The two-party system

by John Quiggin on May 6, 2007

Reading Jonathan Chait on the netroots and (belatedly) Off Center by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson,* it strikes me that the real political news of the last six months is the fact that the US now has a standard two-party system, arguably for the first time in its history. From Reconstruction until the final success of Nixon’s Southern strategy in the late 20th century, the fact that the Democratic Party represented the white establishment in the South made such a thing impossible. Under the primary system the two “parties” were little more than state-sanctioned institutional structures to ensure that voters (outside the South) got a choice of exactly two candidates.

From the 1970s onwards, though, this structure was obsolete. Having absorbed (and to some extent having been absorbed by) the white Southern establishment, the Republicans were clearly a party of the right, and started to act like one, requiring ideological unity and party discipline from its members, establishing a supporting apparatus of thinktanks and friendly media outlets and so on. As both Off Center and Chait observe in different ways, attempts by groups like the Democratic Leadership Council and the centrist media establishment to continue playing by the old rules simply ensured that the Republicans could win even when, on the issues, they were clearly pushing a minority position.

The netroots phenomenon is one reaction to this. But even more striking is the fact that the Democrats in Congress now match the kind of party discipline shown by the Republicans. After the 2006 elections, most commentary assumed that the party could not possibly hold together with its slender majorities in both houses, but they have clearly learned the basic dictum of party politics “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Its notable that the US is going in the opposite direction to some other countries where two-party systems are tending to break down. The degree of partisanship in the US, until recently far less than in other democracies, is now greater than in many.

There are, I think, a couple of reasons for this. First, in an initial environment where people expect bipartisan co-operation, a unified party can achieve huge successes, so there is something of a tendency to move rapidly to the opposite extreme before equilibrium is restored.

More importantly, though, the party differences reflect underlying social differences in views that are much greater than in many other countries. Internationally speaking, there’s nothing particularly unusual about the Democrats or their supporters – their views look pretty much like those of centre-right centrist or centre-left Europeans. But the Republican base is way to the right of the Democrats or mainstream parties of the right in other countries, both on social issues and on economic policies.

In these circumstances, a tightly disciplined party system makes sense. There’s no point in closely scrutinizing a Congressional candidate’s personal views, character and so on, before making a decision on how to vote. What matters is whether he or she will vote to put Democrats or Republicans in charge of Congress, and adhere to the party line when votes are close. Similarly, in political discussion, it’s necessary to be clear which side you’re on.

Reading Chait’s piece in particular, it’s obvious that he realises this, but that it goes against everything he holds dear. Hence, while conceding that the netroots are right on virtually every substantive point, he writes about them with unconcealed loathing. At least Chait shows signs of seeing what is happening, unlike the majority of the Beltway establishment.

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{ 104 comments }

1

dearieme 05.06.07 at 11:02 am

Who was old Ben quoting when he said “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”?

2

otto 05.06.07 at 12:01 pm

“Internationally speaking, there’s nothing particularly unusual about the Democrats or their supporters – their views look pretty much like those of centrist or centre-left Europeans. But the Republican base is way to the right of the Democrats or mainstream parties of the right in other countries, both on social issues and on economic policies.”

Surely the Democrats are wildly to the right of most centrist or center-left Europeans. Compare, on just one example, Hillary Clinton on hedge-funds in the last Dem candidates debate with the German SPD leader who referred to them as locusts (and Muntefering is on the right of the SPD). But you could proliferate examples at will. The whole country is wildly to the right of European politics, in its attitudes (on wealth creation, nationalism, religion), in its life-style commitments (cars, suburbia, private education etc), and the Democrats are no exception.

(I’ll admit that I have taken “other countries” here to mean predominantly European ones, but I think that’s CT’s own bias. If someone wants to chime in on how the Dems fit with the center-left outside Europe, feel free. I expect there’d be even less congruence.)

3

bi 05.06.07 at 12:04 pm

Well, the netroots may be “right on virtually every substantive point”, but surely the two-party system still sucks.

4

stostosto 05.06.07 at 12:10 pm

Internationally speaking, there’s nothing particularly unusual about the Democrats or their supporters – their views look pretty much like those of centrist or centre-left Europeans. But the Republican base is way to the right of the Democrats or mainstream parties of the right in other countries, both on social issues and on economic policies.

It’s true as far as other countries go, but I am not so sure it holds vis-a-vis the Democrats. Isn’t it more accurate to say that the entire American political spectrum is removed several units of political distance measurements to the right?

More generally, there is the perspective thing. By saying the Democrats’ views are “mainstream” and Republicans’ views are “way to the right”, I wonder if you’re not being parochial. Sure, there are many countries where what you say is true, but if you put their populations together, they don’t account for more than 5-10% of the world’s population. Not much more than the pop. of the US itself.

What I am saying is, there is clearly a difference in political discourse b/t the US and other western countries — and if you want to argue that the latter is preferable, I fully agree. But if you’re implying that the American situation is abnormal, or an outlier, I am not so sure. (Especially on nationalist and religious/social/cultural dimensions, I think Europe (Western Europe) is the outlier in a global perspective. On economics not so much).

5

superdestroyer 05.06.07 at 12:58 pm

Actually, the U.S. is heading in the direction of a one party state. Every large urban area in the U.S. is overwhelmingly Democratic. There are many treats that are trending deep blue while no area looks to swtich from Democratic to Republican. The Republicans have been the party of suburban white middle class voters. However, that group is shrinking.

Also, for other than whites, an individual’s ethnicity indicates more about how they vote than anything else.

As the U.S. becomes more black and Hispanic, the Democratic party is become the one, dominate political party. In the worst case scenerio, the Republicans will hang on to act as a foil for the Democrats while having to chance to affect the actions of the government. See DC city politics as an example of what the future of the U.S. will be.

6

Slocum 05.06.07 at 1:21 pm

Isn’t it more accurate to say that the entire American political spectrum is removed several units of political distance measurements to the right?

There are many exceptions. With respect to immigration and the integration of immigrants, the U.S. is to the ‘left’ of the Europeans. The same is true with respect to the adoption of pollution controls (catalytic converters, diesel emissions). The U.S. is to the left with respect to the separation of church and state (many/most European countries have state churches and state-supported religious schools). The U.S. is to the left on race relations generally (Barack Obama is currently the odds on favorite to win the presidency. When can we expect to see a viable brown or black candidate for president of France or prime minister of the UK–or even black or brown cabinet ministers)? The U.S. is to the “left” on privacy. Warrantless wiretapping was controversial here, but would not have been even arguably illegal in the first place in most of Europe, and the UK, of course, has been blanketed with surveillance cameras. The U.S. is a republic while many European countries still have their hereditary kings and queens and assorted lesser nobles (yes, they’re largely powerless but the symbolism still matters). With respect to centralization and elitism, the U.S. is to the left — in France, graduates of the Grandes Ecoles run everything in business and government (which have many cozy cross-ties). And, of course, the U.S. has nothing like a Le Pen.

Although, of course, the meaning of “left” and “right” are debatable in these areas — is state surveillance a characteristic of the “left” or “right”? Are constitutionally guaranteed rights a characteristic of the “left” or “right”? And so on.

7

JRoth 05.06.07 at 1:23 pm

stostosto makes an interesting point, in that just because we can point to a dozen European countries with systems uniformly to the left of the US, that doesn’t necessarily mean Euro-standards are 12X more common. There are 300-some million Euros who think one way, and 300-some million Americans who think another way.

