What if all the smart people are in one party?

Ross Douthat thinks through liberaltarianism and the new spatial equilibrium has him worried:

What could happen, instead, is a bigger-tent liberalism – somewhat
chastened, perhaps, by some big-government failures in the Obama era –
that makes libertarian intellectuals feel welcome, engages them in
conversations about smarter regulations and more efficient tax policy,
and generally woos them away from their culturally-dissonant alliance
with people who attend megachurches and Sarah Palin rallies. This would
make for a smarter left-of-center in the short run, but I think in the
long run it would be pernicious. It would further the Democratic
Party's transformation into a closed circle of brainy meritocrats, and
push the Republican Party in a yet more anti-intellectual direction.
And it would produce an elite consensus more impervious to structural
critiques, and a right-wing populism more incapable of providing them.
The Democratic Party would hold power more often, and become more
sclerotic as a result; the GOP would take office less often, and behave
more recklessly on those rare occasions when it did manage to seize the
reins of state.

Put aside your views on the R, D, and L people and think in terms of an abstract argument.  There is an optimal distribution of smart people across political parties and it need not be all in the same party.  For one thing, the marginal product of a smart person in a stupid party might be very high.  For another, being in power all the time may corrupt the thinking processes of smart people and we want to have some smart people insulated from this corruption.

So should a smart person attempt to move the world toward an optimal distribution of smart people across parties?  Or should a smart person join the party he or she most wishes to belong to?  Should a smart person advise others according to the same standard she uses to regulate herself?  In general does the world "cluster" smart people too much or too little?

You'll notice that many of these questions apply to fun parties and not just political parties. 

The excellent Arnold Kling adds insightful comment.


There is an optimal distribution of smart people across political parties

You lost me.

All the smart people in one party?

No reason to worry about that...

Tyler, political parties ARE fun parties

In my experience, "fun parties" are usually fun in inverse relation to the proportion of smart people present.

Smart people, especially those specializing in abstract and narrow disciplines, tend to live in their heads more than average, and have less need for sensory stimuli to dispel boredom. Or to put it more pithily, gregarious bookworms are rare.

There are a few smart people in the Republican party. They have no influence whatsoever. This is partly because of how heavily they are outnumbered, and partly because the bulk of the Republican base isn't that interested in smart arguments. Frankly, neither is the bulk of the Democratic base, but anti-intellectualism isn't actually a core Democratic principle, as it seems to be for the GOP, so it is more of a problem for the Republicans.

As has been observed many times,the party that wants to do things with government is more likely to attract people who are interested in policy. The odd thing is that Republican defense policies tend to be stupid too. I think it is capture by the defense industry, but I'm not sure.

If one political tradition finds itself bereft of new ideas then it will gradually fade away over time: such is the nature of political progress.

If one political ideology finds itself winning consistently it will gradually fracture into two distinct ideologies.

The arguments of the future will be less to do with the issues of religion and morality and more to do with the extent of the influence of the state.

Isn't 'right-populist' a complete contradiction? Settle on the meaning of words already! A better term for what he's referring to would be religious/authoritarian. An ideology being popular doesn't make it populist.

I'd be happy to see a split between the fiscal conservative/libertarian (i.e. "smart") branch of the right and the social conservative/religious/authoritarian (i.e. "retarded") branch. But I don't see the former joining the democrats. A three-party solution would be nice, hopefully marginalizing the latter branch as much as possible, but the two party dynamic might be too entrenched.

AM I reading this wrong, or is Douthat suggesting that if libertarians move to the democrats, the democrats are sure to win elections, mostly because of the awesome smarts of libertarians, or otherwise their sheer voting numbers? Both suggestions seem a bit strong...

The marginal product of a smart person in a stupid party could also be very low, since if they are viewed as "too intellectual" their ideas and suggestions may be ignored in favor of whatever the current groupthink is.

