The Democrat / Republican Switcheroo

 

I've been saying online and on my radio show that there's a political realignment happening for a while now... though I keep changing my mind about how this realignment is happening and how it will shake out. 
 
In the first part of the 20th century, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party switched places, and it seems to be happening again. It just occurred to me to put it this way: (and I'm not sure this completely makes sense, so help me think about it....)
 
The Democratic Party has become the party of the Washington establishment - they believe in listening to experts, following science and other forms of academic learning, trying to maintain some kind of consensus informed by this meritocratic expertise, and that means, when necessary, criticizing, deplatforming and silencing people who diverge too far from this consensus, and above all, maintaining some firm norms that limit the power of the government and especially its executive branch, some of them constitutional, some legal, and some merely conventional and largely unspoken - a system of "manners" as Edmund Burke once put it. They want to bring American society back to normal. In other words, they represent the return of republican civic virtue, and they're quite conservative.
 
The Republican Party has become a wild free-for-all, unrestricted by any principles, governed and motivated by conspiracy theories, racial and ethnic hatred, prejudice against LGBT+ people, sexism, weird convoluted legal arguments that make no sense, health crazes, fundamentalist religion, anti-science paranoia, and general ressentiment and hatred of elites. They've been whipped into a frenzy by a demagogic entertainer, a celebrity casino owner and game show host who knows how to manipulate, to persuade, and keep attention on himself through pure outrageousness - and our entertainment-obsessed public eats it up as the latest fad. He flatters them and cajoles them and through his example encourages them to smash all taboos, explode all norms and virtues and values and live in unrestrained passions, as a pure unrepressed id, giving vent to all sexual impulses and violence without any concern for other people. In return, they increasingly believe that the executive should be completely unrestrained. And unfortunately, he does reflect the prejudices and desires of a large number of the American public - probably the majority - maybe the vast majority, somewhere deep down. In other words, it's a giant, incoherent mess but it is in a certain sense liberal and - unfortunately - democratic.

See also: this article I wrote about the paradoxical relationship between the left and the right - it's better than the present article, I promise!

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