their success in getting some of their candidates in office might lead them to believe that they could somehow be successful on their own. The mainstream Republican party may also wake up to their chronic demographic issues and tack towards the center, further alienating the far right. There are plenty of politicians stupid and vain enough to lead such an endeavor, so the only thing they are missing is someone dumb enough to fund it.
posted by snofoam at 1:28 PM on November 7, 2012


But those same people also claim not to believe in evolutionary theory, while at the same time endorsing Social Darwinism (which is basically the idea you've just described)!
posted by saulgoodman at 1:28 PM on November 7, 2012


Neither of the candidates is going to represent my actual views very well. I just vote for the one who will mess things up the least.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:30 PM on November 7, 2012


That's pretty damned spot-on, memebake, and is damned near word for word what I would have said to a liberal in my twenties. I suppose I have more faith in educating conservatives than most because I once parroted those lines.

It is possible for minds to change; it just takes more patience than the average person has available to them.
posted by Mooski at 1:31 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I held socially conservative beliefs in my early 20s, too, to be honest. Life experiences were the only things that made me come around, so I don't know if screaming at each other will help, so I agree with some of the sentiments toward moderation in tone others have expressed up-thread. People can and do change their minds. But when we push each other too hard, we just tend to dig in deeper, facts be damned. At the same time, it's often very frustrating trying to deal with the team-sports and anti-science attitudes one often encounters in politics these days. And hell, when some of the ideas out there just seem so plain wrong and dangerous, it can be hard to exercise self-restraint. And at a certain point, we each just have to decide what's worth (figuratively) fighting for.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't agree with that position, but I do admit the possibility that some people honestly think like that, and that they honestly believe their way is for the ultimate good of everybody.

That's all well and good, but I think we should have just let corb speak for herself on this matter.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:41 PM on November 7, 2012


That's all well and good, but I think we should have just let corb speak for herself on this matter.

I have not prevented anyone from speaking.
posted by memebake at 1:47 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did I say you did? It would have been nice, however, to get an explanation without, shall we say, prior prompting.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2012


It would have been nice, however, to get an explanation without, shall we say, prior prompting.

Sorry, I didn't realise this was an exam. I thought we could all just chip in whenever we had something to say! Silly me. Ok, I shall withdraw ....
posted by memebake at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2012


I think I know what adamdschneider is getting at here. He is saying that as eloquent and on point your explanation was, it would be interesting to get corb's perspective on the matter since he was the one involved in that ongoing thread of conversation.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:00 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I know what adamdschneider is getting at here ...

Thats all well and good, but I think we should have let adamschneider speak for himself on this matter.

sorry, couldn't resist
posted by memebake at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


But those same people also claim not to believe in evolutionary theory, while at the same time endorsing Social Darwinism (which is basically the idea you've just described)!

No, it makes sense, because Social Darwinism has nothing to do with evolutionary theory.
posted by jb at 2:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thats all well and good, but I think we should have let adamschneider speak for himself on this matter.

xD Just to be clear, I didn't intend to criticize you membake, and I think your answer was plausible and eloquent, but...I do worry that conservatives will take nice-sounding explanations of their beliefs/behaviors and run with them when provided, rather than provide their own unscripted responses.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:21 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


But if he voted for Republicans, then that's exactly what he's done. It's all the same to the political party in question and the history books. There's no "tell us what niche interest has motivated this vote" box on the ballot..

It is not at all the same. America does not have a parliamentary system: you vote for a person, not a party. Endorsing a person doesn't mean you endorse all of their opinions, much less all of the opinions in their political party's platform, much less all of the opinions held by other people affiliated with the same party. It means that for that particular position, at that particular time, you think that particular person is going to do the least harm.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:34 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Americans Voted for a Democratic House, Gerrymandering and the Supreme Court Gave Them Speaker Boehner
Currently, Republicans enjoy a 233-192 advantage over Democrats, with 10 seats remaining undecided. That means that, in a year when Republicans earned less than half the popular vote, they will control a little under 54 percent of the House even if Democrats run the table on the undecided seats.

There is a simple explanation for how this happened: Republicans won several key state legislatures and governors’ mansions in the election cycle before redistricting, and they gerrymandered those states within an inch of their lives. President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points, but Democrats carried only 5 of the state’s 18 congressional seats:

Similar stories played out elsewhere. Obama won Virginia, and Democrats took 3 of 11 House seats. Obama appears very likely to win Florida, but Democrats will, at best, carry 10 of the state’s 27 districts.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:40 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I do worry that conservatives will take nice-sounding explanations of their beliefs/behaviors and run with them when provided, rather than provide their own unscripted responses.

