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Free Minds & Free Markets

A Polarized America? Not Quite

Independents now make up a plurality of the public.

Modern America is sharply polarized, battered by political furies, and divided as never before. Moderation is disappearing, we are told, as Americans increasingly shun people of different views. We are split between hostile groups, each with its own TV networks, fast-food chains and sporting apparel—Fox News vs. MSNBC, Chick-fil-A vs. Chipotle, Under Armour vs. Nike.

Donald Trump exploits this growing political and cultural separation. Extreme, vocal ideologues are gaining ground on both the right and the left. One-third of likely voters, a poll found, think we are on the verge on civil war.

Or maybe not. That's one picture of the nation in 2018, which fits many surface indicators. But it's an image from a fun-house mirror, composed of misleading distortions. The reality is reassuring.

To alleviate stress and anxiety, some people turn to meditation, yoga, Xanax, or wine. For me, there is no better antidote than Morris Fiorina, who does us the favor of explaining why much of what we worry about is unfounded.

Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, is a calm and genial sort who regularly takes the national political temperature and finds it lukewarm. His latest book, Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party-Sorting and Political Stalemate, is a corrective to the fear of national disintegration.

Rabid partisanship rules in Washington debates—you've heard of Brett Kavanaugh?—but not in the electorate as a whole. In the 1950s, 75 percent of Americans were happy to call themselves Democrats or Republicans, but today, only 60 percent identify with either party.

Independents now make up a plurality of the public. Self-described moderates outnumber either liberals or conservatives.

This may not be the impression you would get from watching cable news, where the middle of the road is conspicuously devoid of traffic. But most people don't spend much time watching cable news.

Conservative Sean Hannity gets 3.4 million viewers on an average night, with liberal Rachel Maddow attracting 2.8 million—which happens to be a tiny sliver of the electorate. Nearly 230 million adults watch neither. Though the nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC do better, their combined audience amounts to less than 10 percent of the adult population.

Facebook is faulted for encouraging Americans to retreat into echo chambers to have their views reinforced daily. But Fiorina reports that 96 percent of Facebook users don't click on more than one opinion piece every three months. By reading this column, or any other political commentary, you mark yourself as unusual.

What has changed in recent decades is that the two parties have become more ideologically defined. Democrats used to have a conservative wing, and some liberals inhabited the GOP. Today, however, the most conservative Democrats in Congress are more liberal than the least conservative Republicans.

The overlap made it easier for members and presidents to reach across the aisle. But it's gone, and so, for the most part, is bipartisanship.

Most people are not very conservative or very liberal. But "the middle has no home in either party," Fiorina says. That's one reason more Americans call themselves independents.

Another result: "Democrats and Republicans appear to dislike each other more than they did a generation ago." Partisans are less likely to date or marry someone of the other party than they used to be—a natural consequence of less diverse parties.

But the change is not that significant. In 1939, Fiorina notes, "similar political background" was ranked 18th (and last) among desirable traits in a marriage partner. In 2008, it was 17th.

Based on its surveys, the Pew Research Center concludes, "The way that the public thinks about poverty, opportunity, business, unions, religion, civic duty, foreign affairs and many other subjects is, to a large extent, the same today as in 1987."

We think of California as uniformly blue and Texas as wall-to-wall red. But even strongly partisan places are more diverse than they appear. Nearly 4.5 million Californians voted for Donald Trump, and almost 3.9 million Texans voted for Hillary Clinton.

What gives us polarized politics is not the sentiments of the people but the two-party system. It tends to accommodate those at either end of the political spectrum at the expense of those in-between.

The bad news is that our democracy does a poor job of giving the people what they want. The good news is that it's easier to fix a rotten system than a rotten people.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Conservatives make up a plurity of the population.

    Libertarians and the conservative right are the majority in the USA.

  • TuIpa||

    Hihn, you're like a hundred years old, if anyone is in danger of expiration it's you.

  • EscherEnigma||

    LIBERTARIANS are a 60%+ majority, on our own.


    To reach that conclusion you have to ignore what people actually say, call them liars, and assign them a label for a political party that they have rejected.

    You are, of course, free to do so. But frankly, I feel a lot more comfortable calling you a dishonest liar then calling over 150,000,000 people dishonest liars.

  • ECDMuppet||

    This is actually pretty spot on, in my opinion.

    I was raised in a very conservative political socialization, which was moderated the more I got to know my more liberal friends as I went through college for my engineering degree.

    I always agreed with the idea that the "liberal media" largely either ignored or misrepresented the better virtues of conservative philosophy. but I also came to understand that Fox News and Limbaugh do the exact same thing to liberals.

    In reality, most people are either left or right leaning libertarians by ideology. Almost nobody I have ever met thinks that forcing one's opinions on the unwilling is a good idea, even my extremely religious conservative family, or my extremely left wing LGBT college friends. The only thing either side demands is the right to do their own thing, associate with who they want, and not be crapped on too badly by the other side.

