By working within a party, the new supply-siders can boost their cause — and pull us away from left-right polarization.

This essay is from the June 2024 edition of Hypertext, the Niskanen Center’s journal of liberalism, political economy, and policy. Every month we publish a series of essays – featuring thinkers with a wide variety of viewpoints – that defies the tired dichotomy of left and right while engaging with a vision of America where competitive markets, robust public goods, and an effective state reinforce one another.

For nearly a decade now, political moderates have been on their heels, as right-wing populists have taken the reins of the Republican Party and democratic socialists have established a beachhead in the Democratic Party. In response, startled and flailing moderates, including the authors, have grasped for institutional footholds within the two parties. Some have latched on to the idea of creating a moderate faction inside the Democratic Party with its own distinctive ideology, institutions, and sources of funding and organization. Others have given up on the two major parties and flirted with the idea of a moderate third party. 

We have, with some reluctance, concluded that moderation itself is a dead end. For one thing, the explicit pursuit of moderation can easily fall into the trap of simply splitting the difference between two moving goalposts rather than advancing a distinct, morally grounded policy agenda. Additionally, and just as a pragmatic matter of political organizing, it is hard to rally a group of intensely motivated and dedicated activists behind the milquetoast banner of moderation; it typically doesn’t inspire the kind of passion that fuels political movements.

Rather than trying to address the challenge of polarization by finding some space between the intellectually exhausted agendas of the right and left, we should focus instead on injecting an alternative dimension into our political discussion — the “Abundance Agenda” that we see as the answer to “Cost Disease Socialism.”  Instead of positioning ourselves by watering down populist conservatism or progressivism, Abundance has its own quite sweeping package of reform that envisions a wholesale program of state-building–building housing, clean energy, and infrastructure by reforming our creaky, captured systems of governance at all levels, and building a simpler, more effective and democratically legitimate welfare and regulatory state. Like the Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th century, the supporters of abundance seek to simultaneously dismantle an exhausted, maladapted, and frequently corrupt state structure with one built for the problems of today. 

Rather than trying to fix polarization by finding space between the intellectually exhausted agendas of the right and left, we should inject an alternative dimension into our politics.

Because the American political system is heavily biased against third parties, the best path for pursuing this agenda lies with the kind of intra-party factions that have been common throughout U.S. history (of which the Progressives were one).  In the long term, we can hope that many of the politically homeless elements that used to be firmly ensconced in the Republican Party will reemerge as a political force around their own version of Abundance rather than under the exhausted banner of Reagan-era fusionism. In fact, members of Congress like Sen. Todd Young of Indiana have already been leaders on many abundance-related issues. However, given Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP, in the short term, it is hard to imagine such a political faction emerging around these issues anywhere other than the Democratic Party.

For now, then, the factional action on Abundance will be among the Democrats. The table is set for just such a faction to emerge. But it won’t appear out of thin air. It will require deliberate action in the form of organizing, mobilizing, and engaging at both the elite and mass levels. Advocates of Abundance will need to pursue their agenda with the same kind of concerted effort that the MAGA movement and the democratic socialists have been willing to undertake. To borrow a slogan from the left, Abundance advocates will need to educate, agitate, organize. 

The potential payoff of organizing Abundance advocates into a coherent party faction is enormous. For Democrats, it would expand the party’s reach and allow it to win and maintain governing majorities. For supporters of an Abundance Agenda, it would address the new set of issues that, left unaddressed, will continue to be a drag on our economy and on our fellow citizens’ pursuit of happiness. And for the country, it would enable a more dynamic, pluralistic, and representative future for American democracy.

The return of factional parties

America’s political parties are cracking up. Since the 1990s, Americans have gotten used to relatively homogenous parties, one liberal and one conservative, with strong Congressional leadership that determines policy agendas and leaves relatively little play in the joints for creative coalition-building. However, there are clear signs that this era is coming to a close and that the parties are increasingly characterized by competition among intra-party factions. The Republicans’ “fusionist” conservative establishment has entirely lost its once-extraordinary levels of control, displaced by a populist MAGA faction that now constitutes the overwhelming majority of the party and has taken over the House Speakership and the presidential nomination process. The Democrats, meanwhile, have seen the stranglehold once possessed by mainstream, interest group liberalism weakened, facing left-wing challengers linked to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and other movements of the Left. The Democrats’ factional problems are smaller than the Republicans’, to be sure. But they are growing. 

So far, the factional energy in both parties has come from the extremes, which in the short term has exacerbated polarization. New factions, however, may be emerging to complement those at the poles. In fact, the factions of the future may organize themselves on an entirely different axis from the politics of the past, activated by new issues as well as their alienation from their more radical co-partisans. 

The Abundance Faction will enter the battle for the future of the Democratic Party by initially organizing three core groups: 

  • Intellectuals and activists motivated by a different set of issues than those that have animated our politics over the last 50 years; 
  • a segment of business alienated from a radicalized Republican Party and drawn into the Abundance Faction’s congenial policy agenda and; 
  • socially moderate and economically activist, growth-oriented voters. 

Like the Progressives of the early 20th century, they will bring new issues to the forefront of our politics, in particular a focus on reforming the public sector at all levels of government. This faction will not be traditionally moderate or centrist. In fact, it will be radical, but in pursuit of issues that simply do not fit with the familiar left-right political spectrum. 

Defensive moderation or radical reform?

The last 20 years have seen quite a bit of churn in the party’s coalitions, but without making either party more capable of achieving an electoral realignment. The Democrats have attracted more socially liberal and economically moderate-to-conservative middle-class suburban voters, but at the same time, they’ve been bleeding working-class voters to the Republicans. Neither party has been able to expand its coalition sufficiently to attain a durable governing majority. Both parties are effectively tapped out. 

If Democrats are to have any hope of keeping an increasingly radicalized Republican Party away from the levers of power, it will be by pulling in social forces that are not currently organized and making them full partners in their project. Doing so would make the Democrats more fractious, but it would provide a reliable foundation for a successful and consistent electoral coalition capable of garnering national majorities that allow the party to govern.

Though that type of intra-party dynamic might seem strange today, over the course of American history, our political parties have usually been institutionally factional in structure. Because our electoral institutions so strongly encourage a two-party system, it is not surprising that the last time a durable third party emerged was when the Republicans displaced the Whigs way back in the 1850s. Yet our country’s large population, expansive geography, and demographic diversity make it hard for those two parties to be internally homogenous, especially in Congress. As a result, the ideological and coalitional groupings that organize themselves as distinct and separate parties in other countries have generally had to operate as institutionalized factions within one of the two dominant parties in the U.S. Over the course of American history, this type of intra-party activity has been routine. In fact, from the Civil War through about 2000, there was at least one prominent faction in each of the two parties for all but about 20 years. It is the absence of intra-party factions in the last couple of decades that stands out as an anomaly. The kind of factional activity we have in mind, then, would be a return to the norm, not a bizarre departure from it.

Ideological and coalitional groupings that organize themselves as distinct and separate parties in other countries have generally had to operate as institutionalized factions within one of the two dominant parties in the U.S.

There are no exact analogies for the dynamic that we think is coming to the Democratic Party, but the Progressive movement of the early 20th century is instructive. Rapid industrialization and modernization had created new social problems as well as a new class of managers, professionals, and intellectuals. This group was not defined primarily by its positions on the issues that had previously characterized party competition, such as the tariff and monetary policy, but by entirely new issues, like social insurance, economic regulation, and civil service reform, that it injected into the political agenda.

In addition to new policy issues, at the core of the Progressives’ obsessions was a desire to entirely reform America’s “state of courts and parties” to make it more fit for a country that had emerged as an economically dynamic, urbanizing, rising global power. They believed that whatever merits that state may have had in an earlier stage of American economic and technological development, its pathologies in the form of corruption and an inability to address new issues were coming to a head. For good or ill, they sought to chart a new course grounded in an administrative state guided by science and professional knowledge, and with a reduced role for patronage-oriented parties in government. 