OK ... but this is an open forum. There may well have been some potential self-foot-shooting on the way, who knows. And who doesn't enjoy a bit of that to re-inforce their world view. But the original comment was three hours ago and it didn't look like an answer was coming, and I thought I could make an interesting case there. In any case, I apologise for taking too much glee in snark.
posted by memebake at 2:46 PM on November 7, 2012


Actually, there is one simple circumstance in which the even split we see would not only be expected, but almost inevitable -- not that it says a good thing about us:

The even split is inevitable if all 100,000,000 voters pick their allegiences entirely at random.

The result of millions of random coin tosses would quickly converge on a completely even split. It would take a very decisive and consistent source of bias to budge it, and if you add in even a tiny feedback factor, such as some percentage feeling the process should be "fair" and each side should "get its turn," well you get what would look a lot like we have.
posted by localroger at 2:47 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gingrich in 94, Fox News, and AM radio caused this poisonous atmosphere. The left decides to start returning fire 14 years later, and now all the pundits wring their hands over the atmosphere in the country?
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:53 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a question with two parts, y'all. If you try to combine the two parts together and answer it as a whole you're gonna end up sounding all muddled.

The first question is, Why do the votes tend to split evenly? That one's simple. Our political system is winner-take-all, so both parties shift policies to match the majority of voters. But since neither of them wins if they both say the same thing, they try to find the stance that'll win them 50% of the vote while remaining utterly polarized from their opponent. The American electorate is a system, and a 50-50 split is the optimal strategy within that system.

Say we were to switch to instant run-off voting. Suddenly the 50-50 split would no longer be sensible, since you could afford to run in lockstep with your opponent as long as you differ on certain key subjects. Maximizing the distance between your views and your opponents would no longer be necessary.

The second question is, Well, why are those two positions so opposite one another? And the short answer, again, is that it's a way to optimize the system. Make the choice as clear as possible – Kenyan Communist versus Sociopathic Robot – and make sure 51% of Americans want your choice and fear the other. BUT! There's another factor at play here, and this one's way important.

And that factor is our televised media. Politicians don't speak directly to citizens – they speak, media reports, and citizens decide. Used to be politics happened in newspapers. Then on the radio. Then on TV – and there's a difference between TV and radios/newspapers. It's sensational. That audio/visual combo is dynamite, and since the start of TV we've seen technology that makes the visuals more lush and the sounds more engrossing.

Entertainment, like politics, is a system just begging to be optimized. So TV became more and more sensational, and we became more and more addicted. And then politicians discovered a loophole in their system: TV sensationalism was so fast-paced that there was barely any room for contemplation or consideration in it. The more sensational TV became, the less truth had to matter.

You see this evolve along with TV from the very start, but without a doubt Fox News helped catalyze this process. Roger Ailes brilliantly built a network that paired concepts like "trust" or "balanced reporting" with attractive-yet-folksy newscasters and excellent graphic design. Watch Fox News on a high-definition TV and a good sound system. It's a trip and a half: so well-produced you've got to believe it, no matter what it's saying. And this strategy worked.

Fox became so huge, so quickly, that all its competitors scrambled to catch up. News programs based on soundbites and immaculately-designed "authority". Political reporting based on brand rather than ideas. And whether or not Murdoch aimed to push a conservative agenda or just saw a right-wing market waiting to be exploited, Republicans understood what was happening way before Democrats did. Karl Rove is a genius at attack ads that are wrong in ways too complex to debunk quickly and convincingly. Suddenly a political worldview that was absurdly outdated became mainstream again, because news outlets didn't know how to call it bullshit within the constraints of its "fair and balanced" sensational structure.

They still don't. Witness the Romney/Obama debates – hell, witness the whole Romney campaign. If CNN knew how to tell its viewers when a politician was lying, Romney wouldn't have ever had a chance. They know Romney's full of shit. But the rules of the new media game prevent them from seeming too "partisan", or from making the narrative anything other than a neck-and-neck race between two legitimate viewpoints.

Unfortunately for the right, Democrats have figured out how this system works. Obama had it in 2008; a whooole lot of Democratic candidates had it worked out in 2012. They've figured out how to attack their opponents through soundbites, and now the Republican strategy is backfiring: their response to "my opponent is full of shit" is too long to convey in 30 seconds. That's the problem with a strategy based on outright lying: once the other guy's too smart to grant you legitimacy, it's hard to grasp it yourself when you're illegitimate.

(Again, witness the Romney/Obama debates. Obama treats Romney with respect in round one: media flips the fuck out and casts Romney as strong, because up till then nobody respected Mitt Romney. In rounds two and three Obama taunted and mocked and toyed with Romney and the polls shot straight down again.)

