What will the upcoming political realignment look like?

Our two political parties have arguably never looked less ideologically stable. (At least, that’s the premise of my thread, so if you want to argue with it, feel free to do so in another thread.)

There’s no successor–there never could be–to Trump. No one is like him, or could inspire the vitriolic passion his base is powered by. Call it the curse of the demagogue.

Even with a victory for the Democratic establishment in November, it’s clear the writing is on the wall there, too. Biden’s creaky knees can’t dodge and weave around the plucky AOC and crew forever. Or for very long at all, I wager.

Things are going to change. So, how are they going to change? What are the battle lines going to be in ten years? Who lives under each party’s tent? Which side does labor fall on? What about big tech? Which side is hawkish on China and which side conciliatory? Do the white nationalists scurry back under the floorboards, or do they make a power play (and does it go anywhere)?

What are your predictions?

I’m an optimist on every front but politics and climate change.

Republicans are always going to be Republicans so long as there’s enough greed and stupid and fear and racism to go around. They’ll hopefully get their clocks cleaned this fall but they won’t go the way of the dinosaurs. People have short memories and while there won’t be another cult of personality horror show like Trump, our next Republican President might be something worse — An authoritarian with a brain.

They don’t play fair and they are better at being the opposition party than they are at governing. With the lessons they learned under Trump, they’ll make Biden’s presidency a fucking nightmare and the next time they get back in the White House, look out.

Fear, anxiety, insecurity, change, these things drive the authoritarian impulse in people psychologically inclined in that direction. Climate change and the economic fallout from Covid, coupled with relentless propaganda from the right wing media, will drive us back towards authoritarianism sooner than we’d like.

I wish it were otherwise. In my perfect world the Republican Party would die a long overdue death, the sane conservatives would coopt the Democratic Party pulling it center right and a new Progressive party would rise on the left buoyed by a truly populist swing of the pendulum. Sadly, I think we’re too broken at this point and I think the Republicans have learned a lot of very bad lessons from the Trump fiasco. Countries descend into authoritarianism all the time and usually it’s in the form of a pseudo democracy. We’ve been sliding in that direction for some time now.

Thankfully, the other thing I’m sure about is that I’m not sure about anything. I have a hunch based on observation, history and the information at hand but life has a way of surprising us. So hopefully I’m completely wrong. That would make me very happy.

I have zero hope for any kind of long term turn towards rational behavior, in no small part due to the pernicious impact of social media that will find no counter. As it turns out, platforms trafficking in destructive misinformation is extremely lucrative and that will continue without restriction. Couple that with entrenched interests who are vested in the current status quo and the rise of far right authoritarians masquerading as populists is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The irony of one of the dumbest human beings to ever rise to the highest office in this country somehow managed to provide a blueprint on how to destroy liberal (small l) democracy.

I guess then my answer the next ten years aren’t going to be any different than they are right now. 2024 will be all about the “Biden Flu” and how Democrats wrecked the economy with far left out-of-control spending and dumb American voters will go “yeah” and the GOP returns to power.

(The response to the pandemic in this country is also illuminating in just how utterly petty and selfish the average American really is: Ohnoes I can’t go to my all-you-can-eat Apple’s salad bar mah freedums.)

I just want to turn this country into Denmark.

I think a better question is - where are the levers of cultural and economic power?

I think these are some conclusions of the Trump era:

  • There are no easy answers to globalization.
  • Economic systems are too complex for populists to manage.
  • Software and infrastructure companies with global reach and globalized workforces will increase, rather than decrease, their share of economic power by the end of the Trump era.
  • There are no easy answers to demographic or cultural change. Slamming doors shut has all sorts of knock on effects that, as above, populists have no understanding of or answer to.
  • Conservative industries (resource extraction) will weaken, and their financial support for conservative parties will diminish.
  • There are few if any significant forward thinking socioeconomic intellectual currents. Most theory today is negative (ie, stop X, rather than cause Y), both cultural and economic.
  • Old media reach has reached its zenith - increasingly the levers of power which pushed and protected the GOP will diminish as younger voters seek different sources of media information than their parents.
  • Media disinformation will continue to increase, as larger and larger volumes of information make it impossible for ordinary citizens to trust the information they receive. The West is likely to have a crisis caused by this distrust of information - we may be in one now, in fact.

There’s little hope of political realignment having a revolutionary effect on politics, imo, because of FPTP. What we’re more likely to see is inertia as certain trends diminish and others take precedence. There are a few ways an actual realignment could happen, though imo they’re unlikely.

