When I was a kid I remember a teacher telling us that whilst democracy was far from perfect it usually produced the “right” result.
How did this happen?
He explained as follows:
For a two-party system, the democratic process only needed an “informed” minority of electors in order to get the “right” result. The remainder of the voters, the “uninformed”, would divide fairly evenly between the two parties over time — in other words, they would cancel each other out.
Therefore, hey presto, it was only those who understood what was going on who would decide elections.
If only life were so simple.
As I got a bit older and learned a bit more I realized what he had told us was nonsense. Like many teachers who’ve been at the job for years, he could’ve done with some time out in the real world talking to adults.
Voters are not independent statistical observations. They can be, and are, cynically manipulated and moved en masse by politicians. If there there had been anything in what he’d told us there would be no such thing as “landslide victories”.
One part of what he said was undoubtedly true — the majority of voters are uninformed. They really haven’t got a clue about what’s going on. Therefore the party which preys most effectively on their fear, ignorance and greed will be the one which wins the election.
This means they both must head for the centre. That’s where the winning votes are. In order to get these votes the winner is the party which out-promises the other.
Unfortunately, the party which wins is then stuck in the middle. Try to go too far Right or Left and the other party has the ammunition to get the herd up and running.
Both Thatcher and Reagan found themselves in this position — go too far with it and you’ll be kicked out of office. Don’t let yourself get carried away when you hear conservatives talking about T & R — they’re looking back through rose-tinted glasses — overall, their records on taxation, spending and debt were nothing to write home about.
The two party system inevitably leads to a situation where there’s little difference between them. In fact, as George Wallace famously put it back in 1968:
“There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats.”
I wonder how far back he was going?
Certainly in my adult lifetime this has always been the case. Very little clear blue water between the parties. Plenty of rhetoric about the differences — especially regarding fiscal policy — but little substance.
So, where does all this leave the so-called “informed” voter?
Well, how about up a creek without a paddle?
They might as well have been, for all the influence they’ve had — for donkey’s years — right up to and including the 2008 election.
But now election 2012 looms?
And it’s going to be a watershed.
I can never remember an election when the differences were so real and so stark. When the outcome was so critical. It’s actually a real election. A choice between an incompetent ideological puppet on the Left, and a proven real-world problem solver on the Right.
And guess what? Something new is happening.
While the Dems are talking their usual claptrap, the GOP is talking Austrian economics — whether they realize it or not. What’s more, if you believe the polls, the voters are split fairly evenly between both parties. So what’s going to decide it?
Enter the swing voter and the independent voter.
Yes, I’m talking about the “informed” voter. Your day has finally come!
You will decide who gets to the White House.
And where do you find them? Why, in middle America of course.
Romney was caught supposedly mis-speaking last Friday (Feb 3rd) about the “very poor”. I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was deliberate. The initial “outrage” was easily diffused by a simple apology. But it was sufficient to focus the attention of his target audience — middle America. He was sending out a very clear signal. You’ve bourn the brunt of it over the last three years — you’ve taken a hammering — now it’s your turn for some help!
Here’s part of what he said:
“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there … I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America … [M]y campaign is focused on middle Americans.”
No, he’s not concerned about the “very poor”. Nor should he be. First he won’t get their vote and second, being “very poor” in America is not such a bad place to be “very poor”. And no, he’s not concerned about the rich either — he’s already got their vote — apart, of course, from the useful idiots in the world of entertainment.
And yes, he is concerned about middle America. But he can only do something for them if he gets to the White House. To do that he needs the votes of the “informed”.
And if he gets them, who knows, maybe democracy will deliver the “right” result after all?
Just like I was told it would, all those years ago.
The Moral Liberal Guest Columnist, Chris Clancy, lived in China for seven years. Most of this time was spent as associate professor of financial accounting at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. He now lives in Thailand where he spends his time reading, writing, lecturing and, whenever he gets the chance, doing his level best to spread Austrian economics.
Copyright © 2012 Chris Clancy. Used with Permission.