Except I don’t think I actually buy that. The internal variation within Europe on many substantive issues is too great to lump them into one political mass. Furthermore, if you break things down regionally on both sides of the Atlantic, you still get an American right in California and the (blue) Upper Midwest that is to the right of the mainstream right in any part of Western Europe (I don’t know enough to talk about left-right in ex-Communist countries). New England is probably the only part of the US that could slot in comfortably with any part of Western Europe, and even so New Hampshire would outlie.

8

abb1 05.06.07 at 1:31 pm

It’s all because of low urbanization, low population density in the US. It’s a hick country. It explains everything.

9

Marc 05.06.07 at 1:36 pm

Slocum: economics and religion are two (massively important) areas where the USA is far to the right of any nation in Europe. For that matter, it defines the right flank on these subjects across the industrialized world.

10

Ben Alpers 05.06.07 at 1:55 pm

It’s all because of low urbanization, low population density in the US. It’s a hick country. It explains everything.

Who thought abb1 would go all Frederick Jackson Turner on us!

11

a 05.06.07 at 2:04 pm

marc: Is banning the headscarf in public places “left” or “right” ?

12

Tom T. 05.06.07 at 2:21 pm

Again, though, with 300 million people in the EU and 300 million in the US, it’s just as easy to say that the EU defines the left flank of whatever issues one cares to name. John Q tacitly acknowledges this point when he asserts that the Democrats in the US occupy what he defines as the center of EU politics; in other words, there’s a whole other left end of the spectrum still out there.

John Q’s post strikes me as highly oversimplified. To argue that there were no differences before the voters in the urban-rural divide between William McKinley / Teddy Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan or the internationalism-isolationism disputes in FDR’s time seems ahistorical. To speak of the “ideological unity” of the recent Republican Party is to overlook the constant tensions within the party among evangelicals, business interests, libertarians, antitaxers, and so forth. It’s always been just as much a coalition as are the Democrats. Arguably, it was a split in that coalition that led to the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.

As for the current party discipline among the Democrats, this article argues that their Congressional majority has yet to translate into much action, and one reason cited is differences in priorities between the House and the Senate.

Finally, a tightly disciplined party system in the United States will always be ultimately unattainable, because legislators here run as individuals. An individual Senator or Representative will always sell out the national party’s policies if that’s what it takes to get reelected. Joe Lieberman is just the latest example, and there’s absolutely nothing the party can do to discipline him, because if they try to punish him, he’ll switch parties (like Jim Jeffords or Richard Shelby).

13

abb1 05.06.07 at 2:36 pm

#11, Nah, that’s not it, it’s not about cowboys and pioneers. It’s just that population density is low and people don’t tend to concentrate in the cities. Here’s a list of U.S. states by population density; immediately you’ll notice that most progressive states are at the top of the list (this is even before taking the level of urbanization into consideration). How do you explain the correlation?

14

harry b 05.06.07 at 2:41 pm

I agree with otto and stotosto on this. Furthermore, contra most of the American left, I see nothing especially left about the American position on separation of church and state, especially the version of it promulgated by the civil liberties lobbyists. And on race — well, I’d guess that it will be a lot less than 200 years since large scale black and asian immigration before most european countries have had at least one actual elected black leader.

15

Matt 05.06.07 at 3:06 pm

Harry- I’m not sure what you mean exactly on the last bit. (I don’t know whether I agree or not since it’s not clear to me.) Large-scale asian immigration to the US was, depending on your definition of “large scale” in place from about 1850 until the Chinese Exclusion act of 1889 which dried it up. It didn’t pick up again in any large degree until much later- after WWII and especially after the end of country of origin quotas in the early 1960s. There have been a fair number of asian elected officials in the congress. There have also been black elected officials in congress though shamefully few, as well, of course, as black and asian cabinent members.

16

mollymooly 05.06.07 at 4:03 pm

The French lump the UK and US together as the “Anglo-Saxon” model no politician wants to be accused of endorsing. There’s the more general Eurocaricature of the efficient, boring North vs the passionate, corrupt South. While the EU’s govering elite seeks to emphasise the alleged common points among Europe’s nations, the main thing that unites the political views of average Europeans is a sense that America is different from us. Which isn’t a healthy basis for integrating a continent. In other news, Sarkozy is a second-generation immigrant. Of course, he’s not very brown.

17

harry b 05.06.07 at 4:08 pm

matt — no, I didn’t mean anything about asians in the US, just that in the UK in particular asian (meaning Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi) immigration has constituted a large proportion of the immigration since WWII. If we date large scale non-white immigration in the UK to 1955 (fair enough, I think), we’d be looking at 2155 for a non-white prime-minister (to compare with Obama, who, of course, is very unlikely to be elected President). I’d also point out that the UK has had a Jewish Prime Minister. (“leader” was the only term I could come up with for “elected leader of the country”). Of course, Britain is unlikely to have a black, asian, or Jewish head of state anytime soon…. (and slocum might have pointed out that the US is a long, long, way ahead of the left-wing curve on the issue of monarchy!)

18

marcel 05.06.07 at 4:30 pm

Jroth (#7): You haven’t been keeping up since the election last November. Here in NH, a new minwage law was just passed & signed, ditto a madatory seatbelt law, and civil unions. NH is growing increasingly like its neighbors, most likely in part because many from those neighbors have been moving here as housing prices push them out and jobs pull them in. Before not too many more years, we may even have a more reasonable tax system.

matt (#18): I assume the Jewish PM you refer to is Disraeli. Since he was raised in the CoE, we Jews feel quite ambivalent about him.

abb1 (#14): The correlation looks weak. PA, OH and a number of southern states not known for being esp. progressive lie above the mean, while VT and MN are below it. Most of the mountain states, seem to be trending blue now too, so I think other factors are more important.

What would be more interesting is a population weighted pop density. Essentially, what fraction of the population is in high density areas, what fraction in low density. I’m not sure about the exact mathematical formula for this, though with time I could probably work it out.

19

Ben Alpers 05.06.07 at 4:35 pm

abb1,

I was half kidding about Turner….but only half. The point I was making is that you seem willing to explain political culture almost entirely in terms of population density.

Looking at urbanization in, to take a random sample of industrialized countries, Australia (in which over 60% of the population lives in cities over 1 million), the UK (in which 23% live in such cities), Sweden (19%), Germany (41%), France (23%), Israel (58%), and the United States (42%) I don’t see any clear correlation with the sort of political-cultural issues being discussed in this thread [figures for 2005 from the UN's Population Division, available in .pdf form here].

I don’t think urbanization is irrelevant. I just don’t think it’s determinative.

20

yabonn 05.06.07 at 4:45 pm

the main thing that unites the political views of average Europeans is a sense that America is different from us. Which isn’t a healthy basis for integrating a continent.

Wha? “We are different from the US” is a statement of the obvious, not a Big Plot to Unify Europe.

21

abb1 05.06.07 at 5:35 pm

Nah, Ben, 42% doesn’t make any sense. Sounds like the US number includes all the suburbs in the 100 mile radius, while the UK number is limited to 100 meters around Piccadilly circus:

Because the estimates in the table are based on national definitions of what constitutes a city or metropolitan area, cross-country comparisons should be made with caution.

The city of Boston, for example, is not a city over 1 million, but ‘Greater Boston’, the area from the Cape to New Hampshire to Worcester, has over 4 million. But it’s not urban at all.

Marcel has a good idea in #19.