It may be beneficial to work towards optimizing the amount of smart people per party in the long term for stability purposes (assuming stability is a good thing) but by doing so, one would be damping out the natural oscillations of public discourse. I do not think a steady-state political system is in anyone's best interest, as then nobody gets anything done (unless there is significant good-faith bipartisanship, which has recently proven to be a difficult thing to achieve.)

However, if the political system is in a natural, uncontrolled, dynamic state each party has a chance in power to enact their reforms, and future changes of sentiment will ideally be based on the efficacy of those reforms. So, depending on the period of oscillations between the two parties (assuming a 2 party system), subsequent elections will be referendums on each party's philosophy and the bias of those legislative accomplishments that are seen as positive or negative by the most people will eventually cause sentiment to trend one way or the other. In this fashion, the best pieces of legislation will have a long lifespan before repeal by their opponents (if ever), and the worst pieces will have a short lifespan.

"Smart People" will be the ones that notice when one party has gone too far one way or the other, and will, at those times, switch sides as necessary to attempt to push the group in a better direction.

Now, if you bring corruption and consensus into the picture, as Douthat has done, these natural cycles are even more necessary and are even more natural. If, say, one party achieves power, makes some good arguments, draws all the smart people in, and a few years/terms down the road is seen to have become too tainted, then the opposition party will be given a chance to run the show and the first party will have a chance to reexamine itself, its principles, and the state of the group/nation. If the party now in power has a poor ideology and fails to make a positive impression, then in the meantime the out-of-power party has had a chance to digest the rejection of its ideas and to formulate an improved version. Now, the people see that the old party has reinvigorated itself, the new party is undesirable, and in the next election we are left with a cleaner, smarter, wiser party that is again ready to start the cycle over.

Back in the real world, I am not afraid of the democratic party stagnating under a coalition started by Obama. I am sure it will happen, just like it did with New Deal democrats in the second half of the 20th century, but that is thirty years down the road. Right now, the demonstrated efficacy of this administration and a repeated mantra of "we will do what is shown to work" provides a large incentive for smart people of every stripe to make their argument and work with the administration in good faith, as their ideas are much more likely to get implemented than if they are merely a part of the opposition.

Douthat's argument, in and of itself, makes sense. However, I would posit that in such a situation you might see a splitting of the democratic coalition down the lines between the Progressives and Blue Dogs. Either the BDs would defect to the republican party and take it over outright, or they would form their own party and assimilate republican constituencies into themselves. Neither of these things would necessarily be bad, and would altogether be far preferable to propping up a failed party, much in the same way one shouldn't prop up a failed company.

Either way, I think he simplifies the system too much in an attempt to stroke his own hurt republican ego under the guise of rational analysis. Take this quote:

"Here I'm starting from the premise that American politics has been fitfully sorting itself into a meritocracy-versus-populism dynamic, with one party (the Democrats) dominated by the mass upper class and the other party (the GOP) representing the middle and working-class voters who resent this newish elite, for good reasons and for bad."

The idea that the GOP is all for the people and that the Democrats are just liberal elites is a terrible characterization that is not in any way supported by polling, legislative records, or anything other than the right-wing echo chamber.

The only insightful part of Kling's article I could find was this statement:
"The way I see it, the libertarian's task is to try to restrain the power-hungry elites in both parties. That is quite a challenge."

However, this is also one of his statements:
"I see elite Democrats as exploiting "the poor" in order to pursue their own drive for power. People who genuinely care about the poor work with the poor and give their own money to the poor. Liberals mostly just pose about caring for the poor and take money from others (including many who are not well off) to burnish that pose."

Yes, much of the congressional democratic leadership is just as corrupt and reprehensible as the republicans, but conflating those people with "Liberals" in general is an unfair characterization. In fact, these types of statements are indicative of exactly the kind of rigid thinking that has caused the recent backlash.

These "smart" people aren't going to be at the table shaping policy with this mindset. Quite frankly I'm glad.

