Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Coalition’

Americans once again chose an outsider

November 18, 2016

donald-trump-stump-640x371In my opinion, Donald Trump got as many votes as he did because he is an outsider.

Why are outsiders popular?  American voters don’t like economic decline or stalemate wars.

The earning power of Americans has been in decline for the past 30 to 40 years, while wealth has become ever-more concentrated in the pockets of 1/10th of 1 percent of the population.

Over the same period of time, the United States has become more and more involved in inconclusive foreign wars.

Americans have turned again and again to outsiders who promise to change the system—Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.   Donald Trump was the outsider in 2016.

The hunger for outsiders will cease when a President leads the nation on a path to prosperity and peace.  Or when the country has declined to such a state that elections cease to be held or cease to matter.


Race, class and the Democratic Party

July 14, 2014

When I was a college student in the 1950s, I read THE AGE OF JACKSON by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and, for many years, accepted his ideas about American politics.

Schlesinger argued that American politics (as of 1945) was based on a permanent conflict between big business and its opponents.

A succession of parties—the Federalists, the Whigs and then the Republicans—represented the interests of the banks, merchants, railroads and manufacturing corporations.  The Democratic Party and its Jeffersonian predecessors represented a diverse coalition of people whose interests might be threatened or harmed by big business.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

The political health of the United States, as he saw it, required an alternation in power and between these two sides.

The Republican Party was needed to speak for the American capitalist interest, which was what gave the United States its economic energy.  But the Democratic Party, of which Schlesinger was an active supporter, was needed to prevent a dangerous concentration of power in corporations.

The Democrats did not represent an equivalent danger to liberty, in his view, because their coalition of supporters was so diverse—labor unions, immigrants, Southern planters, Catholics, black people, farmers, small business—and their program would represent a balancing of interests rather than a single interest.

I think Schlesinger’s analysis was true as far as it went.  The Democratic Party, as represented by the Indian fighter and slave-owner Andrew Jackson, really was the party of the common man—at least the white common man.  Jackson scandalized upper-crust Washington by allowing frontiersmen and working people to participate in his inauguration.  He did fight to prevent the government from becoming the servant of the banks and the manufacturers.

But the Democratic Party also reflected the prejudices and racism of the white common people.  Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, the great defender of Southern slavery, said there were no class distinctions in the South because all white people were part of an aristocracy of race.  This was not an aberration, and not limited to the South.  It was central to the Democrats’ identity for a century or more, and it was not limited to Democrats in the South.

The problem with Schlesinger’s analysis, and also its appeal, is that it enabled liberal Democrats like me to regard the South’s one-party system as merely incidental.  In fact it was fundamental.

College educated intellectuals and reformers of the 19th century were mainly Whigs and Republicans.   The great New England humanitarian reformers that we Unitarian Universalists admire were mostly Whigs or Republicans.  The Republican Party was founded as a movement to prevent the spread of slavery, which the Democrats supported.  What little support there was for civil rights between the Civil War and Second World War came from Republicans.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Broadly speaking and with many exceptions, there is one party that accepted social distinctions based on wealth and education, and minimized social distinctions based on race, and another party that resented distinctions based on social class and insisted on social distinctions based on race.

Now it is the Republican Party that gets the votes of a majority of white people, and the Democratic Party that depends on minorities’ votes to give it a margin of victory.   I think that any American prior to 1932 would have thought it unbelievable that the United States would have a black President, but they would have found it unimaginable that a black President would be a Democrat.

During the middle and late 20th century, college-educated reformers and racial minorities migrated to the Democratic Party.  But the Republicans still represent corporate and financial interests as they always have, and what little support there is for organized labor and workers’ rights still comes from Democrats.

The political realignment that began during the Truman administration and reached its culmination during the Reagan administration was not a reversal of roles, but a new mix and match.   My thoughts about how this came about will be the subject of another post.


The Democratic and Republican coalitions

November 8, 2012


This chart from the New York Times shows the support of various demographic groups to the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates in 2004, 2008 and 2012.  Barack Obama got more support from most groups in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004.  Obama’s support decreased in 2012, but remained strong enough to win.

The big exceptions were Obama’s surge of support among Hispanic and Asian-American voters.  Republicans ought to be asking themselves why this is.  Hispanic culture is based on respect for church, family and work, which are all values that conservatives affirm.

This is a highly informative chart, and an effective use of graphics to present statistical information.

Hat tip to The Big Picture.

What unites the Democrats

February 13, 2012

And always keep a-hold of Nurse

For fear of finding something worse.

==Hilaire Belloc.

A friend of mine defines the Democratic voting coalition as (1) labor; (2) African-Americans; (3) Hispanics; (4) feminists; (5) gays; (6) environmentalists; (7) members of the helping professions, such as teachers, social workers and nurses; and (8) “militantly liberal” inhabitants of university towns and similar enclaves.

What is remarkable is how little the Democratic leadership, including President Obama, has done for any of these groups, except possibly gays.

The Obama administration supports NAFTA-like free trade agreements with countries such as Colombia and South Korea, and has done nothing to support workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.  It quickly abandons any African-American member of its administration who is under attack from the radical right.  It is deporting unauthorized immigrants at a faster rate than the Bush administration.  Obama has put a woman’s right to contraception on the negotiating, instead of defending it as a basic right.  He has not attempted to give relief to state and local governments so that they can avoid cutbacks in basic governmental and social services.  And he claims the right to commit acts of war and ignore basic civil liberties without accountability.

What keeps this coalition together is that all these groups are demonized and scapegoated by the Republican leadership, giving them no alternative within the framework of the two-party system.   The main reason for them to support the Democratic Party is fear of something worse.