Find-the-Matrix: The Exasperated Core

Does Anyone See the ‘Exhausted Majority’?

Transpartisan Note #144

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

The Transpartisan Review operates on the belief that a system which incorporates more than a left/right bias is needed to discover productive solutions to our societal and political issues. In a recent NYTimes op-ed, We See the Left. We See the Right. Can Anyone See the ‘Exhausted Majority’?, Thomas B. Edsall asks:

Does Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 represent the last gasp of an exhausted moderate tradition or does a potentially powerful center lie dormant in our embattled political system?

Mr. Edsall paints a compelling picture of the left/right polarization structured into US two party politics.  We believe the data shows that polarization involves about 30% of the electorate roughly divided evenly between left and right activists.  That leaves about 70% of the electorate with no place to go to either express their policy preferences or satisfy their sense of belonging.  Rather than thinking of this 70% as the ‘Exhausted Majority’ we tend to think of it as the ‘Exasperated Core’ which has the positive attribute of including some red and some blue.  In states as diverse on the red/blue-right/left continuum as Georgia, Texas, California, Utah, Michigan, New York, and Arizona intense political identity battles rage not only between the reds and blues but also within both the reds and blues.

How about where the 30% agree, especially with the 70%? Mr. Edsall shares one particular study:

A Not So Divided America,” conducted by the Center on Policy Attitudes and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland for a centrist group, Voice of the People. It found that if you compare “the views of people who live in red Congressional districts or states to those of people who live in blue Congressional districts or states,” on “only 3.6 percent of the questions – 14 out of 388 – did a majority or plurality of those living in red congressional districts/states take a position opposed to that of a majority or plurality of those living in blue districts/states.”

We offer our Transpartisan Matrix – the horizontal right/left axis crossed by the vertical order/freedom axis – as one possible contribution to understanding and harnessing the energy of that Exasperated Core – like the core of a nuclear reactor – to focus on resolving our current problems and taking the next leap into a positive powerful future.  Here is our Matrix:

We illustrate the shift from a continuum to a Matrix for analyzing current US politics by offering the idea of expanding the concept of a political compass to the broader idea of a political gyroscope. Let us know if the Matrix and/or the gyroscope helps to understand the information presented by Mr. Edsall.

(Image from Wikimedia and available CC BY-SA 3.0 from VIPSuperDave. Additional text, editing, and the gyroscope image by Andy Fluke.)

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