Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

The disappearance of Yankee Republicans and Southern Blue Dogs

Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush

Arnold Sachs/Keystone/CNP/Getty Images

Klug served in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 1999. He hosts the political podcast “Lost in the Middle: America’s Political Orphans.”

Two congressional districts will tell you all you need to know about how much American politics has shifted in recent years and, sadly, how the political middle has been squeezed.

Wrapping around a dramatic coastline, Kennebunkport, Maine, had been the ancestral home of the Bush family since the turn of the 20th century. George H.W. Bush grew up there as the quintessential Yankee Republican. Public service and good manners were built into his DNA. His father had been an investment banker and a senator from Connecticut.

Geographically, Hope, Ark., is a few thousand miles away, but economically and culturally it is a world away. Bill Clinton grew up with a single mother in the small, hardscrabble Southern town. The state was solidly Democratic, but with a conservative bent. Republicans were a curiosity.

A quick read of the “Almanac of American Politics” will quickly convince you that those two snapshots represent a bygone era.

Neither George Bush nor Bill Clinton could come close to winning his home county today. In 2020, Trump won Hempstead County, Ark., with 65 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, in Maine, Biden won Kennebunkport with the same share of the vote.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Yet the important story is not what happened in those counties, but what has happened regionally. The moderates in both parties have been wiped out.

In 2010 Barack Obama could count on 71 Blue Dog Democrats to get his health care package passed. Today there are only 13 of them left in Congress and its leaders are not from Dixie but from Hawaii and New York.

There is not a single New England Republican in the House. And in the upcoming presidential election there are few battleground states in those two regions. New Hampshire is still unpredictable. Georgia and North Carolina are swing states.

If you look back at our history, those kinds of shifts are not uncommon.

“No matter what you do, as a political party you're going to make some portion of your coalition angry. Because we are a giant transcontinental nation, diverse in all sorts of ways, and there is no way to govern in a way that makes everyone happy,” says Sean Trende, editor of Real Clear Politics. “So one group comes into the coalition. It makes some other group in that coalition angry. They go to the other party. They're joining up makes some members of that party angry. And so, they leave. And it's just a story that goes on.”

How the Democrats swapped the headquarters of Walmart to the Republicans for a fleet of Maine lobstermen: The never-ending realignment of American politics by Scott Klug

Read on Substack

Read More

Young girl holding a sparkler and wearing an American flag shirt
Rebecca Nelson/Getty Images

Three approaches to Independence Day

Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework," has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.

July Fourth is not like Christmas or Rosh Hashanah, holidays that create a unified sense of celebration among celebrants. On Christmas, Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. On Rosh Hashanah, Jews throughout the world celebrate the Jewish New Year.

Yet on the Fourth of July, apart from the family gatherings, barbecues and drinking, we take different approaches. Some Americans celebrate the declaration of America's independence from Great Britain and especially the value of freedom. And some Americans reject the holiday, because they believe it highlights the self-contradiction of the United States, which created a nation in which some would be free and some would be enslaved. And other Americans are conflicted between these two points of view.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fireworks on July 4
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

One country, one constitution, one destiny

Lockard is an Iowa resident who regularly contributes to regional newspapers and periodicals. She is working on the second of a four-book fictional series based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice."

“One country, one constitution, one destiny,” Daniel Webster said in a historic 1837 speech defending the American Union.

This of Fourth of July, 187 years after Webster’s speech and the 248th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, Webster would no doubt be dismayed to find his quote reconstrued by popular opinion to read something like this:

“Divided country, debated constitution, and as for destiny, we’re going to hell in a hand-basket.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Rich Harwood
Harwood Institute

Meet the change leaders: Rich Harwood

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

After working on more than 20 political campaigns and two highly respected nonprofits, Rich Harwood set out to create something entirely different. He founded what is now known as The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in 1988, when he was just 27 years old (and is now its president). Soon after, he wrote the ground-breaking report “Citizen and Politics: A View from Main Street,” the first national study to uncover that Americans did not feel apathetic about politics, but instead held a deep sense of anger and disconnection.

Over the past 30 years, Rich has innovated and developed a new philosophy and practice for how communities can solve shared problems, create a culture of shared responsibility and deepen people’s civic faith. The Harwood practice of Turning Outward has spread to all 50 states and is being used in 40 countries.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person holding an upside down American flag

A woman protests Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, by waving an upside down American Flag.

Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

Distress signals: The American flag as a political weapon

Becvar is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and executive director of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the parent organization of The Fulcrum.

Comparing the year leading up to the 2020 presidential election to this year, it’s striking how much has changed in the American consciousness. The divisions that deepened after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection often seem irreparable. Once unimaginable discord with family, friends and neighbors has now become commonplace. This new reality includes a further divide over what the American flag represents.

Keep ReadingShow less
book cover

The road from conflict to convergence

More than ever, Americans need to de-escalate conflict and constructively engage with others to find better solutions to problems. “From Conflict to Convergence: Coming Together to Solve Tough Problems,” a new book by Mariah Levison and Robert Fersh, is an incisive, hands-on guide designed to help citizens do just that.

Fersh is the founder and senior advisor of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to promote consensus solutions to issues of domestic and international importance. Fersh formerly worked for three congressional committees.

Keep ReadingShow less