PS Sorry for the wall of text.

Tyler, you've got it all wrong. Smart people _don't_ become members of political parties; smart people _stay far, far away_ from party politics. The moment you enter a political party you stop being smart, and the longer you stay active in party politics, the more stupid you get.

closed circle of brainy meritocrats

Nobody has pointed out yet that this is an oxymoron. Circles of brainy meritocrats are, by definition, open to anyone with the brains and the merit to get into them. Intellectuals are prone to a certain amount of anti-anti-intellectualism, but to refer to this as "closed circles" is inane. Intellectuals *want* to (as they see it) raise everyone else to their level, which is the precise opposite of conservative oligarchs.

In general, though, I think Ross is describing events that happened somewhere around the time of the Reagan Administration (except for the DP holding power more often, I don't really know where Ross got that in a country with such a massive anti-intellectual tradition).

Tom James: The arguments of the future will be less to do with the issues of religion and morality and more to do with the extent of the influence of the state.

I would predict exactly the opposite. The current crisis has brought the Norquist School to the brink of complete oblivion, but the success of Prop 8 and the arguments about creationism and abortion and Terri Schiavo prove that government-mediated religious interference in private life is unfortunately far from dead as a phenomenon or as an issue.

Tom Jones nails it.

We once had an equilibrium in which one party had all the smart people... it was the Whig party. It fractured prior to the Civil War, with Republicans picking up the smart northerners and Democrats picking up the smart southerners.

Sure hope we don't have a repeat of that!

Cluster the smart people together or cluster the dumb people together, the end result is groupthink.

I would call Rumsfeld or McNamera a number of things, but dumb is not one of them. More than intelligence is needed.

The desire to think of oneself as a "smart person" is a powerful force. For some people, it determines their political affiliation -- they join the crowd that gives the best support to the notion they are smart. I know lots and lots of Democrats for whom this is a crucial factor, but I can't think of any Republicans who act on that basis.

Libertarians without exception think they are among the smart people. None more so than the Randians.

I wonder whether the libertarian desire to have their status as smart people validated is a force in the whole liberaltarian business. It certainly squares with my experience.

At one point, you turned to me and said, "Ken, you used to work for Volcker at the Fed. Tell me, is he really smart?" I responded something to the effect of "Well, he was arguably the greatest Federal Reserve Chairman of the twentieth century" To which you replied, "But is he smart like us?" I wasn't sure how to take it, since you were looking across at Carl, not me, when you said it.

An Open Letter to Joseph Stiglitz from Ken Rogoff.

There ought to be a law against having that much fun. Maybe the Smart People's Party will pass one.

Ever since the beginning of the Progressive movement Democrats have considered theirs as the party of the smart people. If you wanted to be thought smart, you simply had to be a progressive. To be anything else ruled you out of the society of the intellectually superior. Lots of people swallowed progressivism on this basis.

The result has been a disaster for the country. Do we want to encourage this way of thinking?

'Yes we can' is really a euphemism for 'Follow me, don't think'. 'I can do it' is the road to real freedom. Which one do you suppose 'smart' people follow?

Here's a two-word reality check:

Joe Biden.

Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer and naval officer. Intellect is nice, but not sufficient.

It's hard to believe a British article would grant any American as being intelligent. Yet, here we are. The real truth? Most are stout Libertarians. :)

Jesus was/is top-of-the-heap smart, but eschewed politics and political association.

He he he... Aesthete, I was waiting for someone to say that. You came out faster than I'd thought, though. Unless you work for the NSA, may I ask why you have to monitor them as opposed to cutting them loose?

You have not read Foucault.

what if all the smart people decided not to comment to this post?

