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A long-standing theorem in the study of American politics holds that candidates will run to the middle in an attempt to win support from the average voter.

But a mathematical model developed by a team in Associate Professor of Mathematics Feng Fu’s lab found that growing voter polarization, impediments to voting, and third-party candidates can push candidates to the extremes.

That’s the start of this article from Dartmouth. It’s even more depressing than this sounds because the model predicts that there’s a feedback loop of extremism: As more whacko candidates run and get elected, only whackos run the increasingly complicated gantlet required to actually vote.

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