Have primaries polarized politics?
In "Primary colors," Mark Stricherz argues that the cultural polarization of America's electorate owes a great deal to the modern presidential primary. Has today's nomination process altered our political landscape dramatically -- and perhaps for the worse?
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What's the most powerful tool we have to influence people's political views? Television. And the FCC has now relaxed media ownership to be as big as it wants to be. Who owns the media? Disney, Time Warner, etc. Do these corporations care about presenting fair and accurate news? No. All they care about is money and how to keep their ratings high. They drug us with soap operas about Monica, OJ or even the Sniper but everything else becomes nothing more than a game show topic. Why is it every election, the only issues we hear about are health care and abortion rights? Can we hear a little more? Like what may hurt big corportate powers? Are we going to deal with more Enrons and World Coms that rob innocent people of their money? How about Nafta and its negative effect on the working middle class? These conglomerate media corps are brainwashing Americans to believe that everything (for the most part) is okay. Make sure you vote republican and remember: George W. Bush DID win the 2000 year election! Republicans are the majority. The point is most Americans do not know how to think for themselves and thats why the right winged media can think for them. It's not as deep as Stricherz thinks it is.
Stricherz, in his zeal to sell books, overstates the impact of the McGovern commission considerably. With or without any commission to instruct it, the Democratic Party was going to experience significant changes from 1969 to 1972 as the political views of large chunks of the country shifted dramatically. Rather than focus on the role of a single Democratic commission, one should look at the influences affecting both parties in recent years. Both Republicans and Democrats have been hugely influenced by three major factors in the last quarter-century: money, television, and a reduced number of voters. The need to find cash contributors has pushed both parties away from appealing to "average voters" and towards rich individuals, corporations, or large political organizations such as unions capable of cutting big checks. Meanwhile, television has not only boiled each candidate's message down to sound-bytes seen on the nightly news, it has created a political system in which the primary means of distributing political messages is not the free media at all, but rather paid advertisements. Finally, fewer voters means each party must appeal directly to their respective political base. The voters we once called “undecided” have ceased to vote, leaving only the ideologues on left and right to decide each election. Clearly and endless array of factors have influenced the American political process in the last thirty years – the McGovern commission is just one of many.
Jason, Brighton, MA
Braintree Ben, LOL....you busted us for sure!!! Those evil GOP controlled media outlets like the LA and NY Times, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, etc are part of our vast right wing conspiricy. SHHHHHH. Our "plan" for them really looking like mouthpieces for all things liberal has really been working.
During the primary, candidates from both sides have to run to the extremes of their party to gain the nomination then have to pretty much do a 180 and campaign for president by appealing to the great middle of the road politically and "independent" voters. Extremely difficult feat, especially to the party out of office. Reagan won in a landslide by swinging "Reagan Democrats" his way and Clinton successfully appeared to be "middle of the road" when he campaigned back in 92, but remember, Perot greatly helped knock off Bush the First (and to be honest, George the First ran a pretty lousy campaign for reelection). The great difficulty the Dems face next year is in order to appeal to the Angry Left (and thus win the nomination), Dean (or whoever) has to campaign hard to appease them, but I don't think that will fly at all with the general electorite come next November. It's always been thus (at least as long as I remember), however, I think the greater, and growing, distance between the "Left" and the "Right" accentuate the problem. My two cents.....
Diamond Dave, Taunton
Mr. Stricherz story has some merit. Certainly there is a polarization. Is the polarization due to the process itself or those who participate in the process? There are several issues that cut across "blue" and "red" America that are addressed by neither party. Here are a few: 1. Illegal immigration - the Democrats like open borders so that they can buy their votes. The Republicans like open borders because they like a source of cheap labor. In the meantime we are more susceptible to terrorist attack and to losing our jobs. 2. War in Iraq - The current crop of Democratic candindates are weak on national security, including Clark. They attack the efforts of the administration with no realistic plan of their own to deal with the situation. The Bush administration, while aggressive in taking the battle to the terrorists, has been swayed by the idealistic notion of creating a democracy in Iraq. Making progress in building a democratic Iraq is not the same as making progress in the war's stated mission of separating Saddam Hussein from his weapons of mass destruction. Find and kill Sadam Hussein, account for the weapons of mass destruction, then get out. If we could find and kill Osama Bin Laden at the same time that would great too. Is it the process of the primaries that is causing this? Perhaps. Just like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg? To the initial responder - be careful about destroying corporations. The profits they generate pay lots of salaries which support lots of men, women and children far better than any government program could. You sound like you wish the Democrat Party was openly communist.
