Insiders, Outsiders, and Voting Behavior
By Arnold Kling
real world political debate is not fundamentally a macro-cosm of the thought processes of a smart person, or of one smart person debating another. The politics of confrontation usually turn ugly.
Since my father’s death, I have been trying to think about how to articulate his views on politics. Insider politics, as exemplified by Congressional earmarks defended here, struck him as normal and rational. Outsider politics, coming from libertarians or other radicals, struck him as irrational.
For the public at large, he took seriously the results of studies of voting behavior. Based on those, he predicted that Obama would not win the nomination, much less the Presidency. Historically, one’s vote can be predicted quite well by one’s parents’ party affiliation, by one’s ethnic group, and by one’s economic class, in that order. I don’t think my father took into account the Democratic Party’s rules, which worked out this year to the detriment of Clinton by putting caucuses in states that she might have won as primaries, by negating a state with a large elderly population (Florida), and by negating a state with a large blue-collar population (Michigan).
My father also believed very strongly in Murray Edelman‘s view that insider politics and the public are mediated by symbols. That is, insiders use symbols to try to keep the public quiet while the insiders divide up the spoils of power.
Thus, once all of the symbolic dust between Clinton and Obama has settled, the core interest groups of the Democratic Party are bound to unite behind the nominee. The spat will be remembered by individuals who had something at stake (members of the immediate entourage of the loser) and by a small number of irrational outsiders.
Moreover, many interest groups transcend both parties. Investment bankers, for example, will be able to exert influence with any of the candidates.
My father would have viewed Obama vs. Clinton as anything but a threatening confrontation. It is simply a competition between two insiders. There are some Obama supporters who fit the “outsider” model (radical, intense), but he himself seems to me to be more comfortable as an insider than as a radical.