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Forget Everything You Know About U.S. Politics. It's All Going to be Different

David Callahan

Michael Lind has one of the bigger brains around, and you can always count on him to advance provocative and sweeping arguments. He doesn't disappoint with his new piece in The Breakthrough Journal, "The Coming Realignment." It's one of those big think articles where the thesis seems entirely obvious after you've heard it. 

(Advice to other would-be influencers: You want your bold new idea to be on the tip of people's tongues, but not yet articulated. Any earlier or later and you won't catch the wave just right.)
Lind's thesis is this: That social conservatism is over, or will be soon, and American ideological warfare will henceforth be waged between social liberals who hate government and social liberals who see the state as a vehicle for fostering greater economic equity. Lind calls the first camp "liberaltarians" and the second "populiberals." 
That certainly seems right to me, and I've written often here about the end of the culture war and the raising salience of debates over economics and the role of government. Think about it: One reason that inequality and healthcare are front and center today is because people are no longer arguing as much about gay marriage, abortion, crime, affirmative action, and the like. Lind sees that trend as only increasing as the Millennial generation comes to the fore with its whatever attitude about yesterday's social hot button issues. Sounds right to me, and Lind is hardly the first person to make that point. 
Lind also is right on target with the other part of his analysis, which is that geographic and lifestyle differences will become a bigger driver of political division. He sees America dividing in new ways as more educated and affluent Americans increasingly flock to an urban "Densitaria" and middle and lower class become more likely to live in suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas -- which Lind groups together as "Posturbia." 
Regional differences will become less important, along with the notion of red states and blue states, as more states have both Densitaria and Posturbia regions. Again, we're already seeing that as southern states like Virginia become more politically diverse thanks to the growth of a professional class in places like northern Virginia, the Research Triangle, or whatnot. And again, Lind is hardly the first person to write about this trend, which was core to Ruy Teixeira and John Judis's argument in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. And John Sperling put forth the idea of "retro vs. metro" America in a 2004 book called The Great Divide. Lind's contribution is to connect up this thinking with the deep ideological shifts going on. 
I could walk you through the rest of the article, and tease out Lind's predictions as to how this will play out in partisan politics. But you may just want to read the article yourself, which is here