New Directions for our Major Parties?

No matter who wins Tuesday, we lose. That could easily sum up the 2012 presidential election. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney have any sort of plan to solve the problems facing us; neither has any path towards entitlement reform (Romney sort of does, but I doubt he would ever implement it); both are warmongering morons; and both will continue to grow and enlarge the state.

If there isn’t going to be much change in actual policy, then there might be a sea change in our two major parties’ attitudes and behaviors. What follows is highly speculative, but since there are pundits out there predicting we will elect a Smashing Meteor of Death this year, that’s probably just fine. I do think, one way or another, that in the years following this election both parties will undergo deep changes. This election will definitely not be a realigning election, but the fallout just might.

First, let’s review the reasons for why each party’s standardbearer might lose this election.

If Romney loses, it will come down to these reasons:

  1. He is an empty suit running an entirely empty campaign. Rather than articulate any clear deviation from Obama’s course, he has only said that Obama has done a terrible job and then put forth not details, not plans, but vague corporate marketing speak that does nothing. Voters will decide to go with The Devil They KnowTM and ignore this just-as-bad challenger.

  2. This is the dude who came up with the blueprint of Obamacare—what all Republicans hate. So…duh.

  3. The greater Republican Party is just—excuse my French, but I feel it is necessary—batshit insane. Between Paul Broun saying evolution and science is from the pit of hell, Todd Akin claiming that in cases of “legitimate rape” a woman’s body has a way of “shutting it down,” and Mourdock’s recent comments—not to mention the rampant Birther movement, claims of Obama being a Muslim, Congressional hearings on the probability of the US becoming a nation governed by Sharia law, and the “Unskewed Polls” group—the GOP has let any sense of rhyme or reason just go out the window this year. Contrary to the right-wing echo chamber, the majority of voters don’t sign on to that garbage, and shy away from it.

If Obama loses, it will come down to these reasons:

  1. It’s the economy, stupid. You can say the unemployment rate is down to about 7.9%, but this is after four years of Obama’s stimulus, which was supposed to get the rate down to under 6% by now. Plus, the labor participation rate has dropped about eight points, meaning there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who have just given up. That’s not a good thing.

  2. The country is nowhere near as liberal as liberals think it is. I have heard endlessly these past four years that America is a “liberal” country, despite all evidence to the contrary. This will play out on Tuesday, with the conservative base being fired up, the moderates annoyed, and the liberals being more procrastinators than prognosticators. What Obama, Pelosi, Reid, & Associates sought to make in the past four years will be undone, simply because they didn’t understand their customer base. Obamacare is the textbook example of this in action, with a majority of Americans wanting the bill to be repealed.

  3. Deep distrust of the Democrats, summed up by two things: Pelosi’s infamous “We have to pass this bill to find out what’s in it” remark on Obamacare, and Reid’s stubborn insistence on the Senate not passing a budget, ever. As nutty as the Republicans are, and as obstructionist as they are, the continual shrill bleatings from the Democrats about their enemies while they themselves do jack will utterly undermine their credibility.

With these points in mind, what will happen if Romney wins?

For the Republicans, a Romney victory will shut up the Rick Santorum supporters who had warned during their boy’s primary campaign that if the vulture capitalist was chosen, he would fail because he wasn’t conservative enough. It might—though I’m not certain—temper the more radical wings of the GOP, and certainly during his first four years Romney would try to calm them down, bring the party a bit more to the center, and silence the kind of folks who populate Birther groups. The Tea Party will be a useful tool to push a more capitalist economic program, though it will be one with the adjective “crony” tacked on the front. Romney will likely eke out a narrow reelection in 2016 as long as the economy improves and he doesn’t nuke Iran (if he actually does that, all bets are off), and he will continue this “move to the center” policy for the GOP. Mindful of future demographics, unlike many Republicans, Romney will try to get out in front of young libertarians and finally get on board with gays and lesbians marrying, as well as look towards a more restrained foreign policy and easing up on the social conservatism (which, to be fair, he isn’t comfortable with already.) He will likely also legalize marijuana, couching it in terms of saving money and cutting government, and rollback some elements of the national security state—particularly the TSA, but only because it has pissed off Dana Loesch and Tabitha Hale so damn much.

In the long run, the GOP will go from the nutty nationalist neoconservative party it is today to what essentially will be a pro-life libertarian party, albeit one that is still somewhat resistant to immigration and free trade and talks about “ordered liberty” rather than just “liberty.” Still, it will be a major improvement to what we have today. In the meantime, the Libertarian Party, having several of its positions co-opted (mostly in terms of foreign policy, gay marriage, and civil liberties) will become more of a “left-libertarian” party, inhabited by a lot of cocaine-snorting atheists watching reruns of Pokemon, and demanding Romney privatize the highways. (To be fair, that’s not a far cry from what it is today.)

