I won’t be the first to predict at least a realignment or more likely a disintegration of the U.S. political parties.
But I want to take another look at why that might be coming, and how it might happen.
In the first place, our culture — and especially our media — is amplifying the longstanding instinct to pick the opposite of who’s in charge now. From Bush to Clinton to Bush to Obama to Trump, each successive president has not only been of the other party, but a bigger departure from the mean. And the 2020 Democratic field is full of people set to continue the pattern.
Second, we still don’t seem to fully understand confirmation bias. People hate to be wrong, and the more they ride the swings in our culture, the harder it is for them to safely parachute back to center. One of the biggest political riddles we face right now is the need to find a way to provide a clear and safe path back from the brink for people who’ve camped out on the edges.
Third, the long tail is finally coming to politics. The two-party system is one of the last great duopolies in American life — and it will only be controlled by people who grew up with only three TV networks for so much longer. It shouldn’t be too surprising that Millennials and Gen-Xers, who’ve grown up with the infinite choices of YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and all the rest, are totally fed up with the political duopoly.
So, a few predictions:
- Just as 2016’s huge field produced a radical result on the Republican side, 2020 is the Democrats’ turn.
- As Jon Haidt has demonstrated, liberals don’t have the same tribal loyalty impulse that conservatives do. As a result, the Democratic party will splinter first.
- Young people will keep leaning out (or picking radicals) until and unless they see the kind of choice they’re accustomed to in every other area of life. And then they’re going to have to learn how to compromise their way into coalition.
Hold on to your hats.