Sunday, February 1, 2015

What Passes for "Political Analysis"

What Passes for “Political Analysis”
P. Schultz
February 1, 2015

            Now here is an interesting piece from the NY Times today, February 1, 2015, entitled “The Surprising Power of Blue-State Republicans.” The argument is pretty simple, as the title suggests. Namely, the issue is, Why do Republicans keep nominating “moderates” like Mitt Romney and John McCain for the presidency when the party itself is, allegedly, “seemingly dominated by the South, energized by the Tea Party and elected by conservative voters.” And, of course, the answer provided is, those “blue-state Republicans” who “make it far harder for a very conservative candidate to win the party’s nomination than the party’s reputation suggests.”

            No doubt, this argument has some truth to it because what it points to is the fact that the Republican Party, like any political party, is hardly a monolithic group. That is, there are what may be labeled “the establishment Republicans,” like John Boehner, and there are those who may be labeled “the insurgents,” those
Tea Party types mentioned above. And, of course, these two groups are opposed in that the insurgents would like to displace the establishment types while the latter would like to hold on to their power. When seen in this light, it is anything but “surprising” that those labeled “blue-state Republicans” have significant clout in the Republican Party. One might even wonder, given the repeated success of “moderates” winning that party’s nomination for president just how powerful or powerless those insurgents are.  

            But it is also possible to wonder about the description or the meaning of the label “blue-state Republicans.” That is, this label is based on the rather contentious argument that our political drama and our society are divided between “red states” and “blue states,” or between those “reds” and those “blues” who have little in common. It has been noticed, for example, that it is less than persuasive to label a state that, say, Obama barely carried a “blue state.” In fact, it is possible to contest such a label even in a state that Obama carried by a rather large margin, say, in 2008, a state like North Carolina. Why is this? Because when one looks at the American electorate and how they respond to opinion polls, it is obvious that the idea that that electorate is radically divided between “reds” and “blues” is just unpersuasive.

            Hence, it could be that those labeled in this article “blue-state Republicans” are actually not residing in “blue states” at all, but rather reside in “purple” states, that is, states where voters are neither “red” nor “blue” and can “swing either way” in any given election. The political parties know this and they also know that they have to appeal to these voters if they are to win presidential elections, as opposed to other elections such as those for Congress or the state legislature.

            So, what we have in this particular piece of political analysis is something all too common these days: The article begins with a premise that is anything but persuasive and proceeds to “analyze” our situation on that basis. The result is something that seems reasonable but, upon investigation, is little more than a reinforcement of a paradigm of conventional wisdom that cannot support its own weight. There is nothing especially troubling about this or there would not be were it not for the fact that it reinforces a view of our situation that ratifies and fortifies the status quo in that such analyses convey a message that makes people accept the thought that the only alternative available, in fact, the best alternative available is some kind of consensus between the “reds” and the “blues.”

            If only the “reds” and the “blues” could work together, if only we could rid of these pesky “insurgents,” on both the “right” and the “left,” then all would be well. This is all that is needed to make our situation better, as if electing Romney or McCain – or for that matter Obama – would have improved our situation immeasurably. And one need not be a Tea Partier to wonder whether this is anything but an argument for a continuation of current policies, policies that have served the few much better than they have served the many.

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