    I think if everyone understood that the media was painting a faulty of all of us, and (intentionally or by accident of the pursuit of sensationalism) dividing the populace against its self for no good reason. moderates could easily reclaim both parties and restore the balance of mutual respect and human dignity we need to actually solve problems again in this country.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    As I said Republicans, Independents, and Libertarians make up the majority of America.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    MOAR LIES

    As I said Republicans, Independents, and Libertarians make up the majority of America.

    What he REALLY said: is CLEARLY VISIBLE (WTF)

    Libertarians and the conservative right are the majority in the USA.

    CRUSHED by David Nolan here
    And FULLY documented. From Cato's web site. Cato survey conducted by a top independent pollster, Zogby Polling

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano drunkenly citing his own sockpuppets.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Cato is NOT a sockpuppet, goober.

  • Red Tony||

    You know who else lost their parents? Batman.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Did Batman look behind the couch in the living room? Or under the fridge? Lots of stuff ends up in those places.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano hates having his mental illness pointed out.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Hihn is not a sock puppet. He's a dickpuppet.

  • Echospinner||

    "Libertarians and the conservative right are the majority in the USA."

    Women and Drake fans are the majority in the USA.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Libertarians and my nephew Robby are the majority in the USA.
    Conservatives are less than 20%.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lefties hoisting themselves on their own petards.

  • TuIpa||

    I think we'd all like you to try Jim Jones' Kool Aid, Hihn.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The trolls dont think that the GOP is more popular than the Lefties. How shocking!

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    It seems that the Dems and Reps are equally unpopular, at least according to all of the polling that I've seen. They do seem to be pretty good, though, at convincing voters that they are the only choices. Which seems to explain how Congress can still have such abysmal approval ratings, yet members manage to stay in office for many, many years.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Well that and the fact that everybody hates congress but is cool with THEIR congressman. It's those other yucky sheeple that don't know what they are doing.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Plus, they give up perks associated with senior Congressmen when they have a junior Congressmen represent them.

  • ECDMuppet||

    In my experience, the only traction trolls get in a forum is from the extent to which they make reasonable discussion impossible for people participating in good faith.

    I personally find that treating everyone as though they are good faith actors, and simply giving reasonable responses even to unreasonable assertions or attacks, not only blunts the effectiveness of the trolls' attempts to divide us against ourselves, but also gives people who genuinely are frustrated to the point of lashing out an opportunity to connect with someone across ideologies and rebuild the mutual respect and dignity we need to fix the problems we have.

    It's an exercise in patience to be sure, but patience is the only weapon the good guys have at this point.

    Just my 2c. What's your opinion?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Ask them who they voted for the last five times. Not party registration. I wonder if that polling has been done.

  • TuIpa||

    Hihn, go the fuck away, your incoherent ranting got boring years ago. Now all anyone does is laugh at you.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Tulpa initiates aggression, a snowflake shouting down the truth

    Documented proof that Tulpa FAILS to suppess. From Cato's web site. Cato survey conducted by a top independent pollster, Zogby Polling Scroll down prox 2/3 to "How libertarians see themselves

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano throwing his bitchfits again.

  • RoyMo||

    Well how many people who have ever met a Libertarian would want to share an identity with one?

    It is an extreme act of intellectual will that allows this.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    You need to sort it out.

    Over 60% of Americans self-identity with libertarian values - fiscally responsible and socially liberal.

    But only 9% of THOSE libertarians would call themselves libertarian
    That means 91% of libertarian values REJECT libertarian ideology -- which has become kinda useless in the past half-century or so.

    90% of what government provides is what people want, and have always been willing to pay for. (except military Decades ago, our focus was on how to do --- what people want -- better and cheaper .

    Today, libertarians don't give a shit about markets, and actually oppose will of the people and consent of the governed, The same affliction now dominates both conservatism and libertarianism -- hate government, who gives a shot what people want. Just repeal everything. So voters have contempt for them, in return for the contempt the are shown.

    A libertarian society, libertopia, is the OPPOSITE of a free society, and is for libertarians only. That's a cult.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "90% of what government provides is what people want, and have always been willing to pay for. (except military Decades ago, our focus was on how to do --- what people want -- better and cheaper ."

    Excluding the military, only about 50% of what government provides is remotely compatible with fiscally conservative / socially liberal values.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    WRONG. Check any federal budget.
    Our values include whatever people choose to do.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You know that your speaking the truth when Hihn trolls and his sockpuppets hihnfect the thread.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Says hateconstituion1789, who claims ENTITLED to suck the gummint teat ... but ONLY him!

    loveconstitution1789|2.8.18 @ 3:08PM|#

    My retired father loves politics and we often discuss the nature of things.

    I cannot get him to openly discuss social security and medicare reform with cuts. He is just hoping to check out before our debt crushes the USA. Its selfish as shit.

    TROLL says more crushing debt is okay .. if lines HIS pocket!