22

Matt McIrvin 05.06.07 at 5:36 pm

Quiggin is basically right, but to expand on stostosto’s point about Europe as outlier, I suspect that much of the less-developed world, and maybe East Asia as well, is in some ways more like the US than like Europe–more socially stratified, more conservative on religious/sexual/cultural issues. This is not necessarily good, but it’s worthy of note.

23

Caslon 05.06.07 at 5:50 pm

In a world held hostage by corporate hegemony, the battle between Republicans and Democrats is smoke and mirrors. The only difference between the two parties is that the Democrats will screw you with a more human face and use vaseline instead of sand.

24

mds 05.06.07 at 5:57 pm

And, of course, the U.S. has nothing like a Le Pen.

Indeed, I think the recent Republican Presidential candidate debate demonstrated that Representative Tom “Abolish the 14th Amendment” Tancredo of Colorado doesn’t really exist. Nor is slavering hatred for African-Americans, immigrants, or Muslims at all widespread in the current Republican party. I wouldn’t worry unless books start appearing in the US that are similar to In Defense of Internment by that Le Pen supporter from Marseilles, Michelle Malkin.

25

Slocum 05.06.07 at 6:00 pm

Actually, the U.S. is heading in the direction of a one party state. Every large urban area in the U.S. is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Like New York City, for example?

Big cities have been Democratic one-party ‘states’ for generations. The election of two consecutive Republican mayors in New York is a mini counter-trend. The suburbs have been trending Democratic recently, but only very recently, and there’s no reason to imagine they won’t shift back.

There will always be two parties in the U.S. and they’ll always be called ‘Democratic’ and ‘Republican’ but what they stand for and who they include in their coalitions will vary over time.

26

bi 05.06.07 at 6:07 pm

The US being nominally a republic makes it “left”? Nope, not true.

You see, while the US lacks an existing God-anointed monarch, people are losing no time in finding one, and that is _Our Great Decider, George Walker Bush, He Who Was Crowned by God to be the Supreme Leader of the United States in the Twenty-Thousandth Year of Our Lord_. The nice thing is, this God-leader isn’t a mere figurehead like those European “Heads of State” — he has executive power, and people _want_ him to have executive power that befits a God-leader (i.e. absolute power). That doesn’t sound very leftist.

27

bi 05.06.07 at 6:08 pm

s/Twenty-Thousandth/Two-Thousandth/

28

nick s 05.06.07 at 6:22 pm

The election of two consecutive Republican mayors in New York is a mini counter-trend.

Albeit one that only a fool would extrapolate to the national level.

Josh Marshall has talked about the introduction of parliamentary-style discipline to Congressional politics, dating from the ‘majority of the majority’ approach to legislation adopted by GOP House leaders. This remains a difficult act for Democrats to follow, because a significant number can often be peeled away — especially in the Senate — by state interests that are manifested through financial backing. But among the rank-and-file, that’s less evident.

29

Jay C 05.06.07 at 6:55 pm

And, of course, the U.S. has nothing like a Le Pen.

Well, as mds (#24) points out: the US does indeed have a number of political groups/individuals who would fit right in to the “ultranationalist right” slot on most non-American political spectra. The major difference in the US is that there is no centralized party (or even a non-party organization) with a particular leader figure – a la Le Pen – to collect and direct the far-right bloc (whether nativist/anti-immigrant, racist, or theocratic in origin – or some combination thereof) on a national basis.

30

superdestroyer 05.06.07 at 7:11 pm

Slocum,

If you look at the demographic trends of the U.S., the Democratic party will be the one dominate political party in the U.S. The Democratic Party gets 90% of the black votes, 75% of the Hispanic votes, 65% of the Asian-American votes, 90% of the Jewish vote, 90% of the homosexual vote. There only demographic group that the Republicans dominate is mormons.

As the U.S. becomes more black and hispanic, there is no rational way to argue that the Republicans will stay relevent.

U.S. politics will probably be like politics in Maryland where the Democrats dominate everything and there is an irrelvent Republican party that acts as a bogeyman for the Democrats to campaign again to use to keep certain demographic groups in line.

In the future of the U.S., the only relevent elections will be the Democratic primaries.

31

otto 05.06.07 at 7:43 pm

It’s not clear to me that the US is becoming more black, though it is becoming more hispanic. FWIW, I’d say that any efforts to significantly raise taxes would reinvigorate the Republicans in a flash, regardless of their demographic problems. The whole US is committed to the car-driving, large house, low-tax life-style, and many many families, including those in the Dems North East heartland, have made very significant investments that depend on that life-style continuing to receive government support.

32

a 05.06.07 at 8:16 pm

Le Pen figures come and go, in various countries at various times, and I’m not sure one should be deducing anything about national character based on their existence or non-existence.

The U.S. had a Le Pen-figure with George Wallace. France will probably no longer have a Le Pen-figure in its next Presidential election (Sarkozy having co-opted some of Le Pen’s electorate and Le Pen’s daughter basically a wash-out so no one in the wings to succeed him).

33

harry b 05.06.07 at 8:22 pm

superdestroyer — your projection is possible, but not obvious, even if the US becomes more black and hispanic. One possibility is that the repcublican party accomodates blacks and hispanics, by bending on economic policies (on which those voters are to the left) while retaining its social policies (or, better, actually trying to implement them) on which those voters are on the right. Esp if the Democratic party continues to portray itself as socially libertarian without actually doing much to retain the support of economic leftists/egalitarians/collectivists. Not obvious how to do that, I realise, but if we are talking about long term trends, it is possible for strategies to be tested and revised.

34

abb1 05.06.07 at 8:24 pm

The whole US is committed to the car-driving, large house, low-tax life-style, and many many families, including those in the Dems North East heartland, have made very significant investments that depend on that life-style continuing to receive government support.

If this is supposed to demonstrate some indigenous cultural deviance, than I have to disagree. Car-driving/large-house lifestyle is not a cultural choice, it’s a rational choice in the absence of public transportation.
Driving an SUV is a rational pragmatic choice when gas prices are low.
Low-tax preference is a perfectly rational and even commendable choice when half (at least) of the federal budget is spent on “defense” with no benefit to the ordinary taxpayer.

In this case the big business determines government policies, then government policies determine the lifestyle, then the lifestyle determines the political culture. This is not “investment”; the vicious circle can be broken, this can be turned around.

35

ASI 05.06.07 at 8:29 pm

I think that slocum makes a good point about the “left/right” divide depending greatly on the issue.

I’d like to add a few things to that; number one, while it’s true that, on the whole, Europe is to the left of the US in economic and social policy, there are some big regional differences. Ireland is significantly more “free-market” in its policies, than, say, France, and historically more socially-conservative (i.e. abortion is still illegal in the country).

Much of Eastern Europe (Poland, especially) has very active right-wing political parties. And if you include Russia, you have an emerging quasi-Fascist political system.

I’ll also point out that a lot of the left-wing dominance in Europe (Western Europe, especially) is a historical legacy of the 2nd world war. Prior to that war, the European political spectrum was actually far wider than the U.S. one. Socialists and Communists were far to the left on economic and social policy of American liberals, but conservatives and rightists were FAR to the right of American conservatives.

Europe’s “conservative” political movement largely destroyed itself in the 2nd world war. It became swallowed up by Fascism and lost all credibility when virtually every European country (all in the hands of conservatives at the time) submitted to or collaborated with the Nazis.

