The Port Huron statement and the Southern Strategy

by John Q on October 20, 2013

A while ago, I listened to a fascinating talk by Erik Olin Wright about Envisioning Real Utopias, on which we held a book event a while back.[^1] He mentioned the Port Huron Statement, published by Students for a Democratic Society in 1962. I looked it up, and was struck by the fact that it envisaged, and welcomed, the political realignment later implemented by Richard Nixon as the Southern Strategy, and which still dominates US politics.

A most alarming fact is that few, if any, politicians are calling for changes in these conditions. Only a handful even are calling on the President to “live up to” platform pledges; no one is demanding structural changes, such as the shuttling of Southern Democrats out of the Democratic Party…. super-patriotic groups have become a politically influential force within the Republican Party, at a national level through Senator Goldwater, and at a local level through their important social and economic roles. Their political views are defined generally as the opposite of the supposed views of communists: complete individual freedom in the economic sphere, non-participation by the government in the machinery of production. But actually “anticommunism” becomes an umbrella by which to protest liberalism, internationalism, welfarism, the active civil rights and labor movements. It is to the disgrace of the United States that such a movement should become a prominent kind of public participation in the modern world — but, ironically, it is somewhat to the interests of the United States that such a movement should be a public constituency pointed toward realignment of the political parties, demanding a conservative Republican Party in the South and an exclusion of the “leftist” elements of the national GOP.

I don’t suppose the SDS activists thought that the combination of the Goldwater right and the Southern Democrats would form a majority coalition strong enough to dominate US politics for decades. Still it’s far from obvious that they were wrong in wishing for the emergence of a clear partisan division to replace the coalition politics of the time.[^2]

Any assessment of the realignment is complicated by the shift to the right that took place throughout the developed from the 1970s onwards. The fact that this shift seems to be going into reverse in the US.[^3], while it is accelerating in Europe, may be in part the product of the great realignment. Oddly enough, precisely because partisan politics is so new in the US, the Dems seem to be more willing to engage in it than their Social Democratic counterparts in Europe (of course, they’ve been schooled in it by the Repubs for twenty years or so). And while the objective position of the Dems is still well to the right of European SocDems, they seem to be breaking with neoliberal ideas like the Grand Bargain at precisely the time the SocDems are (for the most part) capitulating to austerity.

[^1]: We seem to be missing the link on this, but here’s my opening contribution.

[^2]: BTW, it seems bizarre to me, and to other non-US people I’ve talked to that the acryonym GOP is used to describe the Repubs, even by a group as hostile as the SDS. There’s no corresponding acronym for the Democrats – it would seem that DP and RP or just D’s and R’s would serve much better. Any thoughts on this?

[^3]: As evidenced both by the renewed electoral success of the Democrats, and more tenuously, by a shift away from the idea of a market liberal “Grand Bargain” and towards a reassertion of support for the institutions of the New Deal (minus the accommodation with Southern racism).



david 10.20.13 at 7:50 am

The tension in the SDS statement is apparent by glancing downwards. Two paragraphs from railing against national elites refusing to discipline local (Southern) populist elites, they demand that local labour populist elites be free of national labour elites.

Let us control ourselves and our way of life, free of the ‘remote control’ of the national economy – and then be shocked, shocked when Southerners demand to economically oppress blacks the way they have done for generations; there we demand the national postwar consensus that our hands seek to strangle, sacrifice itself utterly to carve civil rights into federal stone. Through such naïveté do coalitions die.


david 10.20.13 at 8:15 am

That aside: note that the bald consumerism toward ‘pseudo-needs’ that the statement was railing against in – 1962 – would have included inventions like the washing-machine and the dishwasher. Back then, the students simply took the cleaning labours of housewives for granted.


bill benzon 10.20.13 at 8:31 am

Interesting. Two years after (1964) that statement was issued (1962) LBJ began ramming civil rights legislation through Congress. I don’t, off hand, know exactly what he had to do to get it done. But the alienation of the Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party was certainly a major realignment in American politics.

@David in #2: evidence please.


daNr 10.20.13 at 8:59 am

LBJ used the shock and sympathy originating from the assassination to pass through a lot of his agenda.


Yarrow 10.20.13 at 10:39 am

Re: GOP. More puzzling is why we call the Grotty Old Plutocrats republicans. (And why we call the Demure Plutocrats democrats, of course.)


