An optimist’s perspective: the party system in the US works!

I had the pleasure of attending yet another one of Mark Gerson’s phenomenal Shabbos dinners two weeks ago and the guest speaker made a very interesting point.

He argued that while it is easy to be cynical and disappointed by the current political process and environment, the reason we see such diversity and conflict within the two parties right now and the reason that the fights have become bitter and personal between the two parties is that they are no longer about the issues.

He argued that the two party system works. If you asked a Democrat in the early 1970s what their top three issues were, they would have answered:

  • Entrench the civil rights movement
  • Women in the workplace
  • Environmental protection

Much progress remains to be done in all three areas, but no one questions their merit.

Likewise, if you had asked a Republican what he wanted for the US, he would have said:

  • Win the cold war
  • Reform welfare
  • Lower marginal tax rates

Again, those things have happened and are not questioned anymore. The issues of both parties have been largely successfully addressed and accepted – far beyond the wildest imagination of the most optimistic person in the early 1970s.

Because of that success, the parties no longer stand for something clear and you can see the battles being fought within them right now to find the issues that they will define them for the coming decade. The Republicans especially are searching for their identity as the somewhat un-natural alliance between the Christian conservatives and the socially liberal/fiscally conservative libertarian types is fraying.

For all its flaws the nomination and election process is actually letting us understand better what the candidates and parties stand for or hope to stand for.

This is going to be interesting to watch in the years to come!

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  • I was actually considering writing that the early indications are that the new topics are “universal healthcare” for the Democrats and “win the war on terror” for the Republicans, but those are only 2 issues. Not to mention that more and more Republicans also want health care reform. My instinct is that the same thing will happen – 10-20 years down the line both will have been done and be universally accepted.

  • I can question all of the above in regards how effective or how desirable ( depending on the point in question ). Government to me appears to only be a source of oppression. How can it be anything else? Speaking in terms of the 3rd law of thermodynamics they can only create more damage when they divert cash flows in the economy to their whims. If people really want something they pay for it directly and buy it. Sure if you are from Norway and do not really believe in democracy and believe in coercion fine I guess its right up your alley. For me I want to live in a cooperative society where coercion is not part of the equation. And universal healthcare….don’t get me started….costs will only go up even more. It will be an excuse to divert ( confiscate ) even more of our incomes. I don’t want to live in a bland socialist wonderland. Give me danger. Give me risk. Give me failure and death in preference to this yoke of socialism you refer to. Can’t we leave these socialist leanings to Europe where they belong? Can’t we have even only 1 country in the world that is truely and rampantly capitilist ? Must we all be the same? Its saddening to see how we in the USA who had the legacy of throwing off the oppression of royalty invite it back in a different form. Socialism is just a way of having a ruling clique. It always assumes that some small group can exercise greater wisdom. But this is impossible and hopelessly egotistical on the part of the socialists. But then what is socialism but capitalism with a twist of authoritarianism? YUK. I’m older than you Grinda but you are definitely very very very square. But I guess you are French so you have an excuse.