Newton's Third Law of Politics

With Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Sir Isaac Newton proved himself one of the brighter bulbs in the world of numbers. More's the pity that Newton never turned his considerable intellect to matters of government with the same vigor. Had he done so, his third law of party mechanics would likely have run along the following lines:

ON matters of warfare in the political arena, when seeking equal footing for the battle, each issue-based action must be balanced by an equal and opposite reaction.

He could probably invite Max Planck along to develop a new constant for our purposes. It would need to define the precise ratio between the level of rage a potential voter will exhibit and the issue upon which they just found out you disagreed with them. The need we have now for such groundbreaking research became clear last week as I read Melissa Clouthier's article on the general uselessness of moderates in today's Republican Party:

I'm tired of the self-important smugness. Most of all, I'm tired of losing big elections and being lectured by the losers about how to win. And I'd just like to say this to moderates feelings tweaked in the current Grand Old Party: get over it.

The underlying message was clear: Social conservatives will not be scolded by moderates and RINOs (who can't win an election to save their lives anyway) about compromising their values. It was exactly such compromises, they assure us, which caused the Republicans to lose their way during the last two election cycles.

This argument was the final spark required to dislodge my attention from the tiresome battle being waged between moderates and "hard-core" conservatives. Instead, I began to ponder the very nature of various political issues themselves. Why do some issues -- which are normally lumped into the basket of "social conservative" questions -- seem to strip moderates and independents away from the GOP today at a far greater rate than companion questions on the liberal side of the aisle?

The answer may be far more pragmatic than we imagine at first blush, having less to do with the intellectual heft of the ensuing debate than the emotional currency people are willing to invest in the question itself. This imbalance is what brings us back to Newton's third law: some political actions simply lack an equal and opposite -- if not massively greater -- reaction, and these tend to play in the Democrats' favor.