The Progressives were, in short, driven by very different issues and manned by a different class of people than those that had previously dominated American politics and characterized the parties that they both attacked and sought to find power in.

While no one has a crystal ball, this type of scenario is a more plausible outline for the conditions that will transform the American party system in the decade to come than the Democratic Leadership Council analogy typically bandied about. The DLC was a mostly defensive organization of Democratic officeholders made vulnerable by the geographic realignment of the parties and the Democrats’ increasingly toxic national brand. While there were small groups of quite impressive intellectuals and business interests involved with the DLC, it was founded by elected officials and their operatives and was fueled by their temperamental moderation and centrism. The Abundance Faction, if it emerges, will be oriented around the kind of radical reformism associated with the Progressives rather than the careful triangulation of the DLC. It will be driven in the first instance by intellectuals, engineers, and technologists rather than anxious officeholders. Elected officials will also be critical, but they will rally to a flag carried by an elite movement rather than the other way around. 

The state of regulators and lawyers

Like the Progressives, what we call the “Abundance Faction” will be animated by the contradictions between rising social and economic challenges and the structure of the inherited American state. The Progressives concluded that the state of courts and patronage parties that emerged for a pre-industrial society could no longer generate governing coherence for a rapidly urbanizing, industrializing nation. Similarly, the Abundance Faction is coming into being as the contradictions and pathologies of the administrative state built in the 1960s and ‘70s are approaching a state of crisis.

The state that America built in the 1960s and 1970s was, at its heart, regulative. From civil rights to environmental protection, its animating obsessions were things that it wanted to prevent from happening, such as racial and gender discrimination, nuclear disasters, highways through central cities, industrial accidents, dangerous toys, and environmental pollution. While much of this regulation was geared to private action, a great deal of it came to apply to the public sector as well. From the creation of compliance divisions inside of firms to the expansion of standing to sue to rules on public participation in government decision-making, the state that we created a half-century ago had the effect of displacing or slowing down the parts of organizations — public and private — focused on the delivery of goods and services. The aggregate effect of that state has been a widely diffused expectation that more or less everything that operates in physical space will take an extraordinary and unpredictable amount of time and be disappointing and uninspiring in its results.

Like the Progressives, the “Abundance Faction” will be animated by contradictions between rising social and economic challenges and the structure of the inherited American state.

That sense of disappointment in our ability to rapidly achieve progress in physical space is in sharp contrast with the culture of the most cutting-edge organizations in cyberspace, which have deeply embedded expectations of rapid production cycles. Because they mostly have avoided operating in the physical spaces that define the regulatory environment of the modern administrative state, they have developed norms for organization and delivery sharply at odds with those in the “old economy.” But just as the rise of the large, integrated factory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries threw into contrast the corruption of patronage government, today our inherited culture of public sector delay is embarrassed by the speed that we’ve grown accustomed to in other parts of our economic life. 

As during the Progressive Era, this contrast is not merely an aesthetic problem but a major liability as we face the urgent need to actually make big, important things happen at an unprecedented scale. The challenges of addressing America’s housing, infrastructure, health care, and energy crises are running headlong into the governance system that we have inherited from the last great state-building era of the 1960s and ‘70s. In the process, however, the frustrations created by our artificial scarcity are generating new ideas, interests, and organizations that are just starting to cohere as actors in elections and public policy.

An abundance agenda for the challenges of the 21st century

There is no place where our inherited governance regime has generated more profound social and economic pathology—and corresponding organization—than the crisis of housing in our biggest and most dynamic cities. Scholars have known for at least two decades that our housing production has been far too slow, especially in our wealthiest cities, leading to a crisis of affordability that has slowed down economic growth while also producing huge unearned gains for housing insiders. At the heart of this problem is our system of housing governance, which combines all of the worst features of localism and vetocracy. 

