Two interesting and paradigm-shifting events are about to happen in American politics. The first is the demise of the modern Republican party which, for all its pretensions and pieties, is a radically ideological rather than conservative party. Even a casual look at truly conservative parties in other democracies – the Christian Democrats in Germany, the Tories in Britain, etc. – shows that they have much more in common with the Democratic Party of Clinton and Obama than with the snarling know-nothingness of the GOP. How the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt got to this point is a long and complex story with a strong “only in America” component, but it is clear that this radical ethos is reaching its limits rapidly – hence my prediction of the GOP’s impending demise within the next 20 years or so.
The second important event that is about to happen is the demise of the Democratic Party. Unlike the GOP, Democrats are truly a “big tent” party with very disparate interest groups. Hollywood moguls, UAW workers and the occupiers of Zuccotti Park have little in common except their visceral aversion to some aspect of Republican ideology. If that threat disappears – as I think it soon will – so will the reason d’etre for Democratic unity. In this vacuum, new lines of contention will arise and will lead eventually to a new pair (or more) of parties at the national level.
All this may take two decades – or three – but it is interesting to think on what American politics and policy will look like in, say, 2050. By then, both California and Texas will be majority non-white, and the country as a whole will be getting there. Will that matter? Or will we have moved past this superficial difference by then? Will the country be more liberal or conservative? More polarized or less? How will the balance of power between the three branches of government have changed? Will politics in America still be legalized graft? Will the “war on drugs” still be going on like a zombie that cannot die? Will the relationship with Israel still be the cornerstone of America’s Middle East policy? Will Dick Cheney still be alive with the help of replacement parts and will Elvis still be dead? Will Henry Kissinger have transformed completely into a cyborg? Will America have elected its second Muslim President? Will Joe the Plumber finally have his plumber’s license?
More seriously, will America still be an economic superpower? Will China still be ascendant or will it have reached its “Japan moment”? Will we be in the midst of a “clash of civilization”, and which ones will be clashing? Will climate change have already had catastrophic effects, and will its deniers still remain in denial? Will globalization be even more global in ways that we cannot even imagine? And can we imagine them now, please?
These questions and such are fodder for idle minds and chattering mouths, but those who can actually influence the answers to these questions are too busy raising funds for the next election to care much. All except Dick Cheney, whose sleep is disturbed by darkening thoughts…..