A Nation Divided

It’s something pundits on the left and the right tend to forget: politically, the country is divided almost exactly in half. According to Liz Marlantes, writing in a feature article in tomorrow’s Christian Science Monitor, such an even divide can result in extreme political tactics that cause a detrimental effect on the civility of the political debate. (Marlantes points to the California recall and the Texas exile senators as examples of extreme tactics.)

But [the use of extreme tactics are] also the result of an ongoing, and stubbornly even, political divide. Although Republicans currently control the White House and both chambers of Congress, their margins remain perilously slim, while the overall number of state legislators is almost perfectly split between the parties. With so little room to maneuver, analysts say it’s not surprising parties are increasingly resorting to extreme tactics as a way to assert dominance or gain an additional edge.

While I don’t doubt this to be the case, I think such decisions are foolish and shortsighted. With the country so evenly divided, the battle should be for the middle. By using extreme tactics, the major parties risk being viewed as, well, extreme.

It’s too early to tell what will happen within the context of the 2004 presidential election. But so far, neither party seems prepared to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the moderates. For the Democrats, this might be attributed to typical primary election posturing. Each of the candidates is eager to appeal to the party’s leftist base, and none want to run the risk of being upstaged by Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich. Only the DLC appears to understand the mistake being made by their party. Others within the party, blinded by anger and willing to sacrifice popular support for any and all opportunities to vent that anger, are marginalizing the DLC rather than heeding the warnings.

For the Republicans, no excuse readily presents itself. At worst, it appears to be arrogance that is keeping the Republicans from securing their place in the middle. With the primary uncontested and no sign so far of any challenge from a right-wing separatist, the Republicans should seize the opportunity to grab the center.

If Bush really wants to be reelected, he should realize that the general election begins now, and start doing all he can to appeal to moderates.

Posted by Greg at August 3, 2003 10:44 PM | TrackBack (1)