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Democrats Remembered How Politics Works Again


Jonathan Chait: “The election results, both in the aggregate and in many of the particulars, vindicate the belief that voters tend to punish rather than reward parties and candidates they associate with radical ideas. To be sure, a tendency is not a rule. The largest factor driving election results is external world events: economic prosperity (or its absence), rallying around the flag in the event of a foreign attack, or widespread disgust with a failed war or major scandal. Midterm elections generally have large swings against the president’s party. One reason 2022 defied the pattern is that the Dobbs decision made Republicans, not Democrats, the party carrying out radical change. Candidates and parties seen as safe and moderate have an advantage — one that may not always override other factors but which matters quite a bit.”

“This is a fairly uncontroversial finding among political scientists. Yet in recent years, many influential figures in the Democratic Party had come to disbelieve it. A series of mistakes followed from this belief that Democrats would pay no penalty or may even benefit from moving farther away from the center. There are also signs in the recent election cycle they are coming to grips with the fallacies in their assumptions. A decade of magical thinking may be coming to an end.”

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