Michael Barone

America's two political parties seem to be coming apart.

That's in contrast to the relatively stable competition of the last 20 years, when Democrats have won four of six presidential elections and Republicans won House majorities in eight of 10 congressional contests, always by less than landslide margins. The parties' stands on issues have remained familiar from one cycle to the next.

That pattern seems likely to hold this year, with Republicans favored to hold their House majority, and with a better than 50 percent chance of gaining the Senate majority that eluded them in 2010 and 2012.

But the outlook for 2016 is murky, with a stale Hillary Clinton way ahead of other Democrats and a stable of Republicans closely clustered out of the starting gate with no clear leader or perceptible opening.

Congressional Democrats have been bucking the Obama administration on both right and left.

Senate Democrats rejected judicial nominees as insufficiently liberal. They blocked the nomination of an assistant attorney general nominee who supported the appeal of the murderer of a Philadelphia policeman and a surgeon general nominee who tweeted that "guns are a health care issue."

Democratic Senate nominees have blasted the Obama EPA's power plant regulations, and Arkansas incumbent Mark Pryor now refuses to say whether he'd vote for Obamacare again. Only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's refusal to call up legislation or allow amendments has prevented other schisms from becoming visible.

Democratic disagreements have also been visible in Hillary Clinton's book promotion tour.

As in 2008, she has apologized for supporting the 2002 Iraq war resolution, and she refused to say whether the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved, even though her State Department report found it environmentally unthreatening.

Clearly Clinton is catering to the antiwar left and to San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged to spend $100 million to block Keystone.

As the world spins in disarray, she sometimes distances herself from the president she served for four years. She would have aided Syrian rebels, she says, and would not have dropped Egypt's Hosni Mubarak so abruptly. She doesn't quite agree with the Bowe Bergdahl deal.

But she also says the five released Taliban leaders pose no threat to the United States and defended National Security Agency data mining. She squirmed under ABC's Diane Sawyer's questions about Benghazi and NPR's Terry Gross' questions about her late conversion to favor same-sex marriage.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM