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Daniel Gulley

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Increasing voter turnout in primaries would dramatically improve the American system and result in more candidates with moderate positions.

It occurred to me that if I placed a bell curve over this simple linear model of politics I could show the distribution of American political attitudes.

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Reactionary/Conservative/Moderate/Liberal/Radical

I divided the moderates such that conservative moderates are located from center to 1 standard deviation(SD) to the right of the mean and liberal moderates are from center to 1 SD to the left of the mean.

What this shows is that the majority of Americans are in the middle of the political spectrum.

This is where I may coin a term "the 68%". The 68% are the majority of Americans. They are working class Americans, students, teachers, parents, grandparents and veterans. They are by definition moderate being somewhere to the right and left of center and everywhere in between.

The two parties usually employ sensitive issues to fire up the base and to divide and distract those people in the middle of the political spectrum, the 68%. They agree on virtually all accounts except for abortion, and maybe gay marriage. Regardless these two issues are deployed every election cycle to divide and distract, and after every cycle the status quo, the state of affairs on abortion and same-sex marriage, remains the same.

But if most Americans are somewhere in the middle, why do our candidates come from the left and right of center?

Voter turnout in the primaries is very low compared to during the general election, and sometimes it is as low as 1% or lower (it averages probably around 10-15% but can get as high as 25-30%).

The result is the simple truth that while those in the middle of the political spectrum, the moderate majority decides who will be our president, it is those people on the far left and right (the fringes) that decide who the two candidates will be. In essence the 68% do choose who will be President but it is the 1% and the 10% that decide who will run.

Primaries are just as important as general elections!!!

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    Dec 17 2012: @pat gilbert
    "It would make the problem worse as the ones who are apathetic are decidedly left wing" ...
    "The left wants free stuff because they don't want to be bothered with having a job ergo voting is too much of a burden."...
    "No my point is I don't care and am not going spend time looking for evidence that you will ignore any way. "


    I literally laughed out loud because from the first time you posted here, I knew full well that this would ultimately be your response when asked to back up your postion.
    'I believe xyz is true...and no, I'm not going to back that up with anything',
    Essentially the Republican stance on every subject matter.

    You really should learn that you're not on a tea-party forum and that you can't get away with saying literally any sweeping ridiculous statement and expect nothing but a wave of unthinking bobble headed audience members to nod their heads in agreement, just because you're shouting at a podium.

    Ofcourse, I'm largely just a lazy illegal immigrant drug-using communist who sets fire to christmas trees and baby jesus statues, paid for with my welfare check (I.E/ politcally left leaning).. but just remember that we could always use some more people on our weekly 'heroine and Karl marx wednesdays' if you wish to join us.
    One of us, one of us, one of us..
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    Dec 16 2012: I disagree. There was an editorial on Nightline years ago that's stuck with me since. It was summed up in the end as "If you don't care, don't vote," which strikes me as a good summation. There are only so many people who are passionate enough about the election to educate themselves on the issues. If it's 1%, so be it. But let those voters, the passionate, educated voters, and only those voters, determine the outcome of the election. Rousing hoards of uncaring voters to the polls does not strike me as patriotic, it strikes me as a very bad idea.
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      Dec 16 2012: My argument is logically valid (the conclusion follows from the premises) and it is deductive in nature, meaning that if you accept the premises then you must accept the conclusion. So to reject the conclusion is to reject 1 or more premises, so which premises do you reject?

      With all due respect your argument or more precisely your summation of Nightline's argument is what in logic is called a fallacy of composition.

