Thursday, February 18, 2016

Political Parties in Crises

The establishment in both American political parties is out of alignment with substantial numbers of their adherents. More than 50 percent of Republican Party favors outsider, anti-establishment candidates. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz represent passionate Republican constituencies, with Trump more on the left and Cruz more on the right, but both willing to attack the party’s elected and financial establishments.

Although Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s establishment candidate, still commands about half of the support of Democrats, she is on the defensive from an insurgent representing a wing of young and white liberal voters who believe the Democratic establishment is too timid and too corrupt by campaign funds to be expected to shift the country to their preferred direction.

The crack up of the two parties is happening at the moment of their historic weakness. The latest Gallup poll on party identification (2014) shows American preference for an independent label at a historical high of 43 percent, with Republicans at a low of 26 percent and Democrats barely ahead at 30 percent.

Both parties are losing supporters to the independent category, but the Democratic decline during the Obama presidency has been stark. The Republican loss was most dramatic during the last half of the George W. Bush presidency.

The changes in American adoption of a party is adding to the volatility of 2016 politics, opening up space for party insurgents and outsiders with little electable experience or party loyalty.

It is accompanied by a common refrain today from substantial number of voters that: “I don’t see a good choice being offered.”  Does that create an opportunity for an independent candidate for president?

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