Election 2020

Why Electing Biden (or Trump) Won't Settle Anything for Long

In an age of parties run by extremists, the next majority is just an election away, explains political scientist Morris P. Fiorina.


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You're kidding yourself if you think our long, national, electoral nightmare will be over on Nov. 3—and not just because it might take days or even weeks before we know who won.

If Donald Trump wins, anti-immigration, anti-abortion, and protectionist Republicans will continue pushing their largely unpopular agenda in Washington. If Joe Biden wins, then anti-capitalist, anti-school choice, and pro-regulation progressives will rush to pass legislation similarly out of sync with America's more centrist electorate.

But whoever wins, there's a good chance that power will flow to the other side in 2022 or 2024. That's because we're living in an era of "unstable majorities," according to Stanford political scientist Morris P. Fiorina. Since the Reagan era, Republicans and Democrats have sorted almost completely into ideologically conservative and liberal groups, raising the stakes of each election even as fewer people identify with either major party. For the past 20 years, control of Congress and the White House has jumped back and forth between increasingly extreme wings of both parties.

The incoming majority rushes to implement its highly ideological agenda, overreaches, and gets bounced in the next election or two, says Fiorina. That's what happened to the Democrats and Barack Obama in 2008. They won the White House and both houses of Congress in a landslide, only to surrender control of the House and Senate in 2010. Trump won in 2016 but the GOP promptly lost the House two years later.

Fiorina doubts that whoever wins the presidency and control of Congress will be able to enact an agenda that satisfies a large enough majority of Americans to keep power for more than a few years. "I don't think we're on the verge of civil war," he tells Nick Gillespie. "The fever swamps of our newsrooms and social media are just not reflective of the mood out there in general but there are big problems and no one seems to have a good idea of how to get a handle on them."

Written and Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by John Osterhoudt. Feature Image by Lex Villena.

Music: "Believe" by Maya Pacziga; "Free Radicals" by Stanley Gurvich; "Discovery" by Kevin Graham

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