Does anyone care part II

Looking back at the previous post I think one thing I haven't really made clear is the extent to which the shape of the governing regime impacts thinking. It is always natural for people to pick a side because it gives a sense of social acceptability and power. If your side is up then you have some kind of reflected power from the fact that your group is in power. The fact that you agree with the views of your group makes you an insider in that group. Of course it doesn't necessarily have to be that you agree with your group you just have to be a part of it.

In the United States we vote for individuals with whoever gets the most votes even if they aren't in the majority wins. This necessitates a system where two people face off. If you have three and all three get somewhere around 33 percent then you have a problem in terms of legitimacy. So in general a race will have two people.

Its also true that it costs money to run for office. One of the main reasons is that you have to brand yourself. Tom Jode is a working class guy who gets your problems. It doesn't matter if its true it just has to sell. If you get to put a letter next to your name like an R or a D then a lot of symbolic branding gets to occur without the candidate ever spending a dime. It also gives the candidate a ready made platform of issues. Some of those issues the candidate will care about, others, he or she will not care about. But if you really got them down and asked them they would tell you they cared and they probably would agree that that position on that issue is the correct on. Not because they care or because they have thought about it much but because they have decided that they exist within a group and want to be as much a part of that group as possible.

Most people do this. Most people when they join a group do not merely sign their name on the dotted line. They really invest themselves. There is also the contrary action that when someone finds themselves in full agreement on one issue with a group, even if they previously disliked that group, they will become more likely to agree with the other issues that group holds. Group identity becomes a kind of feedback loop. When that loop is stable then there isn't much chance for another group of grab members of other groups.

When that loop gets cut though interesting things can happen. Why is it that the Republican party became Anti-Abortion. When Roe v. Wade happened there were anti abortion members of both parties. There are two groups though that could most be swayed by this issue that were in the democratic column. Catholics, particularly Irish Catholics in the north. And Evangelicals in the south. There were votes to be had by going anti abortion. And this worked very well for a while. The problem is that having a solid south as part of your voting base is a double edged sword. Over time taking the Anti Abortion issue did nothing for Catholics, they still tend to vote overwhelmingly for democrats, but it did help, along with a number of other issues, take the south.

The reason that the South is a Double edged sword is because the political culture of the south is different from the north in particularly antithetical ways. The South and North have defined themselves so much off of each other that even though most of the issues that once animated that defining no longer exist they still reflexively do so. Some of this has to do with an urban rural split where the south is much more rural than the north and therefore has a lot of very different interests.

If the United States had a different voting system or even a different constitution that did not devolve so much power to the states and localities we would have very different parties. There is nothing that links pro-choice policy with protectionism or free trade.

If the United states had a proportional voting system where people voted for parties rather than people and if a party got 5 percent of the vote then they got a person in the parliament, we would have a radically different split between the right and left. You would have a trade union party that would join with whoever gave them control over trade union policy and the feminist party that would join with whoever if it gave them control over women's issues and so on. More people would have much more idiosyncratic views of issues then exists now in the United States.

So in the United states where we vote for individuals who represent one of two parties the range of opinions represented in the political system is going to be much smaller in general than in another type of system. Issues that rise up on the radar screen can be liked or disliked but will have unclear relationships to actual voting behavior. Polls then don't mean much and never will.

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