Dueling Overton Windows?

Wikipedia tells us that

The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse.

The term is named after American policy analyst Joseph Overton, who stated that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within this range, rather than on politicians’ individual preferences. According to Overton, the window frames the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office given the climate of public opinion at that time.

That leads to a question: what happens when what is considered “mainstream” in the bubble occupied by people on the political Right is wildly at variance with what is “mainstream opinion” in the rest of America? 

Most Americans find assertions about deep-state elites running the world while drinking the blood of young children to be unlikely, to put it mildly, but on the MAGA right, a significant number of QAnon folks actually believe those things. Fervently.  A troubling number of MAGA “warriors” believe Jews and Blacks are trying to “replace” White Christian Americans. An even larger percentage has fully bought in to Trump’s Big Lie, despite overwhelming evidence that has led more rational Americans to find it preposterous.

I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of incompatible Overton Windows until I came across a report by ProPublica about the Right’s effort to brand The League of Women Voters as a leftwing–probably “woke”– organization.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has been facing a nationwide backlash after decades of going about its business of surveying candidates, registering voters, hosting debates and lobbying for its causes with little fuss.

ProPublica reported in August how the volatile political climate has caught up with the league, with conservatives increasingly portraying it as a decidedly liberal entity. Since that story was published, we’ve seen candidates reject invitations to debate and try to undermine the league’s work in registering new voters. In September in Illinois, then-Lake County Board member Dick Barr, a Republican, publicly apologized for a Facebook post in which he called the league “partisan hags.”

This week, the group found itself once again in the middle of a political controversy. This time it was in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has sought to reshape a wide range of discourse, including by making it easier for public officials to sue for defamation and restricting discussions of systemic racism in workplace trainings. The league revealed that it had been denied permission by the Florida Department of Management Services to hold an outdoor rally on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee under a new DeSantis administration rule requiring groups to first get sponsorship from a sympathetic state agency.

The League’s Florida president was asked about the “increasingly difficult environment” occupied by the 103-year old league, due to positions that it has long championed– positions that used to be seen as nonpartisan, and that have historically been considered entirely “mainstream” by both Republicans and Democrats.

As she noted, the League promotes civic discourse, freedom of academic thought, and ready access to the ballot box. It has never supported or opposed any political party or candidate. Which raises a question: when, exactly, did those positions make the organization “leftwing”? 

I think I know.

The website of the Indiana League opens with the following statement:.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan civic organization
that encourages informed and active participation in government,
works to increase understanding of major public policy issues,
and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

There’s the evidence! Talk about an admission of “wokeness”! “Informed” participation? “Understanding” of major policy issues? Those goals are clearly part of the liberal-left effort to encourage knowledge and education (and–gasp!– maybe even respect for science and fact…).

Woke, woke, woke!

The League became Leftwing when “education is dangerous”  became an article of faith on the Right– when some 25% of the American public decided that teaching really is a subversive activity, that learning accurate American history is a commie conspiracy, that letting Black people vote– and for that matter, entertaining the very concept of “inclusion”–are signs of the Beast, or at the very least, anti-American.

How long have demonstrably untrue (and arguably insane) ideas been embraced as “mainstream” in the bubble inhabited by Fox “News” viewers, MAGA warriors and Christian Nationalists? 

And more consequentially, how do we repair a breach between irreconcilable world-views? How do we penetrate the information bubble that insulates a troubling number of our fellow Americans from reality– and produces a separate, manifestly delusional, Overton Window?


  1. The local league has discovered a “rejectionary” attitude toward their debates for several years from the MAGA crowd. Gerrymandering is credited, but those MAGA or Republican characters were replaced on City Council because they were too inept at carrying out their fundamental duties. They didn’t realize the job entailed but ran for the money and assumed it was like a job.

    This follows, “As she noted, the League promotes civic discourse, freedom of academic thought, and ready access to the ballot box.”

    Since the League was addressing “civic discourse” and “academic thought,” those unable to develop a thought were scared away while using the “liberal excuse.”

    They all won, but many were replaced. Lol

    This is our so-called democracy functioning at the local level and beyond. Lucky that we have an oligarchy running the place or training future leaders via their nonprofits. 😉

  2. “…how do we repair a breach between irreconcilable world-views?” I’ve been scratching my head over that one for several years now, ever since the Tea Party took over the GOP. Now that they’ve gone from Tea to MAGA madness, I fear any and all attempts at reconciliation will be exercises in futility.

  3. “According to Overton, the window frames the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office given the climate of public opinion at that time.”

