In less than two decades, the Democrats and the Republicans have swapped positions on a range of essential issues and because of this political earthquake, we see one of the most significant voter realignments in American history.
Let’s return to the late 1990s. The glow of the Reagan era was still shining bright. The Soviet Union had collapsed a few years earlier, China had copied Hong Kong’s free-market economy, India was on board with market reform, and globalization was bringing prosperity to the world. Francis Fukuyama summarized the new world order as The End of History.
The Republican Party was controlled by the neo-conservatives, which meant strong support for global trade, low taxes for the rich, and a massive flow of tax money to the military-industrial complex. The Democrats, by contrast, were continuing their appeal to the working class. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had tried to push through Hillarycare, a reform of the U.S. healthcare system to become more like social-democratic Europe.
If you asked the average voter, they would view billionaires as synonymous with Republican strongholds, epitomized by the Koch brothers. Similarly, “blue-collar worker” was associated with a Democratic voter. The left-wing of the Democratic Party was opposed to cheap immigrant labor that pushed down working-class wages. As late as 2015, Bernie Sanders described open borders as “a Koch brothers proposal.” Those were the days.
During the 2000s, Silicon Valley rose to prominence with strange new behemoths such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter. They were perceived as libertarian and fit the public image of ultra-rich Republicans. Google charmed everyone with slogans such as “Don’t Be Evil,” and YouTube and Twitter sold themselves to the public as free speech platforms. Most did not catch that the people behind these new tech companies voted for President Barack Obama in droves.
The first sign of brewing trouble came with the Tea Party. Republican voters were deeply unhappy with their politicians. Disgusted with corruption and lies, they revolted against the party establishment and mobilized to put Tea Party candidates into congress to get rid of Obamacare. Most of these candidates turned out to be grifters who magically changed their minds when they arrived in Washington. Despite a Republican landslide in 2010, Obamacare survived.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, a new movement emerged after the killing of Trayvon Martin was declared self-defense and the shooter, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. It was called Black Lives Matter, and it was garnering massive support on the left based on a series of media race hoaxes.
When then-candidate Donald Trump entered the Republican presidential race in 2015, the mainstream media gave him plenty of airtime. He was a clown, they thought – a buffoon that the Republican establishment hated and the Democrats loved because they thought he would be the perfect opponent for Clinton to run against and solidly beat to the ground.
However, to everyone’s surprise, Trump won with ease. He had flipped Democratic blue-collar states in the rust belt and gained among black voters. On the other side, the ultra-rich had become a new Democratic stronghold.
In the 2020 election, the switch continued when Hispanics, especially in South Texas and Florida, leaped to the Republican side in droves. In 1993, Republican congressional districts were 13% wealthier than Democratic districts. By 2020, the pattern had reversed. 65% of people with an annual household income above $500,000 voted Democrat, whereas 74% of taxpayers in Republican districts had a household income less than $100,000. Democrat support increased with wealth, and among the billionaires, Republicans were rare.
Polls and the gubernatorial election in Virginia indicate that the switch has deepened since 2020. Suburban middle-class women who found Trump’s style off-putting have flocked around Republican candidates to fight Critical Race Theory and mask mandates in school.
The change is so dramatic that it can only be described as a political earthquake, redefining the party identities. The Republicans have become the party of the middle and working-class against the elites, globalism, and open borders, while the Democrats are now the party of the ultra-rich and a cohort of radical special interest groups that gang up on the middle class from all directions.
The switch occurred so rapidly that a lot of voters have not yet caught on to the change. Many Democrats still believe rich people vote Republican. Therefore, we can expect to see a continued migration of voters in the years to come.
History tells us that the long-term winning strategy in politics is to appeal to the center. Currently, only one of the parties is placating moderates, while the other is appealing to its most radical fringe base. That spells trouble for the Democrats in the coming elections.