Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Moving the Balance of Power?-Via Kaus comes this post from Jacob Levy on Down's Median Voter Theorem. I don't remember Downs in any of my PoliSci books, but the underlying concept is just applied common sense. Parties are torn between nominating people whose views represent them and nominating people who can win over the swing voter. The political center of gravity will dictate who the parties will nominate in a particular area. Parties want someone who will win, but yet can still win 50.1% of the vote. That means that a party's candidates in conservatives venues will be a lot different than the candidates in liberal ones. Rudy Guilani would be to the left of a lot of southern Democrats, but he was a good choice for the New York City GOP, for anyone much further to the right wouldn't of stood a chance of winning. Likewise, Zell Miller would be to the right of a lot of New England Republicans, but he's representative of Georgia politics. How many voters vote not so much on the exact views of the candidate but whether the candidate will move the body in the direction you want it to go? Let's say you want the Senate to move to the right, and you're a moderately conservative person; Bob Dole's about your speed. You have a choice of Sam Nunn or Bob Dornan. Nunn's closer to your views, but he wouldn't move the Senate to the right. If you send B-1 Bob to the Senate, the Senate moves a notch to the right, the median Senator moves from Olympia Snowe to Arlen Spector. If you vote for Nunn, the Senate stays were it is. Now, if you were voting for President or Governor, you might vote for Nunn, since that's an all-or-nothing proposition. However, if it is a legislative seat, you can send a bomb-thrower, knowing that they'll never wind up the swing vote, unless you get a both-ends-against-the-middle fight and your guy has to be talked into a centrist coalition. That might explain how some arch-liberals can keep winning, even if they don't represent the district. If the district is a bit leftist, people would be willing to vote for a Wellstone/Mondale type even if Coleman might be closer to their views, since having the liberal in the Senate will nudge it a notch to the left. That might explain why moderates don't get as much traction as they might otherwise get.

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