Martin Holterman 10.20.13 at 11:58 am

Oddly enough, precisely because partisan politics is so new in the US, the Dems seem to be more willing to engage in it than their Social Democratic counterparts in Europe

This makes it seem like you don’t know what either “social democratic” or “partisan politics” means. The Democrats are well to the right of anything remotely social-democratic, and if the US ever got proper partisan politics they’d either shut down the government permanently or make some kind of “coalition agreement” to enable cross-issue bargaining.


Main Street Muse 10.20.13 at 12:25 pm

It is always amazing to realize how large the vein of racism is in the US – and how successfully this vein was tapped by the GOP. Here’s Lee Atwater on that – a 1981 interview quoted not long ago in the NYTimes:


david 10.20.13 at 1:10 pm


Evidence? Um. The washing machine market boomed in the US across the 1950s. Dishwashers came a little later, across the 1960s.

These took on an ideological gloss with the so-called ‘kitchen debates’ between Nixon and Khrushchev, when Nixon visited Moscow in 1959. This was before the Prague Spring and Western socialists still felt obliged to defend the Moscow line. The model kitchen the Americans had built featured, yes, a washing machine and dried soap powders, amongst other goods, and Khrushchev argued that these were frippery: that the ‘gadgets’ had no useful purpose, that Americans were making things that were not built to last.

In short order, every American socialist group was announcing that (1) planned obsolescence was a capitalist conspiracy, and (2) consumer demand (through ‘pseudo-need’; these terms stem from Galbraith’s 1958 The Affluent Society, I think) was a capitalist conspiracy. You see exactly both in the Port Huron statement.

This was a major ideological contest in the 1960s: whether consumer electronics was actually going to go somewhere, or whether a bigger Heavy Press Programme would be more useful. The answer was hardly obvious, at the time. I’m not sure what you want me to prove.


William Timberman 10.20.13 at 2:03 pm

If we live long enough, I suppose we all encounter someone who says of an event we participated in, or a view we held long ago, I looked it up, and…. It’s an eery experience the first time it happens, and the desire to explain how it really was can be overwhelming. Then we realize that historians as often as not understand the past at least as well as those who lived through it, and the fever passes.

One thing above about SDS, though: the idea was to build a fire under the iceberg of American liberal politics as it existed at the time. Mario Savio hated in loco parentis rules at the American University; Fannie Lou Hamer hated the Democratic Convention seating rules that winked at the disenfranchisement of half the people in her state, and awarded all the seats in its delegation to white Dixiecrats. These may not have been equally noble disaffections, but both did recognize that our politics weren’t adequate to the tasks facing them, and SDS, whatever its faults, actually did attempt a systematic analysis of the reasons why.


bill benzon 10.20.13 at 2:20 pm

@ David: “I’m not sure what you want me to prove.”

This: “Back then, the students simply took the cleaning labours of housewives for granted.”


Cranky Observer 10.20.13 at 2:31 pm

= = = david @ 1:10 PM: In short order, every American socialist group was announcing that (1) planned obsolescence was a capitalist conspiracy, and (2) consumer demand (through ‘pseudo-need’; these terms stem from Galbraith’s 1958 The Affluent Society, I think) was a capitalist conspiracy. = = =

And from the perspective of 2013, can we say they were wrong? Somewhat similar to reading a Brad DeLong takedown of Marxism: he seems to be correct on all his specific attacks, but Marx’s predictions about the future of capitalism seem to be hitting closer to the mark now that the reforms of Bismark and Roosevelt I and II are being systematically rolled back. I just had my vintage 1987 washing machine repaired and put back in operation for the 3rd time because in the humble opinion of this one-time industrial engineer those on the market today are junk (and generally cannot be repaired when they break). The hard right tells us that the ability to buy lots of cheap plastic stuff at Wal-Mart means we are better off; I’m not so sure.



godoggo 10.20.13 at 2:45 pm

“any thoughts?”

A teeny one. How come the DPP isn’t called the MCT? I think it’s ’cause shit happens.


david 10.20.13 at 2:47 pm

@10 – They took the cleaning labours of housewives for granted because they dismissed the need for 1960s household electronics as false needs, created only by clever marketing and capitalist cultural norms. In hindsight we are painfully aware that household labour spent a vast amount of time on laborious tasks like washing clothes, and labour-saving machinery in this respect was extremely valuable.