  1. The Fake News realignment. Core GOP voters categorically reject fact based information and governance and push their rump party into an antagonistic stance against all information that is counter to their epistemologically closed, talk-radio based worldview. The GOP retreats behind a core of conservative states as the “middle” conservative consensus collapses, leading to widespread Dem dominance for a generation.

  2. The Augustinian-Lutheran realignment. Certain forces in religious culture are rejecting the vapid and illiterate forms of Christianity and conservative culture. By certain inspirational leadership they take the reins of conservative/ GOP politics and push for a sort of pro-classical Christian ecumenical intelligencia that is in opposition to the tax and regulation based conservatism. They’ll have to find ways of getting conservative voters to agree with liberals though, because many of these values and ideas are parallel to values held by liberals, and conservative voters will find themselves after generations of axiomatically rejecting everything liberal carte blanche suddenly in the same bed with them, so to speak.

  3. The Colorblind Revolution. The only coherent political intellectual movements right now are climate change and racism/sexism. Lacking a better alternative, liberals voters heavily shift toward making climate change and addressing systematic racism their core platforms.

  4. Dem Supercontinent - As the GOP withers because of its own incompentance, the Dem supermajority groans under the strains of its own diversity. Having to represent everyone other than religious or wealthy whites makes for strange bedfellows, and once We Are In Agreement about basics like racism, the Dems start to split along more subtle regional lines in a more normal fashion.

Basically the trends are that globalized econoimcs will march apace under a Dem supermajority, that Chinese economic preponderance will only continue to grow without a long term, coherant plan from a political system that’s incapable of long term thinking, where tech will increasingly lean into anti-racism and progressive values because that’s where the money is (conservative consumers tend to be lower in education and income), income inequality will continue to increase because nobody has any idea how to stop it, because socialism is discredited in the US because nobody can imagine society where cash isn’t king, and the nationalists/populists will hide in the dark corners of the internet and think about how, exactly, they’re going to make real gains next time around.

I tend to think that the Trump movement is best seen as a last dying gasp for a certain kind of worldview, only powerful enough to snag the presidency because it is so keenly aware of its own desperation. The xenophobia, the immigration extremism, the law and order rhetoric… Most of that will quiet down, relatively speaking, after Trump is gone.

But then who the heck are the Republicans after that? After their cowardice and opportunism, not to mention their tone-deaf fealty to corporations even during the worst crisis for ordinary folks in decades, they don’t have anything very convincing to fall back on. It’s going to take awhile for them to find a coalition with strength.

When they do, I could imagine it being a kind of economic populism that brings in more than just white dudes. It’s the Josh Hawley vision, which has a lot more skepticism–economic and cultural–of big corporations and global markets than Reagan Republicans ever had. That says maybe the federal government should pony up 80% of people’s paychecks while employment is in freefall.

This is economic populism, but it’s not Trump 2.0, because Trump never cared for the little guys. He’s never really wanted to protect American manufacturing from Chinese competition, he just wanted a pissing match with the big kid on the block and to force them into a deal, any deal. It’s immigration enforcement not because “those people are criminals,” but because citizens should get first crack at those jobs. It’s welfare in the form of a universal basic income for all.

What I think is interesting about this is that it’s the kind of vision that could bring old school socialists like Bernie Sanders into the fold. One thing you notice when you pay close attention to Bernie is that he’s not culturally as progressive as most of his followers. He’s not interested in social justice exactly, he’s interested in economic fairness and lifting up workers. It’s class identity over racial or gender identity. (Michael Moore lives in this world, too.) That’s old school socialism and I could imagine it conceivably finding a more comfortable fit next to Josh Hawley than to AOC. Crazy??

That’s assuming that AOC, et al, (and I put her at the spear’s tip because she’s where the energy and charisma are) take the Democratic party in the progressive direction with a focus on race and gender equality. The Woke State, to put it crudely. A new civil rights movement to finally uproot the deep inequities in American society. Corporations are cool, if they put their money and influence down on the side of justice. Labor unions? Good in theory, but only if they prioritize the most marginalized of their members (which is why perhaps the GOP becomes the new workers party).

While the new GOP would run its foreign policy primarily as a muscular economic protectionist agenda, the Democrats would be the isolationists. We have too much to get done here at home. That military budget will pay for–rather than universal basic income–Medicare for All and reparations for the historically oppressed. Revitalization of urban areas with the help of the federal government. Direct cash infusions to inner city schools. The green new deal is the Dems’ one outward-facing agenda.

