The coming realignment?

Loved this Lee Drutman piece speculating on what a Trump nomination would mean for the future of the party system.  It is not at all unreasonable to think that we might actually be on the cusp of a party realignment– this is when the coalitions represented by each party undergo dramatic change (e.g., Northeastern workers, Catholics, and Blacks moving into the Democratic Party in large numbers due to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal in 1932; or the more recent and gradual shift of white Southerners to the Republican party).  Back in my grad school days, we talked about realignments all the time, but it’s been so long that they don’t get much attention any more.  That just may change.  Drutman:

So here’s my prediction: Over the next decade or so, the Republicans will split between their growing nationalist-populist wing and their business establishment wing, a split that the nationalist-populist wing will eventually win. The Democrats will face a similar split between the increasingly pro-corporate but socially liberally Clinton wing and a more economically progressive Sanders wing, a split that the Clinton wing will eventually win.

Eventually, the Democrats will become the party of urban cosmopolitan business liberalism, and the Republicans will become the party of suburban and rural nationalist populism (similar to what my colleague Michael Lind has predicted)…

As splits emerge in the GOP, it will be harder and harder for Republicans to unify behind a single leader. How long, for example, can Speaker Paul Ryan hold these factions together? At some point, he will either need to move to the center and make a deal with Democrats to run the House or he will need to decentralize the House enough so that each faction feels like it has a chance to advance its policies, thus leaning into the diversity within the party. The second will be a better strategy for holding the House.

Of course, the more Clinton forces these pro-business wedge issues on Republicans, the more she risks alienating the Sanders wing of her party, which is not going away. On some trade and business regulation issues, Sanders Democrats will build alliances with the Trump wing of the Republican Party, going against the establishment. Democrats will also have internal arguments about the future of their party…

While it’s hard to predict the specifics, the big-picture point is that all political coalitions in American politics have limited life spans. Issues and problems change. Demographics change. And both parties are locked in a perpetual struggle for an ephemeral majority, with losers always trying to pick off some potentially gettable group from the other side…

Free market economics have eaten away at the living standards of white working-class men especially. Here it’s important to note that for all Reagan’s talk about fiscal conservatism, he understood he could not abandon the New Deal. After all, Reagan Democrats were working-class folks who depended on the New Deal welfare state. And Reagan himself was once an FDR Democrat.

In the intervening years, however, Republicans — in their headlong race to win over wealthy donors with promises to slash government spending by cutting “entitlements” — have forgotten this wisdom.

Donald Trump is the inevitable backlash. Working-class whites don’t want entitlement cuts or balanced budgets. They want a government that they feel like is on their side, not the side of wealthy financiers or Chinese industrialists…

All this has created the conditions for Trump’s nationalist-populist ideology to resonate with Republican voters, opening up a new idea of what it means to be a Republican.

So let us now gradually enter the seventh party system of the United States. If all goes well, American politics might actually be great again.

Sure, it’s all just speculation, but it’s informed speculation that comes from Drutman’s knowledge of history, political science, and the contemporary political scene.  Will this happen?  Maybe, maybe not, but certainly a Trump nomination moves us much closer to a genuine party realignment than we have been in a long time.


Some common sense on drug policy, with caveats

So, the Senate voted overwhelmingly today to try and take some positive steps towards the epidemic of opioid addiction:

WASHINGTON — Responding to an urgent drug crisis that has contributed to more American deaths than car crashes, the Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a broad drug treatment and prevention bill, the largest of its kind since a law in 2008 that mandated insurance coverage for addiction treatment.

“This is big and significant,” said Marvin Ventrell, the executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. “It had legs and interest because of the opioid crisis that has hit Middle America.”

The bill — which passed 94 to 1 — is a boon for Republican senators in swing states, which have been hit particularly hard by the drug crisis. Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, both Republicans, spent weeks promoting the measure on the floor after seeing opioid-related crime and addiction soar in their states.

Okay, this is good.  That said, Republicans did not exactly seem eager to provide the necessary funding:

It was threatened by Democrats who were angered that Republicans turned away an accompanying measure to provide $500 million in extra funding to pay for what the bill authorizes.

“What good are additional programs if they aren’t adequately funded?” asked Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “We can’t ask medical professionals to do more to treat addiction if they don’t have the resources.” (Mr. Portman and Ms. Ayotte were among five Republicans to vote for the extra funding measure.)

But in the end, the bill was considered too urgent to dismiss over a funding fight.

What really gets me, though, is the sense that the only reason Republicans are taking an actually sensible approach (more treatment, etc.) rather than just ramping up police enforcement and harsh sentences, is the fact that this epidemic is hitting so many downscale whites.  If all this heroin was primarily an inner-city problem, I really doubt we’d see a 94-1 vote with so many Republicans treating it as a public health, rather than crime, problem.