@11 – having been in the market for washing machines lately, I think you are missing out. Recent innovations tend to be in noise and water/energy-use reduction, which do add up in the utilities bill.

Mundanities aside, which, exactly, of Marx’s predictions are you thinking of?


Chris Bertram 10.20.13 at 2:54 pm

On Europe moving to the right …. well I think it is a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the incumbents in 2008 got punished for it and that meant some losses for the traditional left-wing parties (in UK, Spain). Second, there are two moves to the right in Europe that don’t have a lot to do with one another (a) Eurocrat neoliberal austerity and (b) nativist populism (UKIP, Wilders, FN etc). Hard to see that a coalition between a+b is possible as a decades-long project.


William Timberman 10.20.13 at 3:23 pm

Chris Bertram @ 14

Hard to see that a coalition between a+b is possible as a decades-long project.

The Republicans had pretty good luck with it in the U.S., but we’re now being told that their luck has finally run out. I wonder…. The origins of the populist right in Europe are much different, I realize, but to someone on this side of the Atlantic the trajectories look ominously similar. Cranky Observer isn’t the only one who thinks that DeLong’s denunciations of Marxism are a case of the lady protesting too much, or that Marx ought to be part of the alchemy when we analyze our discontents. What part that might be, however, remains awfully obscure.


Glen Tomkins 10.20.13 at 3:25 pm

A brief history of US party labels

“Republican” was the name Jefferson chose for his anti-Federalist movement that won in 1800, and dominated at the federal level until the rise of the Whigs. The idea for this label was that the Federalists believed that the US was actually one country, while the Republicans upheld the provisions of the Constitution that narrowly define the US republic as a confederation of sovereign states, with careful limits on federal power.

Federalists in some states where there was a property requirement to vote referred to these Republicans as “Democrats”, because the Republicans of that era tended to support removing these requirements. What was intended as an insult pleased at least some of its victims, who willingly took the name to themselves. Parties had no real organization back then, so there was no official name for decades. Historians sometimes call it the “Democratic-Republican” party in this era, but I don’t know if that term was used back then by actual “D-R”s.

Andrew Jackson’s populism emphasized the democratic aspect, so Democratic became the label the party has gone by since a few decades before the Civil War.

The new anti-Slavocrat party consciously chose the label “Republican” to hark back to Jefferson. The point was that the Slavocrats had made the federal govt into a power that trampled on the restrictions the Constitution put on it, so the rules of our republic needed to be reasserted to get the Democrats and the federal govt they controlled back in line. It is sometimes forgotten that several Republican states and municipalities nullified the Fugitive Slave Act. The initial orientation of the Republicans was anti-federal power, because they did not control the federal govt, and had meager immediate prospects of doing so.

The Grand Old Party nickname started after the Civil War. I assume the Rs put it forward because the phrase was reminiscent of Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans organization. The party of that time had as its main selling point to the average voter, as opposed to the Malefactors of Great Wealth, that it had saved the Union, so it wished to bask in the glory of the Union militant. I imagine the Ds of the time objected to the nickname for exactly the same reason, but in later eras when memory of the Grand Army of the Republic faded, “GOP” lost its polemic force and became a neutral term.

The Ds lack such a neutral nickname, though Rs lately have taken to referring to us as the “Democrat” party rather than “Democratic”, the point being, as nearly as I can tell, that they begrudge us any descriptor they have to even pretend is positive, and “democratic” is something they do have to pretend is a positive label. So they would have that we are just the party of the Democrats, an empty label, rather than a party devoted to democratic principles.

Oddly enough, and to bring this discussion full circle, lately they have tended to find the sort of meaning in their party’s name — beyond a mere label — that they deny the Ds. If it is pointed out that the filibuster, or gerrymandered Congressional Districts, etc., frustrate the principle of majority rule, they respond that we live in a republic, not a democracy. The Constitution set rules for the operation of our republican form of govt that sometimes frustrate democracy, and that has to be a good thing, because that’s how the Founders designed it. This has always been the leading idea of their Federalist Society, and lately some of them have even come out for getting rid of the popular election of Senators. Any day now I expect them to advocate for the restoration of property requirements for voting.