The pathologies of our anti-growth machine at the local level created the raw materials for the YIMBY movement, which is the closest thing we have to collective action for greater supply. YIMBYs are not, on the whole, trying to get the existing systems of housing governance to agree to build more. Instead, they are increasingly focused on dislodging localized housing governance, moving power over zoning decisions up to the state level, and, in the process, stripping power from the opponents of building. They have created a network of organizations across multiple cities, put major policy wins on the board, and shown that it is possible to mobilize citizens around an agenda of abundance. 

Abundance speaks mostly to those who need government to work, not those who wish to see it drowned in a bathtub. 

The increasing recognition that addressing climate change will require huge, rapid construction of new energy supply and transmission, as well as the equally accelerated construction of new infrastructure of various kinds, is also leading to conflict with our inherited governance regime. There are increasing tensions between environmental activists and intellectuals who believe the lumbering, complex permitting and environmental review regime we have built in recent decades needs thoroughgoing reform so that we can build things cheaper and faster, and those who still view it as a vital tool for slowing the construction of fossil fuels or projects that cause localized harms. Whereas there was always an element of technology skepticism among the environmentalists of the 1960s and ‘70s (and continues to be today under the rubric of “degrowth”), a rising set of environmentalists recognize that there is no way to decarbonize in a politically or morally feasible way without massive technological breakthroughs. Wind and solar will need to be complemented by massive capacity from geothermal and nuclear power, along with enormous, integrated transmission capacity. Getting there will require fundamental rethinking of the capacity of government to do big things and of the forms of public participation and legal constraints on government that have been shown to be at the heart of our repeated and highly visible failures to build quickly and effectively. 

While housing, energy, and infrastructure are already a very ambitious policy palette from which to work, there are many other areas where the abundance framing addresses our major governing challenge. Health care, for example, is full of supply constraints with patterns that look a lot like those in sectors that abundance intellectuals have already focused on: Everything from limits on the supply of doctors and the scope of practice of nurses to drug patents to controls on where (including internationally) Americans can access services. Just as in housing, those provider-induced constraints push up costs, generate political pressure for subsidy, and create zero-sum political dynamics. Primary, secondary, and higher education have similar challenges, as does public support for research in science and technology; even finance is amenable to an abundance framing that rejects incumbents whose privileges create zero-sum competition. This suggests that a movement organized around generating quickly deployed, high-quality, and massively increased supply of a wide range of public services would have a lot of governing space to work with. Its intended constituency is not those who are “anti-government” but those who engage with government mainly as its consumers rather than its producers. It speaks mostly to those who need government to work, not those who wish to see it drowned in a bathtub. 

Rather than reflexively calling for “deregulation” in a way that invites backlash, this agenda calls for unleashing both the private sector and government, to targeted ends.

Connecting all of these areas of public policy is a conviction that we need to focus more on supply rather than adopting an exclusive emphasis on distribution. Rather than reflexively calling for “deregulation” in a way that invites backlash, it calls for unleashing both the private sector and government, to targeted ends. These are the combined agendas of “abundance” and “state capacity,” which converge on the conclusion that the scale and speed of building that is needed to address our challenges requires dramatic changes in our systems of governance that reduce veto points, increase the authority and competence of government, and make it possible to produce public value at much lower unit costs and with greater speed. This agenda also cuts across traditional ideological lines because it combines a desire to expand the scope of public action with a skeptical view of existing interest groups and producer interests in government. 

An Abundance Faction will seek to liberate government to creatively act on well-established public goals rather than tying it down with multiple procedural checks. This will lead it into conflict with aspects of both left and right legal orthodoxy. On the left, conflicts exist wherever progressives pursue their goals through NIMBY-like mechanisms, such as with historic preservation, public employee unions, and organized interests claiming the mantle of environmental justice. There will also be challenges in finding partners on the right, especially with Republicans’ resistance to investing tax dollars in public goods and to upgrading the quality and legal authority of the civil service. As Nicholas Bagley has persuasively argued, the blame for the “procedure fetish” can be laid at the doorstep of both the traditional left and right. But there are likely to be partners across the political spectrum, especially as the problems of our inherited government institutions become even more difficult to ignore. 

