Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Have U.S. politics really gone 'insane'?

What broke American politics?

A provocative cover story in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine argues that too much democracy is undermining our democracy. But some aspects of that case are being rejected by the authors of a highly regarded book on Washington dysfunction, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.”

OK, if you want to argue American politics aren’t broken and everything is basically working, we’ll save that for another day. The belief that our system is performing — how should we put this?— sub-optimally — is widely shared. According to me, we have a government that can’t govern much and that has to spend too much of its time and energy avoiding shutdowns and postponing a default on the debt.

The issue in dispute at this point is not whether our system is dysfunctional, but why.

According to the current Atlantic piece (“How American Politics Went Insane”), the U.S. system of politics and government is broken because a great many things that have been done, going back more than a century, to supposedly reform the system have backfired.

The author of the piece, long-time journalist Jonathan Rauch, subscribes to a theory he calls “chaos syndrome,” which he defines thus:

Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers — political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees — that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal — both in campaigns and in the government itself.

To give a few examples and decode that a little bit, Rauch is arguing that:

The Atlantic

Party leaders like speakers of the U.S. House and committee chairs, who used to be able get their members to fall in line, have lost a lot of that power. You could view that change as a victory for a certain kind of democracy. You elect your congressman and you want him to represent the views of his constituents, the people who put him in office, not to be a rubber-stamp for a group of bigger cigars in the House.

But when you get a speaker of the House, like John Boehner, who loses control of his caucus, who can strike a deal with a president of another party to pass a bipartisan compromise package, but then cannot deliver the voters of his caucus to pass the deal and ends up resigning, perhaps you can also see how the loss of power of the speaker or other leaders is a victory for what Rauch is calling “chaos.”

Leaders of a party used to have almost total control over whom their party would nominate for president. Then came primaries, which gave the voters in certain states a bigger role. Then came the spread of primaries and caucuses to all states, draining even more influence from the party bosses.

Trump as a ‘chaos candidate’

Now comes Donald Trump, whose nomination was not favored by any of the Republican Party leadership but was chosen by ordinary primary voters and caucus attendees, in part to express their disgust with the party leaders. Trump is so disliked by the major-party leaders that they are still scheming to see if there is any way to deprive him of the nomination. You can see how Trump’s nomination is a victory for both “democracy” and “chaos.” Jeb Bush described Trump as a “chaos candidate” who would be a “chaos president.” But, writes Rauch, “Trump didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump.”

Rauch’s article is long, and it makes this point in many ways. A great many things have been done in the name of “reform” and of “democracy” that have brought “chaos” and now we have a government that can’t govern. Here’s a nice fat paragraph of Rauch arguing that “machine politics,” in which “middlemen” had a lot of not particularly “democratic” kinds of power, made the system work:

Parties, machines, and hacks may not have been pretty, but at their best they did their job so well that the country forgot why it needed them. Politics seemed almost to organize itself, but only because the middlemen recruited and nurtured political talent, vetted candidates for competence and loyalty, gathered and dispensed money, built bases of donors and supporters, forged coalitions, bought off antagonists, mediated disputes, brokered compromises, and greased the skids to turn those compromises into law. Though sometimes arrogant, middlemen were not generally elitist. They excelled at organizing and representing unsophisticated voters, as Tammany Hall famously did for the working-class Irish of New York, to the horror of many Progressives who viewed the Irish working class as unfit to govern or even to vote.

In the name of “reform,” he argues, we reduced the power of the leaders, reduced the importance of seniority in Congress, banned closed-door meetings to hash out compromises, tried to reform money in politics and ended up making it worse, cracked down on “pork-barrel spending,”

Rauch’s piece is brave and counter-intuitive. If it helps you understand what he’s driving at, I’ll mention that the longer, more scholarly book-length version is titled “Political realism: How hacks, machines, big money, and back-room deals can strengthen American democracy.” Political realism, I take it, refers to the idea that we have to overcome idealistic notions that cause us to favor things like more democracy and more openness in government and understand that the restoration of past tradition of political hacks and back-room deals will actually make things work better.