Nothing is ever permanently settled in this democratic republic of ours.


Peter K. 10.20.13 at 3:56 pm

I don’t know. It could go either way. There are a number of hopeful signs in the US like fast food workers organizing and the left pushing Obama to pick Yellen over Summers and to try diplomacy in Syria instead of missile strikes. On the cultural front, gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court and California is studying the legalizations of pot in Washington and Colorado.

In Germany the Social Democrats are demanding a minimum wage as the price to join in a coalition government. If Japan succeeds at Abenomics and China keeps its shit together, then maybe, hopefully worldwide growth, demand and employment could improve to the extent that other issues like immigration and the environment become easier to deal with politically.


rootlesscosmo 10.20.13 at 3:56 pm

“Realignment” as shorthand for moving the Dixiecrats into the Republican Party and the liberal Republicans into the Democratic Party had been mooted for years before Port Huron; I recall discussions in the latter 1950’s, the fluid period examined in Maurice Isserman’s “If I Had a Hammer: the Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left.” People on the Left had long been uneasy with the New Deal’s reliance on the support of Southern Democrats and looked for ways to build a reconfigured coalition that wouldn’t need to placate them. In those golden years of the postwar social compact, it wasn’t unreasonable to see Northern working-class voters as a more than adequate counterweight to a reconfigured GOP that would take aboard the Southern states. What the Left generally missed (under George Wallace made it un-missable) was the virulence of white racism.


mud man 10.20.13 at 4:15 pm

david, bill: The sexism of the 60’s counterculture, political or otherworldly, is widely acknowledged, and it continues in the radical environmental movement today. When the wimmin don’t have all that cleaning stuff to occupy their time, they would probably want to get all uppity in the policy discussions.


Alex 10.20.13 at 4:28 pm

I do think David has a point up there at 2. It’s a lot easier to reject materialism if your wife does the donkey work.

Beyond that, I’ve long thought that consumerism is operationally defined as the stuff your wife spends money on. Its opposite – producerism, if that is a word – is marked as manly and as associated with the work ethic. Consumerism, on the other hand, is marked as sinful, weak, lazy, and feminine.

Both Say and Keynes would object that consumption and production are two sides of the same coin, of course.


PJW 10.20.13 at 4:41 pm

My mom threatened to leave my dad in 1967 after the birth of my sister, their third child, if he didn’t buy her a washing machine. He bought one.


SoU 10.20.13 at 4:47 pm

@ 20 –
there is certainly some truth in what you say here, but you can’t make the delineation nearly as clean as your statement implies. some of the most glaring examples of consumerism are sports cars and yachts, which are traditionally understood as male status symbols and markers of some type of masculine virility. there certainly was (is?) a leftist line that follows the produce/consume :: masculine/feminine logic you highlight, but there is an equally operative critique that labels consumerism as a stand-in for older forms of masculine status competition.


Igor Belanov 10.20.13 at 5:53 pm

There is a clear difference between consumerism and the spread of household appliances and other goods. If ‘planned obsolescence’ and marketed fashion did not exist, then there is no reason why washing machines, cars, clothing etc. should not be built to last many years- a situation that would imply disaster for an economy based on constant growth, waste and steady levels of product sales.While some more hard-line environmentalists might oppose the spread of modern technological goods, for most radicals the problem was clearly ‘consumerism’ as a facet of capitalism rather than the technologies themselves.
Plus, the critique of consumerism would often be coupled with demands for a radically different household division of labour. It was argued that men and women could share household duties or even, horror of horrors, that women could work full-time and men stay at home. Radicals of the era may have focused less on ‘bread and butter’ issues, but that was partly because, rightly or wrongly, they judged anti-imperialist struggles and personal liberties to be more important at the time, not because they were closet conservatives.


John Quiggin 10.20.13 at 6:12 pm

“would have included inventions like the washing-machine”

“would” is doing an awful lot of work here. David hasn’t actually found anyone denouncing the washing machine, except Krushchev, who wasn’t exactly a hero of the SDS.

Having had my say, can I ask that this thread derailment cease. We had an interesting discussion on housework and machines a while back, and will doubtless have another one soon, but for now, the Southern strategy is what I’d like to talk about.


