I love it when I read an essay that plainly articulates something that I've been thinking about for a while but just haven't found the right words for. Robin Goodfellow writes "we are at a time where a change of political axis is needed and will likely occur within the next few years" and I think he's correct. Both major political parties are losing ground to "independents", most of whom can be categorized as either socialists or libertarians. For the past couple of decades these growing factions of socialists and libertarians largely adhered to the Democrat and Republican parties respectively out of convenience and pragmatism, but it appears that we're nearly to the point where fewer than half of the population actually identifies themselves with one of these parties.
Imagine a game of tug-o-war. The rope is the people, and the Republicans are on one end of the rope and the Democrats are on the other. Between the two of them the middle of the rope isn't free-moving: it's strung through a ring that holds it in place. Now, if that makes sense, try and keep up here. When the parties were aligned with the desires of the people, the rope made a straight line, sliding back and forth through the ring as it it wasn't there. Now that the parties do not represent the ideologies of the population, they are pulling the rope into a V shape. The ring near the center of the rope sits at the point of the V, and the two parties are pulling partially against the ring and partially against themselves. The parties are trying to pull the population into the discussion that they want to have, but a large segment of the population doesn't care about the issues that the parties do anymore, and don't align themselves in the same manner.
I feel like I just wrote a bunch of nonsense. Oh well, it's a cool picture in my head, and if you draw out the force vectors on the rope you might get an idea of what I'm trying to explain with my dumb analogy. The point is that eventually the population will get tired of hearing the debates that the parties want to have, and will dump the parties altogether. For example, both parties are strongly behind the "War on Drugs", but a good portion of the population (maybe not quite a majority) thinks that this so-called war is a sham and a waste of money. Another example is social security... everyone knows it's not sustainable, but neither party has the guts to actually face the problem.
So, what's going to happen? I like Robin's conclusion and basically agree that the parties will re-form into a basically libertarian party and a basically statist party. The real question is, which goes which direction?