Forging a new elite network

That said, the Abundance Agenda faces considerable short-term challenges. It is out of step with large segments of both political parties and has limited support across the full sweep of its ambitions from prominent elected officials. Its champions are a relatively small, scattered, and disparate band of intellectuals, activists, and donors. American history shows, however, that big changes in party alignments and coalitions do, in fact, frequently start from precisely these sources rather than bubbling up from mass movements.

The work of political scientist Hans Noel is instructive on this point. Noel observes that at any one time, there are multiple ideological syntheses that are possible given a set of political and material interests. There was a time in which it seemed perfectly obvious that Southern segregationists, Northern union members, African-Americans, Catholics, and Western farmers belonged in the same party under the aegis of New Deal liberalism. Noel shows that it was intellectuals in small magazines who first envisioned a different alignment, one that eventually produced both contemporary liberalism and conservatism — ideological constructs that simply did not exist before they were forged in print by relatively obscure writers. Only after they had sketched out at the intellectual level what a world with different coalitional attachments would look like was it possible for structural shocks like civil rights, Vietnam, and stagflation to generate the modern liberal and conservative coalitions in mass and interest-group politics. 

Big changes in party alignments and coalitions do, in fact, frequently start from intellectuals, activists, and donors rather than bubbling up from mass movements.

There are now signs everywhere that a new elite network of just this type, built around a new set of issues and social conflicts, is being formed. In sectors like journalism, law, and academia, we have already seen intellectual dissenters against the progressive movement beginning to form their own networks and organization, some of which are explicitly connected to the abundance agenda. What will turn these scattered thinkers and writers into an actual political faction will be linkages with actors from business and technology, who will provide material, technical, and organizational power to go along with a new governing philosophy and forms of expertise. This core cadre will be some ways ahead of voters and elected officials, but in keeping with the pattern Noel has identified, they will provide a fresh ideological synthesis that will offer a new way for this mass base to align itself both electorally and in public policy. 

At the intellectual level, popular writers are publishing work laying out new ideological marriages that seem like contradictions from the perspective of the partisan categories of the last few decades, but that cohere nicely from the perspective of an Abundance Agenda. The supply-side progressivism associated with Ezra Klein and Derek Thompson and the state-capacity libertarianism of Tyler Cowen do not align on all issues, but what they have in common is an agreement that the constipation of our systems of governance, connected to capture by concentrated interests, is the central challenge of our time. Similarly, writers like Jerusalem Demsas at The Atlantic and James Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute have somewhat different accounts of where growth is likely to come from, but both agree that we need to move aggressively against the bias toward inaction that pervades our political system. And all of these thinkers accept that we need to generate more state capacity — a more autonomous, skilled, and effective government capable of acting quickly and authoritatively — in order to address public problems. 

There are signs of incipient organizing inspired by this intellectual work. The Center for New Liberalism (which began as an intellectual project focused on a podcast) has now grown into a network of chapters across the country. Organizations like the Niskanen Center, the Foundation for American Innovation, the Breakthrough Institute, the Inclusive Abundance Initiative, the Abundance Network, the Abundance Institute, and the Institute for Progress are growing into a coherent network, building out abundance-related ideas and working directly with politicians and organizers. While focused exclusively on housing, the YIMBY movement is now deeply organized in cities across the country and brings together activists in that space on an annual basis for its Yimbytown conference. 

Changes at the elite level will help shift the supply side of politics, where proposals for reform are generated. That altered policy agenda will lead to shifting political coalitions.

