One would think that, in a democracy, what the people want is what they get. It ain’t so. Much of the success of political strategy depends on voters. Let’s look at some of the populations within our electorate.
Commonly known as the Tea Party, there is a group that largely holds extreme libertarian views. They support rampant overhaul of government, tied to radical taxing shrinkage. They have a strange interpretation of the constitution. This all rests on a foundation of great fear about the national debt. From Wikipedia:
Tea Party activities have declined since 2010. According to Harvard professor Theda Skocpol, the number of Tea Party chapters across the country has slipped from about 1,000 to 600, but that this is still “a very good survival rate.” Mostly, Tea Party organizations are said to have shifted away from national demonstrations to local issues. A shift in the operational approach used by the Tea Party has also affected the movement’s visibility, with chapters placing more emphasis on the mechanics of policy and getting candidates elected rather than staging public events. The tea party’s involvement in the 2012 GOP presidential primaries was minimal, owing to divisions over whom to endorse as well as lack of enthusiasm for all the candidates. Which is not to say the 2012 GOP ticket hasn’t had an influence on the Tea Party: following the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, the New York Times declared that the once fringe of the conservative coalition, Tea Party lawmakers are now “indisputably at the core of the modern Republican Party.”
This is a group whose numbers are actually small and waning, but its influence is disproportionally large within the Republicans Party.
Another group that has disproportional influence, beyond its actual size is the backers of Gun Rights. We all know the reputation of gun lobbies, especially the NRA, and we can look to the recent recall of two moderate legislators in Colorado.
One of, if not the largest group of voters are moderates. Gallup polling has shown American voters identifying themselves as moderate between 35–38% of the time over the last 20 years. One can certainly be moderate and conservative leaning or moderate and lean to the left. I think moderates are actually a larger group than polls show, in that when they DO vote, they coalesce around more centrist values. Again from Wikipedia:
Journalist and political commentator E.J. Dionne wrote in his book Why Americans Hate Politics, published on the eve of the 1992 Presidential election, that he believes American voters are looking for a “New Political Center” that intermix “liberal instincts” and “conservative values.” He labeled people in this center position as “tolerant traditionalists”. He described them as believers in conventional social morality that ensure family stability, as tolerant within reason to those that challenge those morals, and as pragmatically supportive of government intervention in spheres such as education, child care, health care as long as budgets are balanced.
In any case, many bills that become law bear very little resemblance to how the vast majority of Americans want their country to run. We can use the example of the Colorado recall, or several states that have passed anti-gay marriage laws, in the last few years to show the trouble in politics right now. The strategy for these loud but minority operatives is to get their plebiscites on off-year elections. Then they mobilize their base. And it succeeds. In the case of gun rights, anti-gay rights, and other favorites of conservatives, they can count on voters who do get to the polls; they tend to have the time (read: business owners and senior citizens) and passion to show up. Thus, the majority has been subject to this sort of tyranny.
This reactionary trend has been cycling ever worse for nigh on twenty years. The only time we actually see the will of the majority is when ballots are cast in conjunction with national elections – Presidential elections. That’s how Obama was elected and marriage equality and fair sentencing laws have come to pass.
The public loses when it does not vote. The squeaky and sneaky win when the rest of us goes to work and live our lives. What’s worse, this subversive force has somehow redistricted itself and passed voter suppression laws, all to hold its minority of power.
Turning this tide will be difficult. One thing that must change is the proclivity of the press to report the wild-ass sound bites that protesters and right wing politicians provide as somehow part of the mainstream. The press also misses its duty to fact-check crazy ideas that pass as talking points for some alternative reality. Can’t journalists reflect who we really are? I realize that what is normal is not as exciting as what is inane. But it’s still inane, and gives false credence to what is ridiculous and actually inconsequential.
The other needed change is for the silent majority to wake up. It needs to vote and take back the country. We the people need to act like we truly want a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.