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Old 10-23-2019, 10:44 AM
Thing Fish is offline
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The Myth of the Moderate Middle


This is a really important 538 article that came out right about the time the Ukraine scandal broke and didn't get the attention it deserved.

It rebuts the myth, quite popular on and off this board, that there exists some large group of "moderate" voters who feel that both major parties are too extreme and are looking for a "centrist" alternative. The corollary is that, in order to win elections, parties need to fight off their ideologically pure wings and field candidates who appeal to the "center". Well, guess what, it's all bullshit.

What the data shows is that "moderate" and "independent" are labels used by mostly low-information voters whose actual policy preferences are all over the map. Many "moderates" support rather extreme policies, at least with regard to some issues; they may fall in line with one party's position on some issues and the other on others. There is no policy platform that is capable of uniting all these voters, because they want radically different things. And besides, since they're low information voters, their voting decisions often bear little relation to the policies they tell pollsters they would like to see enacted.

A couple money quotes:
Quote:
As the political scientists Donald Kinder and Nathan Kalmoe put it, after looking at five decades of public opinion research, “the moderate category seems less an ideological destination than a refuge for the innocent and the confused.”
Quote:
Anybody who claims to have the winning formula for winning moderate, independent or undecided voters is making things up. Perhaps more centrist policies will appeal to some voters in each of these categories — but so will more extreme policies.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:03 AM
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There was a politician in my home state that delivered a memorable quote on that subject. "There ain't anything in the middle of the road but dead skunks and a yellow stripe."

The quote was so memorable that I've completely forgotten who said it, but I generally agree with the sentiment.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:07 AM
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Another quote is "Asking middling-centrist voters what issues they care about elicits a blank stare from them, as if I'd asked them what their favorite prime number is."
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:09 AM
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I think moderates have been hunted to near extinction. Elections aren't won any more by appealing to the middle, they're won by ginning up the base. Appealing to moderates is a losing strategy, you wind up turning off your base.

Also mythical- the independent voter. If records were available, I bet they would show that most people vote for one party nearly exclusively and it would only be the rare exception that votes for D or R in different elections.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:14 AM
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Do you expect people to give up referring to "the left" and "the right"? Good luck with that.

But as long as we refer to voters/politicians/parties as left or right, it's natural to think of them as existing somewhere along a linear continuum. Under that model, voters will choose between two candidates by selecting the one that's closer on that continuum, even if (s)he's just a little closer than the other candidate. Then the smartest strategy for a party that wants to win the election is to run a candidate that's just a little to the left (or right, depending on the party) of the other candidate, to be the choice of the maximum number of voters.
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Old 10-23-2019, 12:07 PM
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I'm a moderate voter. I'm not mythical. I'm just not represented by the leftwing and right wing. Not every American is partisan. Independents still decide elections.
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Old 10-23-2019, 12:22 PM
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Bob, I'm sure data does exist on that, but I don't have it handy. According to this study, though, only 4.3% of voters both identify as independents and aren't sure which party's Presidential candidate they will support next year. Only 5.3% of voters are undecided "moderates". So, yeah.

The article also makes the point that "moderates" as a group are actually somewhat left of center and more likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans. This is likely due to the Reagan-era branding strategy that led Republicans to embrace the "conservative" label, while making Democrats skittish of claiming to be "liberals".

Thudlow, the point is that that model is fatally flawed,because many voters can't be placed along a left-right continuum. For example, consider a voter who supports Medicare for All, but opposes same-sex marriage. Is that voter to the left or the right of a voter who takes the opposite positions? You could say that on average they're both "moderates", but it's pretty unlikely they'll ever be enthusiastic about the same candidate. And then you have to consider that many voters don't vote on policy at all, but on some variation of the "who would I like to have a beer with?" test, and that such voters are likely to self-define as "moderates".

The model of the left-right continuum is appealingly simplistic and produces an easily grasped strategy for winning, but it simply doesn't fit reality.
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Old 10-23-2019, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Yankees 1996 Champs View Post
I'm a moderate voter. I'm not mythical. I'm just not represented by the leftwing and right wing. Not every American is partisan. Independents still decide elections.
Sure, self-identified "moderates" constitute about a third of the electorate, and independents about a sixth. So it's trivially true that you can't win an election without appealing to those voters. But those groups are so heterogeneous that it's impossible to formulate a strategy that will appeal to all of them. As a guide to campaign strategy, saying "appeal to independent voters" is about as useful as saying "appeal to voters". It's true, but it doesn't offer useful guidance on what you should actually do or say.