This formation at the intellectual and organizational level is beginning to be matched by a shift among funders. Arnold Ventures has launched an infrastructure program that sounds abundance themes (and supports the Niskanen Center), and the founder of Stripe, Patrick Collison, has shown great interest in a range of abundance-related work, especially in the area of support for science. The YIMBY cause has attracted a broad range of philanthropic support, with donors in that space in California also gravitating to other related issues (such as the fight over the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant). 

The potential constituency for an Abundance Faction, however, goes well beyond the small handful of scribblers, ivory tower academics, and tech billionaires who are leading the charge. Work by David Broockman, Gregory Ferenstein, and Neil Malhotra can be interpreted as showing that technology entrepreneurs are much more aligned with a potential Abundance Faction than they are with the mainstream of the Democratic Party, since they support redistribution but are skeptical of regulation and public-sector provider interests. Eitan Hersh has demonstrated that a broad segment of business leaders believe their firms are no longer naturally situated in the Republican Party, and it is reasonable to think that an Abundance Faction would be a natural off-ramp into the Democratic fold. Sarah Anzia has shown that the activity of local Chambers of Commerce is generally conducive to more housing construction (including multifamily), which suggests that this part of business may be a strong component of Abundance factionalism at the local level. 

Another major mobilizable constituency for an Abundance Faction is environmentalists who believe in the urgent need to build new sources of energy production and transmission, new, denser housing, and ambitious systems of public transportation. There is open conflict between environmentalists now in a way that there was not just a few years ago, especially between local groups that still fully support procedural obstructionism and national environmental groups that recognize the urgency of rapidly building a wide range of infrastructure and housing.

These shifts at the elite level may prefigure a more general realignment of our political system in the way that the stirrings of the Progressive movement, or the organizing of modern liberals and conservatives in the 1950s, pointed to an altered policy agenda and locus of political conflict. The changes at the elite level will help shift the supply side of politics, where proposals for reform are generated. That altered policy agenda will lead to shifting political coalitions as a range of social interests realign around the issues of today, as opposed to those — now generations old — that shaped what we think of as liberalism and conservatism. Standard liberals and conservatives will still be organized in the parties, but they will increasingly compete with an Abundance Faction in the Democratic Party (and perhaps with time among Republicans as well), with the latter increasingly providing the ideas that shape our politics and drive party competition. 

From the elites to the masses

The rise of an Abundance Faction will require it to move beyond a detached, elite movement whose impact is confined to politically insulated, low-salience, technocratic circles inside the Beltway and the usual set of refined outposts. To develop into a proper faction, this batch of elites will have to effectively connect its issues to the concerns of broader publics.

Students of public opinion such as Ruy Teixeira and Patrick Ruffini have observed that a broad, multiracial group of working-class voters have grown increasingly misaligned with the legacy interests of both parties. They are skeptical of progressive social positions, especially on social order questions like crime and immigration. But they also are uncomfortable with economic globalization, supportive of social insurance, and longing for economic opportunity to be available beyond superstar coastal cities. They are skeptical of professionals and public sector unions, but they also need police, schools, universities, and infrastructure that work — they lack the resources that the wealthier can use to get around public sector dysfunction. The Romney-to-Biden voter — suburban, middle-class, and professional — may have durably realigned to the Democrats. But the multiracial working class— Obama-to-Trump voters — may not realign at all. They may simply remain as the floating voters in a more dynamic electoral politics. 

The Romney-to-Biden voter — suburban, middle-class, and professional — may have durably realigned to the Democrats. But the multiracial working class— Obama-to-Trump voters — may not realign at all.

In a mass politics like that, the organized elite factions of each party will succeed in large part by adapting their policy packages to the interests of these durably floating voters. None of them will be able to do so effortlessly. Some elected officials and intellectuals associated with the MAGA faction of the Republican Party are moving in the direction of these voters economically, but while they are put off by the social radicalism of parts of the Democratic Party, the floating working-class voter is also more culturally moderate than conservative. By contrast, the populist tone of some of the economic proposals of the left wing of the Democrats is attractive to these voters. However, the Democrats’ left flank is in tension with them not only on cultural issues but also on redistribution (as opposed to economic opportunity). These voters are skeptical of teachers, professors, and civil servants, not because they do not want the services those professionals provide but because they do not want all of the cultural content that has become fashionable in their fields.  