    Insults HIS OWN FATHER, "selfish as shit" ... but DEFENDS his own sucking at the gummint teat! (OMG)

    WHINES that a multi-trillion debt increase is "giving my own money back " ... FROM WHERE?

    BY STEALING FROM HIS OWN CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN ... with MORE :crushing debt ... but HE is not selfish as shit!!! Trolling for goobers.

    What kind of fiscal conservative DENIES federal debt steals from our future ... his own children? Brainwashed Republican goobers ... as DANGEROUS as ... brainwashed Bernie goobers

    HE'D CUT HIS FATHER'S BENEFITS .. AND STEAL FROM HIS OWN KIDS ... TO INCREASE HIS CASH, BECAUSE ... HE'S "ENTITLED."

    The left borrows trillions for free stuff
    The right borrows trillions for free tax cus
    Two sides of the same statist coin.

    Left - Right = Zero

    (Will this trigger him again?)

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano's mad that there's competition for his old-age government benefits.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    None fmwhat you post makes any sense. And as you shitpost this stuff ad nauseous, it counts as spam, so I'm reporting it as such.

    Everyone report all of Hihn's posts as spam so we can get them deleted.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Did Wyatt trigger two precious snowflakes?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That kind of polling is not done because the truth hurts the GOP and Democratic Party's buttholes.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Ask them who they voted for the last five times

    You've nailed it BUCS. It matters not what you call yourself, but for whom you pull the lever in November.

    To paraphrase Shakespeare, "a pol by any other name would smell as bad."

  • The Last American Hero||

    But that would kill the narrative.

  • vek||

    BUCS, as far as who people vote for, independents tend to vote GOP. I don't recall exact figures, but in most places of the country the GOP has smaller numbers of registered members, but in the elections all the partyless folks tend to go their way.

    America is still a center right country by and large. If the Dems didn't do such a good job of freaking people out about abortion, and a couple other dumb issues, I suspect the vote would swing 5-10% more towards the GOP almost overnight.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    There was some study a few years ago that concluded that leftist bias in the media skews the polls 8-9% towards the progressives.

    If those losers didn't have the MSM in the tank for them they would have nothing.

  • vek||

    I would believe it. I'll have to try to look that one up, could be interesting reading!

  • John Galt Jr||

    Psychos passing bullshit back and forth!

  • vek||

    Shut up Hihn. You don't see how 90% of the media being biased could possibly sway the general public??? How dumb can a person be...

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    He said you are both psycho liars.

    Which is WHY you have NO link. Just babbling, drooling and trashmouth conservatards,
    (And REALLY dense)

    I see his name as David, not Hihn, and he made a fool of you.
    Before you made an even bigger ass of yourself.

  • vek||

    Shut up Hihh. And I never said I had seen such data, merely that it wouldn't surprise me if such a study had been done and come to that conclusion. Now please go off yourself. Or at least just start posting under your original account, and ONLY your original account again. All your sock puppets are painfully easy to spot, it's not fooling anybody.

  • Rob Misek||

    Those who profit from division, divide us.

    The farther we lean to one side, the more truth, vertical, seems to lean to the other.

    Let go of your preconceptions. Stand up straight on your own and open your eyes to the truth. It will be right beside you.

  • Rockabilly||

    Fuck off Chapman.

    Fuck you and your fucking bean counting.

    Fuck you and your fucking Analysis.

  • Rob Misek||

    The basic tenet of libertarian ideology, "do anything you want except initiating coercion".

    The definition of coercion: the act of coercing; use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance.

    Do you realize that telling people to "fuck off" demonstrates a very weak relationship with libertarianism? If it wasn't so hilariously ironic, it might be intimidating.

  • TuIpa||

    You attempt at analysis in order to pull a gotcha is stupid, and nonsensical. Telling someone to fuck off isn't coercion, full stop.

    Why does your stupid fucking post smell like ANOTHER Hihn sockpuppet?

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Right-wing snowflakes. Authoritarian group-think, like left-wing snowflakes,

    Aggression The action or an act of attacking without provocation

    Verbal Aggressiveness ...A personality trait that predisposes persons to attack the self-concepts of other people instead of, or in addition to, their positions on topics of communication ... Verbal aggressiveness is thought to be mainly a destructive form of communication

    Verbal hostility, or in other words, verbal harassment or abuse is basically a negative defining statement told to or about you or withholding a response and pretending the abuse is not happening.

    Cyberbullying The act of bullying someone through electronic means (as by posting mean or threatening messages about the person online)

    Psychopath A person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviour.
    1. The Authoritarian Left
    2. The Authoritarian Right

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano cries like a bitch when criticized.

  • eyeroller||

    The bad news is that our democracy does a poor job of giving the people what they want.

    That is one of the dumbest comments I've read at Reason this year.

  • DiegoF||

    This is what the people want.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Bet he will never get confirmed as a judge.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    But did he whip his dick out?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Notice whenever women whip out there titties, nobody ever complains and tries to prevent them from being judges?

