It’s finals season and with a case study and two seminar papers written, it’s off to studying Campaigns and Elections for my exam on Saturday. But in the midst of procrastinating, I came upon a twitter post linking to a Jonathan Chait article on TNR discussing Mark Penn’s failure to grasp even the minute aspects of American politics.
Penn’s Argument: America is headed towards the introduction of a viable third party along the center of the vast divide between the political ideologies of the Democrats and Republicans. This third party will be socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
Penn’s Evidence: The American system of federalism and separation of powers was bound to produce and reinforce two-party strength, especially with the introduction of campaign finance laws and redistricting. There is currently a gulf in American political representation, as most Americans identify as independents.
Chait’s Response: Chait points out Penn’s lack of recognition of the role that America’s first-past-the-post electoral system (plurality rule) and electoral college play in discouraging third parties. He then goes on to show note that as any student of political science knows, the number of people who self-identify as independents bares little relationship to those people actually having little to no affiliation with a particular political ideology (traditionally, even independents tend to hold strong political views and vote certain ways – either Democrat or Republican). Finally, Chait argues that the underrepresented opinion in this nation is not socially liberal and economic conservative, but rather economically liberal and socially conservative (think Catholics).
Read Chait’s response in full. It should teach you a little bit about the basics of political science and it sure helped me study for my exam.
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