Why are we so evenly divided?

There was another thread recently discussing the roots of the division in this country. But what I’m wondering is why it’s so darned even. We’ve got three Senate races where the margin of victory is within a fraction of a percent. Why can’t one party or the other tweak its policies just enough to make that 50/50 split 52/48?

It’s a great question & my WAG is that it has to do with the 2 party system. There have been times when it has been 52/48 but we’re in something of a political civil war right now. Both parties are constantly trying to change public perception & they’re pretty evenly matched.

It’s akin to the median IQ score being 100. Those above are Democrats, below are Republicans.

It’s because we have two Americas: rural white America and metropolitan multicultural America, and we’re going tribal. It’s a contest to see which side can motivate its voters to come out more.

The two have much more in common than they have differences, and at bottom the nation mostly isn’t divided. However, the only way the Republican party can survive is by continually propping up this narrative, and since most Americans are simplistic, it works.

It’s perhaps the most interesting question in US politics. IMO both parties are leaving significant “money on the table”, rejecting relatively straightforward policy shifts that would improve their electoral performance.

For the Republicans it’s adopting moderately populist economic policies and abandoning tax cuts for the rich as their supreme policy priority. For the Democrats it’s moderating their positions on hot-button issues like immigration,abortion and guns, not in a dramatic way but just going back to where they were in 2006-2008.

Why don’t the parties do this? Basically the donor class. On the Republican side, there is a massive infrastructure paid for by rich people and corporations who want to see their taxes cut. This not only funds the party, it also provides lucrative jobs for operatives and retired politicians. On the Democratic side there is something similar though more diffuse: lot of rich socially liberal donors as well as powerful activist groups which keep pulling the party leftwards.

Right but why does rural white America have the same number of people (voters) as metropolitan multicultural America? Are the populations of each demographic the same?


Younger (more Democratic) people tend to stay home, and the Republicans have systematically gerrymandered and vote-suppressed with laws that make vote registration and actual voting much harder for poor (Democratic) non-whites.

If turnout was closer to 100% rather than the 50% it tends to be, the Republicans would be buried.
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It’s an interesting question. Selecting a representative in politics is vastly different than selection of a CEO. A CEO is selected by a board consisting of highly experienced, educated and proven business people. They usually make pretty good decisions and with large majorites. In a democratic election the lowest educated, dimmest (whatever metric you care to name) 50% of people have an equal say to the highest educated, smartest 50%. Politicians craft their positions on issues to give what they think the majority (or their majority) want, so in a two party system with powerful single issue divisions the system sets itself up to approach 50/50 doesn’t it?

  1. People love a horse race, so if a voter is politically unaffiliated she’ll tend to gravitate to the underdog.
  2. The parties are willing to open up to Centrism and cross-party ideas when they’re in a losing position. Once they’re in a winning position, they shift back towards their partisan roots. This is an artifact of it being that the people who run are more partisan, on average, than your average voter so they’ve got constant political blue balls and can’t help themselves the instant they think they can get away with going crazy. At which point they then alienate most of the voters.

I would say the same thing but from the other side: if a candidate looks to be cruising to victory then apathy will kick in for his/her supporters, which will tend to balance districts out over time.

I’m still surprised that with how crazy the GOP has become that they can convince 50% of voters, but as mentioned upthread: the system is rigged with as much gerrymandering and voter suppression as required to be first past the post.

Probably also true.

40% of the electorate thinks that the Earth is 10,000 years old. It doesn’t take a lot more than that to get near 50%.

Mississippi is 40% black but they cannot elect a black person to a statewide office mostly due to turnout.

BTW I wasn’t implying that republicans are the stupid 50%. Obviously many very smart and very educated people are republicans.

Oh, I think you’re mistaken. We’re bitterly divided over the question of how to define America. Is America a country that lives accordingly to WASP customs, traditions, and rules, or is it a place that can be more flexible and inclusive and egalitarian? We’re absolutely bitterly divided over that question. Yes, we have shared concerns, but that’s not what’s on the minds of Trump voters.

And don’t expect changes anytime soon. Don’t expect voters to make ‘rational’ decisions and to wake up and realize that we’re better off subscribing to values like cooperation and integration. A lot of white Americans feel more comfortable knowing that they have a reserved seat at the dinner table.

They’ve been energized. They believe they have a champion fighting for the preservation of America as a white Christian nation, and they’re taking up his fight. There are obviously political hazards in the suburbs, where moderate conservatives might be turned off by the harsh tone and rhetoric. The solution to that problem is voter suppression of the opposition, which is what they absolutely intend to carry out: make sure that the “right” people can vote in greater numbers. That way they can maintain a demographic advantage.

Hotelling’s law may have something to do with it.

Except that Trump didn’t rush to the middle; instead he has established very clear political lines and asked people to declare where they stand.

Politics, including democracies, are inherently tribal to a large degree. What changes from one campaign to the next, one era to the next is how the tribes are defined. Are they defined according to national interests, or are they defined along ethnic, religious, cultural, and racial lines? Or are they defined in other ways?

We’re inherently tribal, but not inherently racist or cultural xenophobes. We can learn to prefer cooperation with others over raw competition, and increasingly, with daunting challenges of climate change and increasingly sophisticated weaponry, the survival of the species will depend on our ability to recognize this.

How many senate races should be close to 50/50 in your opinion, and how many should be 52/48?

How does the fact that most of the races are not close at all enter into your consideration?

I started listing all this years margins, but I got bored

Dianne Feinstein 53.8%
Chris Murphy 58.4%
Tom Carper 60%
Maxie Hirono 72.7%
Mike Braun 52.9%
Angus King 54.2%
Ben Cardin 64.2%

and so on and so forth.

People have made a lot of good points, but they have ignored a major flaw in the premise of the OP and are discussing various ways the votes are actually evenly split.

This, Hotelling’s law and the median voter theorem explain 90% of politics.