Friday, February 12, 2016

Why Sanders, Trump, Cruz?

The traditional pundit class, on both the Right and Left, is trying to explain to their spheres of influence why apparently non-estabishment Presidential candidates are resonating with the rank and file party members.  The reasons given are either incorrect or minor contributors to the phenomenon.  In order to understand the dynamics, we first must digress a bit.

Every ten years, 'on the fours' Pew Research looks at polarization in the U.S. The 2014 report was shocking and the lack of sufficient dissemination has led to the misdiagnosis of the underlying reasons for Sanders, Trump and Cruz.

At the core of the report are a set of ten questions to which respondents are asked to choose one of two answers, one 'conservative' and one 'liberal.'  They then subtract the number of liberal answers from the number of conservative answers.  A 10-0 or 9-1 split way is deemed to be consistently conservative or liberal.  8-2 and 7-3 splits are deemed to be mostly conservative or liberal and 6-4 and 5-5 are deemed to be mixed.

Between 1994 and 2004 the percent that were consistently ideological remained constant at 10% and 11%.  However, in 2014 it had doubled to 21%.  This was not partisan with conservatives increasing 6% and liberals increasing 4%.   The perccent that was mixed did not increase from 1994 to 2004.  However, from 2004 to 2014 it fell from 49% to 39%.  

Furthermore, partisan antipathy has increased.  The percent of consistently conservative or liberal who hold a very negative view of the other side began rising first.  Among liberals it rose from about 20% in 1999 to 42% in 2014.  Among conservatives, during the same time, it rose from 13% to 46%.

From a theoretical viewpoint, we can think of the distance between the median Republican and the median Democrat as the degree of compromise required to settle an issue.  That distance remained relatively constant from 1994 to 2004 at about 1.  However, by 2014 it had increased to nearly 4.

It then becomes a matter of weighing the benefits of compromise against the negative result of not getting everything that is desired.  As the distance between the two medians have increased, the willingness to compromise decreases.  In theory, Democrats are more incined to compromise than Repubicans.  However, when the question is asked about specific issues, the difference disappears.  On the issues that matter, both sides think that the other side should compromise but that they should get most of what they want.

In a nutshell, here is the explanation for Sanders, Trump and Cruz.  

Voters are progressively more frustated that 'the system' appears to be broken, but, in truth, this is a true case of irreconcilable differences. Again, U.S. is headed or a divorce and Europe will not be far behind.

Trump is happening for a very different reason than Cruz and Sanders.  Trump is a reprise of Ross Perot's 'get under the hood and fix the American engine.' It is intensely NOT ideological. It is all about the idea that this is just a probem of institutional malfunctioning and a level head can get it fixed in no time at all.  The basic logic is that the U.S. government is like a business.  It is not functioning properly, so we need a business type to fix it.  He is supported by people who think that compromise is still possible and desirable.

Sanders, on the other hand, is the result of many Democrats' desire to no longer settle for 'Liberal Light'.  They do not think that compromise is the correct approach.  They believe, and I have spoen many supporters, that if people are just properly educated on what Sanders beieves that he will sweep to nomination and probably the White House.  They truly don't understand that a huge portion of American voters, if they better understood what Sanders wants for the U.S. would be horrified.

Cruz is the Republican counterpart to Sanders. He is the poster child for Conservatives who have given up on the notion of a compromise with the Liberals. Much has been made of Cruz as the engineer of the Republican shutdown of government.  While the pundits think that this should be a big negative, and it is over the whole electorate, this is an example of the kind of 'take no prisioners' approach that his supporters want.

I start a basic syllogism

It is wrong to compromise one's principles
Politics is the art of compromise
Therefore, politics is wrong between groups with different principles

This is why we are headed for a divorce and why we have the emergence of uncompromising candidates such as Sanders and Cruz.  Fifty years ago, gay marriage would be out if the question.  Abortion was illegal and few people had a serious problem with that.

In other words, most of the points of difference between Republicans and Democrats that are principled in nature are new.  We no longer have a single culture with shared values and where the Republican and Democratic parties once had political differences they now have cultural differences.

The divorce may begin with the secession of Texas and cascade from there.  But that is a different post.

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