Median Voter Theorem Crushes the Competition in 2016

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Has anyone noticed that old-school political science was thoroughly vindicated this year? Sure, Donald Trump is a cretinous demagogue who shouldn’t be allowed within a thousand miles of our nuclear codes. But political science has nothing to say about that. What political science does say is that voters tend to elect candidates who are closer to the center.

And they did. Trump’s bottomless ignorance and lying aside, he was a populist candidate who was fundamentally more centrist than modern tea-party ultras like Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. On the Democratic side, despite all the drama, Hillary Clinton ended up beating Bernie Sanders pretty handily. Of the serious candidates with real backing, the two most centrist candidates ended up winning.

How about that?

POSTSCRIPT: Obviously Jeb Bush is the big hole in this theory. Well known, great credentials, lots of money, plenty of party backing, relatively centrist, and…he went nowhere. Of course, the median voter theorem doesn’t guarantee that the median voter will like any candidate who happens to be fairly centrist. In the end, it turned out that Jeb was just a terrible campaigner.

DONALD TRUMP & DEMOCRACY

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DONALD TRUMP & DEMOCRACY

Mother Jones was founded to do things differently in the aftermath of a political crisis: Watergate. We stand for justice and democracy. We reject false equivalence. We go after, and go deep on, stories others don’t. And we’re a nonprofit newsroom because we knew corporations and billionaires would never fund the journalism we do. Our reporting makes a difference in policies and people’s lives changed.

And we need your support like never before to vigorously fight back against the existential threats American democracy and journalism face. We’re running behind our online fundraising targets and urgently need all hands on deck right now. We can’t afford to come up short—we have no cushion; we leave it all on the field.

Please help with a donation today if you can—even just a few bucks helps. Not ready to donate but interested in our work? Sign up for our Daily newsletter to stay well-informed—and see what makes our people-powered, not profit-driven, journalism special.

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