I listened to the latest Hidden Brain episode, which was an interview with Allan Lichtman regarding his method of asking a series of ‘key’ questions to predict the winner of the elections. The method is not without critics, but I think the conclusions drawn from this method are meaningful.
In the interview Lichtman mentions that he believes that governance decides elections. Not campaigns. Not reactions to polling. Governance. Does the electorate want change or do they want more of the same?
If this is true, then you run into a situation. Taking a page from CGP Grey’s series on Politics in the Animal Kingdom, say our two main parties are Gorilla and Leopard. Gorrilla is the ruling party; Leopard is the minority.
Leopard wants to be in charge for the next election cycle, so while Gorilla is in charge, it is in Leopard’s interest to make the life of the electorate worse. A happy electorate under Gorilla would mean more Gorilla in the future. This means that it is in Leopard’s best interest to cripple major legislation that could help vast swaths of the electorate if said legislation is proposed and championed by Gorilla. (I’m looking at you Affordable Care Act. I’ll be paying attention to whether or not the Dems support Infrastructure Renewal efforts.)
Leopard and Gorilla representatives are still held somewhat in check by their constituents, but there is still room for Leopard to fight good Gorilla legislation while keeping their constituents happy enough. Especially with gerrymandering making it less necessary for representatives to keep the diverse interests of their constituents in mind.
Also, would I, someone who believes in most of Leopard’s platform, vote Gorilla because my Leopard representative wasn’t working to make Gorilla legislation more successful? Probably not. At best, I might vote for a more bipartisan Leopard rep during the primary, but that’s assuming that I have the time and inclination to make that determination. Incumbents have a major advantage in part because most of us voters don’t do our homework. (And I’d argue that we shouldn’t really have to. We have a representative democracy for a reason. We have lives to live.)
Food for thought, and for future letters to congress.
Anyone have any book recommendations on the dynamics of democratic systems? The Dictator’s Handbook is already on my list…