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^ towards a new political alignment based on policy, not ideology, in other words, with the existential divisions mostly resolved

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Much has been written these past couple years about there now being “two Americas” rather than one. There is some truth to the observation, but much more falsity in it. Those who look at legislation adopted, or partisan preference, look at mostly superficial or passing evidence. Legislation gets enacted because certain interest groups enjoy paramount power. But they won’t always have it. Circumstances change. In a nation as dynamic as ours, they change fast. We may not think so, because the current two-America politics has held sway since the 2000 election at least. I understand that for Americans, seeking overnight answers to everything, might find 16 years an eternity. It is not.

Two concerns currently divide America : ( 1 ) should religion be able to impose its beliefs on public law ? and ( 2 ) should economic inequality be relieved by enacting wage and union organizing laws, and should foreign trade be more or less free or subject to protective tariff ? Of these two areas of division, the more lasting is the second. There has never been, nor likely will ever be, general agreement on how best to regulate the nation’s economy. The history of these economic debates shows, however, that it is a policy division, not a societal one. The only reason that it looks societal is that supporters of each side has come into coalition with a side of the other division.

This, we already know. Commentators have for years now noted and analyzed the present coalitions of economic and societal. What I want to propose are that those two coalitions cannot last much longer, and that when they cease, our national politics — and electoral map — will change dramatically; and that the change will be a good thing.

Societies change before their politics reflects the changes. The political cleavages in place today took 30 years to develop. Organizing special interests for efficient focus on political structure can’t be accomplished in a week or a year.Thus the political organizing that determined the current “two Americas” represents social situations of 30 years ago and more. The leaders are no longer young; some are quite elderly. So are their core followers. Meanwhile, the societies of “red” states currently organized as such have changed quite a bit. Leadership of political churches is changing; of “pro-life” movements; of those who think same sex marriage a sin and thus unlawful. The demographics of “red” states are changing, too. Georgia, Arizona, even South Carolina and Utah, are becoming rapidly less white, or younger, or both; and among people of color, or young, or recent immigration, the “red state”: beliefs are alien.

I see the present intensity of political cleavage as, one the one side, acts of desperation seeking to prevent, or delay, inevitables. But the politics of delay or avoid never work. In a democracy, demography is indeed destiny. On the “blue” state side, the prospects look far less dire. Because they lack well organized “red state” interests, most “blue” states have adopted a politics reflecting demographic changes that have long since taken place.

In “blue” states, the big battle is the economic fight; and that is a matter of policy, not ideology. Business is a practical matter, not a creed; such ideology as there has been in the economic sphere — and for 100 years there was a mighty fight indeed — was resolved by 1989 at the latest, mostly long before that. Because the battles in “blue”: states are policy fights, not credal, and because business is not a temporary, lifestyle matter, “blue” state” voters have fought about ideas, not existentials; and ideas are tools, not identity. Blue state fights debate not who you are but how you are going to pay the rent.

The fights about economic matters – minimum wage, pay scales, stock market reform, union organizing, corporate tax rates and credits, the size of banks, trade pacts — will hardly be simple or polite. But no one in them will question the existential rights of anyone else. We have had fights of this sort all through our history. The Constitution represents for the most part one compromise concerning them. But we live in one economy; that is what the Constitution established.

The politics of who you are, and whether or not who you are is legitimate, I see ending soon; there will be less and less “values voters.” Which means that the politics of all our states will became politics of policy, not ideology; of paying the rent. When that happens, the color of the 50 states on Presidential election maps will change quite dramatically. And we will be one America again.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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