What’s Wrong with this Picture?
If this chart accurately depicts the makeup of American voters, why are we yet again faced with such deeply disappointing choices as we contemplate the coming elections?
The sharp increase in polarization in recent years is well known, but is it naturally occurring or intentionally created?
There is a political observer called Hal Gershowitz who has been around Washington forever. He is both thoughtful and insightful. You can get a weekly newsletter from him by going to Of Thee I Sing 1776.
If you are susceptible to dark moods about our political situation, you might actually want to avoid him because his ideas will simply remind you of the uselessness of other observers.
Recently, he suggested that Joe Biden consider Condoleezza Rice as his running mate. When Biden clinched the nomination, he promised to name a woman to that role. Following the recent Black Lives Matter police protests, he has moved toward an African American woman.
You might have observed that Condoleezza Rice is both of those. Unfortunately, what she is not is a Democrat and, for that reason, it won’t happen.
Many believe the presidency is an important job and, especially this year with older candidates, the vice presidency deserves the best person available.
Here is the gist of Gershowitz’s reasoning.
“I remember my dear friend and business partner, former conservative Republican Representative from Maryland’s 5th congressional district, Larry Hogan (Md. Governor Hogan’s dad), telling me back in 2007 that he wished Condi Rice would run for President.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because she’s so damn smart and so damn decent,” he replied.
How’s that for radical thinking these days, choosing someone who is both smart and decent?”
He then goes on to make his case: Hey Joe! Think About Condoleezza Rice. When you click on the link you will get to the most recent of his weekly missives and you will have to scroll down to June 20. It’s worth it.
Unfortunately, we don’t generally choose Vice Presidents for their skills in office. The real skills of Biden’s designee will be shown over the next three months rather than in the ensuing four years. As always, we favor getting the job over doing it.
There is an even more Pollyanna scheme called Articles of Unity that won’t happen either. It involves drafting two candidates, one from the center left and the other from the center right to govern together. Of the seven groups in the chart, the middle three constitute 56% of voters, enough for a landslide win. Here is a link to the idea.
It won’t happen because neither party wants it to happen. Polarization is good for the political consulting business because it attracts attention and the fear-driven contributions that pay the salaries of the consultants who have outsize influence over the affairs of both parties. Consensus candidates are harder to demonize; no fear, no anxious check writing.
In another recent article, Washington Post columnist Paul Kane wrote about the Congressional approval rating. It is down to 18%. Of course, he shook his head in despair, but he had it backward.
If 18% of Americans still approves of Congress, the fund raising has clearly not been completed. Only when the entire country hates the United States Congress will the political fund-raising machinery grind to a halt.
Like the selection of Vice President (or President for that matter) where the ability to do the job takes a back seat to the ability to get the job, legislating in Congress takes a back seat to fund-raising. The election industry beast must be fed.
There is much hand wringing about malign foreign influence over our elections but what about malign domestic influence? All Russia or China can do is fuel dissent and pit us against each other. The parties and their webs of profit-driven political consultants can actually guide the choice of candidates. Are they choosing the best people to do the jobs or the people who will attract the largest amount of money to their campaigns?
Many believe that polarization today is a naturally occurring phenomenon, if only because of the differing interests of rural and urban voters; but, at the very least, that divide is being intentionally exploited.
In 1976, Herb Stein, an economist described as the liberal’s conservative and the conservative’s liberal, propounded what came to be known as Stein’s law. “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.”
I am rooting for Stein’s Law to prevail, preferably soon. I am not optimistic.