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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

When Will This Hyper-Partisan Era End?

Millions are wondering “How Much Longer Can This Era Of Political Gridlock Last?,” and FiveThirtyEight’s Lee Drutman takes a stab at providing a believable answer. Drutman provides some data-driven analysis and some cool charts and concludes in effect, that it looks like it could be a long time. Or as Drutman puts it more compellingly in one paragraph, after noting the thin margins Dems now have in both the Senate and House,

That means more divided government is probably imminent, and the electoral pattern we’ve become all too familiar with — a pendulum swinging back and forth between unified control of government and divided government — is doomed to repeat, with increasingly dangerous consequences for our democracy.

No doubt, many already came to that conclusion. But Drutman adds,

“This current period of partisan stalemate stands out in a few respects when we consider America’s long history with partisan conflict. For starters, the period we find ourselves in now is unique in that the national partisan balance of power is extremelyclose (with control of national government up for grabs in almost every cycle), even as most states and most voters are either solidly Democratic or Republican. What’s more, the national outcome often hinges on just a few swing states and districts. This period is also unique in the extent to which America is divided.”

There are other reasons to be skeptical about history-rooted analysis of the current political moment. Trump’s unique lunacy, McConnell’s shameless propensity for putting his personal power before what is good for America, the number of politicians of one party denying the results of certified elections and the homicidal attack on congress are all without historical parellel in U.S. history.

However, if you had to bet the ranch on political gridlock ending fairly soon or not, Drutman’s analysis lends credibility to the latter scenario.

So don’t hold your breath waiting for a warrior to emerge from the smoke, put on the blue face-paint, mount the noble steed and lead the masses to a landslide, filibuster-proof Democratic victory. Not gonna happen any time soon — although four years can be a hell of a long time in U.S. politics, especially in the wake of an exhausting plague.

But, is it really so unrealistic to hope that some kind of militant centrist comes along, articulates an inspiring vision of bipartisanship with a credible mix of progressive policies to win broad support from the war-weary rank and file of both parties and breaks the stalemate? It would be long-overdue.

2 comments on “When Will This Hyper-Partisan Era End?

  1. Victor on

    It is quite instructive that it seems very few winning issues remain for Republicans. Basically some aspects of trans rights. The culture wars were mostly won by the left. The right won some aspects of abortion and gun rights. Climate change and police reform are a matter of framing.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    Why do we not have that “landslide, filibuster-proof Democratic victory”? Because tens of millions of voters, nearly half the electorate, do not trust us. There are three reasons for that. First, it is impossible to conceal indefinitely our scorn for them, to blame them for our national divisiveness just as though it is entirely their fault and none of it ours. Second, we have lied to them and broken our word. We have failed to keep our promises to them. Finally, the policies we present as promoting democracy, like packing the Supreme Court, statehood for D.C., and nationalizing control of the voting process, look to a skeptic like partisan power grabs. We will get that “landslide, filibuster-proof Democratic victory” once enough voters trust us and the way to begin is by ceasing to do what made them distrust us in the first place.


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