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Feehery: Conflicts that will drive US politics this decade

Greg Nash
A voter is seen at a polling station in Langley High School in McLean, Va., on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Here are the top nine conflicts that will drive American politics for the rest of this decade and possibly beyond. 

Globalization vs. nationalism / The election of Donald Trump ushered in the collapse of the Cold War consensus, the idea shared by Republicans and Democrats that global American hegemony in the face of the Soviet Union and Communist China was a good investment of our resources and well worth the fight. Trump’s MAGA philosophy, that America should look out for America first, now dominates the Republican Party and its implications, from how we support Ukraine to trade policy to global tax treaties.  

Environment vs. the economy / The fear of a rapidly changing climate is the No. 1 issue among upscale Democratic donors. For Republicans and most independent voters, the economy continues to be among the top issues, along with immigration and crime. 

Independent voter vs. the base voter/  Both political parties have gotten into the habit of tailoring their campaigns to boost their respective party bases, but they have done so at the expense of voters who swing both ways. Trump can’t win independent voters, but by dragging his opponents into the political mud, he could inspire a strong third-party candidate or get voters so disgusted with their choices that they simply don’t turn out to vote (which happened in 2016).  

Women vs. men / It is hard to say exactly how the gender gap played in 2020. Trump did better with white women and worse with white men than commonly assumed. In 2022, abortion politics played a significant role in some states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, and not in others, like Georgia, Florida and Iowa. Republicans can’t win without winning white married women by a significant margin.  

China vs. the United States / Both Republicans and Democrats appear to agree that it is good politics to be wary of China. But what impact will that low-boil conflict have on domestic politics? Will banning TikTok be popular with the 150 million Americans addicted to it? How about taking steps to limit companies like Shein, which sells low-cost clothing to American consumers? And what if the Biden administration does blunder us into a war over Taiwan?  

The establishment vs. anti-establishment / The Democrats are now the establishment party, and while the establishment does have more than a few fellow travelers among Republican Party elite, the typical down-scale conservative voter is decidedly anti-establishment. This has had tremendous ramifications when it comes to vaccine mandates, the continuing conflict in Ukraine and the debt limit.  

Young vs. old / According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, younger voters aren’t nearly as patriotic, aren’t nearly as religious, are much more independent and are much more fixated on money than older voters. In the meantime, the biggest issue that faces older voters is the coming fiscal collapse for Social Security and Medicare. Right now, secular Democrats seem to have more of a stranglehold on this younger demographic than the more religiously observant Republican Party, but when it comes materialistic prosperity, those voters could change on a dime.  

Information vs. disinformation /  Who controls the flow of information to the bulk of voters? During the COVID-19 shutdowns, the legacy media, outside of a few shows on the Fox News Network, published information that differed from the preferred narrative of the government. We know that thanks to Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. How will this play out in the next election? Will most voters still get their information from their local broadcasters or will they probe deeper to find alternative views that might conflict with the established narrative? 

Activists vs. everyday people / Activists on the left and the right, from antifa to the Proud Boys, engage in fights that have little appeal to most voters. But activists do have an influence on political debate, which are manifested every day at local school board meetings, at drag-queen shows and with efforts to defund the police. Right now, it seems like left-wing activism, from the transgender movement to efforts to ban gas stoves, has done more to offend quote-unquote normal voters than anything that has come from the right. That is a good thing for Republicans. 

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).   

Tags China foreign policy Donald Trump Economy environment Independent voters TikTok

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