Our November 3 trip to the polls seems like a long time ago due to the intensity and unprecedented nature of the subsequent disagreements. But the underlying structure of that contest should not go unnoticed because it differed, in significant ways, from previous longterm trends. It tells us much about the shifting outlooks of the major political parties.
For example, Joe Biden’s “battle for the soul of this country” was a values-based statement, which the DNC leveraged to level charges of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny against its opponents …… while presenting itself as a bulwark against those bogeymen. The party’s goal was to keep public discussion aligned with matters of conscience. Its policy assertions were built on a foundation of morality.
In contrast, the Republican campaign slogan – “Keep America Great” – rehashed Trump’s combative 2016 focus on jobs, tariffs, and immigration. It’s policy platform sought to restrict political discussion to the power question. This tentatively populist approach reflected a shift from the party’s pre-Trump era, when centralizing tendencies were pursued behind closed doors, but downplayed publicly …… a position the Romney wing still endorses.
Thus, both of the 2020 campaigns emphasized the language of one Fundamental Question, while downplaying language from the other. This resulted in each party playing offense on its favored axis; then reacting to the opponent’s accusations on the other.
The non-emphasized axis still surreptitiously contributes to both parties’ agendas, though. The Democrats ask us to look the other way as they rely on power tactics like tech monopoly cancellation, media gaslighting, and deep state ambushes. Meanwhile, the Republicans quietly place pro-life judges on the bench, and pursue get-out-the-vote operations in the evangelical community. But this values orientation is kept under the radar.
When we step back toward a wider perspective, it becomes clear that neither party wants to align itself with an accurate, balanced paradigm. Instead, both seek the short-term advantages created by nasty name-calling and myopic talking points. Neither will address the realities of a complex worldview because an honest approach could compromise the instant gratification of an electoral victory.
How much longer can the republic withstand these short-sighted, winner-take-all tactics?