Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Off Center: Introduction

Republicans have won recent elections by very narrow margins. Public opinion is evenly divided. Nevertheless, Republicans have succeeded in enacting an ideologically extreme agenda.

Traditional view is that the large proportion of politically moderate voters would weed out political extremists. But Republicans no longer fear the median voter, because voters are increasingly in the dark about the content of policies. Media coverage focuses on personalities, and the Republican Party controls the legislative agenda and designs its policies with the objective of concealing their real effect on the public. The policies are also designed to shape and restrict future policy choices by stealth. (The authors call these twin innovations "backlash insurance.") The winnowing of political hopefuls is increasingly in the hands of a small minority of rich contributors and highly organized ideological groups. Along with the rise of safe seats, this makes intraparty competition the main concern of many Republicans, thus driving them to more extremist politics. The Republican Party leadership has also successfully centralized authority within the party.

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