Saturday, October 15, 2016

Partisan Politics after the Election: Back to the Future

 Rudy Barnes, Jr., October 15, 2016

            The leaders of the Republican Party forfeited its future when they allowed Donald Trump and his radical-right followers to hijack their party, and America won’t know the future of its partisan politics until after the election.  Political pundits predict that Hillary Clinton will be elected President despite her unpopularity, and that the Republican Party will be left in disarray. 

            Trump is no longer big news.  He is just one of many demagogues who have corrupted American politics.  The real news—and the danger to our democracy—are those elected officials and voters who continue to support Trump. Media attention should now be shifted from Trump to those Republicans who continue to support him despite his deplorable behavior.  Trump’s supporters have spelled the doom of a once-majoritarian Republican Party.   

            If moderate conservatives can regain control of the Republican Party after the election it may recover as the Grand Old Party (GOP); but if the party remains controlled by the right-wing radicals who made Donald Trump their standard-bearer—and polls indicate that they now represent 2/3 of the Party—then the GOP will slip into oblivion and leave a political vacuum, much like the disarray of the Whig Party in 1854 that gave rise to the Republican Party.

            It will be back to the future for partisan politics after the election and the melt-down of the GOP.  America has an affinity for a two-party duopoly, in contrast to the multiparty parliaments of European libertarian democracies.  Third parties have never gained traction in America unless one of the two major parties falters, as did the Whigs in 1854.  Then a third party—or parties—can fill the political vacuum as the loyal opposition to the dominant party.

            The Democrat Party is likely to emerge as the dominant party with its coalition of minorities and liberals; but it cannot attract the center-right conservatives recently displaced by Trump’s radical right in their takeover of the GOP.  The GOP will either have to be reborn or it will be replaced by a new party (or parties) that can hold the dominant party accountable.

            Either way, American partisan politics will undergo a major transformation.  Traditional concepts of liberal and conservative must be redefined, and right-wing radicals distinguished from conservatives who value traditions yet support progressive change—and the latter must control the new opposition party.  Also, the role of religion in politics must be better understood.

            Unless a deficient GOP can restore its halcyon days of Reaganite popularity, it will become a minority radical-right party in competition with other minority parties.  Trump supporters represent 2/3 of the GOP, but only 1/3 of American voters.  A radical-right GOP is not acceptable to the remaining 2/3 of voters, and has no prospect of being a majoritarian party.  That is a requirement of any party that seeks to be an alternative to the Democrat Party.

            There must be strong partisan opposition to hold the Democrat Party accountable, or American democracy will fail.  If a reborn GOP—a Grand New Party—can rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Trump’s GOP, it must attract mainstream political moderates to prevent a partisan meltdown.  Otherwise, a new party—or parties—will fill the political vacuum.

            How could that happen?  The American Party of South Carolina was created to give voters a third choice in a polarized 2-party duopoly.  It could be the catalyst to replace the GOP as a majoritarian party that could challenge the dominance of the Democrats, but it would need to attract moderate refugees from a discredited GOP.  For any third party to become the major opposition party to the Democrat Party it must be led by moderate (center-right) elected officials.

            Strom Thurmond provided a precedent when he left the Democrats to lead the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, and later became a prominent Republican.  The 2016 election is another political watershed that will shape the future of partisan politics.  Neither the liberal Democrat Party nor Trump’s radical-right GOP can attract mainstream conservatives who value their traditions and also support progressive change—but the rise of a new majoritarian party could change that.

            The origins of the Republican Party provide a useful precedent.  It was born in the North in 1854 in a time of political crisis, when anti-slavery activists and modernists had no place in either the Democrat or Whig Party.  Refugees from a failing Whig Party gave life to a fledgling Republican Party that Abraham Lincoln then made into a dominant political party.

            Edmund Burke warned Americans before the U.S. Revolution that they would forge their own shackles.  The American Party of South Carolina can be a catalyst to save America from its self-imposed bondage to a failed 2-party duopoly.  After 162 years the Republican Party has forfeited its role as a major political party.  Now it’s back to the future for partisan politics.        


On the pervasive role of evangelical Christianity in the Trump movement—how the religious right has made a deal with the devil—see

On the American Party of South Carolina, see

On the history of the Republican Party, see Wikipedia at

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