Two schools of thought

But, I will confess, the argument was so counter-intuitive I found myself wondering whether it was right. Since I’ve been an admirer of the analysis of our political problems contained in “It’s Even Worse than It Looks; How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism” and since one of the authors of that book (local angle ahead) is Minnesota native Norm Ornstein, I asked Ornstein for his reaction to Rauch’s piece. That’s when I learned that we were dealing not just with a surprising opinion expressed by Rauch but with a gap between two schools of thought. Rauch’s school shares its name, “Political Realism,” also known as neo-realism, with the title of Rauch’s book.

Ornstein referred me to this longish refutation by his “Even Worse Than It Looks” co-author — political scientist Thomas Mann of Brookings — and journalist E.J. Dionne. By the time I finished the Mann/Dionne piece, I was reasonably sure that I wasn’t buying what Rauch and those in his school were selling.

To Mann and Ornstein, the root of the problem plaguing U.S. politics, which they term “asymmetric polarization,” is that the Republican Party over recent decades has become radicalized in its policy preferences and so committed to opposing everything the Democrats stand for that they — the Republicans in Congress — are unwilling to compromise.

As I have written before, the U.S. constitutional system, more than most other democratic systems in the world, cannot function properly without compromise across party lines, unless one party captures control of the White House, the House, the Senate by a filibuster-proof majority, and perhaps a reliable majority on the Supreme Court also. The famed “checks and balances” in our system that we were taught to worship in junior high make it all too easy for either party to block action.

But, over the last few decades, the Republican Party has not only become more radical in its conservatism, but also convinced that gridlock is better than a compromise with the Democrats that allow the Dems to accomplish some of their priorities. The term “asymmetric polarization” acknowledges that both parties have become more extreme — that Dems have moved left while Repubs have moved right — but that the movement on the Repub side has gone further than on the Dem side and includes the stronger resistance to compromise, which is often a factor in the brinksmanship that leads to government shutdowns and sometimes close to default on the debt.

To Ornstein, Mann and Dionne, if you don’t deal with the polarization, acknowledge its asymmetric nature and especially the asymmetric Republican resistance to compromise, you can’t really describe the action in Congress during the Obama years.

GOP extremism

The extremism of the Republican agenda and the opposition to compromise was captured in poll results cited in the Mann and Dionne piece:

The realists willfully ignore that political polarization in the United States is asymmetric. The evidence — quantitative and qualitative — is overwhelming.

The Republican Party, at both the elite and mass level, has moved much farther to the right of the political center than Democrats have moved to its left, as Jacob Hacker, Paul Pierson and other political scientists and historians have found.

The Republicans embraced a strategy that resists compromise, and they sharply escalated the use of the filibuster in the Senate. Two findings by the Pew Research Center nicely capture both the asymmetric nature of the polarization and its impact on attitudes toward governance among supporters of the two parties. In 2014, 67 percent of Republicans called themselves conservative. Only 32 percent called themselves moderate or liberal. Among Democrats, on the other hand, only 34 percent called themselves liberal; the vast majority called themselves moderate or conservative.

In 2013, Pew asked its respondents whether they preferred elected officials who “make compromises with people they disagree with” or those who “stick with their positions.”

Among Democrats, 59 percent preferred compromisers; among Republicans, only 36 percent did. To ignore empirical findings of this sort is, in our view, to operate from a perspective that is the antithesis of realism.

Ornstein, Mann and Dionne also point out that many of the factors to which Rauch attributes the breakdown of the government occurred long before the breakdown. Ornstein also told me that Rauch has so far been unwilling to defend his thesis against the points his critics make.

And, one last citation: In a shorter, more journalistic version of the counterargument, Jonathan Chait, writing for New York Magazine under the title “Why American Politics Really Went Insane,” comes back to asymmetry with these tough-but-fair paragraphs:

The more serious problem with Rauch’s argument is this: Virtually every breakdown in governing he identifies is occurring primarily or exclusively within the Republican Party. Democrats have not been shutting down the government, holding the debt ceiling hostage, overthrowing their leaders in Congress, revolting against normal deal-making, or (for the most part) living in terror of primary challenges. Rauch is right that [Sen. Bernie] Sanders has encouraged unrealistic ideas about a revolution that would make compromise unnecessary, but the signal fact is that Sanders lost.

And Sanders’s notion of a purifying revolution, while thrilling to a handful of left-wing activists, has no influence over Democrats in Congress — arguably not even with Sanders himself, who votes more pragmatically than his stump rhetoric would indicate. The disconnect implies a fatal flaw in Rauch’s analysis. Since he identifies causes of illness that afflict both parties equally, while the symptoms have manifested in only one of them, what reason is there to trust his diagnosis?