There're other elements at play that give the Democrats an advantage – shifting demographics, reality actually-being-on-their-side – but the crux of the issue is that they now understand how TV is played. And I'm dying to know what the Republicans try to do next, because their old strategy simply doesn't work against opponents who know the game. They'll never have the 51% again unless they change their tactics – but what do they change them to?

A new medium is coming into play, and the Internet plays by a whole other set of rules. So far, however, it seems the Dems understand how it works far better than the Reps. Democratic grassroots efforts seem to be far more effective than the Republican ones. Even the Tea Party only enjoyed a two-year window before it was ousted last night. Over the next four years we'll see the Republicans rush to find a new solution, only now they can't rely on media blitzes or sensationalism to carry the day. The Internet is at once fractured and longform: you can't buy people's attention, and you can't bombard them into thoughtlessness. Not for the majority, anyway.

And incidentally, I don't think this was ever an issue with capitalism specifically. It's an issue with systems. Unless your power structure is too complex to be manipulated (ha!), people will figure out the rules, and then their opponents will, and then you've learned how to play the game. The only solutions are systemic reform (slow and painful, as we've seen), or outright decentralization, which just isn't going to happen. Interconnectivity is too appealing.

(Now that this has all been said, watch Jill Stein's "killer ad" and ask yourself how Stein possibly hoped to fit her candidacy into the media system. Like rhetoric or hate it, it's been a part of politics since Aristotle, and it's a key part of understanding the electorate you wish to lead. You can't be a politician without it, and the only way that'll change is if we figure out how to do away with human beings entirely. The art of communication is the only way anybody can connect with tens of millions of people at a time.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:59 PM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


localroger: I like the random concept, but that would lead to close ties in every region.
posted by memebake at 2:59 PM on November 7, 2012


memebake, yeah the flaw is that you'd expect close to even ties even in relatively small towns, though the idea does suggest in general that smaller samples will be able to outlie further. It could be a factor though that a lot of people simply don't think much about it and allow themselves to be influenced by essentially random pressures, but those pressures may be random at a level much larger than the individual voter, such as churches, clubs, and circles of associates.
posted by localroger at 3:08 PM on November 7, 2012


Further to what Rory said, this piece in the Atlantic about how Fox havent done the Republicans any favours in this election (but have helped their own ratings) is pretty good.
posted by memebake at 3:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the article, memebake! Truly great analysis.

It reminds me of how freaked out some of my friends got over certain conservative-approved Romney moments, like the Eastwood speech or some stupid thing Romney said in the second debate. They were freaking out like, "My conservative friends don't think that was completely idiotic!" And I was like, "Don't worry, everybody else does." And they were like, "But the media's reporting how conservatives don't think that thing was totally stupid!" And I was like, "But everybody else who actually saw that thing happen is gonna come to a different conclusion."

Kind of like Obama's "Please continue, governor." There's such a thing as bad publicity when you're aiming for more than just publicity.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Say we were to switch to instant run-off voting. Suddenly the 50-50 split would no longer be sensible, since you could afford to run in lockstep with your opponent as long as you differ on certain key subjects. Maximizing the distance between your views and your opponents would no longer be necessary.

Do you see this as a property unique to IRV, or is it just "systems other than FPTP"?

I should note that I've seen a fair number of people voice interest/enthusiasm for IRV, and I don't know whether it's because it has a combination of advantages (specifically over other not-FPTP methods) that lots of people like, or just because it's what other people talk about when they talk about an alternative to FPTP.
posted by Jpfed at 3:26 PM on November 7, 2012


I used IRV because I know very little about voting mechanisms and that's the only one I ever remember.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:28 PM on November 7, 2012


I used IRV because I know very little about voting mechanisms and that's the only one I ever remember.

I'm a little afraid of this specific phenomenon. Let's say we get to push through some voting reform... but we choose a bad method. That might sour people on the whole idea of voting reform and "go back to what worked".

It seems like IRV has a lot of mindshare, and I worry that it's favored because things that get attention get more attention.

Rather than flog the specific horse that I do whenever alternative voting systems are mentioned, I should just encourage people to read up on alternatives before specifically promoting any of them. If/when voting reform happens, we really want to get it right.
posted by Jpfed at 3:35 PM on November 7, 2012


The U.S. is and always has been a place where cold fronts and warm fronts collide. Social and fiscal values clash along wide frontiers and spin off claps of thunder and bolts of lightning. To think this can or should be otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand this whole country, its origins, and its history.

It is this very friction that keeps this country vital and dynamic rather than fossilized and set in its ways. It is a sign of vigor that this is a place where people still mount passionate campaigns in service of their beliefs.


