Even Trump’s indictments haven’t shattered the deadlock between the parties. Here’s why

Even Trump’s indictments haven’t shattered the deadlock between the parties. Here’s why

Ronald Brownstein writes:

Former President Donald Trump’s mounting legal jeopardy is raising a stark political question: can anything break the sustained electoral stalemate that has left the country divided almost exactly in half between the Republican and Democratic coalitions?

Trump is facing a swarm of criminal accusations unprecedented for an active presidential candidate, much less a former president. But during this ordeal, his lead in the 2024 GOP presidential primary has solidified. And while polls have highlighted some clear warning signs for him as a general election nominee, mostly they point to another closely fought contest, with President Joe Biden usually holding a small overall lead and a tiny handful of precariously balanced swing states likely to decide the outcome. A New York Times/Siena College poll released on Tuesday, however, found Trump and Biden tied in a hypothetical matchup at 43 percent.

Several big dynamics are converging, including a slowdown in inflation and acceleration of Trump’s legal troubles, that could provide Democrats a tailwind next year, particularly in the presidential race. But all of these forces face the immovable object of the entrenched demographic and geographic divisions that have produced one of the longest periods in American history in which neither party has been able to establish a durable or decisive advantage over the other.

The parties now represent coalitions with such divergent visions of America’s future, particularly whether it welcomes or resists racial and cultural change, that it’s unclear what could allow one side to break out from the close competition between them. And that includes the prospect of Republicans choosing a presidential nominee who could be shuttling between the campaign trail and the courtroom.

“The two political parties are farther apart on average than they have been in our lifetime,” said Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA political scientist and co-author of books on the 2016 and 2020 elections. “That makes it harder for people to think about crossing over to the other side.”

Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections – something no party has done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828. That suggests the Democratic coalition, on a national basis, is somewhat larger than the GOP’s.

But the Democrats’ difficulty competing outside of large metropolitan areas, as well as the small state bias in the Senate and the Electoral College, has allowed the GOP to remain highly competitive in this era. In almost every critical dimension, the political system is now defined by stasis and stand-off. [Continue reading…]

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