Robert 10.20.13 at 6:18 pm

Galbraith’s book has a lot to say about grinding poverty that remained in the USA and could not be simply addressed by multiplying GDP. The book is more than a title.

I think I recall something about the split between the new and old lefts having something to do with Michael Harrington being manipulated by the CIA.

I recall some joke among the left in the 1980s. When I asked for a class-based party with a coherent ideology, this was not what I meant. I am not at all sure that SDS envisioned the current configuration of the Republicans. They were probably more interested in the Democrats.

Anyways, some have argued (e.g., Juan Linz, Austin Ranney) that partisan, class-based, ideology-driven parties do not work in the USA because of the structural difference between presidential and parliamentary systems. I seem to remember being vaguely aware of some such argument in the journals of opinion back when Newt G. was speaker of the house.

Suppose unemployment spikes next summer, party because of the House Republicans trying to hurt their fellow Americans. Much of the general public will perceive such a spike as the fault of the incumbent party in the White House.


Robert 10.20.13 at 6:24 pm

My name links to a recent on-topic article in Jacobin.


bianca steele 10.20.13 at 6:27 pm

20.2 is a good point, and I know of at least one marriage that collapsed for about that reason.


bianca steele 10.20.13 at 6:31 pm

I just read John Q’s comment and sorry for contributing to the derail. BUT I think this issue is a serious one for any movement that relies on anticonsumerism and on convincing the broader public to take on anticonsumerist attitudes.


chris y 10.20.13 at 6:33 pm

This was before the Prague Spring and Western socialists still felt obliged to defend the Moscow line.

This is an extraordinarily inaccurate statement. The events which opened the floodgate to defections from the western Communist Parties and their fellow travelling organisations were the double whammy of Khrushchev’s secret speech and the invasion of Hungary, both in 1956. By 1968 the uncritical defenders of the Moscow line were a rump, outflanked to the left by the “new left” and the Maoists and to the right by the emergence of “Eurocommunism”, which explicitly refused to tailcoat the Soviet Union. The PCF was the only important exception.


The Raven 10.20.13 at 6:54 pm

John@24: it’s pretty clear, nonetheless, that part of the criticism of “consumerism” involves a devaluation of the work of women. Marx and Engels, as well as the socialist women of their time, were aware of amount of labor that fell down on women (as indeed modern materialist historians are) but later activists glossed it over. This may have been a major part of the failure of socialism; a movement which focuses on the pre-feminist workplace leaves out half of humanity. I wonder if the political success of post-war capitalism was in part a result of genuine material improvements in the lives of women.

To the broader issue, the young leaders of the SDS were unaware of the depth of the reactionary, not only racist, thinking in the USA. Old left activists, who had lived through the McCarthy era and remembered Charles Lindbergh, knew more of the appeal of fascism in the USA.

To an even broader issue, I would say that Marxism failed in part because Marx’s economics was wrong, conclusions drawn from it were wrong, and strategies derived from it were wrong. The emergence of technocratic economics and management, the ancestors of big data, poses a huge challenge to political activists of all stripes. On the one hand, it has become clear that national economies, and the global economy as a whole, can be governed without a minute, invasive ordering of individual lives. On the other hand, if cycles of boom and bust, as well as environment catastrophe, are to be avoided, the economies must be governed, to the horror of people who would much prefer not to think about that. How we are to govern in the face of these realities is an unanswered question.


david 10.20.13 at 7:03 pm

@24 – sorry for the derail, my own intention was to highlight the myopia of the Port Huron statement. It’s a committee statement, not an individually-authored document, so unsurprisingly it tends toward careless assertions. Its contradictions and mistakes are really merely a guide to what the authors felt was not important enough to contest the groupthink. When you are building castles in the sky, you don’t feel obliged to see if the demographic numbers of Southern Democrats are still needed for you to pass welfare programs. You just desultorily condemn each author’s pet enemy.

@26 – Ackerman cannot have it both ways; the contemporary South cannot resemble the North in almost every way and yet be also vastly more religious. Surely its religiosity has, y’know, reasons.

That graph in particular is obnoxious, all it tells you is that religiosity is a good proxy for Southernness. But they don’t call it the Bible Belt for nothin’.


