Thursday, November 04, 2010
Political Polarization and the Nationalization of Congressional Elections
Cross-posted from Election Law Blog
I do not see how polarization of parties lead to swing elections.
The party policy has been polarized since the Dems shifted left with the election of the 74 Congress and the GOP shifted right in 1980 when the Reagan Revolution reestablished the GOP as a true limited government party rather than Dem-lite for the first time in decades. During the following generation, there were only three swing elections in Congress - 94, 06-08 (same slow motion swing), and 10.
Swing elections are repudiations of a party, usually a governing party, when the middle of the electorate repudiates their governing policies.
94 was a repudiation of Hillarycare, the Brady Bill firearms restrictions and the Clinton tax increases.
06-08 was a slow motion repudiation of the lack of progress on the Iraq War and the profligacy and corruption of the GOP Congress. You may recall that Bush increased spending by nearly a third and implemented the first major new entitlement since before Reagan. Progressive Dems like to forget that their congressional majorities were built on Blue Dog Dems running by Rahm Emmanuel's design to the right of GOP incumbents as gun-totting fiscal hawks who would clean up the corruption in Washington.
As the new Dem government came into power in 08, Gallup was recording the lowest public trust in government since Watergate. However, the Obama Administration badly misread their mandate and tripled down on government.
10 was a repudiation of almost every major governing policy over the past two years. Nate Silver is understating the magnitude of this swing by comparing it only to 08. In fact, the 10 swing in the House was the largest for the GOP since 38 and the largest for either party since 46, eclipsing 06 and 08 combined. The swing at the state level was a once in a century event bringing the GOP back to where it was in 1928.
All of these swings were rebellions against expansions against government spending and power no matter which party was doing it. Bush went much further to the left on domestic policy than did the post-94 Clinton Administration, which was arguably the second most conservative administration after Reagan. Thus, I cannot see how modern swing elections are correlated, nevertheless caused by party policy polarization.
I suppose, now that adroit insulators are being described in the political art of separating voters grossly from two party swings in hegemony, we might find we are unearthing similarly dielectrics, to propagate the terminological comparison: factors which are so conductive to shifts that bland political process is circumvented, as when electric voltage hops out of the transmission conduit and creates sparks and bypasses all common logic for voters and politicians alike.
It is surprising to see that rabid political gerrymandering has still produced such swings, and the nationalization of congressional elections. But is it also possible that gerrymandered districts themselves have led to greater polarization?
It is surprising to see that rabid political gerrymandering has still produced such swings
Agreed. In the age of computerized gerrymandering, 2010 is likely to be the largest wave election any of us will see as voters.
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