Why the Republicans had to have a flip-flopper

Seth Masket, Hans Noel, and Gregory Koger have kicked off a new group blog focusing on political parties, mischievously titled, the Mischiefs of Faction (I long ago gave up on making my students actually read Federalist #10, but it’s good stuff).  Anyway, Seth gets the ball rolling with a really nice post on the inevitability of Republicans nominating someone who would be considered a flip-flopper:

But here’s the key point about that: No one taking the stances Romney needed to take to win this year could have had the sort of résumé needed to be a typical major party nominee. The Republican Party has been moving to the right very quickly in recent years. Almost no one taking the stances that Romney is taking now could have been elected as a senator or a governor from most states just a few years ago. So, if you were consistently conservative (like, say, Bachmann or Santorum), you were either doomed to service in the House or to being kicked out of the Senate. If you had a presidential résumé, conversely, it was probably because your views were pretty moderate a few years ago. Arguably, the only person who can get nominated in the current Republican Party is someone who has pivoted to the right rapidly in the past decade. Rapid polarization makes flip-flopping a necessity.

As for the “arguably,” personally I mostly buy the argument.  Of course, if Romney had not been running, I think that Pawlenty would have been the nominee due to the extreme weaknesses in the other candidates and I think that by the end of the nomination, Pawlenty would have, of necessity, had to be a “flip-flopper.”  Same goes for someone like Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie.   That said, if Rick Perry wasn’t just so unbelievably dumb, it could have been him– no flip-flopping.  That is an awfully big “if” though.

Photo of the day

Via Time’s photos of the week:


Images of President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) are projected behind the photographers’ stand during the NATO summit in Chicago, USA, 21 May 2012.


Curing Washington’s ails

Well, this was over a week ago, but sometimes I’m slow on the draw.  Following up on their Op-Ed about what’s gone wrong in Washington (and, yes, it is disproportionately Republicans fault), Mann and Ornstein hit the Op-Ed pages again to argue about some possible solutions to improving things.  In addition to offering potential solutions, they also kindly point out what won’t work: a third party, term limits, a balanced budget amendment, just waiting for things to get back to normal, (and just because they want to hit a beloved liberal idea as well), public financing of elections.  Now, Mann and Ornstein are right– public financing won’t “restrain special interest spending” but unlike some of the other ideas, it certainly would help make for a more functional democracy.

As for what they advocate, I am a big fan of instant run-off voting,  and certainly eliminating the filibuster, but I find their expanding the electorate (the actually recommend Australian style mandatory voting– we did steal their secret ballot 100+ years ago), recommendations most interesting:

In the United States, such near-universal voting could eliminate the parties’ incentive to diminish the turnout of their opponents’ supporters and to mobilize the ideological extremes. Boosting overall turnout would help tilt the balance back toward where most Americans actually are: closer to the middle.

Other promising avenues to expand the electorate include automating the registration process (so voters can register online and carry their documentation with them when they move from one state to another) and to open up the primaries, as California has done, to all voters. Over time, open primaries could produce more moderate elected officials.

Finally, if we can’t persuade more Americans to vote with the threat of a fine, how about the promise of untold riches? Millions lined up — sometimes wasting all night — for a shot at the Mega Millions lottery in March. How about another lottery, where your vote stub is a ticket, and where the prize is the money collected from the fines of those who didn’t vote? The odds of the mega-jackpot were about 1 in 176 million — we’d like to believe that the chances of fixing American politics are a bit better than that.

Now, I’m not sure any of these things would really “save” our democracy.  But, they are all worth doing and would all certainly improve things.  And, of course, we’re not likely to see any of them.

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