In the aftermath of the war, the European right largely withered and died. Where they could, new governments put in place rigid structural barriers to rightist parties being able to form. And with the effective disappearance of the European right, the whole spectrum shifted radically left. Germany would be a perfect example – the new “right” became defined by the Christian Democrats, who were the successors to what had long been Germany’s “centrist” party, the Catholic Centre Party. In France, the monarchists, extreme nationalists and Vichy sympathizers were replaced by the Gaullists, who were from a historically centrist tradition (fiercely nationalistic, but republican and statist).

36

John 05.06.07 at 8:29 pm

There only demographic group that the Republicans dominate is mormons.

White Protestants?

White Catholics appear to trend increasingly Republican.

I also would like to dispute this:

Actually, the U.S. is heading in the direction of a one party state. Every large urban area in the U.S. is overwhelmingly Democratic.

This simply isn’t true. Large municipalities are overwhelmingly democratic, but when you include the suburbs (which is what an urban area is: city+suburbs), it doesn’t quit come out that way. Certainly Phoenix, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, and many others of the fast-growing sunbelt conurbations are rather Republicany. None of them is “overwhelmingly Democratic”, at the very least.

37

dearieme 05.06.07 at 8:35 pm

Britain has already had three Prime Ministers of mixed race (British/Indian): Lord Liverpool and the two Pitts. Anyway, is the USA any more bonkers for believing in God than Europe has been for believing in Socialism (in its different variants)?

38

MQ 05.06.07 at 8:40 pm

Superdestroyer: ummm, no. You’re like someone predicting in 1910 that because southern European Catholic immigrants voted Democratic, and were an increasing fraction of the population, that the 20th century would be all Democratic. Hispanics are a very diverse ethnic group, and don’t really have a strong racial difference from whites that prevents them from assimilating right in to the suburban mainstream as they move up economically. Their situation is more analogous to early 20th century Italian immigrants than blacks.

The Republicans have stayed competitive even in urbanized, ethnically diverse states — check out how many Republican governors California has had over the past 15 years or so.

39

abb1 05.06.07 at 8:55 pm

…rigid structural barriers to rightist parties being able to form

There’s no barriers, just a better, more representative, more democratic political system. Which what the US is lacking.

40

Matt Weiner 05.06.07 at 9:04 pm

The correlation between population density and Democratic lean looks pretty strong to me, as of 2004. Kerry won 19 states, and 12 of them are among the 15 most dense. But some statistically-minded person could pretty easily correlate pop. density with Kerry percentage and tell us how significant the correlation is.

41

John Quiggin 05.06.07 at 9:57 pm

While I mentioned Europe, the point I made is also true wrt Canada, NZ, and Australia – the conservative parties in all three countries are well to the left of the US Republicans, and, in the absence of a sharp divide on policy, the party system has become more rather than less fluid over time.

42

superdestroyer 05.06.07 at 10:20 pm

mq,

The republican party in California is all but dead. The Republican party of California is basically incapable of challenging in current Democratic office holder. The Republican in California are totally non-competative in the U.S. Senate or virtually any other state wide office. Governor Schwarzenegger basically acts just like any Democratic office holder would have in the same situation.

Remember, California is no longer in play during the presidential election and the Republicans will continue to lose Congressional seats and state house seats for any foreseeable future.

If you have a method for the Republicans to appeal to blacks and hispanics while not losing more conservative whites, they would pay you millions. Most of the current Republican initiatives have managed to lose many more white voters than any minority votes gained (See the illegal immigrant amnesty porposal of President Bush).

If you want to see national politics just look at a state like Maryland where the only thing a Republican who is interested in politics can do is move to another state.

43

John 05.06.07 at 10:21 pm

Britain has already had three Prime Ministers of mixed race (British/Indian): Lord Liverpool and the two Pitts.

??

Which kind of Indian? I’ve never even vaguely heard this claim before.

44

superdestroyer 05.06.07 at 10:27 pm

john,

Catholics voted 52% for Bush in 2004. That is not exactly the same thing is the 90% of the black vote for Kerry. Most blacks have probably never voted for a Republican in the entire lives. There is just not any demographic group on the Republican side that is anywhere near as loyal as blacks and jews are for Democrats.

45

John Quiggin 05.06.07 at 10:36 pm

On reflection, I agree with otto. I’ve edited the post to say that the Democrats match the European spectrum from center-right (the Clintons, DLC and so on) to center-left (Dean, Edwards and so on).

46

Slocum 05.06.07 at 10:41 pm

If you look at the demographic trends of the U.S., the Democratic party will be the one dominate political party in the U.S. The Democratic Party gets 90% of the black votes, 75% of the Hispanic votes, 65% of the Asian-American votes, 90% of the Jewish vote, 90% of the homosexual vote. There only demographic group that the Republicans dominate is mormons.

Well, yes, but remember that it was the Republican party that blacks supported up until the 1960s, and white bible-belt voters were Democrats. The old south was completely Democrat-dominated, while much of New England was a Republican stronghold. These kinds of alignments have changed.

Giuliani and Schwarzenegger (who would be a leading candidate if he were eligible to run for president) make the point (in not seeming much like Republicans on many issues)–namely that the Republican Party will, over time, become what it needs to become to remain competitive.

47

jayann 05.06.07 at 10:53 pm

or even black or brown cabinet ministers)?

The Right Hon. Baroness Amos of Brondesbury, Leader of the House of Lords, is (was?) a member of the Cabinet

http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page3643.asp

appointed, not elected, yes.

48

John 05.06.07 at 11:31 pm

Catholics voted 52% for Bush in 2004. That is not exactly the same thing is the 90% of the black vote for Kerry.

Er, I said the White Catholic vote. That 48% for Kerry includes a disproportionate number of Hispanics. White Protestants are even more strongly Republican.

49

dearieme 05.06.07 at 11:50 pm

john, the kind of Indian your ancestor would meet if he went to India to work for the East India Company. I don’t suppose that they seemed as exotic as Disraeli though.

50

dearieme 05.06.07 at 11:53 pm

john, here’s wikipedia on Lord L.
“Jenkinson was baptized on 29 June 1770 at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. The son of George III’s close adviser Charles Jenkinson, 1st Earl of Liverpool and his part-Indian first wife, Amelia Watts, Robert Jenkinson was educated at Charterhouse School and Christ Church, Oxford.” He became the 2nd Earl and PM.

51

dearieme 05.07.07 at 12:18 am

And lastly, john, the same source on the ancestry of the Pitts.
“Thomas Pitt (July 5, 1653 – April 28, 1726), born at Blandford Forum, Dorset, to a rector and his wife, was a British merchant involved in trade with India. He at first came into conflict with the British East India Company, however this was settled and the company appointed him governor of Fort St. George, Madras. He is known as “Diamond” Pitt for his purchase of and profit from an extraordinary diamond….Pitt returned to India, and eventually was hired by the British East India Company. …He was married in 1679 to an Anglo-Indian lady, Jane Innis, who was descendant from the Earls of Moray. He had 3 sons and 2 daughters. His eldest son, Robert, was father of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, often called “William Pitt, the Elder”.”

52

dearieme 05.07.07 at 12:21 am

Very lastly, John, I have read that Winston Churchill’s claim to be partly “Red Indian” is viewed as fanciful.

53

Ben Alpers 05.07.07 at 12:51 am

Well, yes, but remember that it was the Republican party that blacks supported up until the 1960s, and white bible-belt voters were Democrats.

This chronology is incorrect. Black voters (who before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were largely in the North) began significantly shifting from the GOP to the Democrats in the 1936 election, and continued to vote Democratic in ever increasing numbers thereafter. See Nancy Weiss’s Farewell to the Party of Lincoln for the gory details.

