…the real division in the nation: between those who want to have a culture war and those who don’t. At election time, political candidates need simultaneously to “rally the base”, which includes a heavy quotient of culture warriors, and to “appeal to the center”, meaning the majority (often left of center on economic issues), which sees health care, education, jobs, taxes, and national security as central concerns trumping gay marriage or abortion. The result is a strained, dysfunctional, and often dishonest political dialogue based on symbolic utterances. Hot-button questions that rally particular sectors of the electorate – and draw listeners and viewers to confrontational radio and television programs – preempt serious discussion of what ails American culture and society.
E.J. Dionne Jr., Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith & Politics After the Religious Right (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008), 50.
…because parties are necessarily alliances of disparate constituencies, political scientists have mainly regarded them as a healthy way of counteracting the power of single-issue interest groups. It’s hard not to wonder about an account in which a party is captive to interest groups at some moments but not at others.
Nicholas Lemann, “Evening the Odds,” The New Yorker (23 April 2012), 73.