Beautifully said, thatbordello, every word of that comment. That's a big part of why I live here despite having a perfectly functional other citizenship and family and friends elsewhere.

It's exasperating as hell to be around, sometimes, and I do get cranky from time to time; but on balance, at least for now, it's invigorating.
posted by tangerine at 3:42 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Roger Ailes brilliantly built a network that paired concepts like "trust" or "balanced reporting" with attractive-yet-folksy newscasters and excellent graphic design.

Are we talking about the same Fox News? I watched a fair amount of it last night, and the thing that jumped out at me was just how *lousy* the graphic design was. Ugly, cluttered, and confusing.

And I don't ever need to see Karl Rove in HD ever again.
posted by asterix at 4:30 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


where is this "it's smart to isolate yourself from anyone who disagrees with you" meme coming from,

I don't know anyone who thinks it's 'smart'. I know a lot of people, including myself, who think it is easier, and makes them happier.
posted by jacalata at 4:58 PM on November 7, 2012


Looking back historically (and not even considering the effects of recessions on incumbents), we see that Obama's margins were similar to or better than those held by W Bush (both), Clinton (both), Carter, Nixon (1), JFK, and Truman.

The more decisive victories were won by HW Bush, Reagan (both), Nixon (2), LBJ, and Eisenhower (both).


I'm not sure where your numbers come from. Wikipedia has a different set here. The mean margin of victory since 1948 is 8.82% with a median of 7.50%. Obama's 2012 victory margin of 2.30% is more than 4 other presidents: Carter in 1976, Nixon in 1986, Kennedy in 1960, and Gore in 2000. But it's less than the 12 others since 1948.

Interstingly, the other period in our history that featured close elections was the post Civil War period from 1876-1900.
posted by euphorb at 5:11 PM on November 7, 2012


Yeah, as a progressive I'm having a hard time figuring out who my ideologies are going to 'fuck', but I'm probably biased. I would love some concrete examples.

I can't speak for your personal ideologies, but the U.S. military has been "fucking" people for quite some time now. I don't think I need to provide any details as I'm sure you can use google as well as anyone else. Now there is room for reasonable people to disagree about partisan politics, but one can't sit here and poast like you have no idea what is going on in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Jordan, Lybia, and Central Asia. There are plenty of people our collective American ideology is "fucking".

I applaud your attempt to remain balanced and bipartisan here, but I'm sorry, there is an enormous difference between inflicting ideological injury against an historically privileged group and inflicting actual injury against an historically marginalized group.

I would argue that Africans are historically (and currently) among some of the most marginalized peoples on the planet. Now whoever won the election last night was always going continue to "inflict actual injury" against them. In fact in most cases our military's methods are more lethal. I mean you did watch the final presidential debate right? the bipartisan one where both candidates agreed on virtually every issue related to our prosecution of drone and proxy warfare. Not to mention the rollback of our civil liberties, freedoms, and the due process of law.

Now all this being said I don't believe anyone here in this thread actually supports any of these positions. Notice it is specifically because of the two party "dictatorship" that the elite in this country are able to continue to get away with murder, so to speak, when it comes to matter of war and peace and civil liberties. It is specifically because every election is framed as an apocalyptic event that if lost will mean the worst possible outcome for the country. This polarizes the electorate and creates a political, economic, and militaristic system that is a totalizing ideology which inhabits every part of our daily life from our work, worship, play, rest, consumer habits, friendships, and beliefs. This is not a recipe for long term survival. That is both as a nation and as a species.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:12 PM on November 7, 2012


We could get into a discussion of the evils that unions inflict in order to make you see the reasons for it, but I suspect that would take far too much time and would be a massive derail.

And after that I would like to discuss the evils of unicorns in such a way as to compell you to agree with my foregone conclusion based on my own personal ideology that unicorns are a threat to humankind and must be abolished.
posted by jnnla at 5:20 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can't speak for your personal ideologies, but the U.S. military has been "fucking" people for quite some time now.

I thought my comment was clearly in response to corb's suggestion that Democratic ideologies will fuck over people that vote Republican. Of course the US military has been fucking people for quite some time now. It is pretty rare for those people to vote in US elections (which is presumably one reason we don't seem to mind fucking them over).
posted by muddgirl at 5:44 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "There're other elements at play that give the Democrats an advantage – shifting demographics, reality actually-being-on-their-side – but the crux of the issue is that they now understand how TV is played. And I'm dying to know what the Republicans try to do next, because their old strategy simply doesn't work against opponents who know the game. They'll never have the 51% again unless they change their tactics – but what do they change them to?"

