Douthat is Half Right

by Michael Sean Winters

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Ross Douthat at the NYTimes is half-right - the Democratic Party's coalition is not a stable, long-term governing coalition, there are ideological and demographic fractures that Obama was able to unite, and Hillary Clinton should be able to unite as well, but which a less gifted candidate will have trouble bridging. The deepest faultline is similar to the one running through the GOP: Both parties embrace libertarian sensibilities for one half of their agenda, the Dems on personal and sexual issues, the GOP on economic issues. The ideological fracture within the GOP is more obvious because of the religiously inflected worldview of its base, which at the end of the day, is not consistent with libertarianism. And, the GOP's ideological dissonance is likely to rise to the surface sooner rather than later: A few stellar debate performances by Sen. Rand Paul, who is very capable of delivering a stellar debate performance, and the GOP will have to confront its own ideological dissidence. By the time the Democrats grapple with the fact that it is morally inconsistent to expend great amounts of empathy for the undocumented while denying all empathy to the unborn, new issues and crises will have affected their ideological trajectory in ways that are unforeseeable. Coalitions are messy things, to be sure, but there are two dominant ideological strains in American life, a libertarian strain and a communitarian strain. Eventually, the two parties will coalesce around one or the other. In the meantime, muddle.

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