  • Shirley Knott||

    The really bad news is that otherwise sensible people think 'the system' is disjoint from 'the people' and so can be "fixed" without regard to those people, with their attitudes, preferences, beliefs, and values.
    There is no system, there are only people, behaving as people do.

  • Lost in the Woods||

    I hope Chapman and Fiorina are correct, that Americans don't really hate each other quite so much. But I suspect Americans really do hate each other that much. Or at least they don't really want to share a country. I find the party affiliation analysis misleading. Just because one doesn't want to be called a Democrat or a Republican, doesn't mean they are "in the middle". It appears to me that there is simply not much overlap in core values between the Obama/Clinton voters and the Republican/Trump voters, whatever they choose to call themselves. And try listening in on a conversation about politics in a coffee shop in any liberal enclave. The absolute distain for "the other half of America" is quite incredible. And of course, libertarians, we are the tiny minority we have always been.

  • U. R. Huyulov||

    Most conservatives don't hate leftists, and most older leftists don't actually hate conservatives.

    The young leftists though, they are hate champions. I almost want to see what happens when conservatives are gone and they turn on their elders, like happened in China during the Cultural Revolution.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    The more,likely event is that they become unworkable long before then and conservatives end up having to liquidate the little pieces of shit.

  • DiegoF||

    I stand by my belief in the upcoming massive, realigning #BlueWave, and even if that does not happen my belief that demographics and the rapidly shifting, globalizing American political values of the upper middle class will consign the Republican Party to a permanent, regional minority status starting this coming decade. But I do think that the affiliation numbers are much better for conservatives than the polls seem to suggest; and the media keeps making this mistake over and over.

    This rapidly growing group of "independents" is going to be skewed far more conservative than it has been in the past. The Republicans (who, it should be remembered, are indeed one point ahead in affiliation according to that latest poll) have never really recovered their reputation since the W Bush years. Few are proud to call themselves "Republicans" any more; a disproportional number of conservatives still feel a profound sense of alienation from the party, and call themselves "independents" or "conservatives," "constitutionalists," or whatever, but are actually to the right of the establishment Republicans they dislike and reliably vote that way. Democrats have not had a reckoning with idealistic people on their side of the spectrum so completely yet. They will not show up as strongly alongside the new conservatives and older centrists among the "independents."

  • Ska||

    My life every day. I tend to ask how someone here how they would feel if the values of a family in Alabama were imposed on us under threat of imprisonment. I follow up with why is it better when a Brooklynite does it to them. It does get them to think about it a little. No, it doesn't change their minds, but it seems like it starts to fry the wiring.

  • Lost in the Woods||

    I wonder what it would take for them to accept the idea that maybe neither group should impose its values on the other. Just enjoy Brooklyn, and leave the folks in Alabama alone.

  • JFree||

    the only Americans imo who really hate everyone else are the partisan polarized DeRps. Most other people just wish the partisan polarized DeRps would just shut the fuck up occasionally and learn how to have SOME conversation that doesn't involve bringing politics into everything but they don't hate them.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Libertarians hate Democrats. Democrats have nothing in common with libertarians.

    Republicans have some but not much in common with Libertarians.

  • Lester224||

    There seem to be a significant number of non-Libertarian pro-police-state/conservative/Trump-admirers who make comments on Reason articles. For example, they think that flag-burning should be a crime, that tariffs are just fine, that abortion should be illegal (even before 12 weeks), that stop-and-frisk anyone who looks suspicious is fine etc.

    On the other hand, most Americans believe that pot should be legal, that abortion should be limited somewhat but not illegal, that tariffs are generally unproductive etc. Some of the frequent commenters here don't strike me as Libertarians- at least not in the "leave me alone and don't interfere with freedom or capitalism" way that I think about Libertarians.

    I've never registered as either Democrat or Republican. I've voted for people with those labels if I can stomach them sometimes.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I live in a big blue dot and the way they view people that live more than 20 minutes from a major urban center is quite frankly disgusting.

    They also don't like being called out on it.

  • vek||

    The truth that few people are willing to admit is that the United States of America is OVER WITH.

    It's done. A nation has to have enough stuff holding it together, like big important stuff, for it to deal with the squabbles and hash things out. The problem is that that USA doesn't have this anymore. Conservatives/libertarians more or less believe in the original ideals of America, with plenty of variety that they consider to be up for debate within that general idea... But the modern left completely hates all of the traditional ideals of America.

    Unless leftists completely pull a 180, America is done for. The only way, IMO, to save the country is to split it up. If we don't one side or the other will have to violently impose its views on the other half of the country. So I favor secession.

    I think giving California, Oregon, and maybe half of Washington state to the lefties is the way to go. Then self sorting from around the country could happen, and both sides will be happier. We can return the rest of the USA into something resembling what America used to be, and the lefties can become Euro style socialist states.

