Politics is becoming one of those things where the conventional wisdom diverges so radically from my own observations, that I figure one of us must be crazy. (Like the TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” which is wildly successful and popular, but which I think may top “Manimal” as the worst television show ever produced.)
Based on the behavior of politicians and the general thrust of political press coverage, it seems like the experts believe that the American political landscape looks like this:
This covers the full range of political thought, as far as the conventional wisdom is concerned. Democrats owning the Left, Republicans accounting for the Right, and the coveted moderate/independent voters in the middle, including such even-handed thinkers (read, “erratic wusses”) as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and impartial press types (pause for ten minutes of bitter laughter) like Wolf Blitzer.
So, we’re to believe that this formulation accounts for every political leaning. Everyone who’s not explicitly Democrat or Republican falls in between–right of Democrats but left of Republicans. And this determines the political center of gravity for the country. Balance requires that we find a middle way that mixes the philosophies of the two parties. The most respected politicians are the ones who can “reach across the aisle” and find compromise with the other party.
However, based on my personal observations, I believe that the diagram above is severely deficient and provides an inaccurate and incomplete picture of the electorate. I think that America looks more like the diagram below:
The conventional wisdom accounts for people without party affiliation by shoving them into the “Independent” category, assuming that they want some mishmash of Republican and Democratic policies (like, lower taxes, but more illegal aliens, or vice versa, or something).
First, this is an overly generous characterization of the thumb-sucking dimwits who actually populate the void between Republican and Democratic thought. And second, it completely misses the quiet but enormous part of the population labeled above as “Everybody Else.”
The people in “Everybody Else” don’t care about politics. They are eligible to vote, but rarely do. They don’t respond to surveys, and they hang up on pollsters. They’re all the people who just try to live their lives, be good neighbors, and stay out of trouble.
Since “Everybody Else” doesn’t vote or agitate or protest or file lawsuits, nobody in the political world knows they’re there, so they have no interest in promoting candidate that will appeal to them. The mechanisms aren’t in place in either the Democratic or Republican parties to produce “Everybody Else” leaders.
However, recent political events have been bad enough to rouse a portion of “Everybody Else” to action. This is where the Tea Party came from. Now there are a lot of “Everybody Else” involved in the process to try to find an alternative to Barak Obama, and–surprise, surprise–they’re not finding any of their choices very appealing.
If “Everybody Else” stayed involved in politics for an extended length of time, maybe they could start to drag those Democrat and Republican bubbles in their direction. Unfortunately, what makes them “Everybody Else” is they’ve got better things to do than politics.