The political CW is that the middle (that is, moderate, centrist, independent voters) decides who wins competitive elections. All races for president are competitive, so the middle is choosing our presidents. Yet, it is the candidates on the far ends of the spectrum that turn out the people at their campaign rallies. Ben Carson just drew 2,000 here in Loudoun. Dr. Carson is a soft-spoken man, but what he says is pretty intense: he’s anti-choice, says Muslims have to renounce their faith to run for office, and has compared Obamacare to slavery. Bernie Sanders just drew 19,000 to a rally in Portland. Bernie is… well, Bernie is a Socialist. ‘Nuff said, eh?
This is primary season, of course, so we’re not going to see candidates playing to the middle right now. After the two major parties choose their nominees, both will, to some extent, push Mitt Romney’s famous “reset button” and find their inner moderates. At that point, however, their rallies will shrink. The Americans who will choose our next president just don’t tend to find our candidates exciting enough to gather in very large numbers. Are we bored? Lazy? Disgusted? Probably some mixture of them all. But, if moderates choose the president, and no moderate ever really runs, one has to wonder if our system isn’t failing its purpose of representative democracy as a result.