August 18, 2017

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: America’s new, combustible four-party system.

Trump’s emphasis on social issues broadly construed—on abortion, guns, judges, crime, drugs, immigration, terrorism—and his rejection of orthodox GOP support for free trade and entitlement reform transformed the Republican makeup. What Drutman describes as a “split in the Republican Party between populists and conservatives” can also be interpreted as a division between the party of Trump and the Grand Old Party. The two parties may agree on some issues, but they differ in tone and outlook and on crucial policy questions. It is difficult for them to function as a coalition government. Trump’s health care reform is stalled in Congress, his tax reform is inchoate, and his infrastructure plan is nonexistent. The two parties are able to unite against the left, but have trouble finding common legislative ground.

Making things more complicated is the fact that there are more than these two parties. Drutman also found divisions within the Democrats. “To the extent that the Democratic Party is divided, these divisions are more about faith in the political system and general disaffection than they are about issue positions.” The Democratic Party of Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton is satisfied with the status quo, and uses identity politics as a veneer for economic policies that benefit Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and multinational corporations. What we might call the party of Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is both more radical on questions of political correctness and identity and hostile to the established order. The party of Sanders wants radical change. Beginning with Medicare for all.

Recent events have brought to light the distinction between the party of Trump and the GOP. But it would be foolish for Democrats to believe that they are out of the woods, that America has settled, for the moment, on a three-party system. What we have are four parties: The mainstream Republicans, the party of Trump, the mainstream Democrats, and the party of Sanders.

The old two-party system had failed — failed to pursue its constituents’ interests, failed at basic governance, and worst of all, failed to protect America’s institutions, both formal and informal. “Worst political class ever,” as Glenn as noted here more than once.

So the current mess might not be an improvement (at least not yet), but it was certainly inevitable. And it will likely be years before the dust settles — if then.