The Null Device

Now this is interesting: a statistical analysis of voting patterns from US congresses, plotted on a graph. First thing to notice is that the votes fall into two clusters, one o nthe left and one on the right. However, interestingly enough, the two axes (X and Y) are not based on "left-wing" vs. "right-wing", or any ideological classification, but purely on being the "long axes" shown by factor analysis. Quoting from a mailing list:
No other axis is anywhere near as big as these two, so a 2-dimensional map truly is a faithful visualization of what US politics is about---not because some pundit says so, but because the statistics of actual congressional votes say so. The secondary axis can be variously described depending on the era: in the late nineteenth century it amounts to Yankee/black against Southern/Catholic, while by the mid-twentieth it is mostly about segregation (even though, again, the votes that define it may have nothing obvious to do with that issue). In recent decades the secondary axis has a strong "family values" component, but the distribution of votes says it's still "the same" axis as it was fifty or a hundred years ago.

Some conclusions drawn from this are that the two parties are real, and that during the mid-20th century, the southern Democrats were virtually a third party.

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