The political party coalitions are re-aligning
Our political parties are changing out from under us.
The GOP in 2012 was the party of Romney and Ryan, the heirs of the party of Reagan. If a reader was happy with Reagan then the reader was probably comfortable with Romney. The GOP stood on 3 pillars: strong national defense and willingness to intervene abroad; traditional values Christians including opposition to abortion and homosexuality; economic libertarianism in the form of open borders, free trade, less regulation, lower taxes, and trust that lower taxes on wealthy “job creators” meant wealth trickled down to workers via economic growth. It was pro-gun and it projected, subtly, white resentment.
The Democrats in 2012 were the party of the political left, who wanted more government services in health care and education, was the party of secular people who considered the “values” traditionalists as busybodies restricting privacy, was the party of women, blacks, Hispanics, gays because the party noted and promised to redress the barriers each group faced, and the party that liked the policies of the Green Party, but was more practical and moderate and remembered the Ralph Nader effect in 2000.
The Green Party in 2012 was the unabashed liberal, environmental, progressive party.
The Libertarian Party in 2012 was the party of small government, agreeing with Romney/Reagan on the economy and regulation and trickle down but disagreeing on abortion and “traditional values.” Libertarians spoke of government as tyrannical and invasive, busily doing searches and seizures, threatening gun ownership, controlling the internet, and taxing people. Libertarians opposed intrusion on matters of sex and drugs because they emphasized freedom, not conformity. Libertarians could be confused with “extreme Republicans” on economic matters but they were also “extreme Democrats” on matters of sex, drugs, and invasion of privacy.
Trump has re-made the GOP. Voters who are loyal to the GOP brand rather than to its policies can overlook this point, but political professionals are acutely aware of it. Trump has reversed what voters liked about the party of Reagan and Romney. Trump says our strong national defense has been intervening where it doesn’t belong; Trump has been all over the place on traditional values, with little real credibility that he cares one bit about “Two Corinthians” and the one book that is even better than Art of the Deal; Trump openly criticizes economic libertarianism with its open borders and free trade and trickle down replacing it with big government America First economic nationalism. Trump re-affirmed the pro-gun policy and speaks to white resentment openly. The party’s center moved from Main Street Chamber of Commerce successful businessmen to working class Blood and Soil populist nationalists. It is no longer the party of small government. It is the party of government big enough to take on Wall Street, special interests, foreign trading partners and foreign enemies n defense of America First.
Sanders has re-made the Democrats. Even by losing Sanders changed the Democrats. The party has moved left because Sanders made Green Party policies mainstream. Hillary Clinton had to adopt Sanders-lite policies. She cannot remake history and her close ties to Wall Street and the donor class but she needed to incorporate Sanders’ policies while simultaneously re-affirming her women-black-Hispanic identity allies. She is naturally a moderate and to the right of Obama and Sanders but is attempting to show her openness to the new balance in the party.
The Greens are unchanged. Sanders kept the Green party voters mostly inside the Democratic party, and the fear of Trump keeps most Democrats from straying.
Small Government, not Anti-GovernmentLibertarians are now a centrist party, not an extreme anti-government party. The Johnson/Weld Libertarian party gets about as much support from Democratic Hillary-haters as from Republican never-Trumpers. The Johnson-Weld libertarian party is mild and reasonable in manner rather than angry and anti-government. It is the smaller-government party, and indeed it alone holds that niche, which theoretically gives it a giant opportunity for growth and electoral legitimacy.
***The Libertarian party in tone is adult and reasonable, not an angry firebrand. They are solution oriented, not America-is-in crisis. As the one remaining party that speaks to “small government” the Libertarian party gains some displaced Republicans, and this takes from Trump. And Republicans who want someone calm, responsible, and “adult” have an alternative to Trump. (Survivalist and post-apocalyptic advertisers favor pro-Trump talk radio shows, not the mild-mannered Gary Johnson.)
***The Libertarian party is for reproductive freedom for women, i.e. OK with abortion. (This takes from Hillary.)
***The Libertarian party is moderate on immigration, calling for integration and assimilation of immigrants, not exclusion of them. (Again, poaching on Hillary.)
***The Libertarian party wants to legalize marijuana, saying the war on drugs has failed. This gives ex hippy boomers and young people an alternative to the greened up Democrats. Johnson says he will stop smoking pot while in office, if elected.
***The Libertarian party avoids white identity politics signaling done by Trump. People offended by Trump’s language on ethnicity have an alternative.
***The Libertarian party is still the party of the 2nd Amendment, giving gun owners an alternative to Trump.
Net-net the Libertarian party is not the big boon to Democrats that the old 2012 Libertarians would have been. Moderate, centrist voters unhappy with both Trump and HRC have a place to cast a vote. Currently Libertarians poll at some 10% — not enough to be eligible for the debates, an essential element to them being considered a viable electoral alternative to Trump and Clinton. But that 10% is far greater than the current polling advantage Hillary holds. The peel-off of votes to the Johnson-Weld ticket is material.
Does the Re-Alignment of the Parties Change anything??
Apparently less than one might think. The allocation of red states, blue states, and contested states are almost identical to 2012. This implies that there is an enormous amount of party brand loyalty at work. It also implies that that primary process helped each party find is actual, hidden center.
Republican elites who thought they needed to soft pedal white resentment were proven wrong; voters wanted to hear it. Republic elites who thought voters were okay with “job creators” trickling down money were proven wrong. The voters were less happy with Reagan/Romney policies than the elites understood.
And the Democratic party voters — at least the ones who show up at primary elections — are more liberal now than Democratic elites had understood. Sanders proved that. The result is that apparently Democrats recalibrated and found their true center, somewhat to the left of where it had been. Hillary had to appear to change to win.
Libertarians had been an angry party, angry at government tyranny. Now they are the serious party, letting the angry voters be led by the voices of outrage on talk radio and Fox away from themselves toward the party of Trump.
Probably not, it turns out. Democrats turned greener, thanks to Sanders. Greens are at 2% because they lost the electoral battle to be special and different and won the electoral war: their policies — though not their candidate — have gone a long way toward becoming mainstream in the Democratic party. They won by being co-opted.