Much will depend, of course, on which tea-party favorites actually win in the November general election, but a likely outcome of all this will be a Republican party more to the right, and a Democratic Party more to the left. "It's going to be a bipolar Congress," predicts Kenneth Duberstein, White House chief of staff for President Reagan.At first glance, the notion of such bipolarity conjures images of gridlock and chaos. But thus does evolution work. It is a messy business, fraught with pain and turbulence and extinctions and dislocations.But it is a spectacularly effective engine for cobbling fitness from the staggering dance of environment/organism co-adaptation, the wrenching improvisational composition of blind variation and selective retention. The mess is the message.
As the Tea Parties impose selective pressures on the entrenched GOP establishment from the very soil below the grass roots, the elephant is forced, ponderously and reluctantly, to evolve or die, and with it, the whole of the political ecosystem through which it moves.
Much is made by the Democratic commentariat about the "Civil War" taking pace within the GOP. Fair enough, and we've certainly heard that language before, when Liberals want to sound a triumphalist note (and I'm not just talking about Iraq here). But just as important here is the internecine strife taking place within the Democratic party, as it faces what looks to be a sound drubbing, come November. As the factions of Dems who view the emerging Tea Party insurgency as a call to shift all the more shrilly to the Left have it out with those who see the need to let the Blue Dogs have their day, so is the donkey compelled to adapt, lest it become a mule.
All this excites me greatly. There are those who decry the retrenchments, Left and Right, and bemoan the "loss of the Center," lamenting that it is out of this center that "true" governance takes place. But they are missing a very crucial point: The "Center" cannot hold. When the poles of political thought become cross-contaminated by the efforts of our would-be leaders to be all things to all people, the result is an unhealthy loss of clarity. This brings about a blurring of the focus which animates the Centralizing/Federalizing dialectic which has held in its uneasy balance the very dynamism which has kept the Founders' grand experiment on the bleeding edge of civilizational evolution since its inception. The "center" is what emerges from the push-pull of competing visions for our Republic, the "big government, small citizen/small government, big citizen" tension out of which arises an ever-changing synthesis which is able to keep pace with shifting circumstances.
Before us today is the emergence of a purifying blast of clarity on both sides of this dialog. And, as they thrash it out, the promise of a properly divided government is, at long last arising. The "center" will wrench itself into being as the moribund, accommodationist oligarchies of both parties are forced to weather the withering blasts from the sharp, hungry purists on both sides of the political divide. They will be forced to ply the same waters, held to account by the voters should they fail to find a way to man the oars and get the ship of State back underway.
EDITED: 9/21/10 for typos.