I met Thomas Frank once. He seemed friendly enough. I really liked his book One Market Under God. Unfortunately he is one of the chief practitioners of what I’ll call “reverse psychology politics.” This was the main thesis of his book What’s the Matter With Kansas. Simply put, when many people went to vote Republican they were really telling the Democrats to be more liberal on a few issue because if the Democrats had been more liberal on those particular issues that would’ve given people who voted Republican a reason to vote Democratic.
Something’s just not right about this theory. When people had a choice between two parties and they picked the more conservative why on Earth would you say they really wanted the other party to become more liberal?
Now of course many conservatives are saying of course, Democrats always lose when they become more liberal. But… this also applies to Republicans. When the public votes for the more liberal of the two parties why does anyone think that what they really want is for the other party to become even more unlike the party they just voted for?
Ok, let’s look at the numbers. During 2012 Virginia was a presidential battle ground and hosted one of the premier U.S. Senate races. The Virginia GOP nominated George Allen for the senate race. I’d say he’s a true-blue conservative. Anyone going to call Allen a squishy-moderate? In the end Mitt Romney got not only more votes but a higher percentage of the votes than Allen.
So what happened? If the Thomas Frank/Choice Not an Echo Crowd was right shouldn’t Allen have garnered a higher percentage of the vote? Shouldn’t several thousand conservative activists have bottled to vote for Virgil Goode’s independent candidacy after proudly voting for George Allen in the senate race? Well Goode received 14,00o votes in the presidential race, that doesn’t explain where the other 24,000 more votes Romney got than Allen came from.
Maybe, just maybe, all of the conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans voted for Romney (just like all of the liberal and moderate Democrats at the time voted for Kerry) and it just wasn’t enough. Maybe, just maybe, a few things had happened in the intervening eight years to change how people thought about how voting thought politics.
Could it be we are in a new era where the GOP’s 1968-2004 worldview is fading as the U.S. electorate becomes more liberal, not because of anything Democratic politicians did, but because in a changed world the solutions that made sense 30, 20, 10 years ago now seem outdated. I know it’s crazy….