Positive-feedback loop

The more right-wing the Republicans get, the more moderates and elections they lose. The more moderates and elections they lose, the more right-wing they get.

1. The Republican Party is increasingly dominated by the wingnuts.

2. As a result, Republicans in non-wingnutty states lose elections: general elections if they’re wingnuts themselves, primaries if not.

3. As a result, non-wingnutty Republican officeholders either leave politics or leave the GOP.

4. As a result, the Republican Party is still more dominated by the wingnuts.

Can you say “Whigs”?


A reader writes:

Wouldn’t it be better if the GOP were filled with John Lindsays and Mac Mathiases than Newt Gingriches and John Cornyns? The goal, I would think, is to enact good public policy rather than to have “our party” win. So long as the debate is between a center-left party and a hard-right party, we’ll have to face the likelihood that the hard-right guys will win every now and then, especially when the economy or other uncontrollable factors conspire against us. If it were center-left v. center-right (let alone plain old center), the downside of losing would be significantly mitigated.

I agree, I’d rather have a center-right party. But we don’t, and it’s worth calling that out. And I doubt that a new center-right party can be created under the Republican banner.

There’s a strong political logic that tends to generate a two-party system when the elections are winner-take-all. When the Federalists collapsed, the Whigs emerged; when the Whigs collapsed, the Republicans emerged. I don’t doubt that if the Republicans collapsed there’d be something to take their place. From what I see right now, the sooner the better.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com