Good question. The Republican strategy in the Bush years was to use social wedge issues (and the later War On Terror) to bring in interest groups like evangelicals who didn't ordinarily vote. That was negated when Obama brought in his own additional demographics, so they switched to a "blow up the world and blame the President for everything" strategy, which has now also failed. So where can they go from here?

It seems like they're trapped within an ideology that's grown more and more narrow, and less internally self-consistent. But on the plus side they still have the loyalty of people who self identify as conservative. The obvious, rational strategy is to move somewhat towards the center, but the current stratum of leaders and opinion makers at the top of their party have invested too much political capital in being hard-right extremist types, so I can't see this happening anytime soon. It might take a Republican meltdown and generational change at the top before they can change course.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:52 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There will be no more parties added to the system so long as we have the current electoral structure, because additional parties can only function as spoilers. A successful third party would have to aim for the same fine balance as the two existing ones, and it's hard to imagine a three-way balance remaining stable: one of the parties would gain a temporary edge, and the other two would somehow join forces to counterbalance it.

No, the problem is that nobody cares about third parties until a campaign starts. Then some nut (sorry) scrambles their little hearts out and gets on the ballots, and they are spent.

Nobody wants to do the hard work of baby kissing and running for assistant dog catcher that is necessary to build a political reputation such that people would vote for someone.
posted by gjc at 7:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This makes perfect sense to me. Liberals within the Democratic party would love to move their party further to the left (like with a single-payer health care system, for instance), but restrain themselves from it because doing so would make them lose support from the center and become unelectable nationally. Similarly, the Republican party has plenty of hard-liners that would like nothing more than to scrap the separation of church and state and all but eliminate what they call "entitlement" programs, but doing so would make them unelectable nationally.
So both parties are willfully aiming themselves at the 50/50 split with what they think is the slightest edge to themselves. Until more parties are added to the system, it will always be thus.


If you imagine the opinions of the general public on a left to right scale, and the number of people who hold those opinions, the curve probably looks pretty much bell shaped. So if a party moves its platform one "notch" to the outside, they gain almost no votes, but lose tons of them.
posted by gjc at 7:12 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I said about this article over on a MeFite's facebook: "This article does miss the fact that the partisan lean of the GOP congressional delegation is significantly further from the median than the Democratic one, to the extent that the median GOP congressmember is further to the right than the median GOP voter. It's tempting to fall into the trap of false equivalency, but a big part of why Romney failed was that he ran significantly to the right of what his actual record was in order to secure the primary nomination. There's also the demographic reality of a shrinking GOP base, which tends to leave only the true believers — who are more extreme than the moderates who are lost. It also misses the historical legacy of racism that still animates a lot of Republican strategy — because of the over-reliance on the former segregationalist South, the GOP has been unable to embrace more common-sense reforms on social spending and immigration, which are unpalatable to the base.

That leads to a pretty unfair characterization of a lot of moderate GOP-leaning folks as bigots, and it's something that George Romney predicted and inveighed against, most notably regarding Goldwater's Southern Strategy.

I don't tend to think that fraud and abuse of social services is a real, significant problem, rather most of the waste that I'm aware of in social spending comes from tedious over-regulation in response to that perception of waste.

Finally, while I tend to think that the Dems have better general solutions to most of the problems facing America, I'd like to make clear that I absolutely desire a robust, competent and competitive Republican party — I think that many of the basic orientations that underpin conservatism are valuable in themselves, and more pragmatically, I think that there's a real danger of corruption and lassitude that comes with entrenched Democratic machine politics, something that a functional Republican party can be extremely effective at combatting. I've voted Republican before, I'll likely vote Republican again, but the current ideological makeup of the party means that there's a serious incentive for me to not vote for otherwise acceptable or even desirable GOP candidates because I know that the coalition that undergirds them requires too many concessions away from reality and toward a reactionary fantasy that is simply unpalatable.
posted by klangklangston at 7:44 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Freedom of choice
Is what you got
Freedom from choice
Is what you want
posted by brevator at 7:44 PM on November 7, 2012


No, the problem is that nobody cares about third parties until a campaign starts.

No, that's not the problem at all. I've watched a country undergo electoral reform to solve exactly the two-party problem the USA is suffering, and it is absolutely all about the system. The moment you put in a system that will allow more than two parties, you will immediately get more than two parties (and reduce the power of the existing two parties) at the very next election.
posted by anonymisc at 8:12 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


And after that I would like to discuss the evils of unicorns in such a way as to compell you to agree with my foregone conclusion based on my own personal ideology that unicorns are a threat to humankind and must be abolished.