    It's likely the only peaceful way to do it. Otherwise we probably are heading for a civil war, and the right will undoubtedly win that one since they're the gun lovin' people in this country. If by some dumb luck the left wins, God help us all...

  • vek||

    You're an idiot Hihn.

    Look through history. People have had civil wars over FAR less than the differences we have now in this country.

    The truth is I will NEVER be able to live with people like Bernie Sanders, Cortez, etc. And they can never live with someone like me. The divide has become too large. So the only choice is to peacefully separate, or stay together and force the other side to obey your will. That's it. The left has already been using soft power for decades to force conservatives/libertarians to obey their will, but the right is tired of it. Unless there's a major shift on the left away from being batshit crazy, we're either going to have to split up, or it's civil war time.

    I for one don't even mind, and I don't think lots of others do either. It's actually better to just kill commies than get them to shut their mouths out of fear. If they just shut their mouths they're still working on subverting things behind the scenes when and where they can.

    The founding fathers knew a little revolution now and again was a good and necessary thing. We've had one of the longest and most stable periods in all of human history, we're just overdue for some corrective measures. If a few hundred thousand, or a few million, people have to die it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world... It would be far worse if we continue down the current path than actually right our course with a few casualties. Real men, Hihn, understand these things.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Only assholes call themselves "real men" -- as they propose killing anyone who disagrees with the,
    And Trumpsters (same thing)

  • vek||

    Sorry Hihn, gonna have to side with the founding fathers on this one. As BRILLIANT as you are Hihn, I'm just going to have to side with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Ben Franklin, etc. I think they were a little smarter than you were, and obviously had a hell of a lot more balls.

    They knew that at some times and places in history it is necessary to kill people to take the freedom everyone is rightfully owed. They TRIED really hard to deal with things peacefully, but if that fails sometimes you only have one option left on the table. I think we MAY still be able to pull it out peacefully, but the odds of that happening are a LOT lower than they were saaay 10 or 20 years ago when things weren't this bad. A nation can only be so divided on fundamental issues before it has to come to force in one form or another.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    You fucked up the founding fathers.
    And confirmed your innate fascism.
    As a psychopath.

    You say the people opposed the revolution, so YOU say the founders were dicktaters. Like you.
    Shameful

    But that's the only way you can feel manly.
    Does your health insurance cover the ego transplant you need?

  • vek||

    But I didn't Hihn. Facts are on my side. The majority of the population WAS NOT on their side when we initially declared independence. That's a fact from the era. The founders knew they were right, and took the actions they needed to. Not everybody is a pussy like you, and sometimes real men have to step up to the plate and do the right thing for everybody. Deal with it.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Vet, we must not split the country. Instead the hard core progressives must be dealt with.

  • vek||

    Well, you can call me a softie if you want, but I'd rather give up some dirt versus commit mass murder. But if they make it come to violence I have no issues with wrecking their shit either. But between the two options giving up some land seems to be the better choice for all parties, hence trying that first seems reasonable. Land is only as useful and productive as the people and the culture that live on it make it.

    Besides just getting rid of the most extreme leftists almost isn't enough... The truth is getting rid of even a lot of the somewhat moderate leftists would be very worthwhile, and unless we wanted to kill 30%+ of the population we're not going to get rid of them without breaking off a chunk of land for them.

  • Cy||

    Yes we really are that polarized. There's a massive portion of the population that thinks it's perfectly reasonable to use violence to enforce their insane agenda on everyone else. That's a problem. One that's solution a lot of people aren't able to stomach. So.... let's see what happens next.

  • John I||

    "Independents now make up a plurality of the public. Self-described moderates outnumber either liberals or conservatives."

    Self-identifying as a moderate does not imply you actually are a moderate. Many people who claim to be moderates are in fact ideologically extreme on *issues* but those issues don't all move in the same direction. You can be extremely socially conservative and extremely economically statist at the same time and such a person often comes across as "moderate" in polls because they don't take their extreme positions all from one side.

    This still means America is becoming politically polarized around specific issues, but many people happen to be on the conservative pole for some issues and the liberal pole for others.

    And using independents as a proxy for moderation is just laughable since both anarcho capitalists and communists might identify as independents because they're more extreme than either party. That doesn't prove lack of polarization

  • John I||

    Incidentally, it's interesting how "moderate" tends to be defined as "position the political class supports" even when the body of public opinion disagrees.

    Here's a fun quote, for example:

    "On marijuana, the single most popular position was full legalization. On immigration, it was "the immediate roundup and deportation of all undocumented immigrants and an outright moratorium on all immigration until the border is proven secure."

    Source: Vox article from 2015 titled "No one's less moderate than moderates"

    So: Is rounding up and deporting all illegals and banning all immigration a moderate position? Is total decriminalization of weed the moderate position? Public opinion tends strongly towards the right-wing side of the immigration debate and the liberal side of the pot debate. Why is moderate continuously defined as "what politicos and journalists are comfortable with" rather than "where the public actually rests on a given issue?"

