“The chief problem of American political life...has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.”
~Carroll Quigley, ‘Tragedy and Hope’
I have spoken with several Europeans who live in the USA about this topic. They think that the two American political parties are very similar, to the point that they have trouble distinguishing their policies in many areas that are still contentious in Europe.
The problem is that the two parties have become exclusively national and international. That is, the Democrats agenda is focused almost entirely on national issues, the Republicans, on international affairs.
At the extreme, the parties are losing the ability to address the others focus at all. Democrats are astoundingly naive in international affairs, and Republicans have been reduced to just a few standard issues in domestic policy that they hope will assure their reelection.
During GW Bush’s first term, he used a presidential philosophy not seen since the latter half of the 19th Century, that it is the President’s job to conduct foreign affairs, and the running of the country should be left up to congress. Which resulted in disaster, when the Republican congress ran wild with abandon. His contribution to domestic policies were “presidential signing statements”, an unconstitutional artifact.
Yet I distinguish this from the Contract With America, precisely because it breaks up the status quo. It is a tool of candidates, not incumbents, which is why when a CWA II was proposed, it was greeted with horror by incumbents, who put their foot down and said not again.
If the Republicans had each subsequent election created a new CWA, Washington by now would be a very different place.
Congressmen and senators do not like to have their feet held to the fire, when they have broken promises they made. So this is precisely what must be done.