Chill out, America. Whether the Republicans win big or the Dems hold the line, both major parties are on the path to extinction, at least in their current forms.
Whichever side emerges victorious, both Republicans and Democrats should face up to a much bigger truth: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future. Fewer and fewer Americans identify as either Republican or Democratic according to Gallup, and both parties are at recent or all-time lows when it comes to approval ratings. Just 39 percent give Democrats a favorable rating and just 33 percent do the same for Republicans. Not coincidentally, each party has also recently had a clear shot at implementing its vision of the good society. If you want to drive down your adversary's approval rating, just give him the reins of power for a few years.
What's going on? The short version is that political, cultural, and even economic power has been decentralizing and unraveling for a long time. Whether you like it or not, The Libertarian Moment is here, a technologically driven individualization of experience and a breakdown of the large institutions—governments, corporations, churches, you name it—that used to govern and structure our lives. The result is that top-down systems, whether public or private, right wing or left wing, have less and less ability to organize our lives. That's true whether you're talking about the workplace, the bedroom, or the bar down the street (that may now be serving legal pot). This is mostly good, though it's also profoundly disruptive too.
That's from my new column at The Daily Beast, which argues that the future belongs to
…politicians and parties who champion policies that embrace economic and social decentralization will own the future, even as they wield less power by letting people discover how they actually want to live. Whoever wins tonight would do well to remember that. Because if they don't, they'll be losers again, and sooner than you think.
Conservatives/Republicans can live with some decentralization in economic issues and education policy, but they really can't abide by rapidly proliferating lifestyle choice. Liberals/Democrats are desperately trying to structure commercial life and restrict choices when it comes to health care, school lunches, and more. If both sides don't realize the impossibility of their positions, they will become even less representative of contemporary America. If that's the case, it was nice knowing them.