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 Flip-Flopping? - The Dilemma of the Median Voter 


Recently, Barack Obama has been critized for moving to the middle of the political landscape to counter the impression of being liberal given among others by the National Journal. The media and the Republicans immediately jumped on Obama for what they define as flip-flopping. Given the make-up of the U.S. political system (winner-take-all, non-proportional representation, two-party-system, etc.), however, candidates are forced to appeal to the median voter if they want to win elections. So isn't the problem beyond any of the candidates' influence?

The single member district representation model has been criticized for encouraging:

"parties to pursue dubious electoral campaign strategies. The need to appeal to a large, diverse and somewhat amorphous sector of the population can very often be best met by using ambigious, vague and often quite irrelevant appeals to the citizens." (Tom Christiano, Democracy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Basic criticism of the political model, however, is virtually non existing in the mainstream media as well as among political elites. Rather, the debate focuses on interpreting every single word of the candidates and following their every move. It is obviously questionable whether this constitutes a healthy democratic process. After all, many voters are turned off by a political debate that focuses on non-issues and that does not relate to their lives.

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