The group of voters who actually hold positions on most important issues which are about midway between the normative Democratic and Republican positions is nowhere near as large as the groups self-identifying as moderates or independents.
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Old 10-23-2019, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Thing Fish View Post
This is a really important 538 article that came out right about the time the Ukraine scandal broke and didn't get the attention it deserved.

It rebuts the myth, quite popular on and off this board, that there exists some large group of "moderate" voters who feel that both major parties are too extreme and are looking for a "centrist" alternative. The corollary is that, in order to win elections, parties need to fight off their ideologically pure wings and field candidates who appeal to the "center". Well, guess what, it's all bullshit.

What the data shows is that "moderate" and "independent" are labels used by mostly low-information voters whose actual policy preferences are all over the map. Many "moderates" support rather extreme policies, at least with regard to some issues; they may fall in line with one party's position on some issues and the other on others. There is no policy platform that is capable of uniting all these voters, because they want radically different things. And besides, since they're low information voters, their voting decisions often bear little relation to the policies they tell pollsters they would like to see enacted.

A couple money quotes:
I think some people just vote on how they "feel" about the current state of the country. I know some people that voted for Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004. And they voted for Trump in 2016. I think these "moderates" are "right track/wrong track" voters. If they sense that the country is going wrong-track, they vote for the person who they think is likely to do a course correction, regardless of that person's stance on certain issues. As much as I disagreed, these people seemed to swing toward Trump in 2016, because he represented a change from the status-quo that they identified as wrong track.
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Old 10-23-2019, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Tatterdemalion View Post
There was a politician in my home state that delivered a memorable quote on that subject. "There ain't anything in the middle of the road but dead skunks and a yellow stripe."

The quote was so memorable that I've completely forgotten who said it, but I generally agree with the sentiment.
Jim Hightower, maybe?

Some sites credit him with it.
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Old 10-23-2019, 12:50 PM
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I think the issue is that most people aren't ideologically pure, by the standards of either party. For example, it's entirely possible in the real world to be firmly for the space program, a muscular foreign policy, a big military, and also be for equality, tolerance, diversity and environmental preservation. Or pro-choice and anti-gay marriage, for example.

So when these people are looking for who to vote for, they may have something of an ideological bent, but they're not at all all-in on either party. So they tend to vote for the candidate who sounds like they're best on what they personally perceive to be the issues facing their city/county/state/nation at that time. They're not voting for a party platform, they're not voting for the long haul to get a slate of issues enacted, they're voting more immediate- if the city has problems with crime, they're voting for the more law-and-order mayoral candidate. If the country's facing economic issues they'll vote for the guy that they perceive as offering the best remedy.

I wouldn't say they're low information voters- far from it. They're something else- low allegiance(?) maybe?

And I want to point out that in the posted 538 article, it would have been very enlightening to show those scatterplots with non-moderate Democrat and Republicans also plotted; I suspect that the moderates/independents/undecideds would have looked far more moderate by comparison than they do how they're currently portrayed in that article.

Last edited by bump; 10-23-2019 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:03 PM
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Well, moderates are certainly more heterogenous. I'm sure a similar plot would show most self-identifed liberals clustered in the economically/socially liberal quadrant and most self-identified conservatives in the economically/socially conservative quadrant. But there are still large numbers of people who are way far to the left or right on both measures who think of themselves as "moderates", so the label is much less useful than "liberal" or "conservative" as far as allowing you to reasonably guess what positions someone actually holds.

Last edited by Thing Fish; 10-23-2019 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Do you expect people to give up referring to "the left" and "the right"? Good luck with that.
The last French election boasted at least four major parties that billed themselves as "neither left nor right but X", including the one that won (which, admittedly, is really "neither left nor right but really right but at least we're not The Fash but more and more The Fash adjacent").

As for "if only more moderate centrists...", I'm genuinely struggling to imagine a candidate that'd be more milquetoasty, bland and inoffensive than the current crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls - or Obama for that matter. Except for Bernie, who often actually sets foot in the vicinity of what "the Left" means anywhere outside the US.
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:51 PM
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I think this is a very interesting topic, and relates to several issues that I personally find confusing about what factors determine who wins presidential elections. Here are some of my observations, which I'm sure also have some flaws. If so, please feel free to point out where my observations are flawed or irrelevant.