John Quiggin 10.20.13 at 7:06 pm

For those interested, a link to my post on housework in utopia


david 10.20.13 at 7:13 pm


Hungrary? The PCI, the PCE, and the PCF all supported the Soviet invasion of Hungrary. No, the turning point was Prague.


david 10.20.13 at 7:24 pm

@32 – hah, no end of contemporary confident assertions in that link that these things are false pseudo-needs and those things are the real human needs, and let me, the True Leftist and prophet of Free Pursuit of Self-Actualization, instruct you as to what they are.

I guess we never learn.


Josh G. 10.20.13 at 8:02 pm

Cranky Observer @ 11: “And from the perspective of 2013, can we say they were wrong?

Yes, because they were writing in 1962, not 2013, and writing about what they thought was happening right then. And at that time, “planned obsolescence” was mostly an auto industry thing. Household appliances in the 1962 U.S. were mostly manufactured by skilled, highly-paid union workers, and were built like tanks.
On the other hand, 1962 cars were utter garbage by today’s standards: inferior by far in durability, crash safety, features, fuel economy, fit and finish… pretty much any measure you can name. But in retrospect this seems to be due more to specific pathologies of the Big Three than due to consumer capitalism in general.

Cranky Observer @ 11: “Somewhat similar to reading a Brad DeLong takedown of Marxism: he seems to be correct on all his specific attacks, but Marx’s predictions about the future of capitalism seem to be hitting closer to the mark now that the reforms of Bismark and Roosevelt I and II are being systematically rolled back.

Agreed, but it’s worth pointing out in this context that Marx didn’t have any ridiculous fantasies about some sort of pure non-consumerist lifestyle. He was in fact a starry-eyed optimist about the ability of technology to improve human life – if it was paired with the proper social/economic structures.

Cranky Observer @ 11: “I just had my vintage 1987 washing machine repaired and put back in operation for the 3rd time because in the humble opinion of this one-time industrial engineer those on the market today are junk (and generally cannot be repaired when they break).

But look at the date you listed: 1987. We were still manufacturing decent appliances then. It was mostly during the Clinton and Dubya administrations that the quality of U.S. consumer goods really took a nosedive (not coincidentally, this was when we started to import them from China and the Third World instead of manufacturing them domestically or importing from Japan).


The Raven 10.20.13 at 8:04 pm

John@32: consider what running a kitchen without running water, refrigeration, controllable light, and so on was like. “Woman’s work” used to be every bit as hard as factory labor. Honestly, the amount of housework we have have now is minor by comparison.


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.13 at 9:32 pm

JQ: “And while the objective position of the Dems is still well to the right of European SocDems, they seem to be breaking with neoliberal ideas like the Grand Bargain…”

Well it may go back and forth a few more times, but I think your post is right. We are dealing with something like a huge mental disease that emerged in the early modern period as a concomitant of individualism. It is a social form of cognitive bias that has re-emerged in empirical studies (search-phrases, “motivated social cognition”, “cultural cognition), including the new study of “climate-change communication” (another search-phrase), and of course some readers here will be familiar with phrases about its various properties, such as “epistemic closure” and “agnotology.”

In the U.S., both political parties are captured by it, though the Republicans are currently far worse than the Democrats, because both revert to the neoliberal hogwash in an intellectual argument, having no other education really, but only the Repulicans preach it, and some of them will now take it to the barricades, it appears…

Thus the order of battle is, first let’s destroy the Republicans by setting the Democrats against them in their own electoral interests, then, let’s destroy the Democrats.

And at the rate it is going, I predict a fully functional social democracy in another 50 years.

This is an enormous narrative, starting back in the 17th century if not earlier. (The idea that there is not “grand narrative” is IMHO a neoliberal agnotological assertion, or perhaps a scientismic one.) But John your post makes me realize something I hadn’t understood before. The 1960’s counterculture helped push the U.S. Democrats into a contingent stance that is now bearing some fruit today.


Cheryl Rofer 10.20.13 at 10:17 pm

Taking into account William Timberman’s observation about those of us who lived through those days, and respectfully ignoring John Quiggin’s request to remain on the topic of political parties, I must say a few things about the situation of women and housework in 1962, along with the probable mindset of the drafters of the Port Huron Statement.

Most people at that time simply assumed that housework was women’s work. It wasn’t something we much thought about; that was the way it was. Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique would not appear until 1963. That is not to say there was some unrest, but it became explicit later; women’s objections provoked Stokely Carmichael’s famous put-down in 1964.

