Over at TPM Cafe, Josh and friends are marvelling over the country's polarization, which has far exceeded its actual ideological polarization and mostly crowded out the center. Josh says we're headed for a realignment, at least once Bush leaves. Well, maybe.
Remember, Bush was supposed to be the realignment. All that talk about Texas bipartisanship, about Bush crying at his Democratic Lt. Governor's funeral. about being a uniter, not a divider? Remember that primary challenge coming from a Senator whose main reputation was for transcending party and forging close working relationships across the aisle? There's no doubt that Americans want a reduction in partisanship, they have for quite awhile. Problem was, when they vote for that, it often makes no difference. And, indeed, if Bush leaves and Hillary wins, I have trouble imagining that we'll see a chastened Republican party trying to heal the country's divisions and work constructively with the new president. And Americans, like they did before, will choose sides, and happily accept all the partisanship from their side while decrying its influence across the aisle, recasting politics as sport and parties as teams.
It's unfortunate, but the only candidates able to provoke the realignment Josh is talking about are Republicans. In some ways, it's Nixon goes to China -- a member of the majority party publicly denouncing his side's myopia and demanding better inter-aisle working relations could make a difference, a newly-elected Democrat ineffectually calling for bipartisan comity, particularly if the right retains a congressional majority, couldn't. Theoretically, that's the silver lining to a McCain, Hagel or even Graham presidency, all have a proven desire to work across the aisle and attract a bipartisan reputation, and if they were bold about it, they could force much of their party to follow. But there's nothing demanding a realignment. Unless we get the right candidate doing the right things, the country will continue to call for civility among their opponents and continue to support partisanship among their allies.