No Coming Realignment

This article went viral The End of the New Deal Era—and the Coming Realignment

For as long as all of us can remember, American politics had always meant the same war between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats were the party of New Deal liberalism, as they had been since Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans were the party of conservatism, just as William F. Buckley, Jr., announced it in National Review. When America voted Republican or Democrat, national policy might slip a little in one direction or the other, but we always knew more or less what we were going to get. Now we don’t.


Desperate for answers, political observers have naturally latched onto convenient explanations for this disruption. Some fault unruly personalities and politicians. Others blame technologies like social media. Others fear unfamiliar ideas and movements challenging the consensus. In other words, most of us are looking for some irritant or villain in the hope that, if we can identify and eradicate the nuisance, America might go back to its natural order—meaning the 20th-century political world.


But it won’t. The problem isn’t some technology, movement, or institution we can identify and remove. It’s that an entire stale order is crumbling down. The great debate of the 20th century is over. America is heading toward its next realignment.

They, the pundits, said the same thing in 1992 when Perot ran, because he was an outsider who defied the two-party system.

The said the same thing about Clinton, because he was also largely an outsider.

..In 2008, they said the same about Obama, because of his race.

..In 2016, they said the same about Trump.


Every four years, pundits and intellectuals tell us that the political landscape is under upheaval and assault, whether it’s a “new paradigm,” “a new order”, “a realignment,” or “a status quo shift,” because something is manifestly different, whether it’s the skin color of a major candidate (Obama) or the fiery rhetoric and lack of credentials of another (Trump). They tell us Western democracy “is dying,” “under assault,” “hangs in the balance,” and that “extremism is at all-time highs.” And then four years later, in retrospect, not much has changed in spite of the promise of change by all these pundits. Democracy does not go anywhere despite being declared dead every four years. What happened to the upheaval they promised us and were so certain about? The American cultural, militaristic, and economic hegemony remains intact.

Democrats remain pro-regulation, pro-tax, pro-welfare, anti-gun, pro-minority, etc. –just as they were four years ago, but even more so; conservatives, the opposite. The decades-old cultural rifts over guns, taxes, and abortion are as wide as ever, the only difference being the rhetoric used and the candidates that deploy it. The rhetoric is harsher, for both sides, but the issues and divisions more or less the same. 30 years ago, people were debating abortion and guns; they still are; 30 years from now, they still will be. So-called right-wing extremism was as big of a deal in 1992 as it is now, and the world did not end then, and it won’t end now because of it.

Alluding to research by Jonathan Haidt, the reason why the debates and divisions don’t change in spite of changing candidates and rhetoric, has to do with fundamental/intrinsic moral values within each individual, that divide the nation into roughly two even halves that remain remarkably constant. Half of the nation is ‘wired’ to support fairness, cooperation, justice, and quality; the other half, wired to support meritocracy, self-sufficiency, duty, and personal responsibility. Second, political institutions have a lot of inertia and don’t change unless there is a major crisis that necessitates or provokes such change.