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Explaining Political Uncertainty

Are Our Parties Realigning?

“We live in an age of electoral and political instability. And in our country, this has led many observers to wonder if our democracy can survive. Some pundits and professors have argued that the country is headed toward tyranny or fascism. (A Google search for "Trump and Hitler" produces millions of results.) Others have declared that the Republican Party is divided and done, that the government is broken, and that the U.S. has lost its leadership role in the world.

No one can know the future, and these prophets of doom cannot simply be dismissed. We can, however, know the past. And America's history suggests that times of intense and uneasy transition can often feel like utter breakdown, in large part because of how our system of government interacts with our way of doing politics. Simply put, our sense of stability is often the result of an equilibrium in our party system, while a sense of uncertainty and chaos often accompanies periods of change within and between our political parties.

One way to understand the politics of this period, therefore, is to consider it through the lens of our parties and their coalitions. What we find when looking through that lens offers no guarantees of the future, of course, but it does suggest some reasons for confidence in our system, even in an era of global change.”

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