Sabato does note something that touches on points I've made numerous times: "2010 will generate a substantial pendulum swing from the Democrats to the Republicans. It is not that Republicans are popular—most polls show the party even less liked than the Democrats. Many observers find it amazing that the less-liked party is on the verge of triumphing over the better-liked party."-- CLS from the post The Coming Landslide and Mushy Libertarianism (emphasis mine)
Sabato thinks this is simply because voters want to reduce the power of those in office. That is true. But the voters don't particularly care for either party. The middle of the road in American politics today is a sort of mushy libertarianism. Voters don't want high taxes, don't want lots of regulation, are tired of the wars and foreign interventionism, don't trust politicians of any party, and aren't particularly interested in imposing "Christian values" on our largely secular society.
This doesn't mean there is a consistent libertarian streak by any means—just witness the ugly anti-immigration hysteria disgustingly pandered to even by some Libertarian Party candidates. This is why I refer to the middle as a mushy libertarianism. It is not consistent and it is not principled but it is there. For the most part the American middle ground wants to leave people alone.
The two extremes in modern politics are busy-body Democrats and busy-body Republicans. The Democrats are dominated by the Nanny Statists and the Republicans dominated by nasty Theocrats. Given those choices I too would like the Democrats more. The Democrats think I'm stupid and need them to care for me. That is pretty disgusting. But what really scares me is that Republicans think I'm sinful and need to be punished. While trying to stamp out stupidity is, well, stupid, trying to force people to be virtuous is downright dangerous.
While I'm not a fan of C.S. Lewis he did describe the danger of Republican-type controls. He said that "tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." A perfect example of this is the hateful Maggie Gallagher and her Mormon-funded antigay campaign. She really does believe she is saving gay people from themselves so she is unrelentingly intrusive. If ever we need a face for the Nanny State, Maggie's fat mug ought to be used.
The voting public is not divided into two camps: Democrats and Republicans. It is divided into three: the latter two plus independents. Of those groups the independents are the largest. And the independents are the mushy libertarians personified. The Democrats tend to not have the moralistic agenda of the intrusive Republicans but the Republicans don't tend to have the central-planning mindset of the Democrats.
On any particular issue the majority of the population tends to lean libertarian. For instance, with taxes, most Republicans and Independents oppose high rates thus the majority leans for less taxation. When it comes to government enforced "Christian" values the Democrats and Independents tend to oppose such big government intrusions while the Republicans, in the clutches of the American Taliban, are hysterical proponents of such moral authoritarianism.
The problem is that the political elites in the parties tend not to give their voters what they want. Witness how the Republicans betrayed free markets and low taxes every time they have controlled the government. Witness also how Obama has not done anything of substance to bring the sort of equal rights in sexual orientation that he promised. Both betray the party base that keeps them in power.
What keeps the party base loyal to the two dominant parties is fear: fear of the other party. The Democratic base fears the Republicans will push their moralistic agenda on everyone—and rightly so. The Republcians were terrified that the Democrats would push for higher taxes, more regulation and more state control—and rightly so. So the voting public swings back and forth, first electing Democrats then getting disgusted with them and electing Republicans. But the Republicans prove to be equally disgusting and voters swing back to the Democrats.
The American public is being tag-teamed by the two major parties. Each jumps into the ring and beats up the public for a bit before being replaced by the other. The Democrats may use a few well-placed left hooks to blacken the eyes of the public and then the Republicans "save" them by using a few right-hooks to break their nose. American partisan politics is now in the position where neither party represents the dominant few on most issues.
Most Americans would bring the troops home, neither party is willing to do that. On civil liberties the anti-freedom Republicans tend to dominate and Democrats are afraid of standing up to them. On economic liberties the anti-freedom Democrats tend to dominate and Republicans, well, Republicans have just learned to love big government and use it to enrich themselves.
So the real story of American politics is that the two giants in the political arena are both in opposition to the vast middle ground of American politics. Neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans are willing to cater to that mushy libertarianism that dominates the views of the public. And sadly, these days the Libertarian Party isn't doing that very well either. But they are an irrelevancy and will remain such.
If either the GOP or the Democrats get the nerve to tell their base to fuck off there is hope for the country. The first party to jettison the extreme statists and embrace this mushy libertarianism is likely to be in power for some time. So far neither has the courage to do that.
Note (9/5/2010 7:00PM): CLS uses a phrase in the quoted post that I must condemn. The phrase in question is “American Taliban” and it does nothing to advance the argument being made. In fact it completely detracts from the argument because for some, that is what they are coming away from this post with and that is a shame. Also it is completely unnecessary and uncalled for.