It is true that as late as the 1950s some in the GOP hoped to woo back large numbers of American voters, but this effort was never successful.

54

Ben Alpers 05.07.07 at 12:53 am

oops…that was supposed to read:

“It is true that as late as the 1950s some in the GOP hoped to woo back large numbers of African American voters, but this effort was never successful.”

55

Sam 05.07.07 at 1:35 am

I think Ike received more Black votes than Adlai Stevenson. Nixon was pretty competitive with Kennedy in that regard also. It was only in 1964 that Blacks became a lock to vote Democrat.

56

Ben Alpers 05.07.07 at 3:37 am

The African American vote was certainly more in play before 1964, but it’s simply not the case that a majority of Blacks was either registered, or voting, GOP any time after 1936. Here’s Black voter party identification during the years in questions

1937: 44% (Dems), 37% (GOP), 19% (other/ind)
1940: 42% (Dems), 42% (GOP), 16% (other/ind)
1944: 40% (Dems), 40% (GOP), 21% (other/ind)
1948: 56% (Dems), 25% (GOP), 19% (other/ind)
1952: 53% (Dems), 15% (GOP), 35% (other/ind)
1956: 50% (Dems), 19% (GOP), 32% (other/ind)
1960: 48% (Dems), 17% (GOP), 35% (other/ind)
1964: 74% (Dems), 7% (GOP), 20% (other/ind)
1968: 85% (Dems), 2% (GOP), 14% (other/ind)
1972: 68% (Dems), 8% (GOP), 25% (other/ind)
1976: 71% (Dems), 5% (GOP), 24% (other/ind)

Presidential votes skew more clearly Democratic earlier.

1936: 71% (FDR-Dem), 28% (Landon-GOP)
1940: 67% (FDR-Dem), 32% (Willkie-GOP)
1944: 68% (FDR-Dem), 32% (Dewey-GOP)
1948: 77% (Truman-Dem), 23% (Dewey-GOP)
1952: 76% (Stevenson-Dem), 24% (Ike-GOP)
1956: 61% (Stevenson-Dem), 39% (Ike-GOP)
1960: 68% (JFK-Dem), 32% (Nixon-GOP)
1964: 94% (LBJ-Dem), 6% (Goldwater-GOP)
1968: 85% (Humphrey-Dem), 15% (Nixon-GOP)
1972: 87% (McGovern-Dem), 13% (Nixon, GOP)
1976: 85% (Carter-Dem), 15% (Ford-GOP)
1980: 86% (Carter-Dem), 12% (Reagan-GOP)

Certainly, Ike did better than any other GOP candidate since the New Deal in 1956, but he still got less than 2/3 of Stevenson’s vote.
(Source: Black Issues in Higher Education, October 12, 2000.)

57

abb1 05.07.07 at 6:19 am

In the post-Jim-Crow era I don’t believe there’s much of an “African American vote”. Skin pigmentation doesn’t determine the vote; it’s mostly the ‘urban poor vote’.

58

stostosto 05.07.07 at 7:11 am

asi, #36:

Europe’s “conservative” political movement largely destroyed itself in the 2nd world war. It became swallowed up by Fascism and lost all credibility when virtually every European country (all in the hands of conservatives at the time) submitted to or collaborated with the Nazis.

France was in the hands of conservatives? Belgium? Holland? Denmark? Norway? Finland? They all “submitted to or collaborated with the Nazis?”

You’re hallucinating.

It’s true, of course, that the war experience and occupation did cause major shifts in the political landscape. For one thing the communists won a lot of support due to their often having mounted the best organised anti-Nazi resistance. But resistance was by no means restricted to communists, and de Gaulle’s stripe of patriotically motivated resistance had parallels all over occupied Europe. In fact, I can’t think of one country where a conservative movement as such was discredited because of “submission to or collaboration with the Nazis”.

The times were a-changing, though, as was also attested by the British voters’ prompt rejection of Churchill at the first given post-war opportunity in favour of a very socialism-minded Labour party.

But this (and parallel developments in other countries) reflected deep upheavals in the social structures of society during the war. Not superficial changes due to perceived malconduct on the part of “conservatives” during occupation, or war. There simply isn’t such a pattern.

(Incidentally, in a bragging contest over who has had the most non-wasp leaders, France sports at least two Jewish prime ministers — Leon Blum and Jacques Attali).

59

gb 05.07.07 at 7:52 am

The mere fact that an American could characterize the Democrats as “look[ing] pretty much like … centre-right centrist or centre-left Europeans” just goes to show how wildly, hallucinatorily rightwing the entire US political culture is at this point in history. This might have been a plausible statement in 1977, but not in 2007.

60

John 05.07.07 at 8:46 am

In the post-Jim-Crow era I don’t believe there’s much of an “African American vote”. Skin pigmentation doesn’t determine the vote; it’s mostly the ‘urban poor vote’.

Really? I would suspect that such white urban poor as exist vote significantly more Republican than the black urban poor do. I would also suspect that middle and upper class blacks vote way way more Democratic than whites of similar economic standing. Additionally, poor rural blacks certainly vote much more strongly for the Democrats than poor rural whites.

Your claim seems impossible to sustain.

61

John 05.07.07 at 8:48 am

Ben – blacks in the north (who were the only ones voting before 1965, for the most part) started voting Democratic with FDR and the New Deal. Looking at the Black vote from 1868-1928, it’s going to be overwhelmingly Republican, I suspect.

62

djr 05.07.07 at 8:51 am

Paul Boateng was the first black British Cabinet minister.

63

John 05.07.07 at 8:52 am

Dearieme – thanks for the details. I’m dubious, though, that the amount of Indian blood was more than nominal. And if we’re counting that, we should note that the U.S. has had one part American Indian president (Coolidge), and two such V.P.’s (Coolidge and Hoover’s VP, Charles Curtis, whose mother was actually 3/4 Indian).

64

abb1 05.07.07 at 9:08 am

#59, I would suspect you’re wrong on all 3 items. Why do you feel that “middle and upper class blacks vote way way more Democratic than whites of similar economic standing”? Could you please explain.

65

abb1 05.07.07 at 9:23 am

Also, I’m sorry this is off topic, but I can never understand why this ‘unmasking’ of people who never thought of themselves as a part of those ethnic/religious groups, people like Disraeli, Marx, Trotsky, Chaplin and all these ‘part-Indian’ folks; why is ‘unmasking’ them not considered beyond the pale?

66

Syd Webb 05.07.07 at 9:50 am

dearieme wrote:

He was married in 1679 to an Anglo-Indian lady, Jane Innis, who was descendant from the Earls of Moray.

Be aware that usage has changed over the years. Prior to about 1911 ‘Anglo-Indian’ meant ‘Briton who had spent time in India’. It was only thereafter it came to mean ‘offspring of British and Indian parentage’.

67

Barry 05.07.07 at 11:03 am

Abb1, you made a claim, and were challenged on it. It’s up to you to back it before asking the challenger anything.

68

abb1 05.07.07 at 11:16 am

Barry, but my claim is based entirely on common sense, and I would like to understand what the base for this challenge is.

If I claimed that blue-eyed people’s vote is on average identical to the vote of green-eyed people of the same socioeconomic status, and if you challenged me on that – would I have to back it up with statistics too? I mean, I’m not the one here with an eccentric claim, am I?

