17.6.10

THE DOWNSIDE OF PRIMARY ELECTIONS? John Avlon's Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America is clearly a polemic, and its principal focus is on more vocal circles of opposition to Our President. Chapters with titles such as Obama Derangement Syndrome, The Birth of White Minority Politics, Sarah Palin and the Limbaugh Brigades, and The Hatriots: Armed and Dangerous identify what Mr Avlon sees as the scariest parts of the various strands of conservatism, libertarianism, and on occasion white supremacy. [His presentation is not as hysterical as Chris Matthew's recent "The Rise of the New Right," smacked down by Hot Air.] Other chapters, however, make it clear that True Believers have all manner of beliefs, noted in Polarizing for Profit, Hunting for Heretics, and The Big Lie: Birthers and Truthers. The opening parts, A Wingnut Glossary and Introducing the Wingnuts, introduce all manner of True Believers, and the author chooses to use the word wingnut to describe any True Believer whose Beliefs are too remote from the Vital Center. The distinction between wingnuts (the left's pejorative) and moonbats (the right's pejorative) adds notation without clarity.
Book Review No. 11 notes Wingnuts's unusual endnotes, in which almost all the references are to web sites ... your library at home, forsooth, although some Ronald Reagan speeches have not yet been encoded. Substantively, the author notes that in his view, most people hold enough beliefs in the Vital Center so as to be able to resist the arguments from the extremes (this is the median voter argument, with voter preferences that do not invalidate minimum differentiation). He suggests that Congress change the apportionment formula to produce districts with more viewpoint diversity rather than creating safe districts for both parties. Although such a change has the potential both to favor candidates that cater to the median voter and to upset the conditions favorable to maximum differentiation in the primaries, where the True Believers are more likely to vote, it presupposes more racial comity than may currently exist. Those safe districts are the bipartisan implementation of the Voting Rights Act in such a way as to create majority-minority districts by clustering primarily poor Americans with African roots together to elect Democrats, and at the same time creating Republican districts, often by clustering primarily poor Americans with European roots together. Tradeoffs again: does a Congress that approximates the ethnic mix of the country matter more, or does a Congress that approximates the viewpoint mix?

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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