The Republican Party Is Not the Problem

Ricardo Arduengo via ZUMA

Over at New York magazine, Jon Chait pushes back against Lee Drutman’s notion that America is trapped in a descent into “doom-loop partisanship.” The problem, Chait says, is far more specific: one of our major political parties is normal while the other has gone nuts.

The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republican Party

The psychological relationship between the parties has a certain symmetry…. superficial similarity to the terror with which partisans now greet governments controlled by the opposing party…. competing tribal epistemologies…. news media that is open to contrary facts…. no equivalent to a Rush Limbaugh in influence and sheer lunacy….etc.

….The doom loop Drutman describes is, in reality, both sides responding to the phenomenon of Republican extremism. Republicans are sealed off in a bubble of paranoia and rage, and Democrats are sealed off from that bubble. Democrats fear Republican government because it is dangerous and extreme. Republicans fear Democratic government because they are dangerous and extreme.

There’s much more at the link, where Chait describes the asymmetry between the parties well. I don’t disagree with a word he says. However, I want to stress one small qualification. America is a democracy, and parties survive only if they gain popular support. Over the past couple of decades, we liberals have marveled at the steadily increasing lunacy of the Republican Party, confidently predicting at every turn that eventually the fever has to break. But it hasn’t. Republicans have won the presidency at the same rate as usual. They have won the House. They have won the Senate. They control state governments. They control county governments. There are still a few blue enclaves like California where Democrats truly control things, but not many. Generally speaking, the only thing Democrats truly control in America is its big cities. Urban mayors are almost uniformly Democratic.

In other words, the problem is not the Republican Party. The problem is that lots of people vote for the Republican Party. The lunacy will stop when that does.

If you think this comment is pedantic, I submit that you have a deep misunderstanding of politics. Roughly speaking, liberals would do well to forget the Republican Party even exists. Their focus should be almost exclusively on how and why conservatives continue to attract the support of half the American public no matter how crazy they seem to become. Until we figure this out, things are only going to get worse.