American in Spain

Economic Populism

March 3, 2011

rachel-maddowOne of my most profound epiphanies about politics occurred almost five years ago, when this blog was in its infancy. I realized that, merely by definition of the two political parties' values, the only way for the Conservative party to gain power is to make a lot of noise and reduce voter turnout. This is because the vast majority of people are, by definition, going to support more socialist wealth-distributing economic policies. This is an absolute political truth that has always been true and will forever continue to be true. The way the Republican party in the US circumvents this is to side with Religion and the issues like abortion and gay marriage that fall out of strong Biblical religious conviction. These issues, of course, fall along the Authoritarian-Libertarian political spectrum, which is orthogonal to the Conservative-Liberal economic political spectrum.What got me thinking about this today was last night's The Rachel Maddow Show. I don't watch much political cable news punditry, but there's something I really like about Maddow. She has a way of clearly explaining things and asking insightful questions of her expert guests that tickles my intellect. Is she biased towards my side of the political spectrum? Of course she is. But, like The Daily Show, she will give the third degree to either political party if she thinks they deserve it. And she's also one of the few pundits that will happily admit when she's made a mistake, just like a good journalist or scientist should be, though most rarely are.

Last night, she laid out, much more elegantly, the case I made in the first paragraph, outlining the fundamental difference between the two political parties in the United States, although her explanation is valid for any modern democracy. I think it would be worth ten of your minutes to watch this video.

Here's an important bit of the transcript:

It's kind of a numerical mismatch between these two sides. But it always is. It's the upper crust versus the middle class. It's the few people who own the company versus the number of people who work for the company. It's the people who write the paychecks versus those who cash the paychecks. It's the economic elite versus the average person.

And what the elite lack in terms of numbers of people, they makeup for in leverage in terms of the amount of money they can spend in order to advocate for their side. And that – that split between these two sides, aside from social issues and civil rights and issues of political style, that's split is the reason that there are two different political parties in the United States of America.

And because the Democratic side is inherently the one that has more people in it, and this is a democracy, and it's one person, one vote, the Republican side, in order to compete with that, has to use money to leverage as many votes as they can, because their side represents the interest of fewer people. That's where they found social issues and abortion and gay rights and religion and all of these other things to come in handy.

There's an economic split between the two parties, between Democrats and Republicans, but more people are on the Democratic side of that economic split, almost by definition. So, Republicans, by and large, have had to use noneconomic issues to get people to vote with the economic elite and against their own economic interest.