Now, okay, it’s hard for me to think about this question and not inject some of my own preferences. I see something to admire in both these speculative parties. (At the same time, two groups I think they might largely leave out in the cold are social conservatives and localists, and I’m fairly sympathetic to both of those, too.)

But that sort of wishful thinking is one reason I wanted to hear other predictions!

This sounds right to me, at least in the short term. But I think there’s a good chance they’ll end up too crippled to put up much of a fight. If the Dems can restore some sense of security after the pandemic and protests, there won’t be much to recommend the Republicans until they reconfigure their priorities.

What will the Republicans learn from Trump? One thing I’m convinced of is that there won’t be a lot of Trumpiness left in the Republican party once he’s gone. You’ll just have mostly establishment guys who sold their souls because they were afraid of Trump’s rabid supporters (hopefully we’ll see in November that they were not nearly as strong as was feared…).

But I will admit that my vision of the realignment just completely set the authoritarian impulse out of the picture, post Trump. (Maybe you could find it on the left in the “Woke State” idea, but I wouldn’t characterize it that way.) And maybe that’s a mistake.

If I wanted to just go with the surest bet, I probably would land here, too. More than anything, I think the politics of the 2000s have been characterized primarily by the American people not particularly liking whichever party is in power regardless of what they do or don’t accomplish, and flip-flopping back and forth.

This is an interesting theme in your observations! I think it’s possible that’s not true, and would point to American Compass as a right-leaning think tank that is very focused on achievable ways to start to turn America into a balanced economic engine again. Now, I have no idea if what they’re talking about will really truly work. But they argue for jettisoning the GOP’s “market fundamentalism” and encouraging the federal government to flex its trade powers and spend money to encourage revitalized industry here instead of China, etc.

Love your scenarios here! They’re fascinating!

I think a bigger issue in future politics than the media echo chambers that have characterized the century so far is the procedural generation of fake news, deep fakes, etc. If media overall gets completely undermined to the point where nothing is trustworthy, where the heck does that leave us?! I didn’t take enough account of that in my predictions, for sure…

Now this is talking my language! I tend to think religious communities will be mostly pushed out of politics and ignored. But I’m seeing you proposing here a Christian Democratic party of a sort? One part of this I think might happen is that the tax and regulation obsessiveness of the GOP is going to get a lot less traction in the future. I think the pandemic is going to ingrain in people’s minds that maybe regulations are good and maybe the government can spend for the good of its people.

I think comports with my vision for the Dems.

Oh, that’s very interesting! I feel like education would end up being a big dividing line here, just for how it sets cultural expectations.

What will the upcoming political realignment look like? Hydra comes up with a new name now that their “Cambridge Analytica” cover is blown, runs a bunch of names through The Algorithm, and finds a new figurehead to put all the dark money, troll farms, and media manipulation behind.

Then they cross their fingers and hope that that this meat puppet will actually just read the lines and hit their marks. Not fuck things up like the Palin and Trump beta versions.

Well, i think that’s true (I’ll check out American Compass after this post) but there’s a huge gap between let’s say the “ivory tower” and the “main street”. That’s to be honest sort of the gap. There’s never been more people talking and talking amongst themselves as today, and many of those persons are very skilled, wise and worldly… but they’re trapped up talking to themselves. When i say there are few alternative socioeconomic currents what i mean is i suppose there are effectively no currents because nothing is gaining so much as a toehold in the larger political discourse. Something like UBI - pitched by a major candidate in the Presidential debates and so simple to understand it’s basically napkin math - is just, just barely peaking its head from behind the curtain of public discourse beyond the twitterati and blogosphere.

A big problem with any alternative economic system is that a market driven, demand driven economic system quickly, very quickly grinds to a halt the moment you apply even a tap to the breaks. Look at the coronovirus situation to see that. As soon as either popularists / nationalists or environmentalists tap those breaks and send the economy spiraling into a recession, voters will jump back on the infinite debt and lower my taxes train. Addressing fundamental economic issues is going to be more than a corporate tax change here and a trade policy change there (I would like to see a “moral” trade policy, just personally, giving precedence to the most “moral” or “hardest trying” economies, and actually reducing or eliminating trade with non-Democratic countries, but that’s just me). In fact it will require such scarily certain, direct and substantial changes that even a conservative led adjustment would look “revolutionary” to some.

