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August 22, 2004

Musings on "The Big Tent" « Politics As Usual »

Both parties like to think they are inclusive. Talk about political parties, and you'll discuss how each party has a moderate wing and an extreme wing. Both parties don't do enough to disavow and marginalize the whackos, perhaps, and Democrats get blamed for PETA and ELF and NARAL as much as Republicans get blamed for Jerry Falwell and white supremacists.

This gets characterized as a "Big Tent"...

The tent roof encloses the party, and if someone is in your tent, you are responsible for their presence in some didn't hunt them down and throw them out, at the very least. The parties then try to expand the coverage of their tent. Republicans have been conservative, for instance...but as college students have gotten sick of 'speech codes' and extreme political correctness on campuses, being Republican has become somewhat cool, and we have what is known as South Park Republicans...people who agree with very little of the traditional Republican/Conservative background except for small government/fiscal responsibility. They want sex on TV, they like Howard Stern, they see no problem with legalizing drugs, might be weakly pro-choice, push for a more secular society and are weakly to strongly pro-SSM.

I disagree with pretty much all of that except for the 'fiscal responsibilty' part. In the past that would have put me squarely in the center of the party, but these days, I'm considered a right-wing wacko by many members of the same party. And yet I disagree nearly as sharply with Pat Buchanon or Jerry Falwell. Go figure.

I think this happened because President Clinton deliberately emphasized the "moderate" portions of his platform to attract moderate voters...but these people then felt betrayed by his actions and move back to the left after being elected. These are the same people who didn't really like Bush in the first place. These are the same people who are voting for Kerry because they feel like Bush is too conservative on social issues but a Democrat in spending, so they might as well get a Democrat who they feel more comfortable with on social issues. These are the people who are voting for Bush "while holding their nose" because they don't trust Kerry on a significant issue or two.

And that's fine, but it's an uncomfortable fit, sometimes.

Personally, I don't think a "Big Tent" is a very accurate analogy. It implies that you are either in or out. It implies the party has a great deal of control or choice over who is in, but nothing could be further from the truth.

There is a classic war novel that describes someone trying to unite a country through military conquest. It is my intention to rewrite the story as a political battle. Rather than capturing significant cities, the candidates attempt to capture significant issues. For instance, if more people care about retaining the right to abortion, it is a significant issue in one way...but in an entirely different way if more people care about protecting the unborn children. Thus, a candidate must not only stake a position, they must also persuade people to that position. A candidate will naturally try to emphasize an issue they feel they are already strong in. But a candidate who only weakly defends abortion won't win votes even if the overwhelming majority of voters want to retain that right. In the same manner, taking a city doesn't help you if you have to destroy the city to capture it, and if you can win the city's inhabitants so they work with you after capture, so much the better, right? And you start a war with certain cities already within your possession. A great general recruited to lead your battles is equivelant to a great campaign manager, I'd say. A political candidate needs top-notch advisors and assistants just like a conquerer needs the advisors and competent lieutenants.

Thus, I'd compare the parties to conquering armies and the voters to the land they occupy. Think about it, and help me refine this analogy, if you will.

Posted by Nathan at 10:55 PM | Comments (4)

Hmmm, interesting read.

I'd say Clinton is moderate if you compare him to say, Dennis Kucinich. I'd say Dubya is moderate if you compare him to Tom Delay.

But Clinton is actually pretty liberal and Bush is actually pretty conservative. But neither is in the "extreme" of his party.

Liberals can desert Kerry for Nader. But that is a wasted vote in my opinion. Conservatives won't bolt "W" cuz he is one of them. So Dub has the moderate-right and right while Kerry has the moderate-left and left except for the Naderites. So they fight for that real moderate, center - if it really exists.

I'm not sure about issues, anymore. I'm getting so jaded that I am beginning to think there really is no undecided center that votes on issues.

If each candidate has pretty much sewn up 45% of the vote, finding that last 6% has got to be hard...

Posted by: Frank Martin at August 23, 2004 12:23 PM

Sure, but only if you accept that the 45%/45% number is accurate.
Remember, the economic indicators are showing Bush is going to win with 55%-60% of the vote.
Whence the dichotomy?
Well, I still think that telephone polling results in costless support. When push comes to shove, I don't think Kerry will have the numbers. Remember what happened to Dean on the basis of a little exuberance? People jumped ship from his campaign in droves, and I think we may see the same thing in the election.
Plus, the margin of error on polling is established from scientific principles...but cellphones, dial-up internet access, caller ID, answering machines, and people just plain not wanting to participate in polls are all-but-proven to be increasing the margin of error far beyond what science says it should be. Telephone polling really isn't reliable anymore, methinks, and this election may well be its death knell.

Posted by: Nathan at August 23, 2004 01:37 PM

Yeah, but if I remember right, Gore was supposed to beat Dub about 55 to 45.

Your thoughts about telephone polling are well taken.

I think people left Dean in droves when Kerry won Iowa. And in Iowa, while Dean had the coverage, Kerry had the Iowa Dem political establishment. Dean was a media phenomenon. Kerry toughed it out in the trenches. When he won Iowa it was over for Dean and the rest.

Look, Kerry isn't my favorite Democrat. But he has had real tough races before and has prevailed. Give Kerry his due - he's a tough S.O.B. when it comes to elections - for whatever reasons. He shouldn't win. But then Clinton shouldn't have won in '92 either...

Posted by: Frank Martin at August 23, 2004 03:01 PM

...but Perot isn't running this year. [grin]

In any case, while there are a plethora of models to cite, I think the correct one is Clinton '96, for so many reasons.

Posted by: Nathan at August 23, 2004 03:03 PM
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