But this column--it was a wonderful explanation of how political parties are ruining governance at this sorry time in our history. I'll quote what he says because it's completely clear and readable:
Parties no longer compete to win elections by giving voters the policies voters want. Rather, as coalitions of intense policy demanders, they have their own agendas and aim to get voters to go along. [quoting a paper]
...So the basic work of political parties is figuring out precisely how much of their agenda they need to sacrifice on the altar of electability.Klein shows how this applies to the current crop of Republican candidates, or leftovers as I've called them:
...Parties must still... respond to voter wishes, but they wish to cede as little policy to voter preferences as possible [quoting again]
[The Republican party] members sense that this election might end with Republicans controlling the House, the Senate and the presidency. In that event, Republicans could get away with quite a lot. So they don’t want to blow it. What a shame it would be to have wasted this opportunity on a centrist candidate who will just end up compromising with Senate Democrats and looking to burnish his image with independents. On the other hand, it would be even worse to blow the opportunity on an extremist candidate who will scare voters into reelecting President Obama.Definitely read the column. But the follow-up to this thesis is the practical question--how do we make our political parties answerable to more of us, not just to the "intense policy demanders?" If I ever read about that, I'll let you know.
Update 1/5/12. I heard a piece on NPR that is a corollary to Ezra's post. If politicians, when in office, are responding to their most intense supporters, we get a pendulum effect of throwing one set of partisans out, and electing the other set, and then having to throw them out. My post on the topic here.