political science question - anyone remember the term or theory for...

It’s been over twenty years since my political science class in college.

I recall there was a principle or theory for keeping a stable democracy. I can’t recall what it was called and it’s bugging me.

Basically, the theory was no matter which political party gets elected, the people in power aren’t going to make any drastic changes that will upset the general public. On any given issue there’s often 30% or more of the population on the opposing side. Obviously we don’t want another civil war or armed insurrection.

For example, no one is going to abolish Social Security. They may alter it, but one way or another those checks will get mailed every month.

Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society were exceptions. But even those programs didn’t inflame the public.

The principle works very well. For the most part, radical armed elements that want to overthrow the gov. are unknown in the U.S. We did have the Black Panthers, Weathermen, SDS, and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) emerge from the turmoil of the 1960’s. Thankfully those groups didn’t continue after the 70’s.

I remember studying this principle but can’t remember the name for it. Anyone know??

I ask because of what is going on in Wisconsin. It seems like that could easily spiral into something very dangerous. Anyone that has studied the labor movements knows about the violence and passions that can erupt. There were some bad riots in the 1930’s between strike breakers and labor.

I honestly can’t remember the specific name, so hopefully someone can pop in with a correct answer.

What does come to mind is the Democratic Peace Theory (which says that democracies don’t fight with each other because they are accountable to their people), but that’s not quite what you’re looking for.

Is this it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consociationalism

Perhaps you are thinking of the median voter theorem.