69

Ben Alpers 05.07.07 at 11:35 am

Ben – blacks in the north (who were the only ones voting before 1965, for the most part) started voting Democratic with FDR and the New Deal. Looking at the Black vote from 1868-1928, it’s going to be overwhelmingly Republican, I suspect.

That’s just what I said originally (#54), John. I actually think you want to extend the period of GOP dominance of the Black vote to 1932 (though I don’t have the numbers for that year in front of me).

I’ve been disputing the claim (in #47 and again in #56) that a majority of Blacks have voted Democratic only since the 1960s.

70

Ben Alpers 05.07.07 at 11:58 am

abb1 (#66): Blue-eyed and/or green-eyed people have not had a distinctive political experience or legal status in the United States. Black people (which, incidentally, has historically not been a designation based not on appearance but rather often on the legal fiction that one is Black if one has one drop of “Negro blood”) have. That experience has been shaped by slavery and Jim Crow and their aftermath.

Moreover, both slavery and Jim Crow were organized legal systems and political footballs about which the current two-party system divided along party lines for decades. The legal status of Black people has been a political issue for most of American history. It would be shocking if African Americans did not have a distinctive voting pattern.

In short, the color line has had an explicit party political meaning since at least the founding of the GOP. Simplifying a bit: from 1860 to 1948 (in national elections, though a bit longer in state and local elections), the Democratic Party was the party of white supremacy, especially in the South. The Republican Party was the party of anti-slavery (if not quite abolitionism) in 1860 and ’64, and the party that framed the 13th-15th Amendments thereafter. When the GOP began to do less and less to actively help African Americans while the Democrats, despite their Southern wing, began the New Deal, Black votes began to shift (this is actually a complicated moment because for the millions of Black sharecroppers in the South, the New Deal really wasn’t very helpful…but they couldn’t vote).

Democratic dominance of the Black vote was spurred in 1948 by Truman’s desegregation of the military and Democratic convention’s adoption, at the urging of Hubert Humphrey, of a civil rights plank for the first time. This in turn prompted a walk-out by the Dixiecrats, who ran Strom Thurmond for president instead of Harry Truman in the Deep South.

Democratic dominance of the Black vote was sealed in the mid-1960s, when LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts into law, and the GOP adopted a “Southern” (i.e. appealing to white-supremacist voters) strategy (though to be precise: in ’64 Goldwater actively ran against the Civil Rights Act; in ’68 and beyond the GOP self-consciously adopted the Southern strategy).

(Finally, as an afterthought it’s worth noting that the peculiar nature of American political parties has tended to make membership in a particular ethnic group a pretty good predictor of voting patterns over the last century and a half, even for many whites.)

71

Slocum 05.07.07 at 12:04 pm

I stand corrected on the date of transition to Democratic dominance of the black vote, but the point remains–major Democratic/Republican realignments do happen. The Red/Blue map has changed dramatically since 1960:

http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/JAVA/election2004/

And I don’t see any reason to think comparably large changes won’t happen in the future.

72

Barry 05.07.07 at 12:17 pm

ben, thank you. Abb1, the basic idea is that, *if* the black vote distribution was based primarily on economic/urban status, that’d be a major blow to the conventional wisdom (sometimes known as ‘common sense’). I know that right-wingers like to claim that the ‘era of Jim Crow is over’, and really mean that There Is No Discrimination, Get Over It, but common sense says that that’s just lies to cover for disagreable facts. The GOP eagerly absorbed the Dixiecrats, and continues to be a home for those who feel that the Confederacy should have won, and that the susequent century or more of state terror was just and moral.

73

superdestroyer 05.07.07 at 12:20 pm

Slocum,

there was not been a true realignment in voting patterns in almost 40 years. Once again, there is nothing that the Republicans can do to increase support among blacks, hispanics, asians, or urban dwelling upper middle class whites that does not lose more votes than it gains.

The future is probably a decade or two of a stagnent Republican party followed by a quick declinde into being irrelevent.

If you look at the states that John Kerry won in 2004, the Republicans do not stand a chance of winning any of them in 2008 or beyond. There is only one Democratic senator at risk as the risk is small. However, the Republicans will probably lose at least five seats. In the future Snowe, Collins, Specter, Gregg, Voinovich, Warner will all be replaced with Democrats. in 2010 the Democrats will use redistricting to eliminate over 30 Republican seats in the House.

Once the Democrats pass a new Fairness Doctrine, public financing of campaigns, and McCain-Feingold II, it will be all over for the Republicans.

You can claim that the Republicans can change to remain relevent but those changes just do not exist. Politics in the future will look like Mass or Maryland with one dominate party making all of the decision and being able to almost ignore to public.

74

abb1 05.07.07 at 12:24 pm

Ben, it’s been over 40 years since the civil rights act, two generations.

That’s, incidentally, is what JQ’s post argues too: since the 70s there have been two clear-cut parties: right and left, period. Of course each party keeps accusing their opponents of racism and all that, but in fact there’s very little ethnic/racial play in all this.

75

abb1 05.07.07 at 12:34 pm

Um, Barry, #70: but any dittohead will tell you that the Democrats are the real racists benefiting from blacks remaining impoverished and defendant and all that. We both know it’s nonsense, but similarly what you think someone in the Republican party might feel and mean is not a serious argument either.

76

Nick L 05.07.07 at 12:41 pm

or even black or brown cabinet ministers)?

The Right Hon. Baroness Amos of Brondesbury, Leader of the House of Lords, is (was?) a member of the Cabinet

http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page3643.asp

appointed, not elected, yes.

What about Paul Boateng, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and current British High Commissioner to South Africa?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Boateng

77

seth edenbaum 05.07.07 at 2:02 pm

It’s less the development of a two party system per se than a return to a model of adversarialism rather than collaboration.
Collaboration has been the model for the American press, but it has also become that for the technocratic elite as a whole. It’s been a sort of collaboration among the institutional avant-garde often against the will of the majority (and of course the majority in the mid-century US were often wrong). From progressivism to the New Deal to the landmark cases of the Supreme Court and judicial review enlightened leadership opposed popular reaction.

That intellectual model is fading and a process oriented logic is replacing it. The avant garde model now defends a decadent formalism or is moving in the direction of reaction. Critiques of judicial review are more common and the SCOTUS is moving to the right as the people have become accustomed to the changes the old leadership had wrought.
High culture is ossifying and popular culture is becoming more complex and varied. The academies are dull and scholasticism is the model. Many states are moving ahead of the Federal government as supporters of civic life and statehouses are more progressive than congress.
This devolution (of Modernism) is the most important long term development.

78

Slocum 05.07.07 at 3:17 pm

Once again, there is nothing that the Republicans can do to increase support among blacks, hispanics, asians, or urban dwelling upper middle class whites that does not lose more votes than it gains.

But that depends, of course, on what Democrats do. Suppose a populist, anti-immigration, anti-globalization, protectionist “Lou Dobbs” Democrat were to emerge as the party’s nominee at some point (hardly an unimaginable event). Do you think such a candidate would necessarily hold on to all Hispanics voters? Asians? Jews? Urban-dwelling upper middle class whites?

The future is probably a decade or two of a stagnent Republican party followed by a quick declinde into being irrelevent.

I would say that is highly improbable based on history — no major U.S. party has declined into irrelevancy since the Whigs disappeared 160 years ago. And even then, most Whigs (including Lincoln) soon became Republicans and the system of two major parties continued.

I would not be surprised if we are in for a few election cycles of Democratic dominance. But the party in power always gets lazy and corrupt and eventually sows the seeds of its own decline.

