The two political parties are fractured. While there is no viable third party to collect the disaffected, each of the parties, as institutions, are weaker than at any point in recent history.
A recent poll by the respected Pew organization divided Americans into eight different constituencies. Those described as “Core Conservatives” and “Solid Liberals” comprised about a total of 30% of the electorate. The remaining 70% are distributed all across the spectrum and do not fall neatly into a political party lane.
Social media has contributed to the relevancy of political parties. Bernie Sanders raised millions of dollars via the web and shunned the Democratic National Committee. A bittersweet irony since the DNC schemed to thwart Sanders by granting Hillary Clinton’s organization undue influence into DNC operations. Outsiders and even extremists can raise funds and connect with voters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They do not need the established political party.
My upcoming novel Roll the Dice will be published November 28. The novel’s main protagonist, rock star Tyler Sloan leaves the stage to campaign as a political independent for the U.S. Senate seat in Nevada. The independent Sloan campaigns from the right or left as the issue dictates.
Sloan has sufficient fame and fortune to self-fund his campaign and limit all contributions to $100. As a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Sloan raises millions from small donations.
Donald Trump was a de facto independent during the Republican primaries and he continues to attack his fellow Republicans. The strategy is baffling—yet Trump won. Senator Jeff Flake released a book condemning Trump and the Arizona Senator’s poll numbers plummeted down into a death spiral.
There is a messy fault line between the Trump-Bannon view of the Republican Party, and traditional conservative Republican values. Bannon has called for “war” against all incumbent Republican senators (except Ted Cruz). Many Republicans espousing Main Street, GOP views are either out of office, leaving office, or too terrified to take on the President.
Trump appears in touch with the Republican zeitgeist. Yet governing remains elusive. . .if the Republican trifecta of majorities in both houses of Congress and the presidency cannot enact tax reform—what can they agree on?
Democrats are united in their “resistance” to all things Trump; but is that a governing strategy? Is it a winning strategy to regain majority status in 2018?
A fight for the soul of the Democratic Party is playing out in California. Longtime incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein is being challenged by the left from Kevin DeLeon, the president of the State Senate.
DeLeon promises unaltered, unfiltered and unrelenting resistance to Trump. Is this sufficient to topple Feinstein? Usually being in the minority equates to accepting some compromise and Feinstein has shown the ability to reach across the political aisle. Are Democrats fixated on resistance or can they compromise to achieve meaningful legislation? Is the party one of aspirational goals or legislative accomplishments?
At the national level, Democrats still lack a message other than resistance. In many swing congressional districts, Democrats should pay heed to when the Republicans steered too far right with the Tea Party. In 2010, Republicans lost winnable Senate elections in Nevada and Delaware with Tea Party candidates too far out of the mainstream. Purple state candidates may be under pressure to steer hard left to mobilize the base, but straying too far from the center could emulate the GOP in 2010.
Dems need to avoid circular firing squads with candidates posturing who has the most progressive bona fides— or risk GOP maintaining control in 2018.