  • ||

    "Public opinion tends strongly towards the right-wing side of the immigration debate and the liberal side of the pot debate."

    These are both the moderate position when considering the public's perception of FAIRNESS.

    Enforcement of pot law is arbitrary, draconian, and a massive failure. Because of that and because much of the law fails to discriminate between a pot user, a neighborhood pot dealer, and a drug kingpin, the public has been swayed by arguments that these laws can never be enforced fairly. After all, even Molly Majority has to admit the unfairness when little Johnny gets arrested at a high school party 'just doing what kids do'.

    Enforcement of immigration law is also arbitrary, draconian, and a massive failure. But, because the law can easily discriminate between a legal and an illegal immigrant, the public is swayed by arguments that these laws can be enforced fairly if we just apply more resources. After all, WE are not affected by immigration laws, THEY are, and WE are worth the ectra cost. Molly Majority also has the ensure that little Johnny's job at the factory does not go to little Juan. It would be REALLY unfair if Johnny made less than $15/hour and had to keep living at home.

  • vek||

    It's a very good point that the "moderate" position is largely just made up by the media and/or the political class. If politicians ACTUALLY did what the American public wants on a lot of issues, we'd be living in a completely different world. I think on net we'd be a lot more right wing, but on some things it would be more left. We'd probably actually have a balanced budget, we'd have less immigration than right now and it would be more highly skilled, we'd probably kick out a lot of drug laws, etc.

    There'd be some dumb stuff in there too, but on the whole I think we'd be a lot better off than we are now!

  • John Galt Jr||

    Your total ignorance of public opinion is astounding ... deep in your bubble.,
    Progressives have been kicking our ass for decade, in the Court of Public Opinion.
    + The rich don't pay their fair share of the income tax.
    + Millionaires and billionaires pay a lower tax rate than a $50,000 teacher,
    + Single-payer better and cheaper (GOP health care fuckups have made Obamacare more popular than ever!)
    + Obama inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression.
    + etc., etc. etc.

    All of those are lies. But even the libertarian establishment does not know that ... living in your same safe and warm bubble,

    BUY a clue.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Just like many who "self-identify" as conservative HATE and LIE ABOUT our Constitution
    Are avid supporters of The New Inquisition run by the Christian Taliban, despite the Separation mandated by 1A.

  • The Last American Hero||

    If this rising tide of independents is so strong, why did Johnson/Weld do so poorly when the competition was 2 corrupt NY Democrats with the highest disapproval ratings in modern times, maybe ever? Those two couldn't even play kingmaker let alone be contenders.

  • Rich||

    This.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    why did Johnson/Weld do so poorly when the competition was 2 corrupt NY Democrats with the highest disapproval ratings in modern times, maybe ever?

    Because they had no policy solutions. Today's libertarian establishment has NOTHING, on ANYTHING, when Americans are open to even radical; change..

    We have two competing factions -- pro-liberty and anti-government.
    Pro-liberty loves liberty, proposes transitions back to the (original) private solutions. Expand/restore individual liberty.

    Anti-gummint hates government, motivated solely by slashing, dismantling, limiting government.

    They are NOT the same. Different priorities.

    Expanding and/or restoring individual liberty always limits or reduces government.
    Slashing government can result in the OPPOSITE of free markets. See Medicaid.

    Pre-Medicaid/Medicare, a free market provided universal treatment to the uninsured, regardless of age or income. Provided by charity hospitals, financed by churches and charities. Liberty lovers promote a transition of government dollars back to the private sector, as the private infrastructure is rebuilt.

    Anti-gummit goobers say REPEAL IT, which does NOT restore free markets, assholes as progressives claim,

    That's why progressives are kicking our ass. Americans have ALWAYS been willing to pay for universal treatment. If progressive are the ONLY people CLAIMING to provide what people want -- they win.
    This is NOT rocket science. Except to goobers.

  • Red Tony||

    Kill it like the rest.

  • blondrealist||

    Seems like you should have also mentioned the post WW-II tax wage freeze and tax-code quirk that brought us the other dominant force in heath care consumption: employer-provided health insurance. That, along with Medicare, was the beginning of the end for free market forces for health insurance and health care.

  • John Galt Jr||

    That's what he said. But more accurately.

    It's not the employer-provided. It's the tax-free treatment which was added years later -- thus incentivizing over-insurance. Workers never see the trade-off between benefits and greater premiums because buying insurance for routine visits is tax free -- paying cash would otherwise be cheaper. except THAT cash is after-tax.

    Imagine if weekly car wash "insurance" was tax-free There's be more car washes AND at a higher price.

  • Rob Misek||

    It takes a lot of funding to win an election. The big bucks come from establishment interests on both sides.

    The peaceful results that come from valuing and sharing truth don't represent the lucrative financial benefits that division and conflict do.