So you think Mankiw, Greenspan, Bernake, Friedmann, Becker, Simon,Sacalia, Renquists, Kissinger, Rice are (or were) not smart.
And you really thinks intellectuals are smart people?Intellectuals have been sold to tyrants since 500 b.c.. Socrates was in love with Alcibiades. Voltaire called Frederick ,the Illustrated Despot. In the XX century they went in herds to Moscow. Sartre worshiped Castro in 1977

They should do whatever they feel like. It's about freedom. Some may flatter themselves able to change the direction of parties and some may not. Some may flatter themselves into thinking they know best and some may know better. Some may flatter themselves more competent and some may have reservations.

As far as libertarians go, there aren't enough of them to matter so it doesn't.


Have you read Diana Mutz's excellent Hearing the Other Side? Among other things, it empirically backs up the following claim: political engagement and activism are directly proportional to being an ideologue. Well, okay, that's an oversimplification, and she doesn't use the term 'ideologue'.

Seems to be a glitch in the system. That last post, supposedly from Kent Guida
to himself, was from me, Barkley Rosser.

I hate to inform those who think they are so 'smart', but speaking as a person from the religious right who tests off the charts in the IQ tests, the thoughts of groups and beliefs and the so-called intelligence are an equiprportional distribution. If you have any questions, look at idiots like crack whores (liberal as you can get) and shyster TV evangelists (allegedly conservative as you can get)- now contrast that with Obama (liberal) and Jindal (religious conservative). I rest my case- there is no danger of the proposed paradigm in the terms outlined.

I think you mean "kind of smart" people, or "smarter than average". The truly smart stay home.

Yes, what is smart? That is the question. In the country of the stupid the one brained man who says a word is crazy. Somebody mentioned a "smart" computer person who was all upset about Y2K. It was Yourdon, father of structured analysis who headed for the hills to avoid the collapse of technological civilization. He could see the magnitude of the potential problem. On the other hand, I've been designing programs since 1982 and not one of my programs had a problem with Y2K or had to be "fixed". I planned for it in the first place and designed them properly. The first trouble my programs will get into is a display problem when the clock turns over on Dec 31,9999. In 1985 I designed a simulation I called "Back Hole" which was the model of a triggering event for the economic black hole we now find ourselves in. In the mid 1990s I was sitting in a hotub, sort of like Archimedes at his Eureka! moment only more social, and told everybody there, maybe 8 people, that Clinton would not be recognized or remembered for his greatest feat as president, dodging the bullet of a worldwide economic collapse of the type we are currently undergoing. What I said then was just wait for the next republican president, Clinton just delayed it.

A truely intelligent person is just plain insufferable. They have the disgusting habit of always being right, except on the rare occasion when they are not, and then it's a doozy. A lot of pseudo smart people thought they understood the financial instruments they created and what it meant for risk. Obviously not! The handwriting has been on the wall since the beginning of voodoo economics. It was just a matter of time. Stevenson was right, all the smart people in one party couldn't win an election. Social Security was based on false premises to begin with, intentionally so since all the actuaries had to know better. They couldn't all be as dumb as politicians who believed the ridiculous premises. If the truth had been told about it's true cost, Roosevelt could never have gotten it passed. One needs a majority. And if the majority is just barely dumb enough, the majority can be wrong 100% of the time. Shear dumb luck rarely works out well by saving the day like in the movies. People get hurt or killed. Things go wrong and blow up. World economies collapse and human extinction level climate change can possibly get triggered more easily than any majority would believe until it's way way too late.


Any Party I'm in or at IS the Smart Party! ;)

If income and formal education count as proxy for "smartness" then the average Republican is "smarter" than the average Democrat. According to many surveys, Democrats tend to get most support from those who are categorized as "high-school dropouts". CNN 2004 exit poll data show a slight positive correlation between education and GOP preference: Kerry leads among "No High School", Bush leads 52% to 46% among "College Graduate". And an NES survey shows that 35% of male Republicans have a 4-year college diploma, but only 22% of male Democrats, and similar results for women.

