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The Death of Political Parties?

07/04/2021

When taking Political Science 101 in college during the last century, I learned the two primary political parties housed four types of politicians.  There were conservative Republicans and liberal Republicans.  Likewise, there were conservative Democrats and liberal Democrats.  The beauty of such an arrangement was that most everything was bipartisan.  Conservative Republicans could team up with conservative Democrats to create bipartisan laws.  Likewise, liberal Republicans could team up with liberal Democrats to create bipartisan laws.

Then, Newt Gingrich came along, demanding ideological purity and banning any fraternization with “the other party,” not even backyard cookouts.  He was the embodiment of “politics is war.”  Next, the massive inflow of money followed, with all its corrupting power.  Then, a trend toward partisan primaries, instead of party conventions, empowered the party extremists.  It is small wonder that our system of governance broke down.

The Atlantic magazine has just published “How America Fractured Into Four Parts” by the thoughtful George Parker.  It is a worthy read!  He sees four groups of Americans:  (1) Free Americans, (2) Smart Americans, (3) Real Americans, and (4) Just Americans.

Free Americans can be thought of as Libertarians, who see all governments as oppressive and inherently evil.  Smart Americans are the college-educated professionals, who sees life as a meritocracy, confusing material worth with moral worth.  Real Americans are blue-collars workers who were hurt unfairly by globalization and deeply resent the “elites”.  Just Americans tend to be younger, angry about climate change indifference, and deeply intolerant of racism.

Sometimes, Free Americans team up with Real Americans (think Republican).  Sometimes, Smart Americans team up with Just Americans (think Democratic).  Sometimes, those fleeting alliances could actually produce something?

Parker doesn’t suggest that we need four political parties for the four separate types of Americans.  He does suggest that the two legacy parties more clearly target the four types of Americans.  “Know your voters!”

My perspective is that it may be possible to sway voters from the four groups on a particular subject, but it is not possible to sway our elected leaders, as they become lockstep-obedient to party leaders after election.  Just ask Newt Gingrich . . .

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