While it is not intended, as both parties would rather hold onto power for extended periods of time, an accidental variation of checks and balances comes in the form of a cyclical political system. The pendulum has historically gone back and forth between parties having control of government in Washington, D.C.
Recent history explicitly shows that cyclical pattern - Democrats (Clinton) to Republicans (Bush) to Democrats (Obama) to Republicans (Trump) - in eight-year increments. Congress most typically leads the change, as the non-majority party taking control of the House, Senate or both prior to a party change in the White House.
President Obama fired up both sides of the political spectrum, as Democrats praised him and Republicans loathed him. In some ways, Obama moved the pendulum further left than the nation had been in a long time, culminating in moving America to a government sponsored healthcare program as part of the Affordable Health Care Act – known as Obamacare in Republican circles. It was the beginning of a deep, philosophical divide among Americans.
Republicans, deep South conservatives and (quite shamefully) the pockets of racism remaining in this country felt attacked by the Obama presidency. He was everything they were not, and for eight years they had to endure seeing him represent the United States. With nothing but Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Fox News to ease their pain, they daydreamed of a day to push back.
Enter Donald Trump.
After Obama, the pendulum was bound to swing back right. What was not known, however, was just how far the pendulum would swing. When Trump announced his bid for president and subsequently won the nomination, it became painfully clear that he was going to speak to the radical, alt-right. That, combined with the Clinton-Benghazi e-mail scandal on the other side of the ticket, paved the way for the most radical right-wing president in the history of this country.
His divisive rhetoric attacked his political opponents, often in seeming fits of rage, giving the Republicans that sense of “pushing back” they so desperately wanted. When Trump realized that worked, he dug in to the point that every bit of frustration that had built up during the Obama years was given an outlet. The alt-right had their warrior to take on the perceived oppression of the Democrats.
Trump makes no attempts to reach across the aisle and unite the nation. Instead, he stays in attack mode, unleashing daily tirades and tweets against anyone who dares disagree with him. The political, philosophical and moral divide in the United States is as wide as it has been since the American Civil War, fought over the institution of slavery.
Naturally, the pendulum will swing back left. The question now is just how far will it swing.
Bernie Sanders, the self-labeled “Socialist Democrat,” has gained momentum in recent weeks. The Iowa caucuses ended in a near-tie between he and Pete Buttigieg. Now, Sanders leads New Hampshire in a recent CNN poll with support from 28 percent of likely democrat voters.
Sanders represents what can only be described as the alt-left. His calls for Medicare For All and total redistribution of wealth is a representation of what conservatives fear the most. It goes against the traditional views of capitalism and free markets. He is to Democrats what Trump was to Republicans in 2016, the answer to an otherwise intolerable president.
If Sanders' momentum continues to grow and he manages to secure the nomination, the stage will be set for the two most extremes of the political system to face off: Trump representing only the most radicalized of the Republican party and Sanders being the face of radical Democrats. On that debate stage would be the visual representation of just how divided our country is.
Where the middle goes in that scenario is anyone's guess. Trump won the moderates in 2016 because of the Clinton scandal, with the middle choosing what can only be described as the “lesser of two evils.” Sanders represents a dangerous scenario for democrats, as the majority of this country yearns for moderation, not extreme as has been on display during the Tump administration. Can another extremist win over the middle-ground the way Trump did in 2016?
Yes, this country's political system works like the pendulum of a clock. It swings back and forth, creating an unintentional method of checks and balances. But this country is living in a world of extreme, radical beliefs when the majority wants moderation.