79

dearieme 05.07.07 at 3:55 pm

syd, yes I know the old meaning of Anglo-Indian but I think Wikipedia was using it in the new way, i.e. as a a way of avoiding saying “Eurasian”.

80

J Thomas 05.07.07 at 5:53 pm

Abb1, you made a claim, and were challenged on it. It’s up to you to back it before asking the challenger anything.

There’s no such rule. Anybody can ask anything, and anybody who wants to can provide answers.

You can play by that rule if you want to, though. You can announce that you won’t answer any questions whatsoever until he provides an answer that satisfies him to your question. When there are no rules everybody gets to make up their own rules.

(Not that there are no rules, but still you get to make up your own rules and follow them, and everybody else can make up their own rules and follow them, and we’ll see where it goes.)

81

seth edenbaum 05.07.07 at 7:22 pm

Atrios links to
this editorial in the Connecticut Post. on Lieberman:

It may be hard to understand for someone who thinks of himself as above all that, but politics is partisanship. People align themselves with different parties because they have different beliefs, and different ideas. Not everyone agrees on the best way to, say, fund education or conduct foreign policy — or prevent terrorism. What kind of a political world are we looking for with no partisanship?

This is a new kind of language, or a return to an older one, and it’s in a regional paper, not a national one.

82

nick 05.07.07 at 7:30 pm

superdestroyer: you seem to assume that the political interests of blacks, hispanics, and asian-americans are immutable, rather than being based on transitory (however longstanding) factors like economic status and degree of assimilation. you seem also to assume that the current relation btw parties and positions is immutable. both these assumptions, from a long-term perspective, seem to me unwarranted.

83

superdestroyer 05.07.07 at 7:42 pm

Nick,

I make to assumtpion about the political interest about blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans. I assume, however, that most of them vote for Democrats out of tradition and habit. Those are habits that cannot be broken with a good campaign strategy or with a sharp candidate.

Most blacks have voted for Democrats their entire lives. Most of them from the time they understand what the adult are saying learn that blacks should never vote for Republicans. It is the same in large portions of the Hispanic community. It is the same with Asian-Americans in places like California. They vote out of habit and those habits are just not going to change.

What is more likely, that the Republicans figure out a way to appeal to non-whites without losing large number of middle class white voters or that the Republican party collapses. If you look at places like California, NY, Maryland, or Mass, the Republicans have no chance of recoving and becoming relevent. How can a party function with no base outside of the south? It cannot and will not.

If the Republicans could come back, they would be competative in Mass instead of a joke.

84

Barry 05.07.07 at 7:52 pm

jthomas, I was stating what I felt was a reasonable grounds for ‘fairness’. I don’t really care what you think. If abb1 is going to play BS games, I’ll call him on that.

abb1: “Ben, it’s been over 40 years since the civil rights act, two generations.”

40 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and the passing of the 13th-15th amendments, publicly torturing and killing black men for fun was the subject of postcards. Sometimes, 40 years isn’t that long.

“That’s, incidentally, is what JQ’s post argues too: since the 70s there have been two clear-cut parties: right and left, period. Of course each party keeps accusing their opponents of racism and all that, but in fact there’s very little ethnic/racial play in all this.”

Riiiiiiiigggghhhht. Because confederate flags have nothing to do with racism, just states’ rights (to do something or other – let’s not go into that). And the people lusting for a Wall on the Mexican border are evenly divided between parties. And Prop 187 in California was a bipartisan issue.

85

a 05.07.07 at 9:10 pm

“If I claimed that blue-eyed people’s vote is on average identical to the vote of green-eyed people of the same socioeconomic status, and if you challenged me on that – would I have to back it up with statistics too?”

At the least I would expect a reasonable explanation why you think it’s true. Otherwise I would think you make claims just for the fun of it – oh wait.

“Of course each party keeps accusing their opponents of racism and all that, but in fact there’s very little ethnic/racial play in all this.” Tell that to Michael Dukakis.

86

abb1 05.07.07 at 10:32 pm

Look, of course there are racists, but that is not what this is all about. The Republican party is a party of the conservatives. Conservatives like law&order, hierarchy, military-style haircuts, conformity. They hate anarchists, punks, the urban poor.

They hate those whom they identify as anarchists, punks, the urban poor, those who appear to be a threat to the establishment.

There was once a time some decades ago when the Italians, the Irish, the Jews were the punks. Conservatives used to hate the Italians, the Irish, the Jews. And look at them now, they are almost the cornerstone of the establishment and the conservatives love them.

So, again, these days, if you dig a little deeper, I don’t believe you’ll find that this is about the race.

87

Barry 05.08.07 at 12:18 am

You keep saying that; just saying that. Note that when the Dixiecrats switched to the GOP, the GOP started waving the Confederate flag. Odd, that.

88

Ragout 05.08.07 at 5:26 am

Some ways in which the US is more progressive than Europe:

1. The US income tax is more progressive than in European countries, according to Peter Lindert. According to this study, It’s more progressive than Sweden’s and way more progressive than Italy’s (which actually redistributes income upwards). European tax systems generally have much higher sales taxes (VAT), taxing even necessities like food, and lower taxes on income from capital.

2. Feminism. I think women have higher status in the US than in Europe. For example, women make up a larger percentage of the work force in the US than in any European country, except for Scandinavia. Again, Italy is way off the charts for stay-at-home women, along with Spain and Greece. Women make up a bigger share of the work force in Japan — hardly a bastion of feminism — than in these European countries.

3. Local rule. Local governments control about 1/3 of government expenditures. In addition, the police are mostly under local control (compare France!). Finally, the right to a jury trial is guaranteed, and the product liability system is much better. What do you do in Europe if you’re injured by a defective product? Sue in America, if you can. The Europeans are finally catching up here (Mitterrand’s allowing local elections, Blair’s “devolution”) but the US is still way ahead in empowering local people.

4. Rule by elites. We haven’t done so well with the last few Yalie presidents, but graduates of top-3 schools are the kind of people who lead European countries (certainly France). Before that you have nobody from a top-10 collge for quite aways back: Clinton (Georgetown), Reagan (Eureka College), Carter (Georgia Southwestern College, US Naval Academy), Ford (U. Michigan), Nixon (Whittier College), Johnson (Southwest Texas State Teachers College).

89

abb1 05.08.07 at 6:49 am

Well, Barry, if you could write a paragraph on what you think “waving the Confederate flag” represents and proves in regards to racism, maybe I’d agree with you.

Although I suspect that you will overdramatize. Also I suspect that that you will refuse to see the difference between negative racial/ethnic stereotyping (which is very unpleasant, I agree, but unfortunately all too human) and straight-up racism.

Which is ironic, because as this thread demonstrates you, guys, are not completely adverse to your own (albeit non-negative) stereotyping.

90

DMS 05.08.07 at 8:10 am

dearieme wrote:

“I think Wikipedia was using it in the new way, i.e. as a way of avoiding saying “Eurasian”.”

What leads you to think so?

91

J Thomas 05.08.07 at 8:22 am

So, again, these days, if you dig a little deeper, I don’t believe you’ll find that this is about the race.

Abb1, I am not at all clear why you’re repeating this approach.

Sure, the GOP as a party is not racist. They simply switched from ineffectively supporting blacks to ineffectively supporting white racists because they could, when it got them more votes.

In the post-Jim-Crow era I don’t believe there’s much of an “African American vote”. Skin pigmentation doesn’t determine the vote; it’s mostly the ‘urban poor vote’.