Data also show that there is a strong correlation between income and GOP preference: Kerry leads Bush 63% to 36% among those with income under 15.000 dollars, while Bush leads Kerry 63% to 35% among those with income above 200.000 dollars. This year, McCain outperformed among above-median earners in all 50 states. There are tons of data in Andrew Gelman's new book "Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State". It's a bit counterintuitive: Though Democrats tend to do well in rich, educated states, and Republicans tend to do well in poorer states, it's also true that rich, well educated inividuals tend to vote Republican.

PS: More precisely, there appears to be a U-shaped relation: Democrats do well among those without high-school degree, poorly among those with college diploma, but well again among those with postgraduate degree. That's probably because among postgraduate degrees Democratic leaning fields such as teaching, humanities, liberal arts and law are heavily overrepresented, while fields that tend to be more Republican such as business, economics, mathematics, natural sciences, computer science, engineering are underrepresented. Here are some statistics on postgraduate degrees: 17.5 million adults in the US have postgraduate degrees: 3.8 million are in education, 2.1 million in humanities and liberal arts, and 1.3 million in law - that amounts to 7.2 million degrees in heavily Democratic fields. There are 2.5 million postgraduate degrees in business and 3 million in mathematics, natural sciences, computer science and engineering - that amounts to only 5.5 million degrees in Republican leaning fields. (There are 4.8 million degrees in other fields.)

So even though there are a lot of further subtleties, it is still a good first order approximation to say that there is a positive correlation between political preference for the GOP on the one hand and income, education and return on investment in education on the other hand.

Dammit, why can't we have the leftists in power during a security crisis and the right in power in economic crises?

The Dems are dumb about what we really need them to be smart about right now.


Ls seem especially prone to believing that "intellect" is all that matters. Ironically, that strikes me as a really dumb idea!

always remember this 35% of people will vote Dem, 35% of people will vote Rep every time (almost) they made a choice long ago. so it is these 30% who can not decide what party they are that decide our elections. wishy washy bunch they are. and they run the country nice huh...

backtosleep: "Since when does someone's religious convictions/choices based on faith (or lack thereof) indicate intelligence? ... Since when does someone's personally chosen views on abortion, from whatever environmental influences they have experienced throughout their lives, indicate intelligence?"

Supposedly "smart" people who dismiss their fellow humans so easily because of religious convictions or abortion views are, IMO, pretty dumb.

"smart" people
where ?
i think they have left us here.
and look at what we have done.

I find it funny that the entire piece was written by someone so politically nearsighted (full of the usual stereotypes) that it says little that has not already been written. The author's biggest problem is his self assigned place. He apparently worries that soon, only other "high intellectuals" like himself will populate his precious party. Seems to me he is saying that if the proles are herded elsewhere, he will be alone with so few smart people that (gasp!) regular people could outvote them. OMG! The horror!!!

Must we bicker on the degree to which the state should control everything? Doesn't anyone ask the forbidden question anymore? Why should a public policy be the be-all and end-all of our existence? We politicize everything, and then use political parties to determine the degree of state control after the fact. No one questions whether a particular measure should be in the purview of government at all. And so we see articles like this one, pitting political parties against each other, confounding the confusion with speculation about the impact of "smart people" on a Statist culture.

Hey! How about we stop passing so many laws?

That was directed at John Dewey, btw. There weren't multiple pages when I started typing. multiple pages.

Oh, I figured that my remark that the gang of tax cut enforcers in the
GOP are like Stalinist commissars would raise a hackle somewhere. Sure
enough, the person who boiled over in an explosive apoplexy was the
reliably overheated "Superheater."

So, S-H, first of all I did not say the Dems were all wonderful and
that they do not have party lines or hypocrisy. My current worry is one
you did not mention (some of the things you mentioned seem pretty silly,
frankly), namely the protectionist "buy American" provision in the fiscal
stimulus, which Obama opposed to his credit, as do most pro-Dem economists,
although not enough to get it out of the package. That one could still
blow up in our faces big time, and make all the other stuff you mentioned
look like nothing, that of it that even is anything to start with.

