– edited by P.C. Bosco

I recently had a conversation with a volunteer for the Robert Kennedy Jr. campaign in our county. She said her first vote in a Presidential election was for George McGovern in 1972. My first vote was for Richard Nixon in the same election. She has bounced from the Democratic Party to the Republican, to Independent. I have bounced from the Republican Party to the Democrat (when RFK Jr. was running as a Democrat), and now to Independent. Despite our paths, we are both committed to RFK Jr.  We are living proof that the divide can be healed.

Political historians often talk about “sea change” elections, where events expose rigid and out-of-date positions of one major party, the ascendency of another party, resulting in a political realignment which stands for at least a generation.  Usually, these historic sea changes result from some cataclysmic event which causes people to seek new ways of responding to problems and crises, and which result in disillusionment with the old ways and old political institutions.  What’s interesting about 2024 is that the disillusionment isn’t just with one party, but both.

Both parties have been overrun with purists. When I was a Republican, I came to hate the term “RINO”(Republican In Name Only) for a couple of reasons. First, it was used as a bludgeon by rank and file Republicans– most of whom, until recently, hadn’t even been Republicans in name.  Second, because the base of the GOP reflects a purist or fundamentalist strain within the Party, the Party appeals only to those who hold purist fundamental partisan views.  The measure of purity today in the Republican Party isn’t devotion to an ideology, but to a person.  And an aging person at that.  Today, anyone who doesn’t pledge loyalty to Donald Trump is labeled a RINO who should be run out of the party.  So say the purists.

The GOP has largely become irrelevant.  The turning point came when it finally controlled both branches of the federal government in the early 2000s.  Being a conservative party since Ronald Reagan, it didn’t apply conservative principles to how Republican officeholders governed.  Today there is no ideology which gives shape to the GOP.  It’s a cult of personality.

As for the Democrats, they abandoned the optimistic liberalism of JFK, RFK, Hubert Humphrey and the like, long ago.  Its principal goal is in the accumulation of power (and personal wealth).  In 2024 it has been reduced to a cabal that has decided to fight for the continuation of an incumbent (largely confirmed by Department of Justice Special Counsel William Hur’s February 8 report on President Biden handling of classified federal documents) who can’t remember when his son died, what year he left the Vice Presidency, talks to long-dead European leaders, seems to think it’s still the 1970s and he’s out to win the Cold War against the Soviet Union.  Claiming to be the defender of democracy, their presidential primaries, in which there is only one candidate who gets close to 90% of the votes, look more like elections in North Korea than the U.S.A.

It appears that neither party is shaped by a coherent and compelling ideology.  Both parties are intellectually and spiritually bankrupt.  It’s no wonder that neither of them comes close to representing even half the electorate.

The trend in party identification, tracked by the Gallup polling organization from 2004 to 2023, reveals that those who identify with either the Democratic or Republican Parties have plummeted to just 25% of voters for each party.  Over this period, the percentage of voters who identify as independent has risen from 31% to 49%.

As Axios news service commented in reporting this trend, “By far the dominant U.S. party isn’t Democrats or Republicans.  It’s ‘I’ll shop around, thank you.’”

It’s no surprise then that a recent poll conducted by NBC News showed that in a three-way race where Robert Kennedy Jr. was included with President Biden and former President Trump, Kennedy has a lead over both.  (Note:  Beware of polls which only reflect the binary choice of Biden vs. Trump.  Polls excluding RFK Jr. are not showing the actual status of the race).

The more I talk with people the more I realize that the pandemic (our most recent social cataclysm) and the government’s heavy-handed approach in response to the pandemic have significantly shaken up traditional political alignments. This has added to the stress already evident in our political culture. 

With RFKJ’s candidacy we’re increasingly seeing former Trump supporters and conservative Republicans joining with classical liberal Democrats and independents who have come to realize that there are more important things in our politics than thread-bare ideologies and creaking partisan political structures. An increasing number of voters are deciding that neither Biden nor Trump have the vision or intellectual rigor to keep the old coalitions together. Although their previous contest was only four years ago, both seem to represent an era in the country that has long passed.  People on both sides of the divide are waking up and realizing that the divide is artificial.

National polling is now showing a trend toward Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with him holding a lead over both Biden and Trump. With this consistent and growing lead for Kennedy over both Biden and Trump, nationally, Kennedy is about to drive a truck through the crumbling wall of divisive politics.

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