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

About the Author:

Comments (18)

I'm sure

that we will see postings that political positions are always symmetrical: that if the Republicans are extreme in one direction, then Democrats must be just as extreme in the opposite direction. No law of nature or politics that says this is so.

Another (not original or novel) point:
The most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictatorship. Unfortunately, there's no way to keep dictatorships benevolent, and many incentives for them to consider their own interests over those of the people that they govern.
That's why the Founders did not trust pure democracy, and set up a complex system of checks and balances (no other democracy requires three separate branches of government -- legislative, executive and judicial -- to agree on any course of action). In parliamentary systems, the chief executive is appointed by the ruling party, not separately elected by the populace.
So our system is inherently messy and inefficient, but has muddled through for 250 years so far. Hopefully even the GOP won't be able to damage it permanently; they'll discredit themselves first.

The Art of the Deal

And out of the chaos comes Donald Trump, likely the most willing political wheeler dealer we may ever see. This man's entire life is about the next deal and while he may be a great negotiator his opposites will simply not roll over to his needs and demands. And with compromise a banned topic among congressional tea party types and Paul Ryan showing no greater ability than John Boehner to have his way with these folks all that leaves for Trump to practice his dealing with is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Well Donald, what will you give me if we let you have your wall?

Public Policy Evolution-- Re: Poltical Insanity Factors

The description of Politcal insanity addresses the status of the political process ability to effectively address public policy but seems to miss the causes of how this situation has evolved. Most of us will agree that the political parties both have become polarized- perhaps one more than the other but both have the same symptoms. As one of the MN GOP moderate progressives of the 60'2, 70'2, and 80's etc. I have considered the causes for this focus. So lets look beyond those elected and consider how society has changed, how people interact, how people communicate, how the media has evolved, the role and impact of social media etc. Today we all select our sources of information based on our views and we thus re-enforce the views of our choice. Info regarding compromise is not really present, we exchange information via social media and related, media and press are different etc. All of these social and communication and information exchanges are shaping not only the public views but also elected officials. In the past we had time to obtain, absorb and reflect on info - today it is instant and focused to the point of view we wish to support. This change in how the public listens, learns, reactions and comments is shaping public policy and has been the driver in the populist movement that is present across all of Mn, the nation, and internationally. To return to effective republic form of responsible government the process must involve all citizens evolving a process that fits the communication, learning and influencing poltical world of today for effective public policy.
Dave Broden

US Politics

Another factor in the asymmetry is that the Republicans carried out a systematic and well funded (by the Koch Brothers and others) campaign to get Republicans elected to state legislatures and governorships in 2010. They then proceeded to create safe legislative districts, so that conservative Republican Representatives have become a shoe-in for reelection in many districts, in spite of the fact that in many of their states, the Democrats' total vote was higher.

Another look at who influenced what and Importantly WHEN

The polarization and asymmetry on both side of the political spectrum began long before the rise of the Koch Brothers and others and do not forget Move-on.org a similar focus on the opppsite side. Both side drove bias campaigns. Regarding redistricting lines- I was involved in the drawing of lines several times in MN and while we did consider poltical strength factors the process was balanced and provided winners on both side. Total votes may favor one side or the other but often that is simply the nature of the area not the district lines. AS I stated in my first comments above- how society communicates and absorbs and influcencs and is influenced is the topic which must be discussed -- just blaming the parties solves nothing.

Dave Broden

Once again…

…"Superstoe," by William Borden, comes to mind. I first read it in the '70s, and the latest edition was published about 20 years ago. Not a lot of copies sell nowadays, if Amazon is any guide to that, but its relevance doesn't seem to have decreased in the decades since it first showed up in bookstores. It's certainly relevant to this and some other contemporary topics.

Madness!

The title is taken from the ending of the film "Bridge Over the river Kwai."

I note a couple things:

1. It seems to be the elites who most worry about too much democracy.

2. Tthe insanity level of the federal government seems to increase with its size.

One thought is that we should shrink the federal government to follow its constitutional duties and maybe we gain national sanity at the same time. If the GOP and the former Confederacy want smaller government, lets give it to them, their states can balance their budgets without Yankee and borrowed dollars. Happy fourth all!

It's all about meee!