Richard , Foxboro
The primary process makes it very difficult for a moderate or independent candidate to get either party's nomination. The candidates must cater to the extremes of each party in the primaries to get the nomination. Then, whichever candidate actually wins and becomes president, because he is so ideologically unappelaing to the roughly 1/2 of the country that didn't vote for him, the voters on the losing side are enraged (case in point the Dems irrational hatred of Bush). They then will relentelssly attack and smear that prez in hopes that they can ruin his re-election chances (to be fair, the right was also guilty of this to some extent with Clinton, though ultimately Bill caused his own demise). McCain would have destroyed Al Gore, but he couldn't beat Bush in the primaries. The political machines of each side will prevent the John McCain's and Joe Lieberman's from ever getting a chance, even though they would appeal to a significantly larger portion of the voters. I must disagree with jason of Brighton in that undecided voters are no longer voting. True, voter turnout is on a slight downward trend, but larger %'s of people who do vote are not enrolling in either party, and the Dems are losing more voters that are now considering themselves as undecided, independent, or unenrolled than the GOP. I hope this trend continues to the point that there arises a strong 3rd party to keep the major 2 in check, or at least strong enough one to get them to worry about issues that they seem to ignore, such as illegal immigration, as Richard from Foxboro wisely noted. You can never totally separate money from campaigns, without imposing Draconian limits of free speech (political ads are speech, ads cost money). I recently heard Daschle discussing how to "overcome" certain free speech issues that current campaign finance reform laws have. It was NPR, but what he said he wants is for a constitutional ammendment that limits campaigns to only 2 months, and all campaigns would be FORCED to be publicly financed, no donations, thats it. This would be downright frighteneing if it had a snowballs chance in hell of happening. Our system right now is broken, but what Daschle wants is insane. Vote independent!
Hey Neocon. You can laugh all you want but I never said the media had a mouthpiece for the liberals. I said that most people do not know how to think for themselves. When someone is undecided or has never given any thought to political issues, they can easily be swayed to think a certain way just by watching television or reading the newspaper. Does that really seem absurd to you? What do you think advertizing is for? Once you discover how powerful the media can be, its not too difficult to realize what the media is then capable of doing with it. Sure you think all conspiracies are crazy. Well no one's telling you to believe in conspiracies but your responce pretty much proves my point. Keep laughing and remember never to think outside the box. Just keep in mind...when the media was liberal, no one from the left denied it. Now that the media has swung the other way, people like Ann Coulter, Bill Oreilly and 98.9 are shouting back that its still liberally biased. What does that tell you about the right? They understand perfectly well the power of influence. Get enough people to defend a lie and the lie becomes true.
Ben , Braintree
Great article. But, go further: this I believe is the primary difference between the two major parties: Democrats believe in the fairness of the process while the Republicans believe in the result. Of course, these are extremes, but the point is vaild. The main difference is that Democrats believe in reform, change of attitudes, the possibility of education. This is ALWAYS the more difficult path to follow, isn't it? This doesn't mean that all the ideas for reform are valid, correct or wise, either. It just means that they should be given a respectful and honest airing. Shouldn't that be an aim for a civil society? Or the internal structures/rules of a party? Moreover, who REALLY believes in individualism? If the Republicans treat their voters like cattle, then how can they honestly sya they fight for individual rights? if individual rights cannot be respected within a party, where do they fight for them? Right, in the "private life." Except abortion, gay rights, etc.? Participation should be what U.S. politics is all about. I suppose the Republicans believe in the CEO model of political life, while the Democrats believe in more people/worker power...
Karl Trautman, Auburn, ME
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