Jeff Rohlfs Website


cartoon of special interests and voters

Boss or Dupe

The Voter in American Politics

In the woods, sometimes you eat the bear: sometimes the bear eats you. In politics, sometimes the voter is the boss; sometimes the voter is a dupe. The outcome is largely determined by the fundamental principle of special-interest politics, developed in the book Boss or Dupe: The Voter in American Politics by Dr. Jeff Rohlfs. 

When the voters know what they want, they get it: they are then the bosses.

When the voters are clueless, the moneyed special interests, who make large campaign contributions, get what they want; the moneyed special interests are then the bosses and the voters are the dupes.

When voters were clueless, moneyed special interests prevailed: 

When voters knew what they wanted, they got it:

Then there's the President...

The President sometimes pursues his own agenda, for good or ill, apart from what the voters or moneyed special interests want.

Presidents Truman, Johnson, and George W. Bush led the country into disastrous wars.

President Carter pursued a deregulation agenda that benefited the public.

President Reagan, for several years, successfully pushed for increases in defense expenditures.

President Clinton failed but President Obama succeeded in getting legislation for health care reform .

Notwithstanding the vicissitudes of special-interest politics, American democracy has muddled through and done quite well over the long haul. 

Dr. Rohlfs starts with these intriguing events, looks at the data and the influencers, and analyzes what effects the interplay of moneyed special interests and voters (sometimes energized, sometimes clueless) have had on key political issues.