Regarding moderates, centrists, and independents, it seems that there is a contingent of voters who seem to never be satisfied. There were 20 candidates at one point in this cycle for the Democratic nomination, and IIRC there were 16 major candidates for the Republican nomination at the high number mark in 2016. None the less, there were in both cases some supposedly "moderate", "centrist", or "independent" voters who could not find anyone they liked in these large fields. This seems to agree with what 538 reports that there is no one group of moderate or centrist voters who can be won over by a centrist candidate.


Regarding the idea of voting for a candidate that "I'd like to have a beer with" it does seem to me that going back to at least Carter's victory over Ford in 1976 that the more charismatic candidate has always won the election. This seems to imply that moderates / centrists do care more about style and personality than the actual policy positions of the candidates. One alternate explanation is that the people on the far left or far right are only inspired to come out by a charismatic candidate (Obama, Bill Clinton, Bush Jr, Trump) and end up staying home for someone who is is seen as boring or vanilla (Kerry, Romney, Dole, Hillary Clinton).
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:56 PM
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I consider myself to be fairly moderate.

But 31 is my favorite prime number
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Old 10-23-2019, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
It rebuts the myth, quite popular on and off this board, that there exists some large group of "moderate" voters who feel that both major parties are too extreme and are looking for a "centrist" alternative. The corollary is that, in order to win elections, parties need to fight off their ideologically pure wings and field candidates who appeal to the "center". Well, guess what, it's all bullshit.
Kind of seems you set up a strawman argument then knocked it down, to be honest. Most people who feel there is a large group of voters in the middle don't say anything like 'voters who feel that both major parties are too extreme and are looking for a "centrist" alternative'. Instead, there is a large group of voters who aren't part of the extreme views of the left or right across the board. I'd say that's not exactly a myth. As for winning, again, that's not a myth...it's pretty apparent that, usually, candidates run in the primaries by pandering to the left or right and then, in the general run to the center. Nothing mythological about that.

What's bullshit is the strawman argument. As for a 'centrist alternative', well, generally that's the candidate from one party or the other who most closely aligns with the center, at least in the general election. There IS no real centrist party (or, more accurately, both parties accommodate, to some degree, centrist positions), so centrist voters vote Democrat or Republican, as our system is the big tent system...you pick the least odious of the alternatives or the one who most closely aligns on the most issues with your other stance.

BTW, just because someone is 'centrist' doesn't mean they don't lean left or right on some, maybe on several issues. I consider myself a centrist (and I'm no myth ), but on many issues I'm left leaning, while on some I lean more towards the right...and this is key...WRT the US political center. Something that, itself, shifts over time.

Quote:
What the data shows is that "moderate" and "independent" are labels used by mostly low-information voters whose actual policy preferences are all over the map. Many "moderates" support rather extreme policies, at least with regard to some issues; they may fall in line with one party's position on some issues and the other on others. There is no policy platform that is capable of uniting all these voters, because they want radically different things. And besides, since they're low information voters, their voting decisions often bear little relation to the policies they tell pollsters they would like to see enacted.
I think this demonstrates a misunderstanding of what centrist and independent even are wrt our political system.
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Old 10-23-2019, 02:50 PM
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Seems like a "centrist" would have to be someone who takes a moderate position on most issues. These are rare. People like you, who lean left on issue A and right on issue B, are much more common. But I have no interest in debating the meaning of "centrist".

The study I linked to describes the beliefs of people who identify themselves as moderates and/or independents. So, if there's a misunderstanding of what those terms mean, it's on the part of the people who embrace those labels.
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Old 10-23-2019, 02:53 PM
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I think moderates have been hunted to near extinction. Elections aren't won any more by appealing to the middle, they're won by ginning up the base. Appealing to moderates is a losing strategy, you wind up turning off your base.

Also mythical- the independent voter. If records were available, I bet they would show that most people vote for one party nearly exclusively and it would only be the rare exception that votes for D or R in different elections.
I think you are mistaken. There is a new dichotomy developing where it seems that the lines are clearly drawn. You must be on one side or the other, so people remain distant from discussion. A socially liberal Republican, a fiscally conservative Democrat, there is no place in the political talk for either.

We MUST be on one side of an issue or the other, or be shouted down, so silence becomes the norm. There can be no discussion, no middle. And so productive debate cannot happen.

The Silent Majority, to use a damaged term from the Reagan Era. I think is it out there. You can only appeal to special, narrow, interest groups for so long. People tend to vote with their check book, and invest in new ideas only when it suits them.
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Old 10-23-2019, 02:55 PM
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Kind of seems you set up a strawman argument then knocked it down, to be honest. Most people who feel there is a large group of voters in the middle don't say anything like 'voters who feel that both major parties are too extreme and are looking for a "centrist" alternative'. Instead, there is a large group of voters who aren't part of the extreme views of the left or right across the board. I'd say that's not exactly a myth. As for winning, again, that's not a myth...it's pretty apparent that, usually, candidates run in the primaries by pandering to the left or right and then, in the general run to the center. Nothing mythological about that.

