The presidential primary season has seen an earthquake of shifting alignments for both political parties, something few if any predicted six months ago. According to Michael Lind, writing an article for “Politico Magazine” entitled, “This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like,” the political changes we have seen are really the end of the process, not the beginning.
According to Lind, this realignment process actually began 50 years ago and is almost finished. These new alignments will continue into the 2020s and 2030s.
Donald Trump’s imminent nomination to the Republican ticket has shown the tectonic rifts in the Republican Party. The base of their support, which historically has been white, Midwestern and Southern blue-collar males, has abandoned the political elites to follow someone who seems to care about their needs and views.
Since Ronald Reagan, libertarians have dominated the Republican Party. Jeb Bush’s presidential run represented the old establishment elites, but despite spending $100 million on his campaign, he got little or no traction. The Republican base has soundly rejected the Republican mantra of a hawkish foreign policy, free trade, mass immigration and reductions of entitlement programs, which pay for tax cuts to the rich.
Trump’s advocacy of keeping Social Security the way it is now helped to propel him into the nomination. His appeal fits with a recent Pew Research Center study, which shows 68 percent of those who consider themselves Republicans or are Republican-leaning oppose reductions to Social Security benefits.
Seventy-three percent of Trump supporters oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, an even higher number than mainline Republicans. As Lind portrayed it, “Country-and-western Republicans have replaced country-club Republicans.” House Speaker Paul Ryan represents the old elite perspective. That’s why Ryan is having difficulty endorsing Trump.
This split between these two Republican factions was made obvious by Trump’s self-financed campaign. Trump is not beholden to Republican funding and has appealed directly to the Republican base the elites have ignored for decades. If Trump loses, the old guard Republicans may try to return to libertarian roots, but eventually, according to Lind, they will be forced to deal with their frustrated base – “over the objections of libertarian Republican party donors and allied think tanks and magazines, if necessary.”
These changes have occurred, according to Lind, because the “culture wars” between religious conservatives and secular liberals over sexuality, gender and reproduction issues (read same-sex marriage, LGBT and abortion) are largely over.
These culture wars began in the 1960s and were the glue that held economically diverse groups together. Since then, socially conservative, working-class Democratic whites migrated over the decades to the Republican Party, while socially moderate Republicans migrated to the Democratic Party, especially along the East Coast.
The new battlefront is between nationalists on the right who favor protectionism and are anti-immigrant, and the multi-cultural globalists on the left.
Trump’s support for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the deportation of undocumented immigrants and his advocacy for temporarily banning Muslims represent that emerging Republican perspective.
For the multicultural globalists, national borders are largely becoming obsolete and are probably immoral. This view found mainly among left-leaning pundits is that discriminating against people of other nations is unjust. The new Democrats think globally, hoping to improve the lives of the poor in other nations, even if it hurts American workers.
Democratic objections to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement largely represent the influence of labor unions that are diminishing in power and influence due to globalization and automation.
According to Lind, the outlines of the new political configurations look like this:
Republicans will be mainly working-class whites centered in the South and West in suburbs and rural areas. They will favor Social Security and Medicare, which require work to attain. These new Republicans will oppose immigration, legal or illegal, either because of racial prejudice, or from fear of competition. They will oppose programs that aid the poor, because working-class whites do not receive any benefits.
Upscale whites, blacks, and Latinos, clustered in large, diverse cities, will be the Democrats of the 2020s and 2030s. They will favor free trade and massive immigration. Social supports will favor aid to the poor, only if it can be shown they are in need. That might even include guaranteed basic incomes. These Democrats will favor libertarian values and will be more pro-market than the Republicans.
If Lind is correct, then these changes between who and what Republicans and Democrats represent are already nearing their completion. This year’s presidential political surprises are only a manifestation of the tectonic political shifts that have occurred frequently throughout our nation’s history. We can thank Donald Trump for revealing them to us.