Those of us who lived in suburbia, the origin of most of the Port Huron authors, had running water, refrigeration, controllable light, and washing machines. A few had dishwashing machines; my mother had three little dishwashers in her children. Dryers were not totally uncommon, and many families had freezers, particularly in rural areas.

Not having been directly involved with the SDS, but watching from a distance, I suspect that the young men never even considered the women they may have been involved with in terms of housework. Their reference point was more likely their mothers, if they thought of the issue at all. Probably most of their female partners were quietly doing the housework, as their mothers did.


Tim Wilkinson 10.20.13 at 10:33 pm

Apologies for following others in continuing to discuss the topic, but no, David (who @34 appears to have just outed himself as something of a know-nothing rev. pref. free-market type) doesn’t have a point.

None of what he claims is backed up by his sources (e.g. comment 1’s feeble attempt at ad hom. based on a strained analogy comparing Southern-racism-as-localism with devolution of trade union powers. In fact the supposed mention of the latter in the PHS appears just to have been made up. Instead the PHS has a defence of ‘big labor’, and a condemnation of discriminatory locals – the ony mention of the labour elite being some mild criticism of both them and the rank and file o n grounds of insufficient zealousness.)

In particular, there is no sign of Kruschev denouncing washing machines as Western ‘fripperies’. On the contrary:

Khrushchev: [after Nixon called attention to a built-in panel-controlled washing machine]: “We have such things.”

Nixon: “This is the newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installation in the houses.” He added that Americans were interested in making life easier for their women.

Mr. Khrushchev remarked that in the Soviet Union, they did not have “the capitalist attitude toward women.”

Nixon: “I think that this attitude toward women is universal. What we want to do is make easier the life of our housewives.”

This whole thing is a giant straw man, though it seems a popular meme which encourages idiosyncratic speculation and anecdote about gender roles, and shocking tales about the way that the New Left did not in practice succeed in instantly shrugging off the influence of centuries of sexism). It’s a distraction not only, as JQ points out, from the point of the thread, but also from the actual content of the PHS, which doesn’t in fact appear to incorporate any such sexism whatsoever, express or implied.

I can’t of course fail to remark on david’s introduction of the ‘conspiracy theory’ smear into the critique of calculated obsolescence and manufactured want. I would of course argue that ‘conspiracy theories’ should not automatically be disreputable in any case. But the key point here is that their presence in the general discourse about ‘consumerism’ is at the least grossly exaggerated; in the PHS itself, demonstrably invented. What it actually says is:

The tendency to over-production, to gluts of surplus commodities, encourages “market research” techniques to deliberately create pseudo-needs in consumers — we learn to buy “smart” things, regardless of their utility — and introduces wasteful “planned obsolescence” as a permanent feature of business strategy.

As well as david’s deeply concerned comments about how the authors clearly must have thought that washing machines have no utility, I see someone has criticised (half of) this formula on the grounds that in ’62 there wasn’t any planned obsolescence (except where there was). So presumably this was just a random lucky guess on the part of the authors (and JKG) about the way things were heading.


Tim Wilkinson 10.20.13 at 10:37 pm

…introduction of the ‘conspiracy theory’ smear into his discussion of the critique of calculated obsolescence and manufactured want.


thompsaj 10.20.13 at 10:58 pm

I first heard of the Port Huron Statement in “The Big Lebowski” when Jeffrey tells Maude he was an author of the PHS – the original, not the reactionary compromised final version.


William Timberman 10.20.13 at 11:30 pm

Cheryl Rofer @ 38

Very true. I suppose we were a bit like Jefferson, congratulating ourselves on the eloquence of the Declaration of Independence while ignoring the slaves hoeing in the kitchen garden. Unlike him, however, we were still alive when the bill came due — in our case in the 70’s. I still wince when I remember those days….


William Timberman 10.20.13 at 11:54 pm

As far as the actual topic of the OP is concerned — with apologies to JQ from straying from it — I should probably add that at the time, no, relatively few of us thought that the right was a problem, or rather we thought that the right was a problem that could be dealt with. We thought that a welfare state which was evolving into a warfare state, the almost total purge of the left from the labor movement, and the technocratic, managerial juggernaut that could confidently ignore all inputs other than those of its own class, constituted a far greater danger. Some of us think so even today, when the right seems far more potent than it did then.


