A lot of bad politically commentary is normatively bad—it espouses things that decent people find repugnant. But some of it is terrible as a description. For example, consider this January 6 item from Charles Lane which warned that “under the Internet-intensified pressure of recession, terrorism and global uncertainty, the four parties are breaking out of the two-party mold that had previously contained them.” Four parties? Yes. According to Lane “Obama finds himself torn between progressives demanding an ideologically pure health-care program, among other agenda items, and a pragmatic wing desperately attempting to hold together 60 Senate votes by whatever means necessary” while “it’s unclear whether the party’s right wing is angrier at Obama or at its own leadership.”
So there’s your four parties. I think that analysis is a little silly, but things get way sillier:
Where could it all lead? The past is not prologue, but party instability of this magnitude could be the harbinger of even bigger changes. The U.S. political system actually fractured into four major parties in 1860 — and we all know what happened next.
Yes, that’s right, the existence of routine tensions between party bases and cautious party establishmentarians heralds the looming collapse of the United States of America and our descent into civil war. And all this because of the Internet!