At this juncture, observing politics resembles watching paint dry. Both parties seem virtually exhausted, out of ideas, bereft of solutions. Republicans seem content at obstructionism and Barack Obama appears to have reached the "small issue" place that so mesmerized Bill Clinton.
Although American politics has never been particularly ideological, it has reached a point of quasi-nihilism. Republicans are driven by hucksters such as Ted Cruz and inspired by carnival barkers like Steve King and Sarah Palin. Democrats try compromises and are content with symbolic politics. Lost in the whole discussion is why the two parties exist at all.
Republicans seem motivated primarily by fear. Whether it is immigration or guns, they live in the past. Any attempts by some of their leaders to reach a half-way point are dismissed out of hand. Like fire-eaters in the South before the Civil War, they insist that time can be frozen and two choices are possible, rule or ruin.
Democrats are hampered by a policy freeze which rather dully tries to gain, without success, Republican support. No amount of dinners, social hours or flattery will move the GOP; something substantial, such as a cut in the budget or even a tax cut, is never offered. Not all compromises are sellouts. However, they can be forgiven in that Republicans often suggest a middle way, then pull back at the last minute.
Neither parties have leadership worthy of the name. Although Obama still has the gift of rhetoric, it goes off sometimes like an unguided missile. No one quite knows what the target might be or the point. Very little is said concerning where the United States is heading in the next decade. One small issue at a time, nothing that can inspire; after all his exhausted efforts, it amounts to no more than symbolic gestures, followed by empty phrases.
Republicans make everything a big deal, from weak legislation on background checks to immigration. They engage in fiery language and threaten to use the veto on every issue, however small. Anything to defeat Obama; that's the game everybody knows. They resemble Democrats in the early 1970s who rejected Richard Nixon's family assistance plan - which would have represented a GOP capitulation to the welfare state. Opposing it just to oppose, Democrats essentially dropped an ill-advised throw by Nixon on his 20-yard line. Needless to say Nixon never gave them a second chance.
If this state of "push me, pull you" goes on unremedied by reality, both parties might be irrelevant. It is a state of dueling Whig parties, one stuck with its own version of the "American System" and the other convinced of compromise for its own sake. Perhaps a moderate party will emerge from disaffected Republicans and frustrated Democrats.
Especially for Democrats, who see another president facing a determined and almost frantically obstructionist opponents. For some GOP'ers the specter of the National Rifle Association playing for blood over a bill which was woefully weak is cause for concern. Raw power, not issues was Wayne Lapierre's game.
Certainly other more important issues await. But for health care, environmental concerns and immigration reform, voters might be concerned that government simply does not work. Given that state of affairs ,they might demand a change in how business is done. As Abraham Lincoln once intoned, if "the tug is going to come, let it come."