Lesser evilism and divided government: Accounting for a polling paradox

Political observers have been struck by an apparent contradiction that has been found across a number of recent public opinion surveys.  These polls have found that though Americans currently favor the Democratic Party over the GOP, they are prepared to vote for Republicans over Democrats.  Arguably, this paradox is a result of the ideological and political deadlocks that are characteristic of the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Bob recently highlighted one of my posts at Poli-Tea on this issue.  Today at CAIVN, I bring that argument together with a consideration of Americans’ preference for divided government to explain this consistent paradox in public opinion:

One of the means by which the Democratic and Republican parties maintain their dominance despite their unpopularity is by obtaining the support of those who simply oppose the other party. . . . This is the logic of lesser evilism . . . it is safe to assume that the majority of American voters do not cast their ballots for candidates whom they support or favor, but rather against candidates whom they dislike and disfavor.  It is thus no surprise that so many Americans do not feel they are adequately represented by their elected officials.  The majority do not vote for candidates whom they favor!  How could they if they dislike both the Republicans and the Democrats? . . .

The majority today favor divided government.  This is a relatively new development.  In the first half of the twentieth century, undivided government was the norm, which was slowly supplanted by an apparent preference for divided government as the twentieth century drew to a close. Between 1901 and 1951, there were four two-year periods of divided government.  Between 1951 and 2003 there were sixteen! Americans may currently prefer or favor Democrats over Republicans, but they also prefer divided government over a single party’s dominance in both the executive branch and the legislature.

Under the conditions of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government, the majority of Americans do not vote for candidates whom they support (when they vote at all), and the constitutional form of our government has been so eroded that the  separation of powers is no longer understood as sufficient to ensure checks and balances.  It is long past time to support alternatives to the reproduction of Democratic-Republican misrule.

P.S.: I’d like to thank Bob for inviting me to become a contributor here at Polizeros.  I blog regularly at Poli-Tea as well as Third Party and Independent Daily, and will be popping in to post here at the Zeros in future.

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