While there has been much bemoaning about the "me generation" from the conservatives, it seems that it is they that are most concerned about "me".

"Have it your way" is an advertising slogan that has become embedded in the politics of the day. And rather than a tantrum at the drive-thru, it is a shut-down of government because compromise and adjustments mean that you aren't getting it "your way".

The loss of the vision of the interdependence of disparate views leading to a better future is the biggest threat to democracy.

"insane" or politics as usual

"the Republican Party has not only become more radical in its conservatism, but also convinced that gridlock is better than a compromise with the Democrats that allow the Dems to accomplish some of their priorities."

Remember - The radical democrats almost nominated a "socialist" to be their candidate. In fact, he still may be their candidate when the amount of Clinton Corruption begins to be realized. On the other hand, her corruption may be a guarantee of her nomination and endear the vast support of the democratic party.

Also - it is much more difficult to try and "say no" to the radical taxing and spending policies of the democrats It is much easier to spend other peoples money and promise the world to the lower and middle classes. Also, when the GOP desire to cut the rate of growth of Government spending - all you hear from the media is how evil it is to "cut spending" and how much easier it would be to spend other peoples money through the never ending mantra of "tax the rich."

In fact - even some journalist who claimed to be "deficit hawks" now claim to be "moderate deficit hawks." We only read about the evils of the deficit when the GOP are in charge but rarely when the dems propose radical spending.

Pass the snake oil

In the 1850s the two party system was fairly new, but healthy, when the Whig party disintegrated, naturally, a major third party emerged, the Republicans. It's impossible to imagine that happening today as entrenched as the two old fossils are. The GOP shows signs of natural disintegration but instead is force feeding snake oil to stay in the arena. It's like the slasher in a horror flick, as long as the brand has market value it will cheat death every time.

A republic, madam, if you can keep it

Ben Franklin's answer to the question of what sort of government the Constitution created has never been more pertinent.

Over the breakfast table this morning, my husband and I were kicking around the notion that disaffection with democracy seems to be widespread these days. The campaigns of Sanders and Trump here, Brexit, and the rise of right-wing parties in Europe, all point to ordinary citizens' sense that Western democracy isn't delivering for them anymore. Meanwhile, concern about "mob rule" that has always dogged democratic government is surfacing in different forms on both the right and the left. The right is, to put it bluntly, worried that too many have-nots will vote themselves giveaways with the haves' money---hence, the voter suppression efforts in a number of states. The left is concerned that, to also put it bluntly, there are too many uninformed people voting, bringing us the likes of the current presumptive Republican nominee. In certain quarters, there is an unsettling appetite for a strongman who will fix everything and relieve us of the awful burden of complexity. (One of my mother-in-law's fellow residents at her assisted living facility is wild about Trump because he's "strong", while a very conservative relative of mine supports him because she is "sick of the milquetoast candidates the Republicans have been running.")

Maybe it's time to remind ourselves of the words of another of history's great figures: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." (Sir Winston Churchill)

The Problem and Situation Impacts al Public Policy

As I have stated the problem of dysfunction must be looked at as how we all as citizens are involved or react to the political and civic discourse process. Today we communicate and assimulate data differently than in the past- media has changed, we use social media, we have specific biased media, people view organizations differently and where we had politicians who placed good government first and then good poltiic will follow - now this is reversed and power politics is the focus of parties, special interests, many citizens, etc. We must adapt our approach to civic discourse and public policy discussions to the way we live and communicate today. Further we need to view the rapid technology and related changes as opportunity for all not as a cause to pull back and view iife and public conversation as a fear or defense view but as a vision of things better for the future.
also do not look at the issue as National only MN poltics and local issues all face the same issues- how do we govern today???

Dave Broden

Communicating with one another

You've made a reference to how we communicate and civic discourse in several of your posts on this thread. My observation is that people don't communicate with one another on political issues. Or if they do, it's in very intense, confrontational ways. I think this behavior is aping whjat people see on TV shows like the abysmal "McGlaughlin and Company" and anything on Fox News and what I call "hate radio" including but not limited to Rush Limbaugh with his clever negative stereotyping of certain people and groups. I have close relatives who "assimilate data" as you call it at least partially from Fox News, which they try to balance with news from other sources. My relative has become quite conservative by her terms but based upon her beliefs in the most outlandish fears imaginable. You'd think she was living in Damascus.

