The Political Parties Have Sorted

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
US Political Parties
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Mircea Maties, Shutterstock

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Although the American public at large has not polarized, it is better sorted than a generation ago. Whereas the parties were once “big tents,” they are now ideologically more homogeneous: liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats have largely disappeared. Thus, although popular polarization has not increased, partisan polarization has. Some skeptics contend that the distinction between sorting and polarization is unimportant, but, on the contrary, it is a critical difference. Contra polarization, with sorting the middle still exists, but it is not welcome in either party. Importantly, although the political class is well sorted, ordinary voters, even partisans, are much less so, as frustrated Republican intellectuals learned when Republican primary voters in 2016 nominated a presidential candidate whose ideology is at best muddled.

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