    Threatening people makes them double down and fortify their positions and become vulnerable to propaganda.

    Propaganda is reverse engineered psychosis. When any issue is made emotional, people stop thinking rationally about it and more readily accept misinformation that supports their emotions. It is PR 101.

    One must first recognize and value truth to be able to discern and reject lies and propaganda. If you're not part of this solution, truth, you're probably part of the problem.

  • Don't look at me.||

    You can only see the truth once you have spoken with an attorney.

  • Rob Misek||

    Ostensibly, lawyers work in the environment of justice.

    The environment of justice is; the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  • Don't look at me.||

    ...you mark yourself as unusual.
    Ehh, I've heard worse.

  • Hunthjof||

    When a Congressman is nearly beaten to death by a Senator on the House floor call me. Till then our politics is extremely tame by comparison to the past in the US
    .

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Ah, Preston Brooks from South Carolina.

    He survived a censure resolution and was reelected.

    Those Democrats and wanting to keep slavery alive.

  • vek||

    I keep waiting for this to happen actually... I know it would be HORRIBLE for optics, but I REALLY want some 6'6" Republican to beat the living crap out of Pelosi or Mad Maxine... It would be AMAZING!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I think it is more partisan because of social networking.

    As one very astute observer pointed out, there was a time when people who acquainted with each other never really knew what their politics were. Now, you're perpetually barraged with it, who your neighbors voted for, what causes they support. The constant unfriending and blocking when someone you'd normally never discuss politics with espouses an opinion you disagree with. That has to be having an effect on people's relationships on a massive scale.

  • NoVaNick||

    ^This^ and one of the main reasons I try to avoid Derpbook now, except to wish my friends a happy birthday or like photos of their kids. I have refrained from posting anything remotely political on there, and have yet to be unfriended. Most of my friends are progs, though there are a couple of Trumpers among them.

  • MasterThief||

    I'll throw up a political post probably once every 6 months. It usually involves poking both sides but making practical and principled arguments for why our government is absolutely terrible.

  • Rossami||

    One quibble. Independents are not "moderates". Just because our beliefs or policy preferences don't line up with the stereotypical left-right dichotomy doesn't mean that we're not passionate. I feel very strongly that the Democrats are right on a few issues - and crazy-wrong on others. I feel the same way about the Republicans. And on a few issues, they're both wrong.

    Call us what we are - independents.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    It seems that a goal of the Libertarian Party of the past was to break the left-right false dichotomy. I mean David Nolan created a chart to describe this to the masses. Yet I get the feeling that mainstream libertarianism (if there is such a thing) is no longer trying to change this. You're right, and my biggest beef with this article is that it attempts to describe libertarianism as somewhere in the middle of the left-right scale, when clearly it's not.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Correct on the Nolan Chart, where libertarian in MIDDLE at top.

    We're in the middle on two-dimensional charts, where the left and right extremes are dictators - and liberty is in the middle.

    The Nolan Chart has a specific purpose, but the two-dimensional chart is still valid for analyses like this.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I disagree that the left-right chart (I think you're calling this two-dimensional) is valid... EVER. In fact, it is primarily part of the problem that gives us a two-party system. It says that in order to be for economic liberty, you have to support candidates who are against most social liberty, and vice versa. That's a false dichotomy.

    Libertarians have no place on a one-dimensional (ie left-right) chart. If the chart were meant to describe economic freedom, we'd be all the way on the right. If the chart were meant to describe personal issues, we'd be all the way on the left. That doesn't average to the "middle." Those are two distinct spectra, which really can't be compared.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    In fact, it is primarily part of the problem that gives us a two-party system.

    Left and Right are not parties.

  • NoVaNick||

    Was looking at election results for where I live. In 2000 and 2004, it voted something like 35% for Bush. In 2016, it voted 18% for Trump, and the GOP only did marginally better than that in state/local elections. Rural counties may have gotten redder in the meantime, but not enough to make up for the slide in NoVa suburbs. People vote with their wallets though above all else, and with DC next door, its not surprising that so many vote for a party that wants to expand government. But once they are asked to pay for it, not sure they will continue to vote that way.

  • Kirk Solo||

    More like "Independents". just because it is popular to call yourself independent doesn't make you such. Most everyone I know that says they are "independent" still vote on the same party lines they did before their supposed conversion.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Stalin, Hitler and Castro didn't have "plurality."
    They had consensus, and isn't that what all good proggies want?

  • John Galt Jr||

    One of your "proggies" is a right-wing fascist.
    Are you?

  • skunkman||

    Brilliant. But that doesn't mean there isn't reason for concern. I've always been center left, but the fascist and authoritarian tendencies of today's American left and the progressive movement have cured me of that. Once it was the far right that was scary. But the thought process of the left is terrifying. They despise liberty and their desire is to squash free speech and freedom in general. They aren't simply wrong, they are evil. Now, that doesn't make me embrace Trump, Ted Cruz of Rand Paul. I agree that there are significantly more in the middle, but the risk is that moderates end up sign like the lobster in a pot of water slowly being brought to boil by not seeing that the left must be stopped even if it means a lunatic is president.

