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Restructuring Coalitions

By Kyle Moore


My friend Mark has a great post up about the nature of the political coalitions in the two major parties, and how two previously irreconcilable ideological groups may just find themselves allies after all.

Outside of the Democratic primary from Hell, one of the major running memes this election cycle is the collapse of the modern three legged Republican stool.  The catalyst of such a collapse would seem to be the inability of any of the Republican presidential candidates to successfully embody in acceptable measures the fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and neoconservatives that the GOP has been relying upon to build winning coalitions.

This has left the party with something of an identity crisis as OpEd after OpEd comes out where old party stalwarts continue to bang their head against the wall in their attempts to try to find new ways to make the Grand Ol' Party marketable again.

But is the Republican party the only party that is undergoing a realignment of its ideological coalitions?

At first glance,the disruption within the Democratic party may appear to be only skin deep; the logical result of two very popular candidates in a contest where only one can survive.  At the same time, as anyone familiar with the Democratic circular firing squad knows, we've always been a fractious bunch.  Unlike the GOP which always seemed to rally around the base, the Democrats seemed incapable of figuring out exactly what its base was, creating constant tension between the more conservative and more liberal aspects of its factions.

And this was BEFORE the Howard Dean and Barack Obama style Democrats started taking over, and it'll be some time before we see what their, or our, impact will be even as we seek to define this new breed of Democrat.

But because of the amorphous quality of the Democratic coalition, and because we've yet to see the final outcome and fallout of this election year, it is far more difficult to see how the Democratic party would divide itself ideologically should such an event occur.  But when we take a look outside of the traditional and the new portions of the party complete, there are definitely some things of note.

For one, there are the Obamicans; Republicans who are disillusioned with their own party, and probably too set in their animosity against the Clintons to ever vote for Hillary.  And then there has been, and this brings us back to Mark's post, the libertarians.

And then there is the Religious Right.  The Religious Right will likely always be the Religious Right, however evangelicals as a whole have, in recent years, seemed to be increasingly been breaking out of the hot button issues that Republicans make many a promises about, and rarely follow through with.  Once outside of these realm of the hot buttons, it would seem that a push to the left would be almost natural for them given that, as I'm fond of saying, Jesus was a liberal after all.

More specifically, a more dovish foreign policy coupled with a liberal approach to poverty and the underpriveleged would seem to provide at least the beginnings of a happy home for those religious voters who have broken from the pack of the Religious Right.

Which brings me full circle to Mark's post and the role of libertarians in regards to the two major parties.  Libertarians have, for a time, kind of piggy backed on the Republican party which at least sold itself as the party of small government which is itself a key libertarian ideal.  However, as Mark points out, there are means and there are ends.  The three legged stool of the Republican party has for the most part driven the party away from both the means and the ends of smaller government and more liberty, however; the Democratic party, depending on which factions you are looking at, and where on the ideological spectrum you are looking at, may not necessarily share the same means as liberatians as a whole, but we do share the same ends more often than not.

Indeed, one thing I've noticed is that while we should traditionally be on opposing sides of the political spectrum, we tend to only disagree on rare occasions.  Usually these disagreements are of the Keynesian/Friedmanism variety.

The interesting thing here is that at least for my intents and purposes, such arguments are of little consequence.  Regarding the economy, I just want the damn thing to work.  I want people who are willing to work to be able to work hard at their jobs and make a living off of them.  I don't want people to have to worry about whether or not their paycheck will cover the rent or if they are going to go under if one of their kids gets sick.  And I'm going to address this again in a little bit.

Outside of the economy, on individual issues, though, I find that I tend to have a lot in common with libertarians, specifically on foreign policy and civil liberties and rights.  While this may not cover ALL libertarians, many libertarians like many liberals don't want the government to concern itself with who I fall in love with, or what websites I choose to visit etc.  Like many liberals, many libertarians don't want the government snooping around in our libraries or in our telephone bills or in our emails, and like many liberals, many libertarians think that torturing people and eavesdropping on our citizens is wrong.

And of course there is a kind of agreement between the doves and the libertarians as well.

Even on the economy we can agree in some regards.  I'm not afraid of the market, and indeed, I think it can and does work, the only place where I may disagree with libertarians on a whole is that I think it's unwise to let the market go unchecked.  And indeed, despite all the claims that Obama's a socialist, and on a broader scale of the entire Democratic party, most Democrats, especially the new new Democrats, or, perhaps, for the purposes of this discussion, "fair trade" Democrats, are all on board.  We don't trust the market completely, but we do recognize that with just the right amount of regulation, it can do quite a bit of good.

There's a lot of interesting stuff to think about, and I think that over the next five to ten years we may see the two major parties looking quite a bit different than they do today.  And this isn't even taking into account the fact that demographics are changing, and that slowly, often times painfully slowly, old prejudices are fading away.  This too will change the political landscape in years to come.

But first, there must come resolution.  How will the Republican party resolve its splintered factions?  How, if at all, will the battle between Obama and Clinton alter the internal mechanisms of the Democratic party.  And those factions that have long been minimized, such as the hard left and the libertarians, as these parties rebuild themselves in the midst of their own self inflicted aftermaths, which of these parties, if any, will these floating ideological factions attach themselves to?

Kyle blogs daily at Comments From Left Field