Skip to main content

Democratic Ideological History

I spent months working on an article — based on extensive interviews with eight different congressional candidates — about how the Democratic Party has failed to promulgate any strategic response from the Great Recession. Alas, online discussion of the article has been confined almost entirely to a setup historical phrase at the beginning. Matt Yglesias led the attack, accusing me of romanticizing the mid-20th century Democratic Party in order to slander modern centrist liberals.


I will admit that the phrase in question was too strong. In particular, it obscures the enormous split between more populist northern liberals and segregationist conservative Democrats in the South (who did indeed tend to vote for union-busting legislation), as well as the split between more left-sympathetic Democrats and fervent anti-Communists. I know this history very well, and simply got a bit careless with phrasing.

But what I meant to invoke is the obvious and well-documented fact that the Democratic Party as a whole turned hard to the right on economic questions — on labor, anti-trust, the regulatory state, welfare, and so on — from about the late 1960s through the 1990s. The party was a sprawling mess then as it is now, and it was a complicated process, but contrary to the ludicrous revisionism (based on frankly dishonest quote-mining) of Jon Chait, this did happen. Its previously dominant populist New Deal tradition was slowly extirpated from the party, and a more conservative neoliberalism became the hegemonic ideology.

As I have argued at length before, and demonstrated empirically to some degree in my recent article, this has become a very serious problem for the party, because neoliberal Democrats have tended up line up behind disastrous policies like austerity when unemployment is 10 percent, causing human carnage and political disaster. It could be that leftists are romanticizing the past. But it also seems possible that neoliberals tend to get squirrelly and nitpicky about these sorts of arguments in order to distract attention from the world-historical failures of the ideological tradition to which they are committed.

Comments

  1. "The unemployment rate is 10 percent" link is broken. I want to see it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Works for me, it's a New York Times piece about Obama pivoting to deficit cutting in February 2010.

      Delete
  2. There's a book that was just published by Harvard University Press "Leftism Reinvented" by Stephanie Mudge that provides some additional empirical support for your claims (e.g. the move to Third Way, neo-liberalism wasn't confined to just the Democratic Party, but to "left" and center-left parties in Western Europe as well). It is worth checking out.

    Also, the Yglesias argument is positing a strawman. e.g. yes there were obviously significant divisions within the New Deal coalition, however, those divisions don't refute this claim that the Democratic Party as a whole has shifted to the right on economic policy.

    The Democratic Party included socially conservative elements during the New Deal-era -- undeniably. It included elements that were hostile to organized labor as well. However, where exactly would someone like Carter Glass fit into the equation? He was hostile to many elements of the New Deal and an unrepentant segregationst, but his economic background also came out of the progressive era. Just in terms of the southern Democrats, and the sphere of economic policy, who is Bill Clinton closer too in terms of his ideological framework: Nelson Rockefeller or Carter Glass?

    ReplyDelete
  3. So FDR didn't have party unity either. Go figure. Guess that means FDR would have nothing but sympathy for Obama and Clintons.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha

Caffeine Is Not a Bioweapon

I got into a discussion with Yves Smith about caffeine here , and somehow my comment got eaten, so I'd like to finish it up here. She said about this Raw Story piece about a girl who allegedly died from drinking two Monster drinks in two days, "The FDA lapse here is terrible. Caffeine is extremely toxic. We just happen to get highly diluted doses in coffee and tea." I commented: Yves, your implication about caffeine is incorrect on several levels. Most Monster drinks have about 10 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce, which is much less than even drip coffee (18 mg/oz) and WAY less than espresso (51 mg/oz). ( Source ) The whole idea of dilution is misguided in any case. The relevant measurement for caffeine intoxication (and most poisoning generally) is the total amount taken, not the concentration. Concentration is something to worry about, as it can make a lethal dose easier to take on, but the main concern there is pure caffeine pills, not energy drinks which are mostl