Last week I wrote about my political fears. This essay will be a political prediction.
Normally I blog to help process my thoughts, so it is unusual for me to mention social expectations. But I will make an exception and write to archive my thoughts, not process them.
My prediction is about how the political parties will evolve in identity.
I did not pay much attention to national politics until after I graduated from college. But based on what I did notice and read I developed the impression that the Democrats and Republicans were evolving quickly during my lifetime. For a while they were pro-tax versus pro-business. Then they were Big Government versus Small Government. Then they differed on investing American money and lives to promote democracy abroad. Most recently they were dominantly doves and hawks.
The next predictable obstacle will be the Entitlement Crisis. The government has made too many promises. It cannot keep providing the promised amounts of welfare, Social Security, health care, pensions for government jobs.
How will our political parties respond to this crisis?
Unfortunately, government is getting getting bigger. This is politically strategic: if it is inevitable that the government must soon scale back its programs, then it gets more options on how to do so by doing more now. But additional spending hastens the crisis's arrival. Politicians are opting to have flexibility instead of time to plan carefully.
Most Federal programs are Constitutionally justified by the Commerce Clause. Since the New Deal this clause has allowed the Federal government to expand greatly and create entitlement programs. The Constitutional balance is the Tenth Amendment which emphasizes State authority.
Since the 1930s these two parts of the Constitution have been in mild tension. Now the tension is exploding as the Federal government is embracing debt while attacking profits:
"There will be a time for them to make profits and a time for them to get bonuses," Obama said. "This is not that time."Several states are ready to refuse Federal aid that has too many strings. The governors, while not fans of Rush Limbaugh, at least agree that business profits are needed to support government. The increase in tension between Federal and State authority is probably the most significant backlash against the stimulus bill. It is part of an established but growing "Tenth Amendment Movement".
How will the Federal government adapt to shrinkage forced upon it by the Entitlement Crisis? Will it adapt acceptably?
I think a more important question will be, "Will people perceive the Federal government as adapting acceptably or unacceptably?"
Once the change beings, those who perceive (accurately or not) that it is happening unacceptably will attempt to shift programs -- and the decisions about which programs to keep or cut -- to State control.
The Commerce Clause and Tenth Amendment will clash. Some States will attempt to claim the authority to rebuild programs deflated by unfulfillable Federal promises. The Federal government will try to retain authority over its programs, but will willingly sacrifice some for the retention of others.
My prediction is that the Democrats and Republicans will take sides in this clash as their new primary identities. The Democrats will become the pro-Federal party that values nationally broad regulations and norms, extolling as virtues unity, uniformity, and collective wisdom; the Republicans will become the pro-State party that values letting 50 different attempts at revising the Entitlement culture develop and learn from each other, extolling as virtues independence, diversity, and experimentation.
UPDATE: Do I think my prediction is likely? No. But it must be as likely as other silly things.
UPDATE: An approaching issue I have not thought about but perhaps should is what would happen if more than half of voters do not pay taxes (thus taxation without representation for the others).
UPDATE: Since neither established political party is working against big-government, a Modern Whig party has formed. This seems an odd choice of name, since the older Whig party was very much for Congressinal power.