The End of Politics

Politics are over in America.  Political maneuvering will go on, of course, but the old civics-class view of American political life was based on a set of assumptions that are no longer operative.

America was once far more homogenous than she is today.  But the passing of the 1965 Immigration Act and the political and social revolution of the New Left changed the country demographically and culturally.  The old America of regional cultures was about as diverse a polity as could be while remaining stable.  America, with her Anglo-Saxon political heritage, was a country with a considerable reserve of “social capital” and public trust.  It was understood that a loss at election time was not an existential crisis (the election of 1860 notwithstanding).  Politics were not zero sum.

That is no longer true.  And this means the old politics, which had been hollowed out over a period of decades, are largely a thing of the past.

Politics no longer are concerned with mere policy—which can be bargained over within a procedural framework that once included shared cultural assumptions.  Now politicians debate the most fundamental moral and social issues of society and culture, including the legitimacy of the American polity as such, the value of human life, even the definitions of gender, sex, and marriage.  Tax policy and healthcare...

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