Dick Morris: 2016 a repeat of the ’60s

Dick Morris: 2016 a repeat of the ’60s

One thing is abundantly clear: neither political party will emerge from the 2016 nomination battle looking anything like it did when it began the marathon race. Fundamental changes are now inevitable in both political parties — and they will be irreversible. 

These changes will not be so much in how the ethnic or geographic constituencies divide themselves between the parties as it will be in the policies, programs and priorities of each party.

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Whether Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat O'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms MORE or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape O'Rourke says he will not 'in any scenario' run for Senate MORE wins, the Republican Party will not be the same. The party of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief This little engine delivers results for DC children MORE and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE has been vanquished.

And even if Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' MORE loses to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Progressive Democrats' turnout plans simply don't add up MORE, his ability to galvanize a new movement and to win young people — of all races — in the Northeast and Midwest presages a new Democratic Party.

To understand what is happening, look back to the ’60s.

Before Barry Goldwater won the nomination in 1964, the Republican Party was a liberal but paler imitation of the Democrats. Largely centered in New York and the Northeast, it was a Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller, who was the first to legalize abortion, and a Republican jurist, Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade. 

But 1964 changed the GOP irrevocably. Its power base shifted to the Sun Belt and its dominant constituency became small business and religious voters. The party of Thomas Dewey and Rockefeller died in 1964.

Before 1968, the Democratic Party was more hawkish than the GOP. Its largely internationalist positioning was in contrast to the isolationism of Republicans. It opposed civil rights and catered to its Southern base. It embraced fiscal orthodoxy and rejected social change.

After 1968, it became the anti-war party and embraced civil rights, feminism, environmentalism, gay rights, rights for the disabled and a host of social causes.

2016 will be a year of changes of similar magnitude in each party.

The Democrats will jolt permanently to the left. Socialized medicine, much higher taxes on the wealthy, opposition to fracking, a fanatical fight against climate change, harsh anti-Wall Street measures and ever more radical social change will be its hallmarks. Prison reform and a fundamental change in the criminal justice system will move to center stage. These changes will leave the likes of the Clintons and even Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Forget conventional wisdom — Bernie Sanders is electable 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE far behind.

The Republicans will harden their anti-immigration position, will turn away from the party’s historic commitment to free trade and will join the Democratic left in regulating Wall Street and cracking down on the Federal Reserve. They will embrace privacy policies and impose them on the National Security Agency and the intelligence community. The Bushes and Mitt Romney will be left far behind.

We cannot even begin to predict where these changes will lead, any more than we could have known that gay rights would rise in the Democratic agenda or abortion opposition in that of Republicans. Neither issue was on the radar screen as the changes were happening in each party in the ’60s.

These changes, in each party, reflect massive outrage at the irrelevance of our government and its politics. In the 1960s, the gap between Eisenhower’s Republicans and Kennedy’s Democrats was minuscule. The Goldwater and Eugene McCarthy/George McGovern/Robert F. Kennedy candidacies drove the parties further apart. Real choices emerged. Fundamental assumptions became debatable. A genuine left and right came to be.

So now we are going to widen the ideological divide still further. The Trump/Cruz Republicans will clash with the increasingly Sanders-esque Democrats, and more topics and fundamental questions will come into play.

Democracy will no longer be about minor differences on how to cut the deficit or incremental approaches to waging war abroad. Huge fissures will open, and everything will be in play. The people are taking back their parties and insisting that they become vehicles for big changes in a system that all agree is failing.

Morris, who served as adviser to former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former President Clinton, is the author of 17 books, including his latest, “Power Grab: Obama’s Dangerous Plan for a One Party Nation” and “Here Come the Black Helicopters.” To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.