What's bullshit is the strawman argument. As for a 'centrist alternative', well, generally that's the candidate from one party or the other who most closely aligns with the center, at least in the general election. There IS no real centrist party (or, more accurately, both parties accommodate, to some degree, centrist positions), so centrist voters vote Democrat or Republican, as our system is the big tent system...you pick the least odious of the alternatives or the one who most closely aligns on the most issues with your other stance.

BTW, just because someone is 'centrist' doesn't mean they don't lean left or right on some, maybe on several issues. I consider myself a centrist (and I'm no myth ), but on many issues I'm left leaning, while on some I lean more towards the right...and this is key...WRT the US political center. Something that, itself, shifts over time.



I think this demonstrates a misunderstanding of what centrist and independent even are wrt our political system.
There is nothing wrong with being a centrist Independent.

I am one.


I don't like the far-far left of the Democratic Party.

I don't like the far-far right of the Republican Party.

I am middle of the road, like most Americans.

I agree with the GOP on some things, I agree with the Democrats on some things, and I have my own ideas on some things---like most Americans.

Twitter is not reality, most of the time.

Yes, elections are now base turnout elections, but independent voters need to be swayed as well.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:09 PM
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And it's ridiculous to claim that that argument is a "strawman" that nobody actually makes. The very first paragraph of the link in the OP includes links to multiple opinion pieces from, among other places, the NY times and WSJ making exactly that argument. It comes up in every single thread on this board discussing the current primaries.

I'm really not sure what your position is. Are you claiming that parties should try to find policies and candidates that appeal to "moderate independents?" If so, why are you describing your own position as a "bullshit strawman argment"? If not, what exactly are you disagreeing with?

ETA: That was to XT; thanks to Yankees for ninjaing me in order to demonstrate my point!

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Old 10-23-2019, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Yankees 1996 Champs View Post
There is nothing wrong with being a centrist Independent.

I am one.


I don't like the far-far left of the Democratic Party.

I don't like the far-far right of the Republican Party.

I am middle of the road, like most Americans.

I agree with the GOP on some things, I agree with the Democrats on some things, and I have my own ideas on some things---like most Americans.

Twitter is not reality, most of the time.

Yes, elections are now base turnout elections, but independent voters need to be swayed as well.
I would suggest you read the article again and this time pay attention. The fact that you are a centrist and/or independent (and we'll just take that as a given) does not argue against the findings of the writer. The fact that you are a centrist and/or independent does not mean that most Americans are.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:17 PM
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There is nothing wrong with being a centrist Independent.

I am one.


I don't like the far-far left of the Democratic Party.

I don't like the far-far right of the Republican Party.

I am middle of the road, like most Americans.

I agree with the GOP on some things, I agree with the Democrats on some things, and I have my own ideas on some things---like most Americans.

Twitter is not reality, most of the time.

Yes, elections are now base turnout elections, but independent voters need to be swayed as well.
The thing is that many other people who consider themselves centrist independents agree with the GOP on the things that you agree with the Democrats on, and vice versa! So even though polls make these groups look large and important, their importance is greatly diluted by the fact that there's no chance that they're ever going to all vote as a bloc.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:24 PM
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To be precise, according to this particular study, 32.8% of Americans consider themselves moderates, so nowhere close to "most Americans". But quite a few of them actually hold opinions that, objectively speaking, would seem to classify them as either liberals or conservatives, so the number of actual "middle of the road" voters is even smaller.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:29 PM
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Be sure that the two political parties are aware that they have been wrong and using the wrong strategies for years now then. There is no large center in the US, so no point running to it during the general election. Instead, certainly they should focus more on the left or right wing voters and issues...that's a sure fire winning strategy.

You've convinced me.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:30 PM
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Another quote is "Asking middling-centrist voters what issues they care about elicits a blank stare from them, as if I'd asked them what their favorite prime number is."
101

You could count the number of centrist Republicans in my state on one hand and still have fingers left over.

