Newton’s 3rd Law Applies to Politics

“One thing that was remarkable about the election of President Obama was that he did so with a rhetoric and with an ideal that we were not a divided America. It’s fundamental to his ideology of American exceptionalism. What’s been remarkable is that Donald Trump ran on an ideology and a platform that we are in fact a divided America, that there is an us vs. them, that we need to take something back from people who have seized it from us. It speaks in many ways to the Newtonian every-action-has-an-equal-and-opposite-reaction [law].” — Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, author of They Can’t Kill Us All, on NPR.

I believe Al Gore said the same thing about Newton’s third law applying to politics after the Republicans swept Congress in 1994. This seems to happen about once a decade.

Most of the time, swing voters seem to favor a president of one party and a Congress of the other party. This is partly because the party out of power surges to the polls during off-year elections to protest against the direction the country is going, and the party in power rarely has the motivation to strongly defend itself in off-year elections.

  • 2016: In intense reaction against the progressive policies of Barack Obama, the prospect that America will become a minority-majority country and that males of European descent and influence will no longer dominate culture and politics, voters chose the candidate of patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy.
  • 2010 and 2014: In intense reaction against Obama, the first black president; Obamacare and a spate of progressive legislation, Republicans took back Congress in 2010, made gains in 2014 and took the presidency and Congress in 2016.
  • 2006 and 2008: After George W. Bush’s clear win in 2004, Democrats came roaring  back in 2006 and 2008, with an anti-war appeal and promising redemption on racial issues, winning both Congress and the White House.
  • 1994: After two years of a Democratic Congress that passed gun control legislation (a ban on assault weapons) and that was threatening to dramatically change the health care system (Hillarycare), Republican voters mobilized to take the House of Representatives for the first time since 1946.
  • 1980: The communitarian appeals of Jimmy Carter, asking citizens to be satisfied with limited economic growth and limited consumerism, were rejected in favor of the rugged individualism or “cowboy” behavior, entrepreneurial spirit, unlimited consumer spending, economic growth and confident foreign policy promoted by Ronald Reagan.
  • 1976: The dishonesty, corruption and criminal behavior of Nixon were rejected in favor of the strict Christian Sunday School teacher Jimmy Carter.
  • 1960: The grandfatherly appeals of Dwight Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon, paled in comparison to the exciting charisma and youthful “vigor” of John Kennedy, who promised “to get American moving again.”

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