I think you may be putting too much weight on my clumsy turn of phrase, but for what it's worth I agree with you - I've mistrusted unicorns for quite some time now. Of course, being the liberal place that it is, I'm sure some naive MeFites are undoubtedly going to push the pro-unicorn agenda. ;-)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


jb: "I've heard good arguments that the US system has checks and balances that are too strong. "

The 2010-2012 House of Representatives is a rather strong counter-argument.
posted by schmod at 9:51 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Freedom of choice
Is what you got
Freedom from choice
Is what you want


I love Devo and all but their brand of cynicism sometimes conceals rather than reveals the truth of a situation.

It's easy to sneer at Americans for their inability to seemingly think rationally about the world, but rational thought is really goddamn hard when you have an untrustworthy media, perhaps an untrustworthy culture (look at the open "why I stopped being pro-life" thread next door), and when you're too busy doing/worrying about a dozen other things to stop and consider "the big picture".

Yeah, maybe a lot of people DO want "freedom from choice". Is that because they're too lazy to want the stress of deciding even a single thing? Or is it that they're already way, way, way too stressed, frequently about things that don't really matter but which they're stuck stressing about nonetheless?
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've watched a country undergo electoral reform to solve exactly the two-party problem the USA is suffering, and it is absolutely all about the system. The moment you put in a system that will allow more than two parties, you will immediately get more than two parties (and reduce the power of the existing two parties) at the very next election.

Which country was it?
posted by ersatz at 5:03 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought my comment was clearly in response to corb's suggestion that Democratic ideologies will fuck over people that vote Republican.

Yes I know. I thought it was pretty clear in my response that either position is a red herring as it is in the collective american ideology that exists specifically because of the two parties that our military is enabled to "fuck over people", i.e. kill them dead.

I just don't get the position that people voted for Obama because he is for women's rights, gay rights, ect. when he is very obviously not for rights at all. How do you reconcile him being pro freedom and pro liberty for any class of people when he has literally stripped every American of any civil liberty and right if he decides that is pertinent. He has codified in the U.S. code powers that make the office of the president a dictatorship. This is an indisputable fact.

Honestly I don't know what the solution is. But I do know what the solution is not. Voting for the same two parties who have bipartisanally stripped us of our rights and freedoms. Only about half the country votes and they are the ones who are polarized. Maybe the answer is in trying to start a movement that first identifies the demographics of the people who don't vote. Second try and mobilize that 50% of the population against the partisans who keep voting in these monsters. You wouldn't even need to get all 50% as it seems there are plenty of people who do vote that would gladly vote for a third option if that option was viable.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:53 AM on November 8, 2012


Hey everyone who is "opposed to unions": I will take you seriously when you start going after the police unions.

I'm against public unions, and I've gotta say that Police are right up there at the top of the list. Public police unions help make a police state.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:57 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Police unions seem to purely exist to make police culture as shitty as possible.
posted by Artw at 8:00 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, it should be made clear that not everyone who is against public unions is against unions per se. I think unions are just another type of corporation that vends some type of good or service, in this case: labor for the production of other goods or services. Private unions should not be treated specially from any other private corporation.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:04 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Police culture hasn't gone to pot because of the unions, it's gone to pot because of the shitty pay and long hours that come with municipalities not having enough money to pay them. There are exceptions to this rule, but they generally prove the rule, because the well-paid cops tend to be on highway patrol or in up-scale suburban precincts that don't have the same kind of problems that inner-city cops have to deal with on a daily basis. Pay cops more, and suddenly you can put in policies to get rid of the bad ones instead of keeping them around because they're the only ones who will put their lives on the line for meager pay.

At this point, police unions are just trying to hold on to what they have left, which in many cases is a generous pension plan that they took in exchange for less pay. A race to the bottom on paying cops is not going to end well.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Xoebe: The pejorative characterization is extreme. The nominal difference in ideology is marked. The practical difference in policy is negligible.
Gay rights
versus
NO gays allowed.

Abortion choice rights

versus
NO abortions allowed.

The wealthy must still pay a comparable portion of their income as taxes
versus
The wealthy are the one who actually create our economy, and so they must be troubled as little as possible; the middle class and lower class should shoulder more economic burden, instead.

Nope, can't see anything negligible about those policies. Maybe if you're a straight-leaning bisexual who once had an abortion but now kinda regrets it and makes well over the median income but not enough to be considered a millionaire...
posted by IAmBroom at 8:34 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The 2010-2012 House of Representatives is a rather strong counter-argument.
posted by schmod at 12:51 AM on November 8 [1 favorite +] [!]


