Political polarization and the Constitution
SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Fri Mar 26 18:30:39 PDT 2010
Rick Pildes has a terrific piece, as yet unpublished, I believe, emphasizing the role of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in destroying the "four party" system in Congress circa 1965 and replacing it with the modern "two-party system" that resulted from a combination of millions of new minority voters plus Nixon's (and every subsequent Republican's "(white) Southern strategy (helped along, of course, by Democratic misjudgment on such issues as "gun control").
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From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu <conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu>
To: VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu <VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu>; rs at robertsheridan.com <rs at robertsheridan.com>
Cc: conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu <conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu>
Sent: Fri Mar 26 11:33:55 2010
Subject: Re: Political polarization and the Constitution
My former colleague, Geoff Layman (now, alas, at Notre Dame) in a series of papers on what he calls "conflict extension" has an important insight on the difference between polarization in the 1960s and 2000s. Geoff points out that there were many cross-cutting cleavages in the 1960s. So the alliances on civil rights were different than the alliances on Vietnam and those int erm were different than the alliances on abortion, when that hit the national stage. One consequence of these cross-cutting battles was that both governing officials and elected officials who were vigorously opposed on some issues, worked together on others (witness, most famously, Sam Ervin and liberal democrats during the Nixon impeachment). Tended to tone down the rhetoric a bit. Increasingly, what both polls and congressional votes demonstrate is that alliances on one issue are the same as other issues. So activists and government officials on different sides of one issue never work together on !
In response to Eugene's important post that people did not like centrist parties when we had them (true as an empirical matter), I would suggest that polarization is OK on some matters, but not in the modern form. But this is a seat of the pants judgment.
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