It's hard to communicate with a person like that who, in a sense, has lost their grip on reality. But I can see why when I consider: a recent example of Politifact debunking as "mostly false"a vicious and insidious falsehood manufactured by a Fox News talking head, Anthony Napolianato (who's a former judge no less),claiming that Google had wired its search engines to filter out words associating "crime", "criminal activity" and the like from Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately Politifact did not debunk this as a total lie but only "mostly false." ( Politfact apparently gives shades of black to lies. But I digress). The point is Napolitano's sneaky lie typifies what many of our citizenry "assimilate" without filter or defense or correction or frankly sufficient critical thinking skills to dissect, even if they had the time. My own sense of watching Fox just a few times in my life is that such torrent of lies and falsehoods are buried in their messages that no reasonably intelligent person could sort out the truth from fiction. Fox is the worst but CNN and other networks aren't much better with their "breaking" non-news. Is it any wonder my relative is confused and becoming disconnected from reality?

I agree with you that this is a "dysfunction". I can't disagree with your statement that "we must adapt our approach to civic discourse and public policy discussions to the way we live and communicate today." MNPost is great. But have you read the comments section of any online blog or publisher lately? I'm having a hard time seeing how we can view the present level of discourse, or really lack thereof, as opening any "opportunity for all . . . as a vision of things better for the future."

Not sure if Rauch's right . . .

but I don't really buy the counter-argument of Ornstein and company about asymmetry or Jonathan Chait's argument against Bernie Sanders's call for a political revolution. Yet each of these different perspectives do have their own grains of truth and insight.

Why Rauch's position rings truer for me is that he has a reasonable explanation for the overwhelming dominance of money in politics. What I don't buy is his argument that the political intermediaries he praises took care of that business in the past and controlled it. The campaign finance reforms he criticizes were in response to the abuses which came out of Watergate when Nixon and the Republican machine he built allowed things to get out of hand. Congress could have, but did not, created a system of public financing of elections. It rejected that path in favor of band-aid types of reforms that tried to put lids on campaign contributions and spending that favored incumbents in money raising. The courts have shot so many holes in these laws that we now know that these reforms have become unenforceable, the Federal Election Commission a toothless guard dog. These reforms have ultimately made matters worse by so corrupting te system with money that raising money to win election and running for office have in effect become ends in themselves. Who has time for governing with such a system?

This all favors the plutocrats, which is what Bernie's revolution was about and against. If you're wealthy and part of the 1%, gridlock is your friend because then they are leaving your hoard alone. You can afford to keep such a corrupt system awash in corrupting money. Money is no longer greasing the wheels; its become sand in the gears. Thomas Piketty teaches us that the drift created by this gridlock and stalemate will eventually take the US to what resembles 18th Century pre-Revolutionary France in terms of haves and have-nots. Typically, such eventualities are completely off the table for discussion to the likes of Rauch, Ornstein and the like. It's all just so much talk.

Reflection on the Comments to this MN Post Article

As I have commented and reflected on the article and the comments by others there are some solid an valuable take aways which should be continued. First the dialogue regarding why the public policy process is stalemated is critical to keeping the republic moving ahead. Changes clearly are in order. The focus on blame to the establishment and funding/money are valid factors but clearly there needs to be consideration of how citizens are involved, how they are informed,, how they assimulate the information, how they communicate with the elected officials etc. Clearly society has changed and the political process and information flow has not adapted to the change. My question is how can the discussion of the communication and understanding process be elevated. The existence of MN is a great step in this direction but how does MN post and other media play in adapting the process for today and the future. I look for some reaction and thoughts.

Comments???

Dave Broden

You have to remember...

The reactionary conservatives that have taken control of the republican party don't actually believe in democracy, they prefer authoritarianism and pursue that goal under the guise of libertarianism. Once you understand that fact republican attempts to stall the democratic process in a variety of way become predictable. It doesn't surprise us that people who don't believe in democracy would conclude that too much democracy is our problem.

Second, the notion of polarization is completely whacko if it assumes that democrats have become more radical liberals, in fact the exact opposite has taken place. Neo-liberal moderate republicans have captured the democratic party. Progressives and their agenda are more marginalized now than they have been in decades. What we're seeing here isn't polarization it's simply reactionary extremism, and the fact that liberals like Ornstein don't see that is a function of their own myopia. The political establishment in the US has moved to the right en masse over the last 4 decades, it hasn't split or divided along ideological lines. There's no greater illustration of this than the recent whole sale rejection of basic liberal principles by the democratic party. From MN to Washington we seen time and time again timid liberal democrats abandon and even oppose liberal agendas because they think being liberal will cost them an election. That's not polarization, it's a race to the right and the republicans have simply won that race.