An Abundance Faction has some very interesting opportunities with these voters. A focus on addressing the cost of living by driving down the underlying cost of goods like housing, transportation, and energy is attractive to voters who are economically pinched but skeptical of redistribution. Such voters will also be attracted by the idea that the work of government is important but that actually getting it done requires a willingness to pick fights with public sector producer interests like unions and social service professionals (which they assume, with reason, control the Democratic Party).

The emerging Abundance Faction, by design, has been focused on economic problems rather than the cultural valence of their agenda. It’s likely that a critical mass of this emerging elite identifies with moderate Democrats culturally, but some of the linkages between policies to encourage economic growth, resist the power of public sector producer interests, and resist idiosyncratic cultural extremism are still to be built. Forging those linkages at the local level will help make it clear that the Abundance Agenda has implications for a wide range of issues and for cultural as well as narrowly economic concerns. 

Our factional future — and what it will take to get there

The concerns of an Abundance Faction are unlikely to sweep away all that came before it and become the ideology of a unified Democratic Party. But if our analysis is correct, neither party is likely to be nearly as ideologically homogeneous as both parties were from the mid-90s to the mid-2010s. We will not be able to coherently speak about the ideology of the Democrats or Republicans as a whole. What we will do is talk about where the relative balance of power is in each party at any given time. In the Democratic Party, there will be periods when the legacy, mainstream faction of the party is closer to the left faction — which is what the Democrats looked like when it flirted with the idea of a “Green New Deal.” But there will be other times when the balance of power shifts, with the Squad relatively on the outs and the agenda of Abundance Democrats in the ascendant. The art of party leadership will be one of balance and brokering. 

In a factional future, the real leaders of Congress or state legislatures will not necessarily be the Speaker or majority leader but the heads of the various factional tribes. The more heterogeneity there is among these intra-party factions, the more pressure there will be for the formal leaders to accede to open rules, allowing strange-bedfellow, cross-party coalitions rather than an insistence on intra-party unanimity. DSA Democrats will want to work with populist Republicans to advance trade protection and industrial policy, while Abundance Democrats will find legislative partners for science funding and attacks on zoning among business-oriented Republicans.

The tasks we associate with parties, from fundraising and candidate recruitment to idea development and putting together legislative packages, will mainly occur in factional organizations, not those of the parties as a whole. At an early stage in their careers, ambitious politicians will need to decide which factional tribe to join, and such attachments will follow them throughout their careers. Primary contests between factions will become much more common. Even more than in the recent past, parties will be coalitions of frenemies, alternating between cooperation and conflict. 

A factional future will be one that, as in the America of a century ago, has relatively more constrained formal leaders. Factions will be hesitant to support potential presidential nominees who seem too attached to any one part of the party or who possess charisma that could allow them to overwhelm the balance of party power. Ambition, you might even say, will counteract ambition. 

American politics in this factional future will be more chaotic at the legislative level, with coalitions shifting along with the public agenda. But it will also be more stable at a societal level, as voters, free to choose among the various factional tribes on offer, once again see themselves in their political leaders. 

This scenario is not foreordained but will be the result of long, persistent organizing. The left wing of the Democratic Party and the MAGA faction of the Republicans are already doing this sort of politics. Those who, like the authors, align with the Abundance Agenda must realize that there is no easy fix or institutional reform that will save us from the necessity of organizing our fellow citizens and earning a seat at the political table. But we should recognize the enormous promise that this hard work could produce. In building a share of power for ourselves, we are also helping to reconstruct a better, more pluralist, less polarized future for America.

Rob Saldin is the Director of the Mansfield Center’s Ethics and Public Affairs Program and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Montana. Steve Teles is Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. The Niskanen Center Senior Fellows are co-authors of Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites.