ShareThis Page
Scott Rasmussen: Political system out of sync with nation |

Scott Rasmussen: Political system out of sync with nation

| Monday, November 19, 2018 7:03 p.m.
Susan Walsh/AP
President Trump is the fourth consecutive president to win the presidency with his party in control of Congress and then lose control.

In the wake of Election 2018, analysts have delved deeply into a seemingly limitless supply of data points to explain the details of what happened. What role did suburban women play? Or health care? Was there a Kavanaugh effect?

This obsession with details may be causing us to miss the bigger picture of what’s going on.

Donald Trump became the fourth consecutive president to win the presidency with his party in control of Congress and then lose control. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all been there before.

This swapping back and forth of political power has been going on for so long that it somehow seems normal. But it’s not. A streak like this has never happened before in American history. In fact, prior to 1992, it had never happened during even two consecutive presidencies.

This ongoing dissatisfaction and desire for change reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties. Republicans and Democrats are both capable of tapping into discontent when the other team is in power. However, neither party has figured out how to deliver meaningful accomplishments when given the chance to exercise power.

Why is this happening? Why hasn’t either party figured out a governing philosophy that can appeal to voters?

Most likely, it’s because neither party has come to grips with the digital revolution. Oh, sure, they have social media consultants for campaigns and send all kinds of carefully targeted online messages to their base. But they are still envisioning a political order that existed before Apple and Microsoft changed the world.

From colonial days up until the 1970s, everything in America got bigger, more centralized and more homogenized. Three television networks controlled 94 percent of the prime-time audience. The political system followed suit and developed a bigger central government.

In that pre-digital world, official Washington dreamt of a top-down government in which very smart people made the rules for the rest of us to live by. The two parties competed by trying to convince voters that their team would make the best rules.

But, the new technologies of the 1970s launched a great turnaround, and society began to decentralize. Rather than just three television networks, we could choose from countless cable channels, and later the internet. Things really took off with the creation of the smartphone, one of the most revolutionary pieces of technology ever developed.

While society was decentralizing, the political system continued to march in the opposite direction. Political power is more centralized than ever, and a vast regulatory state has emerged. The disconnect between a decentralizing society and a centralizing political system is the underlying tension creating our toxic political environment today.

Just like in the 1970s, both Republicans and Democrats in official Washington still talk in terms of a one-size-fits-all governing solution. They think voters are looking to them to make the decisions that will determine the fate of the nation.

But this is the 21st century, and we have access to more information in our smartphones today than the president had in the ’70s. Voters aren’t looking for one team or the other to make the key decisions for us. Instead, we want to make more of those decisions for ourselves.

Scott Rasmussen is the publisher of and the author of “The Sun Is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed but America Will Not.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.