Or an example of how utterly frozen the American legislative system can become. Obama would have been able to pass healthcare reform in a Westminster system -- heck, Clinton would have been able to pass universal healthcare.
posted by jb at 8:40 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Michael Roberts: True dat, schmod. Obama was leading handily until the media narrative about the first debate was that he "just didn't seem to care"...
I'm not sure I agree about which is cause and which is effect. Can you show that the populace reacted to the media narrative, instead of the media narrative being a reaction to the populace opinions?

I'm a firm Obama supporter, and I was certain Romney won that debate before it was over. The media analysis had nothing to do with that decision, not even unconsciously, since I wasn't exposed to that until later.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 AM on November 8, 2012


IAmBroom, surely what you are quoting there is the 'pejorative characterisations' of what the Reps represent, rather than the actual policy? And isn't that the point Xoebe was trying to make? Like, I'm all for gay marriage and Republicans definitely aren't, but thats slightly different to 'NO gays allowed' as you put it.
posted by memebake at 9:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rhaomi: There was a point last night where Romney was 335 ballots ahead out of nearly 100 million votes. I know it was just a temporary thing as more results rolled in, but it was still pretty mindblowing.
I understand why that seems mindblowing, but understand that, as long as Romney was ahead at some point and then fell behind, that point was going to happen. The only unusual feature of that point was that the random occurrence of individual poll entries happened to fall there during the interval samples... but that particular split was guaranteed to happen /sometime/.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


it would be interesting to get corb's perspective on the matter since he was the one involved in that ongoing thread of conversation.

Corb is female.
posted by KathrynT at 9:12 AM on November 8, 2012


Regarding the 50-50 split phenomenon, the "Median Voter Theorem", from what I've observed over the decades in the US and UK, is one part of the picture but political parties aren't nearly as rational nor as focused on winning as it would suggest.

It's a recurring phenomenon that *sometimes* the parties are quite close in their positions, but then their activists get very agitated about how they're not getting what they want, how the leadership is betraying the true principles, what's the point of even being in power if all you do is a slightly better version of what the other side did etc etc. They'll maybe put up with it for a while, but then for one reason or another - economic crisis, charisma deficit, voter fatigue or whatever - at some point their side will lose, and maybe quite badly.

At that point, you don't hear the "We must move closer to center to get re-elected" argument much. Far from it, if the party is one on the left you'll hear a much louder chorus of people arguing that they lost because they weren't left-wing enough. If it's conservative, there'll be cries that they lost because they weren't conservative enough.

Far from trying to move back to the center, parties will usually swing more extreme for a while. And by a a while here, we can mean a decade or more. They'll go through several leaders and several elections thinking the voters are really with them, and if they just get the right leaders and communicate in the right way, they'll win.

It takes a few beatings before enough people in the party are willing to face the reality that the voters really aren't going to buy what they want to sell, and (perhaps grudgingly) go for more centrist leaders and policies.

And then for a time, the Median Value Theorem may appear to apply again for a while. You'll even at this point see things like Party X pledging that they'll stick to Party Y's budget for the next two years.

Another aspect of this is that often when one party is swinging further to the extreme, contrary to what the Median Voter line of reasoning would suggest, the opposing party won't move in to the center ground to pick up all the voters that are up for grabs there. Instead they'll take the opportunity to become more extreme themselves.

So the kind of systemic forces envisaged by the Median Voter Theorem in reality seem to work in a much looser way, constraining how far apart the parties can drift, and for how long they can stay that far apart, rather than guaranteeing a perpetual and exact 50-50 split.

All of which is why four years ago, I wasn't expecting a Republican comeback for quite a while. I don't know if this latest defeat will be sobering enough to get them tracking back towards the center, but it might be the start of it.
posted by philipy at 9:42 AM on November 8, 2012


muddgirl: It's not supported by the electoral college numbers, but the popular vote was 50-48, which I think qualifies as "near-equal," though I can see room for disagreement with that.

Out of about 11 million voters. Gallup estimates that in 2004 only 55-60% of eligible voters actually vote. I don't think that we can assume that non-voter demographics match voter demographics.
Then there must be polls available that poll people without regard to whether they vote or not, and show a marked difference from the voters-only polls that occur at the same time.

Personally, I'd be willing to believe that 55-60% of the populace, chosen only by their willingness to bother to vote, would be a fairly good sampling of the total population's sentiment... but I'd be willing to be persuaded by data.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:11 AM on November 8, 2012


Artw: So, are we going to be hearing this "not really a mandate" blah for the next 4 years now the election is done with?
Well, I hope not... because that's patently obvious. A basketball game won 51-48 would not be held up as conclusive proof that one team utterly dominated the other.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:22 AM on November 8, 2012


"Then there must be polls available that poll people without regard to whether they vote or not, and show a marked difference from the voters-only polls that occur at the same time."

Not really; there's utility in figuring out the attitudes of voters. No one really cares about the non-voters.

