The Agenda

Sean Trende on Two-Party Politics

Sean Trende, a friend of The Agenda, has a smart piece on why we can expect U.S. politics to remain competitive for the foreseeable future.

My concern is somewhat different. Like Sean, I tend to think that Republicans and Democrats will be more or less evenly-matched in the decades to come, as the contours of what it means to be a Republican or a Democrat will shift as necessary to form viable minimum winning coalitions. Yet as Sean acknowledges, the ideological center of gravity could nevertheless move leftward. That is why I agree with Yuval Levin regarding the importance of 2012: the president’s health law threatens to entrench and exacerbate many of the most dysfunctional aspects of the U.S. health system, and with each passing year it will get harder to reverse. Conservatives tend to fret about the increase in dependency among working and middle income voters, but I suspect the transfer of resources to medical providers will ultimately prove more important. As health entitlements expand and crowd out other government functions, there is no question that there will still be a “left” and a “right” in U.S. politics. But that is perfectly compatible with the already-bleak prospects of reducing public expenditures (and the use of off-balance-sheet vehicles, etc.) getting even bleaker over time.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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