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, would suffer a blow, but not an existential one. Obama will obviously be gone, and since there is no chance the Democrats retake the House, Pelosi will step down as well. There will be (relatively) new leadership, and Reid might not run again in 2016 either, opening up more angles there. With labor unions holding back their support for Obama this year, elected Democrats will likely give them a ton of crap for it, and it might lead to a break between the unions and the party. Taking stock of their losses, noting how their (relatively) radical Obamacare plan utterly flopped, and probably cost them the election, they will retool their approach. If Romney comes into 2016 strong, expect some loser to run as a sacrificial lamb against him; if not, then Mario Cuomo will, and he might even win though it would be unlikely. If not 2016, then he will be in the Oval Office in January of 2021, brought there by a truly centrist program that doesn’t rely on slogans like “You Didn’t Build That” and hashtags about Sesame Street characters, and actually extolling the virtues of private industry (to a point.) Will the party adopt the ideas of, say, John Tomasi and the Bleeding Heart Libertarians? Probably not that far, but they might be more of the second coming of Bill Clinton—political coming, I mean.

So on the flip side of the coin, what happens if Romney loses?

For the Republican Party, simple: it implodes.

You will have every radical in that party blaming the other for Romney’s failure for at least the first 8-12 weeks; past that and Romney himself will be forgotten. Many will be saying that the party should have nominated Santorum, a true conservative. Conservative purity tests will be all the rage, different depending on which conservative ideologue you follow. There will be more Birther claims, more insane statements about science and abortion, and it will be the past four years amped up to eleven, minus the Ron Paul crowd who will be thrown under the bus yet again. In response, young libertarians, moderate Republicans, and others not interested in this nuttery hit the ejection switch and bail out, which leads to a vicious cycle as the party shrinks and becomes even more radically right-wing. It takes losses in 2014 that might tip the chamber Democrat, but definitely loses in 2016 at all points and slowly begins to become a Southern, regionalist, ultra-conservative party.

With it’s ability to impact federal policy greatly diminished, people give up on the Republicans and start looking for alternative means. Two paths present themselves: they either create a new party or take one of the third parties already out there (most likely the Libertarians; the Constitution Party is really nuts and tiny, and the Greens are—well, they’re like Democrats, only worse), pump it full of cash, resources, and managerial talent, and seek to put forward a different way against the Republicans and the Democrats; or, and this is the more likely path, they just throw their hands in the air and start voting in Democratic primaries to try and get more moderate (or even, perhaps, conservative) candidates.

This second way is probably the most likely, although it probably doesn’t happen until after 2016 when Mario Cuomo wins the presidency. (Biden might actually run, but quits in disgrace after the second debate where he compliments Hillary’s breasts. Ironically, after he pulls out, he’ll endorse her, with the line “Bill says she’s a great cook, so I’m certain she’ll whip up a fantastic recipe for America from the Democratic kitchen!”) What then happens is that, as the GOP shrinks, America becomes a dominant-party state. It won’t be a “single-party state,” like the USSR or China; that means there will be legal protections to prevent any other party from running (perhaps enshrined in the Constitution), and very likely the party management will be the government itself. I doubt it will go that far, but simple voter inertia will lead the Democrats being the only game in town. This will last probably from about 2016-2032(ish), but the influx of moderates, conservatives, and libertarians will shake up the party. There will be internal squabbles, contested conventions, and mayhaps a “civil war.” 20 years after Romney falls to Obama, the Democratic party will end up splitting into two or three different parties: a social democratic party, and then a libertarian and/or conservative party. Any Republicans not drooling in nursing homes by then will be absorbed by the more right-wing party, and we’ll have a brief return to genuine multiparty politics, before political fragmentation thanks to the ever growing Internet degrades party identification to nothing and we all become independents.

Either way, changes are coming. The Republicans need to recognize that demographics are not in their favor, and should rebuild their party accordingly—namely by dropping the intense religiosity and social conservatism—if they want to avoid being in the wilderness for another decade. Conversely, Democrats just need to recognize that their economic policies are beyond retarded, and stop with the effing memes and actually get on with doing something. Oh, and perhaps dump labor unions—they’re becoming more trouble than they’re worth.

I do think, in the long run, libertarianism will come out top, in at least one flavor. It’s just a matter of how long, and how tough the pain will be before we get there.

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