Second, of course you completely failed to address the actual issue, the
fact that indeed the tax cut enforcers are a bunch of irresponsible
commissar types. Mankiw had to distort his views on tax cuts as CEA
Chair under Bush to the point that his professional rep was severely
damaged, given how it contradicted what is in his textbooks. Somehow
Bernanke managed to avoid saying anything obviously stupid in that job
about taxes (or anything else noticeable), although maybe Bush realized
that he better not pressure him as he needed to appoint him as Fed Chair.

As it is, Grover Norquist goes around the
country extracting "no tax pledges" out of every Republican office holder
he can get his hands on, and if they don't sign on, or worse yet, violate
the promise, they get primary opponents run against them. And, while
Arlen Specter voted for a fiscal stimulus opposed by most GOPsters in the
Congress, there was no tax increase in it.

So, I shall stick with what I said, and I see even Judd Gregg repeating
this patent nonsense about "tax cuts pay for themselves." This sort of
party line hackery into unreality is why while there are plenty of smart
and educated Republicans, they have to keep their mouths shut because the
party has been taken over by drooling lunatics, at least on that issue,
which was the only one I addressed.

Oh, and given all your prophecies of doom for what the Dems might do,
were you around in 1993, and if so, were you one of the fools who joined
in with Gingrich and the party hack line crowd that forecast recession as
a result of the Clinton tax increases?

Another one, globally this time. Someone cross-referenced a religion survey with an IQ survey & found that national mean IQ generally correlates inversely w/ belief that religion is "very important".

Joe the Plumber... a guy who was afeared (sic) his taxes were gonna go up 'cause he was gonna plunk down 250k on a company... has he ever heard of adjusted gross income? deductions? The 40k a year Joe (according to divorce court records) became the darling of the far right along with the very attractive, near moron Sarah the Palin. If the far right is going to idolize people like this.... and they attain power, ie as in George the W, this country is in for a very fast decline. And George the W has given us a running start.
Give me a smart Clinton or Obama any day... until the far right is excluded from Republican policy making, it will remain the party of the non-thinking.... and yes, they will be back. god help us all

Who cares?

b-psycho: "Someone cross-referenced a religion survey with an IQ survey & found that national mean IQ generally correlates inversely w/ belief that religion is "very important"."

Well, in the first place, this entire thread has been about political parties, smart people and religion in the United States. So I naturally assumed that you were referring to the U.S. population when you stated:

"the more educated you are the more likely you are to reject organized religion"

I have little knowledge:
- of the religious practices of the global population;
- of the accuracy of relative measures of intelligence across the various nations; and
- of the accuracy in interpreting any survey which must have been publ;ished in dozens of languages across the 40 or so nations it claims to represent.

You can make any claim about this global study you wish. I won't argue with you about it.

But I will argue that Americans of all education levels continue to accept religion.

The University of California, Berkeley reports that over the past decade this survey question:

" What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?"

revealed that 82% of Americans with graduate degrees listed some religious preference. That's not a very different percentage from the 86% of the general population of America that listed some religious preference. You would be correct in saying that an additional 4% of the highly educated population rejects religion. But that tiny difference doesn't alter the fact that 5 out of 6 Americans with graduate degrees have a religious preference.