Photo of the day

Beautiful late day colors plus silhouette plus hot air balloon?  Yes, this does hit my photo-loving sweet-spot.  From the Telegraph’s photos of the week:

A hot air balloon is silhouetted against the evening sky as the sun sets north of Phoenix

A hot air balloon is silhouetted against the evening sky as the sun sets north of Phoenix, ArizonaPicture: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Trump Trifecta

Interesting research from Political Scientists Lilliana Mason and Nicholas Davis on Republican social identifications and how they relate to Trump support.  I’m a big fan of applying social identity theory to explaining American politics, and Mason has been doing really good work with it in recent years.  Here’s what she has to say about identity and Trump:

We find that the three major components of the modern Republican Party (traditional Republicans, conservative Christians, and white identifiers) are most likely to predict Trump support when these separate identities are working together. So, in a sense, Trump’s support isn’t an anomaly of Republican splintering — it’s the natural outcome of these identities that have been coalescing over time. Thus, for many Republicans who strongly identify with one group (i.e., Republican) but not another (i.e., white), this primary season may feel alienating and frustrating, but for those who strongly identify with all three of these groups, Trump is their guy. [emphases mine]

And here’s a nice chart to capture it:

It turns out that support for Trump is most powerful among those identifying as Republican, religious, white, and poor. This “coalition” built by the Republican Party is particularly strong among the poorest voters, ostensibly because they feel the most status threat and therefore are the ones who most desperately need a sense of group victory. (In effect, this cleavage may be emblematic of the awkward relationship between Dixiecrats and the larger GOP.) They therefore respond most strongly to their religious, partisan, and racial identities by voting for Trump (who makes them feel most empowered and is the most aggressive attacker of outsiders)…

According to these results, Trump is capable of capturing the imaginations of well-sortedpoor voters far more effectively than either Cruz or Rubio can. Not only do poor voters feel the most warmly toward Trump, as shown in their “thermometer” ratings, but they are also far more likely to vote for him.

Good stuff!  Also made me think of this Ron Brownstein piece I just read because these threatened, poor, white ethnocentric voters have it all wrong about minority success:

Trump’s core promise is that he will “make America great again” by combating the changes that his supporters believe are endangering them—whether by deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, imposing “a pause” on legal immigration, temporarily banning all Muslim immigrants, or standing up to black protests against the police…

But it doesn’t take much time in Texas to recognize that Trump’s zero-sum equation is misguided, even inverted…

In fact, as Texas demonstrates, equipping more families of color to reach the middle-class is neither a threat to whites nor primarily a moral obligation for them. It’s become a matter of self-interest. Whether you cheer the trends or decry them, the inescapable reality is that kids of color represent a growing share of the nation’s future students, workers, and taxpayers. If more of them don’t succeed, not only will their communities suffer, so will the overall society.

True!  But try telling that to the people convinced that “others” are what’s making their life so uncertain and tough.

The roots of Trump

Man, when Ezra Klein is on, there really are few better.  Here he takes a look at the role of the GOP post-Obama in the creation of Donald Trump.  Really, really, good stuff.  Go read.  But, there’s my excerpts:

But there’s another popular narrative of Obamacare — that it was a hijacking of American politics in order to pass radical, unconstitutional legislation that forever transformed the country…

In this telling, Democrats won a hefty majority on a message of unity and moderation and then rammed socialized health care down the country’s throat. They bought off interest groups, exploited parliamentary loopholes, and ignored the clear will of the people. The GOP’s lockstep opposition was driven by the danger posed by the legislation and the corruption of the process. The Tea Party — which had its roots, remember, in the administration’s housing policies, not in Obamacare — was a necessary reaction to the Democrats’ unforgivable decision to use a transient majority to permanently reshape America.

Longtime readers won’t be surprised to know I think the first narrative is basically true and the second narrative is rather overwrought. But the second narrative is widely believed on the right. It’s what the Republican Party has been telling its voters for years…

Republicans executed a coordinated and successful strategy to make sure the country saw Obama as a hardcore partisan and Obamacare as an unconstitutional takeover of the American health care system (despite the fact that the hypothetically unconstitutional part, the individual mandate, was actually a Republican idea that many Senate Republicans were supporting at the same time they were opposing Obamacare). They did everything in their power to whip their base into a frenzy over the law. And they succeeded.

To say this more simply, grassroots conservatives weren’t fated to panic over Obamacare. They were told to panic over Obamacare. And their leaders told them that for good reason.

Republicans persuaded their base that something terrible was happening to the country and promised that if they won the 2010 election they could undo the damage Obama had done. The strategy worked. Republicans won the 2010 election, and they won it in a big way. But then they couldn’t undo what Obama had done. And their base was too scared to simply accept that.

Republicans told their voters to freak out. So their voters freaked out.

Donald Trump is leading the Republican primary. Ted Cruz is in second place. They are both candidates who, in different ways, are powered by the conviction that politics as traditionally practiced isn’t good enough anymore.

It’s folly to try to reduce any moment in politics down to a single cause. But one thing that connects Trump and Cruz is their demonstrated agreement with grassroots conservatives that something has gone deeply wrong in America and the traditional tools of politics are insufficient if you want to fix it.

Trump is a strongman who promises a new level of political confrontation, while Cruz is a hardcore ideologue who literally shut down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare. If you believe American politics is truly broken and something precious about this country is on the verge of being lost forever, these are the kinds of men you turn to.

So much truth in all this.  Both Trump and Cruz are the manifestation of the incredibly toxic politics that have been spewing from the GOP since Obama was elected.  This is not politics as usual.  This is something different which results in two totally unfit and two totally radical (in different ways, of course) politicians leading the Republican Party.

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