    The Democrats appear to be attempting to balance their foundation on Occam’s Razor and/or “rule of thumb” against Republican’s “principle of plentitude”. Example; Republicans have found (or created) more reasons to suppress registering and providing polling places for voters than Democrats have to provide easy registration and convenient polling places for all voters. The extremism of what is still referred to as the Republican Party, but is in fact the MAGA White Nationalist Party, appears to be “mainstream” because it is inundating the media today. The fact that the League of Women Voters operates by cognitive reasoning places them in the Republican’s version of “extreme leftist” politics. We all know this is currently Trump’s GOP party which is anti-women just as their racism, bigotry and antisemitism have become “mainstream” because they have the most money and the loudest voice due to Trump’s free presidential campaign publicity which fulfills that old adage “even bad publicity is good publicity” for his deeply divisive party. They will all vote the “R” down ballot, including for the twice impeached former president with countless legal indictments hanging over his head.

    Did, could, the Overton Windows foresee the possibility of this nation facing what is still considered a democracy due to the Constitution of the United States of America as we watch democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitutions of the nation and red states being disregarded to win elections “by hook or by crook” today? Logic and common sense flew out the political “window” in 2015 and those flying monkeys are still flying.

  4. Jo Ann refers to the fact that the White MAGA party is inundating the media today. That fact suggests that FOX is not the only component of the media that runs with stories because they bring readers and watchers, and therefore advertising money. I don’t know where the boundary between censorship and sensible decisions about what to print lies, but right now, profits seem to make that decision.

  5. “The league revealed that it had been denied permission by the Florida Department of Management Services to hold an outdoor rally on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee under a new DeSantis administration rule requiring groups to first get sponsorship from a sympathetic state agency.”

    That policy sounds blatantly unconstitutional. So the government gets to control what rallies take place on government property? Uh, no. The sad thing is that DeSantis undoubtedly knows that won’t fly with the courts…but overturning the policy takes time in the courts.

  6. “The sad thing is that DeSantis undoubtedly knows that won’t fly with the courts…but overturning the policy takes time in the courts.”

    Paul’s comments above go far beyond DeSantis and the state of Florida at this time. Wasting time is prolific within the entire MAGA regime; like running out the clock in a basketball game to hold the lead. The current time waster in the Republican led House are those committees investigating the investigators who investigated them with no hope of any of their actions being stopped or overturned in the courts which were filled by Trump and McConnell against Congressional requirements in the Constitution and Amendments. That goes all the way to the United States Supreme Court with no sign of change any time soon.

  7. Todd, that first paragraph is, essentially, word salad.

    Yes, Paul, here we have a new, clear and present danger to democracy in Florida: “…requiring groups to first get sponsorship from a sympathetic state agency.” Is this fascism, or is this…wait for it…fascism?
    If the indications that a Trump indictment is coming this week are accurate (or whenever an indictment comes down, and hopefully just the first of several), we can expect the news cycle to be owned by Trump-related items. He, of course will have, in effect, a new pulpit from which to spew mind-bending garbage about “witch hunts,” and the like.
    His lawyers will earn a, lot of money, until they are sanctioned for their recklessness, as they work overtime to postpone what I hope will be an inevitable court date, or several such, and the Overton window might just get shattered by all the noise.
    Then there is the Dominion issue.
    Buckle up, baby!!

  8. JoAnn – nail hit on head – justice deferred is no justice at all. We see it over and over again. Want to weep, read this. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/18/us/politics/alex-jones-bankruptcy.html.

    Regarding Overton Window – how about this: more than 70% of registered GOPers agree that Dreamers should have a path to citizenship, but the DEMs won’t write a bill that just does that and nothing else. They make sure that there are more things in it that the GOP won’t support. There are many similar examples…partisanship, ideology…

  9. You can purchase LWV coffee cups. Two suggestions; take a daily photo and post it on social media or send it to your legislators with some coffee and a note that says WAKEY WAKEY

  10. One thing DeMentis doesn’t worry about is the courts. He owns the state courts lock, stock, and barrel. One of the first things he did was get rid of justices appointed by his predecessor. He appointed his own people and they have been exactly what he wanted. They follow orders like lemmings. After a few years dragging his unconstitutional BS through the state courts, if he hasn’t been promoted, he’ll wait it out by using his former master’s strategy and delay, delay, delay. Filing motions is easy, as is filling motions sequentially.

    If the Overton window seems out of balance, it might be that it doesn’t consider the noise level impact on our political discourse.

