A commenter calling himself “Lizard” at 4&20 Blackbirds put up the following, which is a quote taken from another place. Apparently it is a concept widely understood in economics – even Malthusians use it. But for this purpose, it is used to describe the dynamic between Democrats and Republicans in our faux-democratic system.
“The American political system, since at least 1968, has been operating like a ratchet, and both parties — Republicans and Democrats — play crucial, mutually reinforcing roles in its operation. The electoral ratchet permits movement only in the rightward direction. The Republican role is fairly clear; the Republicans apply the torque that rotates the thing rightward.”
“The Democrats’ role is a little less obvious. The Democrats are the pawl. They don’t resist the rightward movement — they let it happen — but whenever the rightward force slackens momentarily, for whatever reason, the Democrats click into place and keep the machine from rotating back to the left. Here’s how it works. In every election year, the Democrats come and tell us that the country has moved to the right, and so the Democratic Party has to move right too in the name of realism and electability. Gotta keep these right-wing madmen out of the White House, no matter what it takes.”
If you came to this website today because you like my inability to economize on words, you came to the wrong place. He nailed it.