"Personally, I'd be willing to believe that 55-60% of the populace, chosen only by their willingness to bother to vote, would be a fairly good sampling of the total population's sentiment... but I'd be willing to be persuaded by data."

Non-voters and occasional voters are disproportionately poor and minority, and tend to vote Dem when they do vote (which is why the GOP runs suppression tactics, because they know that making it harder for everyone to vote means that proportionally more of their voters turn out).

"Well, I hope not... because that's patently obvious. A basketball game won 51-48 would not be held up as conclusive proof that one team utterly dominated the other."

Right, and for that analogy to work, you'd have to posit a basketball game where scoring the most points wasn't as important as scoring the right points — the closest would be that you could totally say that a 51-48 game was a domination if it was three third-string players against the whole 11 man team on the other side. (But that should just highlight how that's a dumb analogy.)

Since the point wasn't to win the most popular votes, but rather to win the electoral college, arguing that the drubbing that Obama gave Romney doesn't count because of some correlated but not causal connection is a non sequitor. If there was no electoral college, Obama still would have trounced Romney, likely by much more, because he'd have focused on turning out the vote in Atlanta rather than Cleveland.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Pathetic Failure of Green Party Candidate Jill Stein
posted by homunculus at 11:05 AM on November 8, 2012


Democrat-Boycotting Libertarian Eric Dondero on Whether He Would Let a Democrat Drown
posted by homunculus at 12:28 PM on November 8, 2012


Well, I hope not... because that's patently obvious. A basketball game won 51-48 would not be held up as conclusive proof that one team utterly dominated the other.

No, it would be held up as conclusive proof that we should stop letting the Big Ten play basketball.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


At least Eric Dondero is willing to give Elton John a pass. (Phew!) He might be in for a disappointment with the Beatles, though.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:43 PM on November 8, 2012


"Pathetic Failure" is taking it a bit far. None of the third parties get votes, and the Greens have the additional weight of so many liberals blaming them for Bush even though more Democrats switched to Bush than to Nader and Gore ran a terrible campaign. My protest vote went to Johnson.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:45 PM on November 8, 2012


Ole Miss Students Are None Too Pleased About Our Black President

Ole Miss Students to Racist Peers: ‘We Are One’
posted by homunculus at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least Eric Dondero is willing to give Elton John a pass.

I love the idea of someone being like "THOSE FILTHY FUCKING LEFTISTS! THEY'RE THE REASON THIS COUNTRY'S GOING TO SHIT!" and then putting on Oingo Boingo's "Wild Sex In The Working Class" to calm themselves down.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:28 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I hope not... because that's patently obvious. A basketball game won 51-48 would not be held up as conclusive proof that one team utterly dominated the other.

A closer analogy might be to football - the Dems got only a small percentage more total yardage than the GOP, but they scored all the touchdowns.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Republicans are the Eagles? Dominate total yardage but as soon as you are about to score points in the red zone, make a boneheaded mistake and Obama takes it for a pick six.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe I live in a bubble, but I just have such a hard time accepting that Dondero is for real.
posted by desjardins at 6:03 PM on November 8, 2012


Furthering my argument that the electorate wasn't "sharply divided," Nate Silver has constructed a chart that very clearly shows that the margins in each state basically form a continuous spectrum. The article's about something else, but note that there's no sharp D/R break to be found. No discontinuity.

Mathematically, it's quite beautiful.
posted by schmod at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is a counterpoint though: If you look at the states Romney won, NC is the first one with a 2.2% margin. The next one is Georgia with 8.0%. So Obama would need 2 points to carry another state and 8 to carry two. In contrast, if Romney's support were 2 points higher he would have carried two states (FL and OH) and if it were 8 points he would have carried 10 states (FL, OH, VA, CO, PA, IA, NH, NV, WI and MN). MO, MT and IN seem to have gone way more sharply for the Republicans this time.

In 2004 +8% would win Kerry 7 (almost 8) states and 9 states for W. Part of it is that Obama is playing ball in formerly red states, but there's a significant 6-point gap between NC and the next redder state whereas most blue states would be competitive with incremental gains.
posted by ersatz at 6:55 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a great chart, schmod. Thanks.

One of the other things it shows is that the Democrats have a lot more "safe" electoral votes than Republicans. Republicans have about 120 EV (in 15 states) that were 15% or more for Romney. Democrats have about 167 EV (in 13 states) that were 15% or more for Obama.
posted by straight at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here Is The Sad Tale Of Some Jerk Messing Up Nice Michigan Couple’s Clever Lynched-Obama-Chair Yard Art
posted by homunculus at 2:46 PM on November 9, 2012


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