      "This line of reasoning is fallacious because the mere fact that individuals (within a class) have certain characteristics does not, in itself, guarantee that the class (taken as a whole) has those characteristics." http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/composition.html

      A hidden premise in this argument is that all primary voters are passionate and educated on the issues, and anyone who does not vote in the primaries is not while this is most definitely true of some it can not on its own merit serve as a basis to make such a broad generalization about every primary voter or every general election voter who did not vote in the primaries.
  • Jan 16 2013: I' m afraid that the triumph of "Diversity" has balkanized the US to the degree that more representative government, no matter how structured, will merely increase the clique antagonisms that are so obvious in daily politics. I can remember when Senators were polite to each other, even friendly.( long ago) Yugoslavia was an example of forced integration of warriing factions. It, and a hundred other such experiments just didn't pan out. We should imitate the citizens of "Czechoslovakia", and undertake an amicable Divorce, before it is too late.
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    Jan 14 2013: The real, only way to get a better selection is to break the central parties down into separate groups, each with their own party endowments. This is exactly what happens when you have a primary for each political party.

    The line of candidates that ran for the republican presidential candidate varied from far left to moderate conservative. I would call Romney moderate leaning while his running mate was heavily conservative leaning. What is interesting is that the Conservatives choose a moderate leaning candidate.

    The Democrat's, appeared to overwhelmingly fall behind President Obama, indication no real motions to change any of the democratic initiatives. As a result there were few contenders for the office on the democratic side.

    Looking at it from this perspective, Which party actually presented a moderate initiative in the last 2012 election. I would have to say the Republicans (I voted for Obama). Remember the election was close to the 50/50 line so we have half the voters inclined towards a moderate solution and half set staunchly on moving things along a Liberal agenda.

    If there is a moderate majority of voters. I would have to say that a majority of them exist in the Republican sector.

    A moderate party could serve to be the liaison between the current conflict of interests we find in Congress today. The so called, Secret group of congresspersons was supposed to work for this purpose. Where are they?

    What would a moderate party stand for? What would be their platform?

    The real impedance in the last election, in my opinion, revolved around wither we would continue a war footing in the Middle East or not. All other issues were secondary to this central issue, even unemployment and the bad financial situation. I have to ask myself why?

    The answer: There are certian things we cannot control, Energy being one of the most important, and how many wealthy families are going to loose ground in the fight for political power.
  • Jan 12 2013: We can debate the consequences of increased turnout all day long, but if we want a real answer, we must ask a more basic question: How do we increase turnout?
  • Jan 4 2013: Right on!!!!!
  • Jan 4 2013: "I divided the moderates such that conservative moderates are located from center to 1 standard deviation(SD) to the right of the mean and liberal moderates are from center to 1 SD to the left of the mean.

    What this shows is that the majority of Americans are in the middle of the political spectrum."

    What? Did I misread this in my flu stupor? Nothing has been shown, I find this particularly distressing because this country is definitely NOT in the middle of the spectrum.
  • Jan 1 2013: Your dreaming. All it would be is more doing the same thing, nothing.
    • Jan 4 2013: Elections work at the local and state levels. The myth about elections is generally over the executive branch, and since we're not in a dictatorship we cannot expect one man to run this country. Although presidents have been expanding the executive's branch's power, both perceived and actual, for a long time now. It would probably be beneficial if we as a society recognized this, did away with the practice and actually put more pressure on the house and senate. Those people get away with murder and they effectively use the president as a scapegoat.
  • Dec 29 2012: It's relatively easy to conceive of several changes that could bring about fairer contests with better choices and greater voter participation. For example, we could (in theory) replace the gerrymandering by state legislatures with bipartisan commissions that would follow geographical rather than political logic when they adjust district boundaries. We could (in theory) replace party primaries with a single open primary followed by a general election that pitted the top three candidates from the primary against one another. We could (in theory) offer a small tax credit or a discount on car registration or driver's license fees to anyone who votes in any election.

    None of these things is going to happen, at least not over the short term, because the people who would need to make these changes are the same people who have already benefited from the gerrymandered big-money two-parties-only low-participation system we currently have in place. There are a very few worthwhile experiments going on around the country at the state level (Wisconsin set up a bipartisan redistricting commission, Vermont seems to be moving into a post-party model at the state & national level), but these have been swamped by the recent efforts of Republicans to shrink the size of the voting public & protect the careers of incumbents.

