User:Toussaint/Tipping Point (political)

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A Tipping Point in politics is the point when the majority of public opinion and a candidate align, and poll numbers flood to fill the vacuum that is created.[1]

Often in Democratic politics there will periodically be two or more candidates competing in multiple forums over issues that are of concern to the people voting one of them in office for the next term. Initially, assuming there is not a signifigant positive or negative history already known about one party over the other, each candidate often arrives on a level playing field. If this is the case, opinion polls can reflect inconclusive results, having votes being based on more trivial details such as the way they look.

Over time, however, Media is obligated to vet the candidates, in order to reveal both the positive and negative background of the persons, so as to provide a well-rounded background, and to allow voters to properly differentiate their choices. During this vetting process, it is possible that a positive revelation such as the long-observed New Deal could be revealed as a platform for a candidate, or in contrast, a scandal such as the Keating Five, either of which could create a tipping point for or against the candidate, depending on the circumstances.

Sometimes however, "every" candidate has both revelations and scandals to deal with, and the overall outcome is not as clear as previously expected. If this happens, it tends to mean that popular opinion, and votes, will sway in the direction that is considered the lesser of two (or three, etc.) evils.

On Issues[edit]

A tipping point can often derive from a specific issue that voters are concerned with, such as energy,[2] the environment,[3] or even war[4]. When an issue is tied to the tipping point ideals, it is based on an event signifigant enough to alter voter's overall perspective of an issue, causing them to change their mind and support the other party. It could be that a candidate has announced a new platform, or refused to properly address a platform, per public opinion.

On People[edit]

A tipping point can also occur based on other people involved. This can be a person or media outlet openly endorsing a candidate, or in some cases, when available, a candidate chooses a running mate with either significant name recognition, or an intriguing biography (or both). Endorsements are seen as even more signifigant, when the person providing the endorsement is perceived as a current (or former) member of the opposition[5]. This can also operate in the reverse; When a person of significant name recognition calls-out a candidate as ill-equipped for the office he or she seeks, public opinion may sway based on the opinion of the person speaking. Again, the same reverse rule applies if a perceived ally is the one saying negative comments about the candidate in question.[6]

The October Surprise[edit]

In the United States elections, one of the most often referenced tipping points occurs in October, shortly before elections (Which is always held on the first Tuesday in November). The October Surprise, as it is called, refers to a major "reveal" which is meant to "tip the scale" of public opinion, compelling a majority of voters to vote for one candidate over the other option(s). One October surprise of historical note comes from Republican Abraham Lincoln, who before he was president, was competing for the Illinois Senate seat against Democratic rival Stephen Douglas (see:Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858).

John J. Crittenden was a popular former Whig party governor of Kentucky who had a direct impact on Abraham Lincoln's political aspirations and policies. During the senate race in 1858, Crittenden created an October surprise for Lincoln, when he was advertised in newspapers as endorsing the Democratic candidate. Crittenden's support brought the old-line Whigs into incumbent Douglas's political camp, therefore electing enough Democrats to the Illinois legislature to reelect Douglas.

Although the "surprise" caused Illinois state public opinion to sway away from Lincoln, it is worth noting that the reaction of the debates that he took on with Douglas had created a national tipping point of its own, thrusting this former state congressman and would-be senator onto the national stage, as the next Republican Presidential candidate, and the 16th President of the United States.[7][8]