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Why Politics Are Failing People

Damon Linker over at The Week has an article entitled Why Obama Still Drives Republicans Nuts which pretty much articulates why politics are failing so many people today. First he indicates what politics used to be.

The politics of democracy is a contest to win the greatest number of votes — a plurality; or even better, a bare majority; and best of all, an overwhelming majority. This aim is what drove politics in this country through most of the 20th century. In the primaries, candidates sought out the sweet spot within their own parties, whether through winning support from party insiders — or, with the reforms that began after 1968, through winning the votes of party members in state primary and caucus elections. But in the general election, the two sides competed to find the center of public opinion in the country as a whole.

Each party’s presidential ticket did this by making a pitch for the whole: This is how I see America. This is what I think of our ideals, our history, our actions in the past and present, and our destiny moving forward into the future. The candidate who got the most people to endorse his comprehensive vision of the nation would win the presidency, with the victor usually earning a majority of the popular vote, and sometimes an overwhelming majority, as happened in 1964, 1972, and 1984.

And then he articulates what politics has become.

But as the GOP vote share in national elections has declined (since 1988, the Republican nominee has won a majority of the popular vote in a presidential contest only once, in 2004, and then with just 50.7 percent), the party has moved away from trying to win the presidency by receiving the most votes in favor of trying to generate incredibly intense support among its own party members, dividing the opposition, and prevailing through a counter-majoritarian outcome in the Electoral College. George W. Bush experimented with this approach in his re-election bid, but it is Trump who deployed it to greatest effect in 2016, and who has governed that way since taking office.

It’s the politics of populism that provides the rationale and playbook here. Populism differs from democratic majoritarianism in treating only some of the people — one’s own supporters — as the real people. Those who vote for the Republican are the true Americans. Those who oppose the Republican are false or fake Americans.

In effect, there is little interest in trying to understand the needs and perspective of those different from you. “It’s our way or the highway.” “You’re either with us or against us.”

But one “side” isn’t to “blame” for this. Politics as a whole has regressed to this level.

If I could alter future elections, I’d love it for political debates to be centred around the ability of candidates to be able to clearly articulate the needs of the opposing parties. And the better they could do this, the more they would show their leadership capabilities overall.

I think it would radically change politics.

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