I try to rely on facts and logic when thinking about politics. But that may be a mistake, according to a very smart column in today’s Washington Post by columnist Perry Bacon Jr.
Bacon lays out a perhaps common understanding of how politics works, then blows it apart. The common understanding, which I must admit often underlies my own thinking, is that there are liberals, who reliably vote for Democrats; conservatives, who reliably vote for Republicans; and moderates, who swing and who have the power to determine outcomes. That is not quite utter rubbish (I hope), but – according to Bacon’s column, which I found quite convincing – more wrong than right.
He lays out the shortcoming of that understanding across seven statements, which I’ll list, but you should read his full column for the explanation of each of the seven and why each of them undermines the unreliable common understanding described in the paragraph above:
- Americans’ views on most issues aren’t deeply held — and can be highly influenced by their party, the media or both.
- Besides, views on issues don’t predict election outcomes.
- Governing performance often doesn’t matter.
- Swing voters aren’t all centrists.
- And one of the biggest swings in elections is who turns out.
- Plus, wooing “swing” voters isn’t in tension with winning “base” voters.
- In the end, politics is unpredictable.
Perhaps you’ll look at that list and think: “I already know all those things.” But if you’re like me, you’ll also realize that you sometimes fall back on all of the myths, even though at some level you know they are myths.
The column is headlined:
“Why ‘moderation’ doesn’t guarantee electoral success for Biden and the Democrats.”