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You must be on one side or the other, so people remain distant from discussion. A socially liberal Republican, a fiscally conservative Democrat, there is no place in the political talk for either.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:39 PM
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To be precise, according to this particular study, 32.8% of Americans consider themselves moderates, so nowhere close to "most Americans". But quite a few of them actually hold opinions that, objectively speaking, would seem to classify them as either liberals or conservatives, so the number of actual "middle of the road" voters is even smaller.
Sure, but there's a lot of latitude within those labels, and it's likely that liberals on the more conservative end of their spectrum, and conservatives on the more liberal end of theirs actually have more in common than they do with the more ideologically extreme ends of their parties.

I suspect most people who call themselves moderates aren't identifying with either party for some reason or another, and probably are not ideologically hardcore, or else they'd be card-carrying members of that party
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:39 PM
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I think part of the problem with this labeling and where who is on a left right single dimension axis is that the issues people care about aren't constrained to one axis.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:42 PM
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I think part of the problem with this labeling and where who is on a left right single dimension axis is that the issues people care about aren't constrained to one axis.
This is precisely what the OP's article is arguing.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:48 PM
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Be sure that the two political parties are aware that they have been wrong and using the wrong strategies for years now then. There is no large center in the US, so no point running to it during the general election. Instead, certainly they should focus more on the left or right wing voters and issues...that's a sure fire winning strategy.

You've convinced me.
Ah, so that's your bullshit strawman argument. I'm not saying that focusing solely on the left or right wing voters (the "base turnout" strategy) is optimal (although I note that there are a lot of political scientists and campaign professionals who would make that argument).

Of course, you need to win your share of "moderates" to win an election. My point is that that isn't as simple as just taking positions across the board which are approximately midway between the normative Democratic and Republican positions and expecting these voters to flock to your banner. I'm not arguing to replace one simplistic paradigm with another, I'm saying it's much more complicated than that.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:52 PM
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I think part of the problem with this labeling and where who is on a left right single dimension axis is that the issues people care about aren't constrained to one axis.
Right, and I think that when someone's got positions that don't fit with one party or the other (like the aforementioned person who likes a big military AND equality and diversity), they're not going to self-identify as a Democrat or Republican, which leaves them with "moderate" as the only real identifier left, even though they may not actually be 'moderate' in the classical sense.

I myself fall into that category- I'm not overly Democratic in most ways, but I'm not hateful or stupid enough to associate with today's GOP either- what would I be called?
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:53 PM
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Sure, but there's a lot of latitude within those labels, and it's likely that liberals on the more conservative end of their spectrum, and conservatives on the more liberal end of theirs actually have more in common than they do with the more ideologically extreme ends of their parties.

I suspect most people who call themselves moderates aren't identifying with either party for some reason or another, and probably are not ideologically hardcore, or else they'd be card-carrying members of that party
Moderate doesn't mean nonpartisan; 22% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats identify themselves as moderates.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:56 PM
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Right, and I think that when someone's got positions that don't fit with one party or the other (like the aforementioned person who likes a big military AND equality and diversity), they're not going to self-identify as a Democrat or Republican, which leaves them with "moderate" as the only real identifier left, even though they may not actually be 'moderate' in the classical sense.

I myself fall into that category- I'm not overly Democratic in most ways, but I'm not hateful or stupid enough to associate with today's GOP either- what would I be called?
I'm not sure. Sometimes I think the concept of trying to reduce complex reality into single labels is more troublesome than helpful. Lists of properties seem more accurate even if they make communication slightly more cumbersome.

We can't even decide what Pluto is. Or can we?
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Old 10-23-2019, 04:23 PM
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I agree with the OP.

I think most independents identify as such because it's easy to avoid scrutiny when you can hide your opinions behind a non-informative label. It also has the ego-soothing effect of implying you're more impartial and rational than others. Don't we all want to see ourselves as independent thinkers? And who really wants to be extreme?

The problem is, in truth, independents are just as biased as anyone else, especially about their pet issues. There are independents that have a basement full of guns and there are independents who want UHC. The only thing that unites independents is their avoidance of identifying as liberal or conservative. They want the freedom to vote for whomever they want. Never mind the fact that they 1) have that freedom regardless of what they call themselves and 2) often vote in a manner indistinguishable from Dems or Reps.
  #34  
Old 10-23-2019, 04:35 PM
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There is a large centre in the US, and it's represented by the Democratic Party. Your two main parties are one hard right and one centrist, that leans centre right in practice. There is relatively little space for someone to be in between the two.

