Thursday, February 18, 2016

Clay Shirky Diagnoses the Rumps

Twitter at its best gives you immediate access when people with interesting thoughts feel like putting them out in real time. Last night, media critic and theorist Clay Shirky -- who doesn't tweet very often -- went on a tweet storm, compiled here.

His main point is that social media has turned the Republican and Democratic parties into host bodies for third-party candidates. Some of the key tweets:

Politically acceptable discourse is limited by supply, not demand. The public is hungry for more than politicians are willing to discuss.

In order to preserve inherently unstable coalitions, party elites and press had to put some issues into the 'Don't Mention X' category.
These limits were enforced by party discipline, and mass media whose economics meant political centrism was the best way to make money.
But all of this was before cable television exploded, which gave us Ross Perot, and the interweb, which led to the Howard Dean phenomenon and then Barack Obama's ability to mobilize and fundraise. In 2016,
Reaching and persuading even a fraction of the electorate used to be so daunting that only two national organizations could do it. Now dozens can.

This set up the current catastrophe for the parties. They no longer control any essential resource, and can no longer censor wedge issues.

Each party has an unmentionable Issue X that divide its voters. Each overestimated their ability to keep X out of the campaign.

So here we are, with quasi-parlimentarianism. We now have four medium-sized and considerably more coherent voter blocs.

2 rump establishment parties, Trump representing 'racist welfare state' voters, and Sanders representing people who want a Nordic system.

Trump is a RINO, Sanders not even a Democrat. That either one could become their party's nominee is amazing. Both would mark the end of an era.

Over-large party coalitions require discipline to prevent people from taking an impassioned 30% of the base in order to win the primaries.

Who needs a third party when the existing two parties have become powerless to stop insurgencies from within?
More detail on his thinking in the full compilation of tweets.

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