    I know that primaries were originally intended to be an improvement over the smoke-filled room, but they've become a new version of the problem they were intended to solve. We'd be much better off without them--but I have no idea how to make that happen.
  • Dec 20 2012: The chief problem with our national election system lies with the large sums of money candidates need to get elected. Legislators planning to run again are forced to accept money from donors who expect access and favors. Somehow we have got to reduce the cost of campaigning for elective office.
    The next problem is to find a fair redistricting of the voter population.
    The third problem is on its way to being solved, i.e. the unfairness of the Electoral College. Some states have decided that all their Electoral Votes will be awarded to the candidates receiving the majority of votes regardless of party. If this trend in circumventing the two-party electoral process continues, the Electoral College unfairness will be solved.
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    Dec 19 2012: I don't know that these voters would be more informed...so I am not so sure they would make our situation any better. I think a better approach would be to educate the current voting population. Produce more resources for people to better understand how our economy and government really work.

    If we know some of us have no clue....how do we value a popular vote? Does a really misguided, but popular, vote do anything positive for us?
  • Dec 19 2012: It sounds to me lthat your first assumption that "political opinion" is a simple scalar variable which goes from extremely conservative to extremely liberal, or something like that. Isn't that grossly simplistic?
    It also sounds like your main assumption, very common among people in the USA, is that political elections are decided primarily by the voters when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The political process in the USA is determined largely by special interest groups, where those who throw the most money at an issue are usually the most successful. The dominant position of the media to manipulate and control public opinion needs to be understood.
    The fact that barely 50% of eligible voters participate in a presidential election, with fewer in congressional and far fewer in most state and local elections, also needs to be understood. How many non-voters abstain because they find none of the candidates acceptable? How many are simply apathetic? A careful review of the Ron Paul campaign last year might be strongly educational, because the language used by the major media were extremely influential in scuttling the candidacy, without discussing the merits of his positions on various issues ... at least it seemed to me that he took positions and made them clear while other major candidates attempted to placate and please as many constituents as possible while concentrating on lambast and vague platitudes.
  • Dec 17 2012: Your argument completely ignores the huge influence of gerrymandering.

    You make the assumption of a balanced bell curve, whereas the truth is that the curve for each district is often very lopsided, by design. If the goal is to get more moderate candidates, something will have to be done about gerrymandering. With today's polling techniques, combined with computerized statistical mathematics, the design of congressional districts has become a very detailed and very sophisticated craft.
    • Jan 4 2013: I've seen that to be true, but when contemplating it, what do we do about it? I'd be very interested to hear some brain storming about that...
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    Dec 17 2012: Daniel, Didn't the republicians put up enough candidates in the primaries? I don't think that the number of voters is, in my opinion, of primary concern. I would think that the lack of understanding government, economics, diplomacy, and in general the Constitution is .. or should be ... of greater concern. Further I believe this to be true of both parties.

    I have chosen to be a independent .. however, in the primaries the liberterian made the most sense in solving domestic and economic problems .. I was not so sure of his diplomatic skills or his thoughts on world affairs, but that is my opinion.

    On your attacks on Pat and your statement on FOX news you have made clear where you stand ... but lets set that aside for a second.

    As a Polisi major how do you go about being elected. Rule # 1 is never tell the whole truth .. people would go screaming off into the night and you would never get out of the primaries. Rule # 2: Tell em what they want to hear. It worked in Argintina and it worked again in the USA. Rule # 3: Divide them. Class warfare is the simplest means and the most effective and has been a political tool from the begining. and on and on .... You know the drill.

    Just as a matter of discussion ... if the people were all well verses in political science, economics, geo politics, the true state of Americas problems (including the FED), bailouts, etc ..., and the Constitution who would have been the final two in the election?

    Just curious. Dogenes would have laughed in passing these two.
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      Dec 18 2012: I would not say that I have attacked anyone. Rather I was debating Mr. Gilbert i.e putting forth premises in support of a conclusion. I don't think demanding reason and logical consistency is an attack.

      I have not "made it clear where I stand" but I will. I am a registered Republican and have been since I registered to vote at age 18.