The advantage of that is that, when the Democrats are in power, you will gave a pretty decent government.
  #35  
Old 10-23-2019, 04:40 PM
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I think most independents identify as such because it's easy to avoid scrutiny when you can hide your opinions behind a non-informative label. It also has the ego-soothing effect of implying you're more impartial and rational than others. Don't we all want to see ourselves as independent thinkers? And who really wants to be extreme?
That's partially true for me, but the main reason I identify as an independent is I'm not a member of a party, and I thought that's just what people did -- you identify with a party if you're a member of that party. I didn't know until like 5 years ago that some people identify with them without formal membership.
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Old 10-23-2019, 04:49 PM
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Seems like a "centrist" would have to be someone who takes a moderate position on most issues. These are rare. People like you, who lean left on issue A and right on issue B, are much more common. But I have no interest in debating the meaning of "centrist".

The study I linked to describes the beliefs of people who identify themselves as moderates and/or independents. So, if there's a misunderstanding of what those terms mean, it's on the part of the people who embrace those labels.
This is what I mean by moderate. If the issue is economic, then my moderate stance would be that sure we can raise taxes a bit but we also need to cut spending. Not hammer the rich and middle class, or give tax breaks to all of the people. Something more in the middle , whereas we all give some concessions.

Abortion and/or gun control measures.
Abortion is fine as long as we can somewhat agree on the bright red line to have it illegal.
Gun Control measures are fine as long as they don't dip into hurting the legal ownership or providing an undue burden for very little effect. (IE, like bump stocks, or "assault" weapons bans)

It does seem to me that the base is who the political parties can get riled up to vote, reliably though. The middle wants to hear both sides and then PICK a candidate that reflects their OWN values.

If it's a combination of left and/or right policies than great.

I will say that a centrist candidate would be far more likely to garner support for legislation if it wasn't seen as fringe, or Dem or Rep based.

We are currently a divided populace. It can't continue this way forever.
  #37  
Old 10-23-2019, 05:07 PM
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Ah, so that's your bullshit strawman argument. I'm not saying that focusing solely on the left or right wing voters (the "base turnout" strategy) is optimal (although I note that there are a lot of political scientists and campaign professionals who would make that argument).

Of course, you need to win your share of "moderates" to win an election. My point is that that isn't as simple as just taking positions across the board which are approximately midway between the normative Democratic and Republican positions and expecting these voters to flock to your banner. I'm not arguing to replace one simplistic paradigm with another, I'm saying it's much more complicated than that.
It's not MY strawman. Reading the article you linked too, it looks to me like it's built around a strawman argument (and some of those internet tests to show your east/west, north/south political orientation based on questionable metrics about their answers to a series of questions...just BrainGlutton used to do), namely that independent, moderate and undecided are all linked in some nebulous groups mind, and that all of those mean some sort of continuity of position across groups or even across the same 'group', and that all of this means, to quote you in the OP "some large group of "moderate" voters who feel that both major parties are too extreme and are looking for a "centrist" alternative". Or to quote from your article "a pivotal bloc of reasonable “independent” voters sick of the two major parties, just waiting for a centrist candidate to embrace a “moderate” policy vision". Perhaps there are folks who say this or think it (so it's not exactly a strawman in that case), but that's not what either the major parties or most people themselves THINK that 'moderate' or 'independent' or even 'undecided' (especially this one) actually means.

What it boils down to, as you sort of kind of admit yourself here, is 'Of course, you need to win your share of "moderates" to win an election'. What that ACTUALLY means is that you can count on a number of people who are going to vote (assuming they vote at all) for one party or the other...full stop. They will never vote against that...they will simply not vote if it comes down to not wanting their chosen party. In this case, you need unaligned voters who actually don't vote strict party line. Next up, you have folks, like me (or at least like I used to be) who basically look at the candidates and the issues, and vote for whoever they like best, regardless of the party they are in.

Now, switching terms yet again, you have people who have a very left leaning outlook. Then you have people who have a very right leaning outlook. These two groups are pretty much in lockstep about left or right leaning issues or policies. They will ALWAYS go for just about everything on one agenda or the other. Next you have people who are not quite in lock step, but mainly agree with one ideology outlook or the other, but usually have some vertical issue or issues where they can be swayed to a the other side. Finally, you have the people, again like me, who can lean a little one way or the other, but aren't nearly as fervent either way as the folks who are in either of the first two categories.

These aren't myths...they are reality. And the majority of Americans don't have a strong left or right bias across the board. They might have one or two issues where they DO think a strong left or right position is correct, but on other issues they are less fervent or even lean the other way.

