US politics in the next couple decades: the most plausible prediction I’ve seen

A couple days ago, Ed Brayton blogged about about something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, doing a really good job of expressing why American politics is so weird right now. Then one of his readers chimed in with a pretty convincing account of what happens next. First, Ed:

I’ve been saying for a while now that the Republican party is in a real bind. Shifts in demographics and public opinion are going to force them to moderate their positions on issues like gay rights and immigration, but doing so will inevitably mean that a portion of the religious right leaves for a third party.

Now the reader’s comment:

In Canada, we went through the “Right-wing-is-not-conservative/religious-enough” shift way back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. This resulted in the wingnuts forming their own party (Reform Party), then realizing that they were splitting the right wing vote, then realizing they had to at least appear sane in order to win an election, then bringing Conservatives back under the same umbrella- then finally winning an election 15 or so years later. It doesn’t take long for the wingnuts to figure out that they can’t actually win elections by telling the truth.

The result is a Conservative Party that is better at looking sane and hiding their ideologues.

The good news is that if this happens in the US, you will get a short repreive from insanity, followed by a Republican Party that is not going to wear intolerance on its sleeve.

The bad news is that you will have to face a Republican Party that has learned to dress the hateful thugs in popular clothes.

It’s really hard for me to guess how this crazy situation will resolve itself, but that’s the most plausible prediction I’ve heard so far.

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  • James Sweet

    That definitely sounds plausible. The only question in my mind is whether the ideologues on the American Right could be less compromising than those on the Canadian Right. The Canada narrative is certainly plausible, but so I think is the Dixiecrat narrative, the one in which the haterz are so pissed off that, even though they realize they can’t win any damn elections anymore, they still won’t compromise.

  • Eric

    I’m just worried about how bloody stubborn American religious zealots can be. I notice that only 22% of Canadians are literal creationists, while in the US it’s about half. The exact same information is available to both countries, but Americans seem to be far less willing to think about the evidence. The final result may probably happen, but I’m guessing it’ll take at least thirty years for the crop to die out and the new blood to figure out that they can’t win elections by denying reality.

    Then again, they also seem more desperate to lie, cheat, and deceive here in the god old US of A.

    Either way, I so want to move to Canada! Mostly because I actually dig cold winters.

  • josh

    I wonder if this sort of exile and return of the radical right didn’t already happen in US politics. Supposedly the Birchers and the most explicitly racist elements were purged from the republican establishment in the late 60s-70s under the influence of William F. Buckley. The 60′s were the heighth of active government progressivism with Johnson’s Great Society programs. Nixon was of course a rat and an exploiter of the Southern Strategy, but on many fronts he was a moderate by today’s Republican standards. Then Carter, followed by Reagan’s election in ’80. Reagan is seen as the re-emergence of hard-core conservatism, which is true in terms of saber-rattling, government deregulation and rhetoric, but he’s still relatively moderate compared to the image of Reaganism that modern conservatives carry as their standard. And then there is the insanity with which conservative leaders have reacted to Clinton, Gore and Obama, not to mention the Bush II years.

    I suspect there’s a bit of a cycle where the most obnoxious fringe gets too embarrassing, is publically rejected, is quietly courted with winks and code-words, builds its own closed systems of news and education, becomes increasingly important to the electoral strategy of the mainstream party, rises to power, and topples again because they can’t actually run a government or avoid pissing off more than half the country.