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Morris Fiorina On Why Political Parties Have Polarized


Published: April 15, 2019

As a result of ideological sorting, political parties are far more polarized today than they were before. Democrats have shed their conservative wing and Republicans have shed their liberal wing. Majority control of Congress continues to flip back and forth because each party is polarized, responds to their political base, and alienates moderates and independents in the middle.

Additional Resources

  • Read “Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and Political Stalemate” by Morris Fiorina, available here.
  • Watch “Unstable Majorities with Morris P. Fiorina” here.
  • Read “An Era of Tenuous Majorities” by Morris P. Fiorina, available here
  • Read "Has The American Public Polarized?" by Morris P. Fiorina, available here
  • Read “The Political Parties Have Sorted by Morris Fiorina,” available here.
  • Read “Party Sorting and Democratic Politics” by Morris Fiorina, available here
  • Read “The Temptation To Overreach” by Morris P. Fiorina, available here.
View Transcript

When I was growing up, the Democrats were a left to center party, 

but they had a lot of moderates, and they had a conservative wing 

Republicans were a right of center party, but they, too, had moderates and they had a liberal wing. 

We now have a liberal lump and a conservative lump, 

and the middle is gone. 

Democrats have shed their conservative wing. 

Republicans have shed their liberal wing. 

The parties have polarized, much more than they used to. 

Sorting has led to a re-nationalization of american elections. 

Why do we have the unstable majorities? In this era, we have two highly polarized parties. 

They respond to their base pressure. if you’re a Democrat, your pressures are coming from the left. If you’re a Republican from your right. 

To satisfy these base pressures, they take relatively extreme positions. 

They emphasize issues that are priorities of the base, but not priorities of the general public, that activists tend to often be motivated by but not important to the electorate at large. 

This alienates your marginal supporters, the people who say, “Well, I didn’t really vote for that”