That’s an interesting concept. There’s a black urban poor culture that’s some ways different from white urban poor culture — different communication channels etc. I wouldn’t expect them to vote exactly the same when their access to news and politicians etc is so different. But you could easily be right, I don’t have data on that.

I’d expect higher-class blacks to locally vote with their peers — if you’re a small business owner you’ll contribute to the local candidate you think will do more for your business — but how does that translate nationally?

So anyway, where do you want to take this? My own thought just now is that the GOP has become so corrupt that I’d rather they become a third party, so I’ll support Democrats for awhile just because they aren’t republicans, knowing they’re getting pretty corrupt too. I want to campaign for changes in election laws that encourage third parties and independents, particularly IRV.

Since I’m against the GOP, I’m interested in how their opponents might win more effectively. And it sounds like you’re saying that it’s better to focus on the needs of the urban poor than focus on the black community? I can imagine that. As the white urban poor increases in numbers they potentially become a larger voting block, if they get over feeling ashamed of being poor and actually start to look for their share of government assistance.

On the other hand it also makes sense to make sure urban poor blacks know who their enemies are — why give up that advantage?

And there’s no reason to give up middle-class votes to the GOP either, white or black. And we needn’t completely write off the rich black vote.

Does it make sense for the Democratic party to tell blacks that since there’s no more racism they aren’t anybody in particular? I don’t see it. They have their own communities with their own communication channels and that makes them a community to court. Not all blacks are hooked into that but the ones that are need to be approached as a group because they are a group.

And yet thinking in abstractions about blacks like they’re a homogeneous group — like you’d get by quoting statistics about black voting patterns — is not good thinking, it’s something that racists do. They think of The Blacks as somehow a unified threat. It doesn’t make sense for people who want to win elections to think in those terms, they need to think in terms of who talks to whom and who influences whom and things like that.

Is this where you’re headed or are you repeating your divisive talk for some other reason?

92

abb1 05.08.07 at 9:01 am

Hey, what can I say? I don’t know; I guess it just that I see the world in terms of what they call “vulgar Marxism” and really dislike ‘identity politics’. Let him who’s without a touch of dogmatism cast the first stone.

93

Barry 05.08.07 at 11:48 am

abb1: “Let him who’s without a touch of dogmatism cast the first stone.”

Right-wing Freudian projection from abb1, who’s usually the first to barge in an throw stones.

I’m still waiting for you to back up a single statement you’ve made on this threa.

Actually, on *any* CT thread.

94

stostosto 05.08.07 at 12:32 pm

ragout’s case is interesting as a topic. Maybe for another thread.

I don’t think the US case adds up, but in general it’d be nice to see some fierce cross-Atlantic competition on who is most socially progressive. For one thing, it would confound a lot of people, on both sides. Which a lot of people, on both sides, could use.

95

J Thomas 05.08.07 at 12:40 pm

Abb1, I’m deeply disappointed. I tried to imagine a coherent viewpoint that would make sense of your posts, and I succeeded! And then you tell ne you were just responding from reflex out of your identity as a marxist.

I don’t see that there’s any politics *but* identity politics. But if you’re going to think that way it’s vitally important to pay attention to the identities the participants actually adopt for themselves, and not identities you want to impose on them.

So when people define their political identities by their economic class then you need to pay attention to that. But when they define it by something else — when they’re importantly anti-black or zionist or anti-abortion etc then you need to pay attention to that too.

People who’re interested in a Black block vote need to pay attention to who exactly identifies as Black to the point it has a strong influence on how they vote. On the other hand people who’re interested in a white-racist block vote might do very well thinking of Blacks as an undifferentiated threatening mass — *they* need to pay careful attention to who exactly is voting to suppress the dangerous Black masses.

I think it makes sense even if you don’t. Thank you for leading me to it.

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abb1 05.08.07 at 1:40 pm

No, I don’t think identifying yourself for political purposes as a part of the middle-class or professional-class is the same sort of things as identifying yourself as a black person or a woman. Identity politics of the latter variety only lead to fragmentation and confusion.

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ajay 05.08.07 at 3:29 pm

people who never thought of themselves as a part of those ethnic/religious groups, people like Disraeli, Marx, Trotsky, Chaplin and all these ‘part-Indian’ folk

Disraeli may have been a baptised Christian, but he regarded himself as ethnically Jewish – and was apparently rather proud of it. The Irish politician Daniel O’Connell once made a disparaging reference to Disraeli’s Jewishness in a parliamentary debate, and Disraeli replied “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”

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abb1 05.08.07 at 3:35 pm

Barry, you were right, I was wrong – at least for the 2004 elections. See here, scroll down to Where Income Rates. So much for the strong gut feeling…

Well, that or Pew’s analysis is wrong.

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Slocum 05.09.07 at 3:19 am

ragout’s case is interesting as a topic. Maybe for another thread.

I don’t think the US case adds up, but in general it’d be nice to see some fierce cross-Atlantic competition on who is most socially progressive.

And there are some unexpected interactions and tradeoffs. For example, I believe it is more common in the U.S. than the E.U. to find stay-at-home fathers. Why? Because the U.S. does not provide generous guarantees to mothers for long maternity leaves, part-time employment, or subsidized day-care. As a result, in families where the wife is the main wage-earner (no longer a rarity), it’s not uncommon (or at least, not bizarre) for the father to stay home with the young children. Is necessity the ‘mother’ of sexual egalitarianism?

And then there’s the question of whether or not fostering entrepreneurship — allowing people to start and operate businesses without having to jump through many bureaucratic hoops — is a progressive value. Is economic freedom generally a progressive value (I say yes, but I’m guessing many CT’ers wouldn’t agree).

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abb1 05.09.07 at 6:57 am

Ajay #99, I don’t really want to get into this silliness (who cares, other than anit- and philo-semites, right?), but according to wikipedia

Disraeli was descended from Italian Sephardic Jews on both sides of his family, although he claimed Spanish ancestry.

The footnote attributes this to Robert Blake, Disraeli, and adds:

Norman Gash, reviewing Blake’s work, argued that Benjamin’s claim to Spanish ancestry could not be entirely dismissed. Norman Gash, review of Disraeli, by Robert Blake. The English Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 327. (Apr., 1968), 360-364

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MSS 05.09.07 at 11:04 pm

I am not sure I follow this point from the post:

The degree of partisanship in the US, until recently far less than in other democracies, is now greater than in many.

In context, it seems it refers to voting in the legislature. Is there evidence that cross-party voting is becoming more common in the legislatures of other older democracies at the same time it is becoming less common in the US House (and even Senate).

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John Quiggin 05.10.07 at 5:22 am

mss, I’m referring to a range of things, including the improved performance of third parties and independents in a number of English-speaking countries (Australia, NZ, UK) for example, and (more subjectively) a tendency towards convergence in the political positions of major parties.

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Tom Doyle 05.10.07 at 9:22 am

John Quiggin:

You wrote: “[I]t strikes me that the real political news of the last six months is the fact that the US now has a standard two-party system, arguably for the first time in its history.”

I didn’t realize this had happened, nor was I aware that there was such a thing as a “standard two-party system.” Live and learn.

What are the defining characteristics of standard two-party systems? When, how, and by what institution(s) were these criteria originally arrived at? How are they maintained (if they are)?

All the best,

Tom Doyle

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abb1 05.10.07 at 1:16 pm

…in case John isn’t reading this anymore: standard in the sense of traditional left-right paradigm.

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