At this point, we political junkies are agonizing over the presidential election currently underway. We’re watching the polls, monitoring early voting statistics, and listening to the drivel that candidates and the media are spouting.
Though suspense hangs heavy in the air, I find myself (as befits a hard-core intuitive type) contemplating US politics after the election. In particular I’ve been speculatively considering what might happen to Republicans after November 3. Will the Republican Party
- Remain foreseeably cast in the mold of Trump by continuing to embrace the constituency he spawned?
- Be so severely damaged that it will be ostracized to the political wilderness for a generation?
- Find a way to reflect, re-evaluate, and reform itself to rise from the ashes as a center-right party more fitting for modern America?
These are indeed interesting questions that we will see played out after the election. For me, though, the most interesting question is what happens with the Never Trumpers, Reluctant Trumpers, and those looking to distance themselves from the policies of Trumpist national populism. Their future will be of particular interest should there be a significant Biden landslide, especially one intensified by renegade Republicans.
Lee Drutman, in his book Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America, makes a compelling case for the pressing need to free our democratic processes from its historic two-party duopoly. Drutman argues, correctly in my opinion, that a multi-party democracy is more vibrant and inclusive when there is adequate space for the political diversity that characterizes American politics — space that has been diminished by our two tribally polarized major political parties.
Unfortunately, the barriers to inaugurating a multi-party democracy are high in a country such as ours. Political systems with plurality-rule elections and single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system (Duverger’s Law). This has certainly been the case since the country’s inception.
Though there have been significant political realignments throughout our history (The Seemingly Permanent Duopoly), the last time a new party came into existence was in the runup to the Civil War when Republicans replaced the Whigs. In recent years, state level elections statutes have made it increasingly difficult for small parties to gain a foothold (e.g., Third Partyism Texas Style). We’ve been doing two-party politics for so long, it’s difficult for most folks to imagine “wasting” their vote on anyone not affiliated with one of the two old parties. Media coverage of elections further cements duopolistic thinking firmly in place.
So, what will be the fate of the Republican renegades? Will they work to establish a New Center Right Party better suited to compete in modern America? Will they find a place in a reformed Republican Party? In one unlikely scenario, the Democratic Party might even seek to expand its coalition and embrace disaffected Republicans who voted for Biden.
Unless a new and improved center-right coalition emerges from the 2020 ashes, though, the renegades may simply find themselves in the expanding ranks of political independents. If so, we should welcome their help in expanding opportunities for increased political competition so lacking in our current dysfunctional polarized political world.