      However I am obviously not like the tea party types who have come to exert great influence within the GOP.

      I am a moderate Republican one of the last of a dying breed. The way in which I differ from many of my fellow republicans and really many democrats is that I let reason and knowledge guide my vote regardless if that means I break from the parties platform.

      I believe that the first Amendment means that we cannot canonize the bible in our legal code.

      I am pro-gun. If they banned guns I would follow the ban but to do so it can not be an ordinary act of congress they must amend the constitution as the constitution demands. This is why the Brady bill was considered unconstitutional. Amending the constitution can only be done with a super majority 66% of both houses or of the various state legislatures).

      I also believe the GOP is on the wrong side of reason on climate change. Did I mention I live in Kentucky (BIG BLUE NATION)? Today 12/17/2012. In Lexington there was a huge thunderstorm with a lot of hail. If we are getting any precipitation this time of year it should be cold rain or snow. There's a lot more evidence for climate change but I have ranted enough there is scientific consensus.

      The point the contemporary GOP is on the wrong side of reason. Some dare I say are anti-intellectual (tea party).

      The GOP in the past could enter the public forum with reason and work together for the common good.
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    Dec 17 2012: Is the following syllogism representative of your argument?. . .
    A: Moderate candidate's chances for nomination are directly proportional to voter turnout in Primary Elections.
    B: Voter turnout in Primary Elections is very low compared to the General Election.
    C: Therefore Moderate candidates have significantly reduced chances of nomination.
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    Dec 16 2012: It would make the problem worse as the ones who are apathetic are decidedly left wing
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      Dec 16 2012: Do you have any evidence to support this conclusion? It seems to me if you are left wing then you care about left wing issues thus denoting an absence of "ennui".
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        Dec 16 2012: It is a known and accepted fact. I don't know where it is, but it is hardly a delusion conclusion. The left wants free stuff because they don't want to be bothered with having a job ergo voting is too much of a burden.
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          Dec 16 2012: "It is a known and accepted fact." By who Fox News?

          You can not make a claim and then when pressed for evidence support that claim in such a manner.

          It is logically fallacious.

          This type of reasoning is known as an Appeal to Belief "This line of "reasoning" is fallacious because the fact that many people believe a claim does not, in general, serve as evidence that the claim is true." http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-belief.html

          Of course I reject the idea in it's entirety that "it is a known and accepted fact" but even if everyone believed it that alone is not evidence of its truthfulness. At one time everyone believed that the earth not the sun was the center of the galaxy and that the earth was flat.
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        Dec 17 2012: No my point is I don't care and am not going spend time looking for evidence that you will ignore any way. But reasoning really is flawed for this reason. Have a nice day
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          Dec 17 2012: I would not ignore any scholarly evidence that you could produce....

          If you don't care enough to back your claim with actual evidence why bother replying at all?

          Trolling perhaps?
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          Dec 17 2012: Here is some statistical evidence for you....

          http://visualizingeconomics.com/blog/2010/02/17/federal-taxes-paidreceived-for-each-state

          If you compare the two figures for any given state you will either get a positive number (meaning that state pays in more in taxes than it gets back from the government in entitlements) or a negative number (meaning that the state gets more money from Washington than it pays in).

          Do the math... do you notice a pattern? Overwhelmingly the Red states receive more from government than they pay in, and overwhelmingly the Blue states pay more into the system than they receive in entitlements....

          Isn't this the opposite of your claim??
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        Dec 17 2012: This relates to voter apathy how?
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          Dec 17 2012: "The left wants free stuff because they don't want to be bothered with having a job ergo voting is too much of a burden."

          Your words.
          You connected having a job and voter apathy yourself. Please stop making this easy.
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        Dec 17 2012: Are you and John Smith the same person?

        Have a nice day
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          Dec 17 2012: No...and apparently that concludes the discussion on whether apathetic voters are infact leftwing... They're not.

          Have a nice day aswell
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        Dec 17 2012: Au Contraire