The current legislative extremism of the ruling GOP majority is already legendary. And over and over again I hear from the far-left the repeated mantra that Democrats need to move further left to win elections.
The graph above illustrates why -- you don't gain any new supporters by doubling down on the territory you already have. You have to find ways to accommodate something from the center to gain ground. This is the essence of the Median Voter Theorem.
"Ah, but wait!" you say -- "the Median Voter Theorem is so fraught with assumptions. In the real world, these conditions are rarely all true!"
True, true, my astute friend. However, statistics sees to that as well. It allows us to ask what we should expect to see given many many trials and sets of conditions, such that we get an even truer, richer, weighted average than we would from simply measuring a single empirical event. The central limit theorem tells us that with sample sizes large enough, the distribution of the variable we are looking for is going to (generally, on average) follow the Normal Distribution (aka Bell Curve). And the American electorate -- despite occasional dismal turnout -- is still well-described by the law of large numbers.
So, why does this idea persist? I have a few theories:
1. It's a gut "moral" reaction to shrink away in disgust from things we don't like, our political "enemies" included (see the work of Jonathan Haidt for more on this)
2. We overestimate the amount of "silent support" out there waiting for our views, via the false consensus effect and other cognitive biases
3. The allure of "revolutionary change" has a certain appeal to groups of people, especially young folks without a ton of life attachments/commitments yet (and who are freshly and deeply disillusioned with almost whatever world it is they're inheriting, historically), and religious fundamentalists whose goals (usually furtive and tacit) are ultimately to forge a theocracy in America (see Chris Hedges for more on this, and Dominionism in general)
4. It's easier to be "against" things than to be "for" something. The surge of adrenaline from an internet fight is more immediate than the more patient satisfaction of eating the broccoli of retail politics and being politically active in our own communities. It's also easily accessible and less time-consuming, and we are very impatient creatures indeed
5. Compromise is boring and everybody hates it
6. Memes are being implanted (often, the same memes) on the far-right and the far-left by the Russian troll army and hacker empire that remains a bizarrely open secret that the majority party in government leadership apparently can't be bothered with outside of ridiculous "what me where?!" yakety sax from administration officials. They are designed to pull the electorate further apart, away from the median voter theorem territory, in order to undermine and weaken our democracy further by continuing to erode the political norms, institutions, and values that have managed to hold the country together since 1776. Why does Russia want to do this? All the usual reasons: increased geopolitical power, freedom to abscond with more territory from its "sphere of interest" (Georgia, Crimea, etc.), revenge for the fall of Communism and the loss of the Cold War (i.e. revanchism), a return to empire, and of course Putin wants to hand a "symbolic victory over the US" to his people so he can squirm his way into some sort of justification for continuing to rule after 17 years (he also needs to distract them from the perilous state of the economy).
7. We just don't know enough, as a nation, about US civics. I know I got short shrift in that department during my public school education, and lawd knows it hasn't gotten any better since then. If anything, more contentious -- because of the way politics has wound a tight grip around everything, including whether to teach critical thinking at all!
Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter warned us of this -- and of its consequences.
It's not too late. Let's each one teach one, and educate ourselves about the good of the public good before this endangered species disappears from the watchlist forever, poisoned by the oily oiligarchy.