In his memoir The Age of Turbulence, former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan comments on the friction between the two main political parties in the US. From the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies in the 1930s to the mid-1960s, the Democrats were dominant and there was an unwritten agreement to co-operate with the Republicans in certain matters.
Greenspan writes of a 60:40 relationship between caucuses and of a tendency to discuss items off the record.
Legend has it that Lyndon Johnson told his colleagues, "We have lost the South for a generation" after signing the Civil Rights Bill in 1964. The Democrats’ senatorial representation in the South declined from 17 of 18 in 1964 to four of 18 by 2004. The Republicans became more powerful and this was enhanced by the movement of heavy industry from the north to the southern states after the Second World War.
During his career, Greenspan saw a change in normal political civilities, such as certain black-tie events that were always bipartisan but stopped being so with the decline in collegial politics. The changes are obvious to the American voters, who see the interparty squabbling as something they didn’t vote for; the job of elected politicians is to govern the country professionally and efficiently.
Greenspan goes on to state that there was (in 2007) a vast unattended centre from which a viable, well-financed independent presidential candidate could emerge by 2008 or 2012.
Business Day readers will recall that Ross Perot gave it a go in 1996 but was unsuccessful.
Enter Donald Trump!