  • Echospinner||

    Chick-fil-a vs Chipotle

    C) Both

  • Thogek||

    "Independents now make up a plurality of the public. Self-described moderates outnumber either liberals or conservatives. This may not be the impression you would get from watching cable news, where the middle of the road is conspicuously devoid of traffic."

    And moderate independents just don't carry enough sensationalist zing to make up those ridiculous clickbait headlines all the "news" organizations jones after, these days...

    Yet another example of: Just because it's all over the "news" doesn't mean that it's representative of reality as a whole.

    That'd be like thinking that televised Kardashian antics are any sort of "reality" television...

  • vek||

    As others have mentioned being an independent doesn't mean one is truly moderate... But another thing to note: Squishy moderates almost NEVER are the ones who control the fate of nations historically speaking. Perhaps during boring times where no particularly great changes are happening the boring stay-the-course types might be in power, but not during times of change.

    Remember that the Founding Fathers were not moderates. They were radical, extremist, ideological zealots who literally killed people to force their political views on their neighbors. Folks like that tend to be the ones who call the shots, we were just lucky that the ones he had here happened to have the correct ideas, unlike saaay Lenin.

    I'd bet my life that the hardliners in politics today will be steering the ship for the foreseeable future. Anybody who expects unknowledgeable, disinterested, non political moderates in the USA to all of a sudden take over the helm is trippin'. Those people don't care that much, and will just get dragged along one way or another by the people who are involved, and are extreme.

  • vek||

    Are you really that ignorant of history Hihn? When the founders decided to pull the proverbial trigger on the revolution, the majority of the people in the colonies were NOT in favor of this. The founders knew they were right, and popular opinion was wrong, so they did it anyway. Obviously they tried to convince as many as possible.

    But being a strong leader is NOT a bad thing. Cowardly, weak kneed leaders certainly aren't better than a strong leader with a righteous cause, such as freedom, as their driving force. The founders were an exceptional bunch because they did believe in the right ideals, and many revolutionaries in history were dirt bags as bad as the ones they were replacing... But that's an argument to have the right motivations for revolution, NOT to not have a revolution at all.

    The truth is there are "wrong" ideas that are fine to tolerate. Guys who wear pink polo shirts because they think they're cool. That's stupid, but fine. People who believe in communism, AND want to force it on everybody who doesn't... Not so much. Our society has far too many people with the dangerous kind of wrong ideas nowadays.

    All I'm saying is if the left doesn't come back down to planet earth soon, they're going to bring a world of hurt on themselves. They're a bunch of pussies who have zero chance of winning if it comes to violence, so I hope the have the sense to stop being so insane. If not, I won't mind much since I know they'll lose anyway.

  • John Galt Jr||

    TOTALLY ignorant of elementary US History.
    So are you a neo-nazi or a white supremacist?
    Both?

  • vek||

    LOLOLOLOL

    You're clearly the one ignorant of history. Perhaps your knowledge of US history is a little too elementary... As somebody who has read countless hours on it, I know a LOT more than the skewed cliff notes they teach in public schools in the USA. The founders WERE revolutionaries, not weak kneed politicians of the ilk we have today. That's a fact. The majority was NOT on their side. Fact. The still decided to do the right thing, even though it included requiring the death of lots of people. FACT.

    Also, just to add in a bit of FACT to make your small mind explode, the founding fathers were actually all white supremacists and white nationalists too. Whether you think that's good or bad, that is a fact also.

    Now STFU.

  • Ride 'Em||

    The biggest miss in this article is the decreasing financial/social value of belonging to a political party by the average Joe or Jane. As local government budgets are stressed it is no longer advatageos to belong to a party. Fifty years I don't a republican could get a job in the city government of Chicago. Or in the banking industry if you were a democrat. Precinct bosses controlled their precincts not only politically but also economically and determined which potholes got fixed. If you wanted a union job you had to be a democrat.

    Further political party membership got further devalued as federal regulations became more intrusive. Anti-discrimination laws further eroded party affiliation. Certain questions became out of bounds.

    As political party affiliation became less important financially, socially and getting things fixed membership dropped and will continue to drop. As an example, I have a cousin who is a heavy equipment operator in NJ. He is a life long Union member and life long democrat because it got him work. Lately though he has supported some local republican candidates.

  • Ride 'Em||

    Identity politics helped push this declining membership. Politicians became focused on votes in general elections. It is why the issue with democrats had to be left enough to win the primary but the would become more "moderate" for the general. I would bet if you asked each independent voter what is the one issue that the candidate they vote for has to support you would find one. Hence identity politics. You no longer had to belong to a party to get the politician to support your issue.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Identity politics helped push this declining membership.

    That exists in both parties .. though its a talking point for only right-wing goobers.

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