That’s one possibility - not necessarily an inevitable or necessary one though. The two problems with this are a lack of resources - the industrial / economic side of the GOP will always have more money to spend, and, as I said, the well-trained GOP voter who attacks anything with a whiff of liberal. I’d like to see the Benedictines and Biblical Scholars maybe running things in the GOP for a change. I think it would require some especially prominent and inspiring leadership for this to happen. The Social Justice wing of American Christianity has long been a feature locally but has been entirely quiet if not absent nationally.

I feel like we are going to see a party form from the center of our current political spectrum, and that will then complete with the far left of the Democratic party.

The far right will basically just be thrown into the gutter like trash, as it should.

I heard this Churchill quote on the Rachel Maddow show

“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”

I’ll worry about party re-alignment at the start of 2024 campaign.

That would be ideal, but honestly what will happen is what already happened.

The GOP will be persona non grata for two years. The far-right will surge for mid-terms. Everyone will forget that the GOP fucked everything and killed a couple hundred thousand people and they’ll nominate Tucker Carlson or Tom Cotton and everyone will nod their heads like it’s rational and fine.

Because that was the scenario with GWB. Everyone was all “this destroys the GOP for at least a generation”. Then 2 years later they took over Congress and 6 years after that elected the worst President that has ever been.

I’d like to think it will be different this time because it’s so much worse, but it probably wont be. If the Never Trumpers wander back to the party before the GOP is utterly destroyed, we’re probably fucked. Hell, we might be fucked even if they don’t, since apparently all you need is a Trump who isn’t a babbling idiot 24/7 and we’d all probably be living the First American Reich right now.

Look at what Barr and the GOP are doing right this second. No one is stopping them. Expect that until we’re no longer free people if the GOP even gains control of Congress before all these people are politically destroyed.

They will change less than you seem to think they will change.

All the bullshit they’d been building up towards with nonsense like refusing to vote on Garland, that’s all been reinforced. They realize there’s no line they can’t cross, no need whatsoever to play by the rules or engage in any sort of niceties.

If they lose the majority they’ll have to avoid actually impeachable or obviously illegal behaviors until they’re in the majority again but, beyond that, they can play as dirty as they want. We’re post truth so they can say any sort of nonsense they want. Spin is out the window and outright fabrication is perfectly fine so long as your district is safe.

If they were bad before they’ll just be worse moving forward.

A lot depends on when we get through corona.

If it’s 2021-2022, we’re in for a decade of moderate Democratic governance which will continue most of the old order, but the underlying problems will remain, and the next economic crisis will lead to an even harsher backlash

If it’s 2023-2024 we might see a real re-alignment, as folks will look for new radical solution.

If the Republicans become too obstructionist, I think the Democratic voter base will want blood. Moderate Dems (in terms of respecting norms) will be replaced with fire-eaters. We then get a full-on nullification crisis as everyone refuses to accept laws they disagree with. End result is years of lead in America and it will be dangerous to be the wrong ideology in certain places.

It’s tempting to believe that this latest iteration of conservatism / Republicanism is finally so ghastly that we will at last toss it on the scrap heap of history, but that was kind of the view of things in 2008 / 2009, and the repudiation lasted barely a handful of years. If I had to place a bet on the 2028 winner of the Presidency right now, I would put my chips on red. Either we will have 8 years of a Democrat and then the pendulum will swing, or Biden will have such an uphill battle with all the mess he’s been left that he’ll lose reelection in 2024 and there will be a Republican incumbent on the ballot in 28.

Post-Trump Republicans will be for reducing taxes on the wealthy and corporations, reducing the size of the welfare state, reducing regulations which ‘hamper’ the growth of corporations, stacking the courts with plausible monsters, and making it harder for people to vote. They may well dress that up with some lies about being more ‘compassionate’, they may reinvent their arguments about why tax cuts for the wealthy are actually tax cuts for the poor, etc, but all of that stuff will be just as disingenuous as it has always been, and they will double down on the culture wars. What else do they have?

I don’t think the Republican base will want those post-Trump “Republicans”. I got a feeling they’re going to double down even harder after Trump. Instead, those sorts you mentioned will start trying to co-opt the Democrats.

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to whether progressives can save the Democrats from being co-opted by big business. If the progressives fail, I could see either a split, or a fusion of progressives and Trumpies.

Umm. This:

…was Trump’s entire governing agenda. Doubling down on Trump means more of the same.