It seems to me that the following broad outlines of the American political scene are clearly visible and likely to remain in place for at least 10 years:
- The Republican Party, dominated by its ultra-conservative wing, will continue to hold majority positions in both Houses of Congress.
- The Democratic Party, dominated by its centrist wing and largely ignoring its progressive base, will continue to carry the White House.
- The Federal Government will, as a consequence of the above two conclusions, continue to malfunction, staggering along with very little actual governance, which is precisely in accord with the agenda of the conservative movement broadly.
Tactically, if the Progressive Movement in this country hopes to regain any of its former power and influence to carry out policies with which broad swaths of the population concur when polled on the issues themselves outside the context and baggage of labels, it must immediately shift its emphasis away from attempting to regain control of the Congress and toward regaining control of state governments. Only by doing so will the Democratic Party and its coalition partners (see below) be in a position to take advantage of the 2020 Census. That Census, reflecting as it inevitably must the broad shifts in demographics taking place in this country and which further enhance the governability of the Progressive Movement, will determine the makeup of Congress from 2022 and beyond.
During the next 8-10 years, a struggle of increasingly titanic proportions will be waged between the conservatives and the progressives. Unlike previous such struggles, the center will not hold as it continues to be diminished in economic and political power by virtue of its own fatigue with a stagnant holding action that passes for governance. In stark terms, the Presidency will seek to take on more and more authority via Executive Orders and other direct execution tactics while Congress attempts to assert its power by using the purse strings and veto overrides to impose legislatively what the Framers intended to be done by the Executive.
That will be the underlying theme of politics in America in the next 10 years.
As a result, the political process in this nation will continue to fragment. The two-party system cannot hold. The centuries-old idea of Republicans and Democrats will realign into Conservative and Progressive. I predict a viable three- or four-party system with coalition governments reminiscent of the Europe of the last century.
The Tea Party will either take over the Republican Party completely or splinter off into an alternative conservative power. On the Left, the Democrats will either expand their tent to embrace Greens, Working Families Party members, and Socialists, or those parties will create their own leftist party. I see this as inevitable. If this shift happens, as I believe it will, before the 2020 Census, then party realignment will completely reshape the governing landscape within four years after that Census.
The two-party system is an anachronism. It is not possible — if indeed it ever was — to define the spectrum of American political opinion into two camps. The current system will crack under the strain of a global problem set that neither wing of the political parties can solve without aligning with elements of the other.
The Longer View
Eventually, this country must shift its energy and its governance from “me” to “we”, from a completely selfish form of capitalism to a regulated and managed form of social democracy with heavily modified capitalism. Short of that, America will either fall of its own weight as the needs of the less fortunate overburden the hoarded means of production or open insurrection — not necessarily but possibly violent — will topple its systems and chaos will rule for some period of time before an adjustment takes place. I do not see any other alternative. The system is too fundamentally broken.
The likelihood of the peaceful insurrection — a more or less sudden transformation — increases to the exact extent that leaders emerge who govern with compassion, vision, a clear understanding of the vital necessity of the Middle Class, and the ability and willingness to be bold in implementing extensive and fundamental change in the underlying structure of things. And the likelihood of that happening is directly connected to the degree to which progressive social policies can be brought to bear to solve the immense global problems of poverty, climate change, sectarian warfare and violence. Note that these are all problems that the conservative elements in our society do not value as serious problems worth solving. Indeed, they either argue for their non-existence, claim they are overstated or explicitly support them for selfish economic reasons.
Nothing less than a spiritually based evolution of consciousness provides any hope for humanity here. The good news is that there are many indications that such a transformational tipping point could well be in the offing. It is incumbent on each of us who would prefer that we all rise together to greatness to take an active role in this process.