Thursday, January 21, 2016
By Reed Galen
Days Until Iowa Caucus: 10
Quote by a Smart Person: "There is nothing permanent but change." Heraclitus
Welcome to the American Singularity
Almost eight years ago, in the spring of 2008, I wrote a piece for RealClearPolitics that asked the question, “Have We Seen the End of the Two Party System?” As l looked back over it, many of the same fault lines that we witness today were evident then as well. Then Senator Barack Obama was a “movement within the Democratic Party” and Hillary Clinton “still enjoys the support of most of the party machinery.”
In 2016, we’ve seen more than just a fracturing within the traditional parties. For the Democrats, at least a third of their voters are strongly supporting a self-avowed socialist. On the Republican side, the years of electing staunch conservatives to federal office only to see them quickly become cogs in the machine has finally come home to roost.
But as much as both of those things, we’re seeing that the power of personality is beginning to truly overcome any given policy proscription. The ability to channel the anger of an increasingly disassociated populace is worth 35% in the polls. Whether a voter agrees with a candidate’s individual position, or many of their positions, sits in the way way back to the warm glow of someone being as angry as they are.
Welcome Back, Sarah. Where Have We Been Without Ye?
This week the country was treated to Sarah Palin’s triumphant return to the political stage and the American consciousness as she proudly, if incoherently, declared her unwavering support for Donald Trump’s candidacy in the Republican primary. At times during her speech, even Trump appeared concerned that he’d finally met his match when it comes to drawing the media’s attention – if more in the waiting-for-the-train wreck vein – than anything Trump says on a given day.
That Palin’s endorsement in some circles is seen as both continuing to boost Trump’s chances at the GOP nomination and a blow to Ted Cruz’s campaign should tell us just how far out the boundaries of our political imagination have been pushed this election cycle. Far from a conservative media darling and paragon of the Tea Party, have Palin’s long years “Going Rogue” made her a qualified messenger in 2016? Does her sheer anger and contempt for a system that first embraced her, then ruthlessly rejected her make her just the person Trump needs to continue building his Army of Anger as we approach the first electoral contests next month?
Bernie and Hillary – The Race That Wasn’t (Supposed to Be)
Like 2008, 2016 was finally going to be Hillary Clinton’s time to take the Democrats back to the good times of her husband’s presidency. And once again, an upstart candidate with nothing but a bunch of rabble-rousing liberals (both old and young) are making her path much less clear and much more difficult.
As a friend of mine says, “It took Hillary Clinton to turn a 74-year-old white socialist from Vermont into the tribune of America’s youth.” Clinton has their heads but will never have their hearts – it’s not in her DNA. She’s solid on just about any given policy or government program. Like her quasi-doppelganger on the Republican side, Jeb Bush, she doesn’t lack for any well-detailed plans. Her campaign, after a rough start, is well-funded, well-organized and staffed by some of the best operatives the Democratic Party has to offer.
And yet, the task of climbing over Mount Bernie to the nomination takes more out of her on a daily basis. She is able to deploy her family, every organ of the Democratic establishment, all the money she can raise and yet she can’t close the deal. Perhaps the story of the 2016 race among Democrats will be that President Obama did indeed take the party much further left than it’s ever been and Hillary Clinton and the New Democrats are out of favor, out of fashion and out of time.
The Political Spectrum’s (D)evolution
Why do we have a two-party system? Why do we still need one? The party committees, despite their attempts to clamp down on their respective nominating contests, have seen that something fundamental: The Process Will Out. Both the RNC and the DNC are contending with an electorate who has less faith in institutions than ever before and don’t see a bunch of long-time DC political professionals as either a) qualified messengers or b) appropriate arbiters of their own party’s nominating contests.
Is the Tea Party the nucleus of an American Conservative Party? Do Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders represent the forefathers of the American Labor Party? Can Jeb Bush or Chris Christie be the progenitors of the American Center Right? Is Hillary the grand dame of the New Left? Will Congress in 20 years look more like a European parliament than the divided houses we have today? Indeed, one could argue that we're already operating under a coalition government as Leaders collect enough votes to pass legislation without the fractious wings of their respective parties.
Between Americans’ loss of faith in just about everything, and Millennials’’ collective unwillingness to be pigeon-holed as one particular thing, 2016 may go down as the year when we we actually see those fault lines begin to move critically. And while the two major parties will continue to fight this trend (just look at how entrenched they are in every part of local, state and federal government) history has its own plan for us as a country and a people – and history is most assuredly not concerned with what 310 First Street, SE or 430 South Capitol Street think about it.