Democratic Underground  

Political Orientation and Statistics 101
November 1, 2003
By Tyler Durden

Everything follows a bell curve, especially political orientation.

The latest nasty name to call someone is "centrist." It has joined "liberal" (from the Right Wing Lexicon), and is defined as "a person or a philosophy to be avoided; traitor, turncoat, fool." Statistically, this is a terrible call. Because the political center outnumbers us. Badly.

Time for Statistics 101.

When we look at the way things are randomly distributed in large populations, be they car parts or people, quality control uses statistics to define the spread of where dimensions will show up on a graph. The vast majority of results fall in the middle, and the resultant graph resembles a bell, hence the name; "Bell Curve." This result is mathematically predictable throughout all of nature, humanity, and the inventions of man. Take gambling, for example. Shooting craps, the similarity is glaring: do we see as many "snakeyes" or "boxcars" (2 or 12) thrown on the dice of life as the many derivations of 5, 6, and 7?

Of course not. The middle values will always predominate. Always. People 5' 8" will always vastly outnumber people 7' and 4'. This is the nature of reality; working in quality control as I do, I have lived and died by the bell curve.

This is where we of the political left make our error in decrying the middle path: there are a lot more of them than us. I don't like the middle of the road; I'm a socialist. But that puts me statistically at the far left of the bell curve. If this were not so, The Socialist Workers Party would have held the presidency since the Great Depression, or at least until "happy days" were here again.

Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum are the Jesse Helmses, Lester Maddoxes and Zell Millers of the world: bigots, elitists, fascists and conservative opportunists. Most of the time, they don't win either; but their advantage is that it is easier to hide in the middle coming from the far right than it is coming from the far left. Hence, we get George W. Bush, his father, and Ronald Reagan.

Here's the rub: People from the far right look at centrists as opportunities for converts, or "marks." The first syllable in "conservative" isn't "con" for no good reason. Unfortunately, many people from the far left look at centrists as wafflers or unprincipled sheep. Hard to warm up to someone calling you names, isn't it?

This is normal behavior on the left. If you look at the history of the left, we are often the first to sign up for the latest "purge" of those lamented individuals in our own ranks who practice whatever is currently viewed as "political heresy." Until recently, this sort of action in the conservatives has been anathema: anyone remember George Romney or Nelson Rockefeller? They weren't very liberal, but they were as close to liberal as Republicans can get.

The rightists in this country, with attendant aberration, treat their heretics as errant children. In fact, the right wing/Republican Party has a saying: "Republicans don't expel their liberals: they convert them." Maybe it's a "show me the money" thing, I don't know, but whatever they're doing, it seems to work pretty damned well.

The long-term result of this is that far left wing of American Politics is helping the country commit slow social suicide. If you think bad news and a "stormcrow" message will grab the middle and pull them to the left, think again. All you have to do is look at the television ratings and you'll know you're wrong. I wish it weren't so: we are so rich and so powerful in this country that we could actually make doing the "right" thing and taking care of our brothers and sisters all over the world fashionable. This is of course the best form of "defense spending." When the masses are satisfied and well cared for, then aggressive nationalism looks absurd. Why rock a well stocked boat in calm seas?

There aren't enough of us on our end of the curve, and it will always be that way as long as there is still a right wing to oppose us. What we preach is very radical to the middle of the curve which is where the vast majority stand, and for good or ill, they don't like big or fast changes.

So what does this all mean? Only that we vilify and demean the middle at our peril. True, the Republic's pendulum will swing to the left eventually, but the longer and harder we try to drag it over to the left only means that when it finally gets moving, it will be going one hell of a clip at the bottom of the swing, and anyone standing in its way is likely to get smacked pretty good. And they won't love us for it.

Like that crowd in the middle.

Tyler Durden abuses his position as a Technical Writer to compose political commentary as a form of therapy.

Printer-friendly version
Tell a friend about this article Tell a friend about this article
Discuss this article
Democratic Underground Homepage