The first election result of 2016 has the winners surging through political parties that they aren’t wedded to.
“The second-place finishers aren’t even real members of the parties for whose nominations they are running,” Nick Gillespie writes in Reason.
The pull of political parties, and party loyalty of Americans, has faltered. It’s highly unlikely that the Democratic and Republican Parties will disappear, but it signals a difficult process of reform and realignment that will be necessary to keep a strong base.
If anything, this change has brought a spark of life into both parties. The GOP had a 50 percent increase in turnout from 2012, and Democratic showing was close to the high levels of 2008. Gillespie mentioned that 45 percent of voters from both parties had never attended a caucus.
The party outsiders helped grow the party.
That surge, however, might be a sign that the status quo needs to change. The Democratic Party, especially, has avoided introspection and placed faith in “demographic determinism,” as Matthew Yglesias wrote.
“Trying to foreclose any kind of meaningful contact with the voters or debate about party priorities, strategy, and direction was arrogant and based on a level of self-confidence about Democratic leaders’ political judgment that does not seem borne out by the evidence,” he wrote.
The strength of Bernie Sanders has been a rebuke to the Democratic Party, and a surge in his support hints at a battle over how the party will look in 10 years.
Gillespie sees this trend as both parties being out of touch with voters, and the rise in registered independents is a sign of that. While true as far as it goes, the populist campaigns of Sanders and Donald Trump tilts away from it. Independents might become more popular, and the future of state registrations could look more like New Hampshire, where 40 percent of voters are “undeclared,” a larger group than either party. That diminishes their relative powers and has a moderating influence. Party uniformity is harmed as well.
A populist surge, however, could stem that tide and pull more voters into declared lockstep with either party. A changed party, yes, but a party that retains a broad base composed of different groups.
By the time a new president gets inaugurated in 2017, parties could co-opt and integrate those restless populists who flocked around the anti-party candidates.