Smart and powerful people are frequently defeated by their own arrogance. I seem to smell this trait throughout this discussion. Without any definition provided, the “smart people† moniker appears to be applied to deserving members of a political class: elected or non-elected politicians as well as other individuals who make their living on fringes of political parties. This system has to continue . . . It is unlikely that the two-party system can be challenged . . . Really? What’s next, a thousand-year Reich?
I suggest that we widen the term “smart people† to entrepreneurs, engineers and all others who actually create wealth. It’s easy to disregard these individuals because, being imbedded in the society at large, they have neither voting power nor time for party wrangling. What would happen if they decided to congregate not in one party, but in another jurisdiction? That was hardly possible when the wealth was in land, buildings, railroad tracks and oil rigs, but is perfectly possible today.
I am not privy to Microsoft strategic plans, but what is the reason why it has to be headquartered in Washington? Could it move to, say Zimbabwe, or any state whose government is looking into abyss, ready to fulfill any demand to facilitate the move? New sparkling campus could be ready in a year, new city with all Seattle’s amenities and better weather.
If that would happen, the U.S. would need miracle workers rather than just political “smart people†.
Perhaps, the direction of this interesting discussion should be diverted to the question: how to keep smart people in America rather than in which party? Time is flying and old bonds might be fraying.

Alex Modzelewski

Since when do liberals believe in the validity of IQ scores? Given the liberal condemnation of IQ as racially biased, by their claims the GOP should be the natural party of african-americans....

I agree with US that smart people think for themselves and not through a political party

Aren't all the smart people are already in the same party?

Oh, I figured that my remark that the gang of tax cut enforcers in the
GOP are like Stalinist commissars would raise a hackle somewhere. Sure
enough, the person who boiled over in an explosive apoplexy was the
reliably overheated "Superheater."

Yeah, I'm overheated about dimwitted analogies between Republicans and Stalin.

Its not even close. It's daily kook lunacy.

I would definitely say that Republican anti-intellectualism has played a huge role. Plus the dishonesty of their so-called more intellectual arguments (e.g. the Laffer curve) drives away others. Democrats have their own burdens to bear with populist rhetoric and blind protectionism, but overall, there is a definite bias that Republicans should overcome.

Frankly if the current Republican party falls, any party that rose to replace it would probably be one of two: a conservative split from the Democratic party or a rabid right wing party much as what is happening in Europe.

If the natural distribution of intelligence is not occurring across party lines, perhaps it should self correct as the parties either lose their populist appeal or become too rabid and engage in demagoguery - there are hardly the problems that plague Japan that would keep a sclerotic party in power.

@TN: "Plus the dishonesty of their so-called more intellectual arguments (e.g. the Laffer curve) drives away others."

The existence of the Laffer Curve is indisputable; all the quibbles between advocates of higher or lower taxes boil down to identifying the point at which dy/dx=0.

It's worth noting that the largest group of voters in this country belongs to neither the Dems or the GOP - they're Independents, and they don't make decisions based on party lines.

Instead, they tend to evaluate issues on a case-by-case basis, agreeing with the left at times, tending towards the right at others. Also, influence between this group and the major organized parties tends to flow in both directions.

Only now, the GOP has walked itself off a cliff, and has lost nearly all its influence. But that implosion on their part hasn't led to some dramatic change in the case-by-case modality, giving the Dems a whole new group of reliable voted they didn't have before. They still have to come up with policies that work - and they can't expect that they'll command full loyalty if half their platform is a shambles (which it's likley to be).

If the GOP can develop policy framework that (a) has a basic level of coherence, and (b) leads to positions that this independent middle doesn't find unpalatable, then they have a chance of recovering lost influence.

But they'll need plenty of issues that independents can embrace. A critical mass, really. And they'll have to remember that 10 good positions can be neutralized by one insanely stupid position, so it's important to remain aware of the mix.

Because the smart people aren't on either side. They know the value of their vote, and recognize that you can get more by keeping the door open to both sides, and making both sides work to get in.

Every party seems to have it's fair share of intellects and idiots. Some of folks who've fled either the R or D parties are hoping some sane alternative will appear on the horizon. The Democratic Party, busy creating debt that will haunt future generations, does not appear to be that political haven to me. The Republican party with it's collective ear glued to Rush Limbaugh and the Sunday morning pulpits of fundamentalists churches has not endeared itself either. "Look before your leap."

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