  11. In the long run, natural selection favors accurate perception of reality. In other words, what doesn’t work in the real world tends to die out. Being disconnected from reality decreases one’s ability to respond appropriately to challenges posed by reality. One piece of supporting evidence for this is the high mortality rate among people who believed Trump’s lies about Covid. I think the same is true of ideas that are disconnected from reality. They tend to die out. Remember I said in the long run.

  12. The passion for power among authoritarians is great in order to take (they say take back when the truth for them is the same for liberals and that is in a liberal democracy power is shared) over the country and turning it into a power for a few people dystopian nightmare like Putin and Xi and Kim Jong Un and Ali Khamenei terrorize today.

    That’s just the nature of authoritarianism. They like to think of it as meritocracy but to most it looks like oligarchy as wealth buys influence.

    They command their own Overton Window.

  13. So what happens when the two Overton Windows no longer have any overlap at all, when there is literally no action or state of being that is mutually acceptable?

    Logically, the outcome must be defiant dismissal of the very idea of peaceful co-existence.

  14. When someone asks what is my political identity, I have answered: Lugar Democrat. I like Overton Democrat better. I find comfort in the middle range with popular support. Thank you, Shiela. I learned something today.

  15. Well with all due respect to Mr Overton, his unsinkable Titanic was accepted by everyone! They just forgot about the giant iceberg in its path!

    WADR (thanks Lester), how would Mr Overton’s opinion work in real life? Obviously, not very well. When it’s thought that the playing field is level, well, in this world has anything been fair or equal? Racial equality? Gender equality? Social equality? Religious equality? Civil equality?

    Well, if, we consider democracy the champion of the citizen, no matter what they believe, spot, stripe, sound or color, then this democracy or so-called democracy we live in is sorely misnamed. We absolutely are not living in a democracy.

    Really, when you think about it, communism, socialism, nationalism, fascism, totalitarianism, and then we have democracy! What is democracy? They’re actually a lot of opinions, but it revolves around making sure the least among us are represented in an equitable manner. In other words, Livable wage? The social safety net? But, it also includes capitalism, it includes egalitarianism, it includes authoritarianism! So how do you combine all these things together?

    This democracy does not follow egalitarian principles. It has not from the beginning, and it will not in the future. So then, we have something else.

    Wishing on a Star is not going to change anything. Because people enjoy throwing crap at each other! And once that starts, so does the mob mentality on steroids. They’re stupid? No the other ones are stupid.

    The actual solution would be to enlighten everyone, but that won’t happen either, an example of this very thing, would be what stated at Matthew 15: 14 which reads; “a blind man leading a blind man and they both fall into the pit.”

    For all of the intellectual power I constantly read about, The simplicity of educating oneself to what the other side believes, and I mean, either side, and have a rational discussion using those beliefs, will change minds! But, the lazy, prefer to insult, be petty, and throw as much crap as they can until their arm falls off.

    You could say Jesus Christ was an extremely liberal individual, he was probably one of the first egalitarians! He told the rich young man to go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor. That was a bridge too far for the young man, He became very sad and distressed as he walked away from Jesus Christ.

    Right there, a perfect example against all of these money grubbing mega church pastors, or most churches in general!

    If you call each other stupid, they’ll just dig in deeper. Sheila doesn’t like anybody to be called stupid on her website. I believe it’s personal attacks and such! So then why does the entire thread infer stupidity on the other side? Isn’t that oxymoronish? The argumentators become dangling participalists, always seeking to make a point by using the wrong method.

    There has to be some sort of parabolic interchange of conditions to make a difference in the outcome of events. Quantum physics will allow the same thing to happen and get a different outcome, but in human terms, we live in a constant state of quantum insanity, which we do the same thing and nothing changes no matter how hard or many times we try. This would be a determinist philosophy.

    In quantum mechanics, or, theoretical physics, anything is possible. So then, is there another set of rules or laws humanity was supposed to follow? Something that would make existence a much more enjoyable goal? That really isn’t a philosophical question, nor is it hyperbole, but it’s something to reflect on.

  16. Norris: We all learned something today. We can save the correct spelling of Sheila’s first name for another day, I suppose. It’s SHEila. We all love to see our names in print and spelled correctly. It’s just a thing with us. Remember that Sheila is a ‘she’. Maybe that will help you.

  17. Sheila can handle this in her own inimitable style from here on.
    I wasn’t looking for the perfect retort to a most inappropriate comment, but one showed up as though on schedule. “No one except me can cause me to have a bad day!” (Thanks to my friend Leslie!)

  18. Finger dexterity on a tiny keyboard at my age may be deserving of meticulous observation to the obvious ‘e’ before ‘I’ in QWERTY logic. Figure that one out … Bitty. 🙃

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