It dawned on me today just how much America has gone through over the last decade. A major terrorist attack, systemic economic failure, credit freezes, massive failures in disaster response, and historic rancor in our politics. Time magazine called it “The Decade from Hell.” However, after all that our political system and its parties remain in roughly the same station. There has been no massive shift in party identification. Political parties operate with the same 1990s-like charisma, or lack thereof (with some technological upgrades). Political ideology has edged away from consensus as polarization intensified. In both government and the electorate, the most ridiculous arguments garner the greatest attention. And neither party seems to make a convincing case for the future of the country.
So why, in an environment seemingly so conducive to significant political change, has no political change occurred? While there is some disagreement over what causes realignments, you’d think the last decade covered its bases. There were major wars (3 of them), horrible government ineptitude (Katrina and BP oil spill), an intelligence failures leading to the worst attack on US soil, and an economic recession that rivaled the worst in modern history. Despite multiple crises the political system remained largely unaffected. One might expect one, or a few, of these developments to significantly change the manner in which government power was dispersed among the parties. But neither party seemed to capture the hearts and minds of the American people. The powerful Republican Party from 2001 faded into the minority. The 2008 Election looked like a watershed moment but that failed to carry over in 2010.
Granted, it’s still early. Some monumental change could be festering as we speak. But in a decade that was ripe for a monumental political realignment, only fleeting changes occurred. Where’s the realignment? Is the political system less responsive to crises than it once was? Are the parties failing to create effective policy solutions? What’s the deal?