Just to wrap this up, I don't think anyone believes that unaligned means centrist, or that independent means moderate. Basically, if you want to win in the US you have to capture your own fervent faithful and, at a minimum, get them to vote (ask Hillary about this sometime) AND then you need to capture folks who are in the center, who COULD be swayed one way or the other, to one party or the other, depending on the person running and/or the issues. Those people are not going to go for radical left or right wing positions, usually.

Or, to put it another way...people are more complex than silly strawmen, especially when you move away from the extremes and into the bulk of the population. Either that, or as I said, you really should get the memo out to the Democrats (or Republicans, though I doubt that's your thing) that they have been doing it wrong. Really, you don't need to worry about the center...it's small and really unimportant and they should focus on pushing the extremes. That's what I get out of your article and your OP...that it's all a myth.
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  #38  
Old 10-23-2019, 06:15 PM
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Do you expect people to give up referring to "the left" and "the right"? Good luck with that.

But as long as we refer to voters/politicians/parties as left or right, it's natural to think of them as existing somewhere along a linear continuum. Under that model,
Why? I've got a left hand and a right hand, but not a middle hand.



Unless you're a Motie, I guess.

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  #39  
Old 10-23-2019, 06:32 PM
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A lot of people don't follow politics besides the presidential races and even then a lot of people don't vote. Being political junkies is cool if you get the hook but you need to have the time and inclination to do so. A lot of rank and file voters are not entrenched in a political party or set of policy programs. They may be keen on a policy or program but not single issue folks who dictate an affiliation to one party that promises to fulfil it.

It wasn't that long ago being apolitical was the cool thing to do.
  #40  
Old 10-23-2019, 07:00 PM
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Quoth Dallas Jones:


You must be on one side or the other, so people remain distant from discussion. A socially liberal Republican, a fiscally conservative Democrat, there is no place in the political talk for either.
Of course there's room for a fiscally conservative Democrat. Did you mean to say that there's no room for a fiscally-conservative Republican?

Ludovic, in much of the US, there simply isn't any such thing as being a member of a political party, and in others, being a "member" of a party means nothing more nor less than that the last primary you voted in was for that party. When an American says "I'm a Whig", what that means is "I usually vote for the Whig candidate", because there's nothing else for it to mean. Well, OK, sometimes it also means "I'm a Tory but don't like to admit it", but that's still equally as official as the other meaning.
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:18 PM
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Or, to put it another way...people are more complex than silly strawmen, especially when you move away from the extremes and into the bulk of the population. Either that, or as I said, you really should get the memo out to the Democrats (or Republicans, though I doubt that's your thing) that they have been doing it wrong. Really, you don't need to worry about the center...it's small and really unimportant and they should focus on pushing the extremes. That's what I get out of your article and your OP...that it's all a myth.
You're still missing the point. Let me try using a concrete example.

A half dozen times a day on this board, someone posts some variation on "The Democrats shouldn't run on Medicare For All, because it will drive away moderate voters and they will lose". All I am saying is that that, by itself, isn't a valid argument. If you want to make that case, you need to provide specific cites showing that moderates are mostly opposed to Medicare For All.

Common sense says it's ridiculous to ask for a cite that "moderates" would be opposed to a radical, ambitious, ultra-expensive policy proposal. What I am saying is that common sense is wrong, that we can't safely assume that self-described "moderates" actually favor centrist policies, and we need to look at it on an issue by issue basis. A party that fails to do that and relies on lazy "common sense" assumptions will harm its chances.
  #42  
Old 10-23-2019, 08:37 PM
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I consider myself to be a political moderate. I do not consider myself to be uninformed or confused.

I feel that I can make a honest claim to being a moderate because there are politicians and partisans both to the right of me and to the left of me with whom I disagree.

I grew up in an era when the two big parties each had wings on the extreme; there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. I feel that the Republican party has been taken over by conservatives to the point where the two terms, conservative and Republican, have become synonymous. I feel the Democrats still have a moderate wing along with a liberal wing. So I vote for moderate Democrats.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 10-23-2019 at 08:37 PM.
  #43  
Old 10-23-2019, 08:56 PM
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I feel that I can make a honest claim to being a moderate because there are politicians and partisans both to the right of me and to the left of me with whom I disagree.
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right...

