Our blog has moved!

Please check us out at http://blog.ruck.us/blog/.   

This is a great analysis of where the electorate is right now.  As much as the pendulum has swung back and forth between the two parties, the fundamental mood of the electorate has not changed.  People are frustrated, and every time they take a chance on new leadership that fails to produce change, their frustration grows.  Its the starkest linear trend in an industry dominated by cycles.  We have had six change elections in a row (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010).  Just look at the graphic.  It says it all. 

Great piece on the instinctive nature of cooperation.

Reid Wilson is spot on:

But the fourth reason both sides are reluctant has to do with the new reality in Washington: The party apparatus is no longer the Beltway big dog. Instead, outside groups that specialize in winning elections are taking that role.

This is not good.


For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.

The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google “on behalf of an unnamed client.”

(via nationaljournal)

We’ve already posted about this, but here is a new take on the recent Gallup poll.  From Neal Boortz:

Republican Party … are you listening?  New Gallup polling shows that a majority of Republicans (52%) believe that it is time for a viable third party in Washington.  People are sick of the pandering to social conservatives that often hamstrings members of the GOP.  In gearing up for 2012, some Republicans seem to be forgetting the reason why so many people showed up to the polls in 2010 and voted them into office.  Republicans were not given control of the House by the voters because of abortion or gay marriage.  It was the economy and the oppressiveness of government.  The voters wanted smaller government, lower taxes and lower spending.  When was the last time you can recall a Republican swooping into office because of their grand-standing against abortion?  Get with the program, Republicans.  If your goal is to defeat Obama in 2012, you will look at these numbers and realize that the people are ready to split if you don’t give them what they are looking for.

Do We Need Political Parties?

This morning, Gallup released a poll showing that a majority of Americans (52%) want a third party.  The rare convergence of a majority of Americans around any issue related to political parties underscores just how far the two parties have fallen.

Its clear that Americans are frustrated and in search of an alternative.  But for most people, a third party is probably not the answer.   

The most immediate problem with third parties is that they face steep organizing hurdles and are often fraught with internal dissent, as those searching for alternatives realize they are not a monolithic whole.  Further, simple game theory encourages two – not three – rival factions, putting pressure on any alternative faction to end up fusing with one of the two major parties. 

So does this mean we are stuck with two unappealing options?  Maybe not, as it’s becoming increasingly apparent that political parties are not that necessary after all. 

Consider this: for most of our nation’s history, parties served an important purpose.  In the early days of our democracy, our Founding Fathers formed parties to organize the diverse viewpoints in the new democratic experiment.  Their acceptance of parties, though, was grudging.   Recall Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote:

“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

Even in recent history, parties served a purpose.  Before campaigns became professionalized, candidates solicited contributions from party regulars, relied on party materials for message, and used party volunteers to self-address, stamp, and seal envelopes in mass mailings.

It’s a different ballgame today.  Candidates raise money from their own networks or with the help of professional fundraising consultants.  They send mail through outside mail firms.  And their messaging is their own.  The best example of the evolution of campaigns is Obama 2008, when candidate Obama built a fundraising empire that was largely composed of people who couldn’t be found on the DNC’s lists.

As candidates are slowly weaning themselves off parties, so are individuals.  Most people join a party because it gives them something in return.  There is an implicit trade: in exchange for the party helping elect politically like-minded people, the individual forfeits her political identity and absorbs the party platform as her own.  But as 527s are rising in prominence and candidates are increasingly independent of parties, many Americans are finding themselves with the short end of the stick. 

If we were to tear down the two-party system tomorrow and build something new in its place, its unlikely the new system would look anything like the Democratic and Republican parties of today.  This is because the two parties no longer comport with how we live our lives.  The technological revolution over the last decade has left us feeling accustomed and entitled to multiple choices.  Ten years ago, if we wanted to see a movie, we needed to get in our car and drive to a theater or our closest Blockbuster, itself a recent invention.  Today, we need nothing more than an Internet connection to download any movie we want on demand, to say nothing of the other options that exist on cable or NetFlix.  Similarly, if we want to buy a pair of shoes, we don’t need to rely on our local merchants.  We can go online, compare prices, and even have them shipped to arrive the next day. 

Options abound in everyday life.  But, when it comes to politics, we still have the same two choices we’ve had for almost two hundred years.  The experience is like walking into a restaurant that only serves meat or fish. 

There is another disconnect when it comes to giving feedback.  Because of technology, we can now write and share our own restaurant reviews, recommend movies to friends, and “like” or “dislike” about anything.  But there is no app for giving your party feedback on what it should stand for.  If you are a progressive Democrat who believes that the party should support legalizing marijuana, your best option is probably writing a letter (though considering the likely impact of any such letter, you’d be better off smoking it). 

It is no wonder that a rare majority of Americans have come around to the notion that we need something other than the two main political parties.  Over the last few decades, the two parties have become elite bodies, pushing information down on the frustrated masses.  The masses have, in turn, reacted by finding other alternatives, such as the tea party or Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. 

Our collective frustration with parties is a linear trend, and it’s unlikely to go anywhere until something significant changes.  As technology puts hundreds of products on the market each day to innovate how we live our lives, it only seems natural that it will provide a better organizing vehicle too.   If technology does for politics what it has already done to information, entertainment, and commerce, we just might see political parties go the way of record stores, travel agents, and encyclopedia salesmen.   

Up in heaven, Thomas Jefferson would be smiling. 

Fifty-two percent of Americans believe the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the people that a third party is needed…Gallup has always found political independents to be most desirous of a third party, and 68% currently are. But right now there is also a significant party gap, with 52% of Republicans favoring a third party, compared with 33% of Democrats.

Huge split in who members of Congress credit for killing bin Laden.  See below:

A Smart Politics review of press releases and statements made by nearly 400 members of the U.S. House since Sunday finds Democrats have been more than twice as likely as Republicans to give Obama commendations for the mission while Republicans have been eight times more likely than Democrats to acknowledge the efforts of President George W. Bush.

Thanks Political Wire.

The Pew Research Center released a study yesterday that redefined the political landscape.  For years, we have broken down the electorate into Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, and the latter have been confused with moderates.  The Pew Study shows two things.  First, Independents continue to rise as a percentage of the electorate.  Over the last ten years, Republican affiliation has declined a little, Democratic affiliation has remained about the same, but Independent affiliation has grown by eight points.

Second, Independents are not a monolithic group.  Instead, the are largely libertarians, “disaffecteds,” or “post-moderns,” and each group is distinct. 

As Chris Cilliza said this morning:

"Disaffecteds, for example, believe in helping the needy more than most Democrats. Libertarians side with business more than even the solidly Republican Staunch Conservatives. And Post-Moderns accept homosexuality more than most Democrats. The three independents groups are also less religious, on the whole, than either Republicans or most Democrats.

What it all shows is an independent contingent that is anything but homogenous and is hardly easy to define. And that creates problems for politicians trying to woo independent voters.”

Fascinating piece and definitely worth a read.