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February 09, 2016


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Medievalist with zero training in political science says:

I wonder if the Loud Lefty wing of the Democratic Party could eventually have a role that the NDP and Lib Dems have for the Canada and the UK, namely to be a left flank that keeps the party of Grown-Up Technocrats from getting dragged to far to the right. So you may have a vocal left wing to the party, but in the end, it's still going to be dominated by the Grown-Up Technocrats. Maybe?

I'm not seeing the homogeneity. What seems to be happening is the rebirth of an active left wing of the Democratic Party, one disdainful of technocratic solutions, which we haven't seen since maybe the 1940s. It's flexing its muscles. That's caused anxiety among many centrist and technocratic Democrats, but in reality, it's merely the party regaining the left tail of its distribution after generations in the wilderness.

Remember, as late as the 1990s, mainstream Democratic candidates had to ritually disavow policies from that ideological wing. Now there's a place for them. That's an increase in ideas on the table, rather than a decrease.

This has been another episode of what Carlos said.

It's also interesting that the mildest flexing of slightly lefty policies raises to this level of concern.

I also think it's a mistake to characterize this as the Democratic Party imitating the GOP, rather than going where the votes are within its own coalition; the bottom fell out of the South and Appalachia. If it's being replaced by blacks, Hispanics, and urban whites with birth control, it's going to turn to the left from the DLC. If it were going faster and damaging viable Democratic Party members, we could talk about similarity, but it's not yet.

And even in its fully polarized form, it will look different than the polarized GOP.

"Mild" is in the eye of the beholder, sir.

One piece of evidence in favor of Carlos's hypothesis is that even very liberal Democratic voters do in fact seem to favor compromise. That's a structural difference from Republican conservatives.

The problem with that evidence, however, is that such preferences can switch.

If the parties are highly polarized and unable to compromise then policies will be imposed in one of two ways:
1) The governing party will impose its policies on the whole nation with no buy-in from the other side.
2) Absent a governing party compromise will occur due to emergencies and will be messy and tend towards instability or short-termism.

I suppose that could turn out well but I doubt it. I think it's better when parties are messy coalitions than mostly well-catechized members of the same political creed.

Fair, regarding "mild."

The Democratic Coalition as a whole starts from the premise that government can and will help make your life better; this leads to compromise as tactic to achieve that end. This is especially true as the Democratic pipeline tends to preference "professional politicians" for the most part, people who've served in the State House/State Senate, then US House Rep, etc. OR Governor=> etc.

The GOP has "government is the problem," and contempt for people who do jobs in government, with ideological litmus tests. In addition, a strong plurality of the GOP House had no prior government experience, and I'm fairly certainly that number has gone up sharply during the Obama Presidency.

The Democratic Preference may switch, despite it having structural presence in the party membership and policy preferences.

The first is the Boehner problem, where the relatively moderate GOP Leadership can't bring along the radical GOP Caucus, which, in combination with no earmarks, damages the fundamentals of the chamber and increases the odds of friction, and then, radicalization.

The second is the Balloon Juice "Tire Rims & Anthrax" problem, where as the GOP continues to accelerate towards the furthest right end of the spectrum, when asked to compromise, they offer tire rims and anthrax, not because they're negotiating in bad faith, but because their party has sorted and purified out the relevant skills needed to govern. This has already popped up in the Cruz shutdown of '13, and the attempt to shut down DHS over immigration.

Not sure what the break points are, given the current relative heterodoxy of the D coalition.

"Given the structure of the American constitution, I am torn."

If we were in a more parliamentary system, would you have similar concerns about ideologically consistent parties?

Or is it not the Constitutional structure of separate houses and executive branch that concerns you, but the FPTP approach?

Just curious if you think other countries are worse off for their ideologically coherent parties, or you think there are ways to do it right but America doesn't have the right system. Because it seems like you'd actually have sympathies toward centrist/moderate politicians in any system.

I will say this, it seems that it would be easier to have ideological closure in a party with similar world views, economic experiences, shared culture, etc. among its voters.

The Republican Party is clearly closer to that than the Democratic Party.

A party with a robust mix of college educated professionals, lower income workers, urban residents, a middling of rural voters, suburbanites, with a variety of religions and races seems like it has some structural challenges to closure.

Logan: click Failure Modes of the United States. There are a number of discussions of my constitutional concerns there.

Short version: consider how politics work in a parliamentary system. It still has failure modes, but such systems have a far higher tolerance for ideological parties.

You're likely incorrect, however, about my preference for centrism as a general ideological position. Absent political considerations, for example, I would be quite surprised if you were actually to my left on most concrete economic policies.

I didn't mean to suggest you yourself favor centrism as an individual matter. I was trying to say that I believe you value a public that has room for centrists and their like as valid participants.

Would I be correct in saying that you believe you govern with the Constitution you have, and since we have a Presidential system that isn't going to change, we need to be acutely aware of its potential failures?

I wonder if this could be made into an argument to elites that they need to focus more on NOT polarizing the Democrats into a left-wing GOP.

Alternatively, the need to make an argument to elites that we need to move beyond the Constitution. The feasibility of that ...

On your first paragraph: sorry, I misunderstood! Yes, that's it precisely.

Second: that's exactly my position.

Your third paragraph is one of the few genuinely new ideas that I've heard in a long time. Tell me more.

You have a constellation of groups like No Labels, Concord Coalition, PPI, Third Way, etc. that play some role in working with moderate Democrats. But frankly I don't think they have an overall theory of change. They tend to assume that they'll get an assortment of moderate Democrats in Congress somehow and they'll just work with them when they get there. The most they do is just wait for open seats and primaries and flood their money behind the candidates that fit their views. I don't see them really doing much in the way of organizing a theory of how to keep the Democratic Party as a center-left party.

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