Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Freak Out About the Election

Will Wilkinson:

This is the great unspeakable fact of American politics: it doesn't matter all that much who wins. . . .

But I think you'll also find that policy doesn't swing very wildly when government changes hands. Parties do what they can to reward supporters, but they can't do too much. Many interest groups play both sides, exerting significant influence on policy regardless of the party in power. Military suppliers, big Wall Street interests, and the economic middle-class may do better or worse, but they always do pretty well. Moreover, policy is quite constrained by general public opinion. Neither party will drift too far from the median voter. Of course, the median voter doesn't know or care much about many areas of policy. In those cases, interest groups that stand to gain or lose from a change in policy may be the decisive influence. But, even then, parties are not unfettered. For one thing, the interests that constitute a winning coalition are not all perfectly aligned, and we can expect parties often to split the difference in internal conflicts. And, of course, out-of-power interest groups are not powerless. It is not uncommon for opposing lobbyists to more or less cancel out each others' influence.

All this adds up to: very little change about half of us tepidly believe in.
I don't agree with this entirely, but I do think that many Americans get way too upset about which party wins our elections. Right now we are hearing a lot of apocalyptic rhetoric from the right about socialism and the fall of our republic, which is just silly. I don't hear anything comparable from the left this year, since it seems that many of the leftists who thought that electing Obama would somehow alter the structure of the universe now think he is exactly like Newt Gingrich. But I am old enough to remember when my friends seemed to think that Reagan's election meant nuclear war, the end of social security, or both.

Some people need to settle down.

1 comment:

ArEn said...

I think it mattered VERY much that George Bush stole the election from Gore in 2000.