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 TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFlorida sheriff asks for new leads in disappearance of Carole Baskin's former husband after Netflix's 'Tiger King' drops Ted Cruz jokes about quarantine boredom, 'Tiger King' Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act MORE wins, the Republican Party will not be the same. The party of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House The Pelosi administration MORE and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims MORE has been vanquished.

And even if Bernie SandersBernie SandersHuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Schumer: Administration 'must move heaven and earth' to implement new unemployment benefits Biden associates reach out to Holder about VP search MORE loses to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFormer Obama adviser Plouffe predicts 'historical level' of turnout by Trump supporters Poll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Whoopi Goldberg presses Sanders: 'Why are you still in the race?' 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 ObamaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention Biden associates reach out to Holder about VP search Poll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters 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.