Quote:
I feel that the Republican party has been taken over by conservatives to the point where the two terms, conservative and Republican, have become synonymous.
The Republican party has been taken over by something/someone, but I'm not so sure it's "conservatives" in any traditional sense.
  #44  
Old 10-23-2019, 09:50 PM
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The Republican party has been taken over by something/someone, but I'm not so sure it's "conservatives" in any traditional sense.
Then let's say that whoever has taken over the Republican party has also taken over the conservative movement.
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Old 10-23-2019, 09:54 PM
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Just to wrap this up, I don't think anyone believes that unaligned means centrist, or that independent means moderate. Basically, if you want to win in the US you have to capture your own fervent faithful and, at a minimum, get them to vote (ask Hillary about this sometime) AND then you need to capture folks who are in the center, who COULD be swayed one way or the other, to one party or the other, depending on the person running and/or the issues. Those people are not going to go for radical left or right wing positions, usually.
.
Nothing in the non-bolded part of this paragraph has any relevance to anything that I said. You are obviously not reading very carefully, as I have already said twice that I am not advocating a "base turnout" strategy, yet you repeatedly imply that I am doing so.

And the whole point of the article is that those people WILL go for radical left or right wing positions, not "usually" but more often than you might expect. You don't even have to read the article to get that, just look at the pretty pictures. Do you need me to tell you how to read a scattershot graph?
  #46  
Old 10-23-2019, 10:11 PM
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Sorry, that last post was kind of intemperate. I’m going to give the keyboard a rest now...
  #47  
Old 10-23-2019, 10:28 PM
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I'm a moderate voter. I'm not mythical. I'm just not represented by the leftwing and right wing. Not every American is partisan. Independents still decide elections.
Not partisan? You're a Yankees fan.
  #48  
Old 10-24-2019, 10:12 AM
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You're still missing the point. Let me try using a concrete example.

A half dozen times a day on this board, someone posts some variation on "The Democrats shouldn't run on Medicare For All, because it will drive away moderate voters and they will lose". All I am saying is that that, by itself, isn't a valid argument. If you want to make that case, you need to provide specific cites showing that moderates are mostly opposed to Medicare For All.

Common sense says it's ridiculous to ask for a cite that "moderates" would be opposed to a radical, ambitious, ultra-expensive policy proposal. What I am saying is that common sense is wrong, that we can't safely assume that self-described "moderates" actually favor centrist policies, and we need to look at it on an issue by issue basis. A party that fails to do that and relies on lazy "common sense" assumptions will harm its chances.
I think what several of us are trying to get at is that there aren't really many real "moderate voters" in the sense of someone whose views on things are consistently in the middle. You can see that in the plots in your article- they're fairly well distributed.

But using that two-axis graph, we'd see the party faithful cluster in opposite corners (the anti-immigration/pro-market and the pro-immigration/egalitarian corners).

So if you were to draw a circle taking up 1/3 of the people centered on where the axes cross, that would be your "moderate" or "centrist" position, even if there's not really a cluster there to call "moderate" or "centrist".

You're trying to argue that because there's no cluster right at the middle, that there's no "moderate" or "centrist" position, and the rest of us are saying that that self-identified 1/3 does center, if not cluster around the middle, and politicians would be making a mistake to assume that because there's no cluster there, that it can be safely ignored.
  #49  
Old 10-24-2019, 10:23 AM
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The observation that the "middle" is mostly a vacuous uninformed and unfocused batch of fools may be an accurate one, but the observers who made that observation are questionable.

I have long seen that any perspective that does not align with the conventional left or the conventional right is perceived as utterly incoherent by the partisans on both sides. And one of the reasons for that is that they actually believe there's a political linear continuum such that anyone who isn't "Them" and isn't "Us" can only be somewhere in the middle.

A lot of times that's about as sensible as trying to shoehorn-define Czech cuisine as halfway between Italian and Mexican.
  #50  
Old 10-24-2019, 10:52 AM
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I think you are mistaken. There is a new dichotomy developing where it seems that the lines are clearly drawn. You must be on one side or the other, so people remain distant from discussion. A socially liberal Republican, a fiscally conservative Democrat, there is no place in the political talk for either.
I don't get what you mean about there being no room for a fiscally conservative Democrat - while it's hard to call either party truly fiscally conservative, there are far more fiscally conservative positions that Democrats embrace and/or tolerate than Republicans. Republicans favor huge military spending including foreign military ventures, corporate welfare and bailouts, huge tax cuts without corresponding spending cuts, and using office to make private profits (the Republican endorsement of Trump's actions is the biggest example). And of course, the biggest domestic spending issue is healthcare, where Republicans explicitly and loudly oppose the cost and life saving measures that all other first world have embraced. While Republicans like to use the label 'fiscally conservative', I've never seen any evidence that they actually are anything remotely like that label, and they've gotten much worse in recent years.
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