Third, the crises here is about the political parties who have completely lost the capacity to represent their constituents, it's not a crises of democracy. For a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this conversation both parties are facing populist backlashes... because both parties are unpopular. The reason both parties are unpopular is obvious yet they clearly have no explanation for their lack of popularity... they want to blame "democracy". You can't refuse to represent the vast majority of people in a democracy for decades and retain popularity, that's actually a very bizarre expectation yet it's clearly the expectation behind all these bewildered democrat and republican party leaders.

The entire question of sanity here is actually backwards. What's insane is a two party system that literally assaults the vast majority of Americans for decades. It's not insane to challenge a system that's torn economic security away from 90% of the population in order to enrich those at the top. People realize that the democrats are just as responsible for that as republicans in one way or another. The stalemate in Washington isn't a product of liberals opposing conservatives its a product of conservatives deferring to those who are more conservative. Stalemate is the republican objective and democrats have granted them their wish. This is exactly what happened here in MN when democrats left LR and transportation funding on the table despite having the majority to resolve it. We have stalemate on these issues not because republicans outmaneuvered democrats, but rather because the democrats defeated their own initiatives. Same thing happened in D.C. when democrats had both houses AND the presidency, instead of Medicare for All we got Nixon's health care plan. And your telling me democrats have bolted to the left? What are ya smoking man?

The majority of people are rejecting a political establishment (the parties, not the Constitution) that hasn't represented them for decades. That IS democracy, it's not a crises of democracy. Geeze they literally have to negotiate these trade deals inside fortresses because the people are so opposed to them and you wonder why people are looking for a populist candidate?

Crises what crises?

What strange is that a popular demand for popular candidates is being classified as a crises of democracy. As if unpopular candidates are the natural order of a democratic society.

Unlike some people I actually trust democracy and even if it delivers Trump into the White House that will result in the implosion of the republican party and to a lesser extent the democratic party as well. THAT outcome is more critical for our democracy and our nation in the long run than any particular presidential cycle. Trump would be bad president, but we've had bad presidents before. Our country is needlessly decades behind where it should be on environmental, education, infrastructure, health care, economic, and energy policy, just to name a few. The collapse of the system that's promoted decades of paralysis is up to voters in a democracy, and I think that's exactly what's about to happen.

I think the whole process would be a lot less chaotic if the democrats selected Sanders as their candidate but they're obviously trapped in a myopic place that expects the whole nation will celebrate Hillary Clinton rather than tolerate her mediocrity. Whatever. one way or another what will be will be.

Speaking of myopia

One problem that emerged over the last few decades has been the loss of political orientation. As democrats drifted further to the right many liberals lost the ability to locate themselves on the political landscape and imagined themselves further to the left they they actually are.

When this big dust-up between Sanders and Clinton began it was clear that many Clinton supporters could not imagine anything more liberal or more feminist than voting for Hillary Clinton, that was as far to the left as any decent person could be. When more radical liberals and feminists showed up with critiques of Clinton it was clear that many democrats had no idea that people like us actually existed. Democrats expected resistance from the right but the push back from the left appeared to flummox democrats entirely.

You saw the same thing with liberal attempts to critique Sanders economic plan and Medicare for all; liberal economists were clearly unfamiliar with the basic tenets of the neo-liberal critique and made all kinds of bizarre assumptions that no leftist economists would subscribe to. It was clear that many "liberal" economists were so enamored of market based analysis that they couldn't even imagine alternatives. I'm not talking about theoretical alternatives, I'm talking about alternatives that actually exist and function every day in the real world.

Bringing it back to this article I think this incredibly narrow perception of political possibilities on an artificially constrained political landscape creates the illusion of crises. What we're actually seeing is in fact it's just a normal political spectrum breaking through the myopia of an artificially constrained political spectrum. OK, so I like the word myopia today. The point is adherents of the political establishment are freaking out because they're discovering that rather than being centrist majorities they're actually conservative minorities. They didn't see this coming because they didn't perceive their own drift to the right.