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.13 at 11:57 pm

We could also imagine that Nixon read the Port Huron Statement, and that idea later helped him formulate the Southern Strategy for his own ends. He read his opposition very carefully. I expect he read through all of Mao too; it was his business and his nature to do so. To him, ideas mattered — because ideas are expressed in words, and words can be twisted. He was nothing if not one hell of a great devious Machiavellian politician. I read through every one of his post-presidency books about domestic and world affairs, and it shocked me, because I didn’t realize how intellectually prolific he was, and how clearly he was able to see everything, except himself.


Michael Sullivan 10.21.13 at 1:12 am

Chris Y @ 29:

Did it take until 1956 because people didn’t know what Stalin was doing, or because they didn’t want to know?


StevenAttewell 10.21.13 at 1:49 am

Regarding the SDS wanting realignment, I don’t think it was wrong of them to want it, it’s just that what realignment happened didn’t happen on progressive terms: there really wasn’t a whole-sale movement of liberal Republicans into the Democratic Party in the 1960s and 1970s (arguably, 2006-2008, in which the Republican party was all but wiped out in New England, shows that it happened a generation or two later), and working class white voters weren’t kept in the coalition to the degree necessary to maintain a working majority (as people have pointed out in the wake of 2012, the demographic coalition that McGovern wanted to put together in 1972 now actually has the numbers to be viable).

My critique would be that SDS didn’t do much to make realignment happen.


John Quiggin 10.21.13 at 2:10 am

@45 Other CTers are more expert than me, but I’m pretty sure that support for the Communist Party peaked before 1950 in most Western countries, after Stalin ceased to be an ally against Hitler and imposed CP rule throughout the area under its military control. But they didn’t go all in one hit, as in 1956. The central feature of the New Left, that emerged after 1956, as distinct from the Old Left, was overt opposition to the Soviet regime.

Again, this has arisen from a piece of trollish thread derailment, so I request that we get back on topic. David, nothing more from you on this thread, please.


bad Jim 10.21.13 at 4:37 am

The lack of a nickname for the Democratic party may well be due to its historic lack of unity, as memorialized in the Will Rogers quip, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” Its essential dysfunction was demonstrated in the first election it won, where the tie between running mates Jefferson and Burr had to be decided by the House of Representatives.

“This is a republic, not a democracy” goes back to the 1960’s at least; it’s almost certainly much older.


roy belmont 10.21.13 at 5:42 am

The acronym “GOP” was chosen because it so closely resembles the graphic “GOD” with all its attendant strength. A Masonic/Jesuit insertion into the language for arcane purpose and control. A spell.
John Quiggin: viz. appliances, maybe you could try thinking of those posts as a parallel, simultaneous thread? Not impinging save the brief seconds it takes to realize it’s another one of those.
david 10.20.13 at 2:47 pm 13
The Raven 10.20.13 at 8:04 pm 36

esp. david:

In hindsight we are painfully aware that household labour spent a vast amount of time on laborious tasks like washing clothes, and labour-saving machinery in this respect was extremely valuable.

Hard to imagine the entire history of the human race as drudgery for women. Some joy in communal task I think. Great joy, bonding all through, and the strength that comes from those. Not always, not for everyone, but it’s there.
More likely our myopic backward glace goes to the already degraded. It’s a form of idealizing certainly, to say way back and its remnants now were and are better in many ways. No life is free from some work, and those kinds of work, hand-washing, but communally, done outside the isolating confinement of the nuclear family mono-dwelling, aren’t accurately described as nothing but unrewarding toil but for the benefit of the actual laundering, or whatever.
Your view seems constructed, like those pat nonsensical descriptions of the “primitive world” and the awful lives of our ancestors forced to live there. Pure assertion and masked fear.
No argument here that women have been mysoginized for centuries, even millenia. Most throughly in Judeo-Christian Western Civ. But not for the main length and breadth of human history. Which is much much longer a time span.
This term “time consuming” may be revealing, in that seeing time as something that can be consumed, in the first place, is revealing. Time can also be shared.


bad Jim 10.21.13 at 8:33 am

I dispute the assertion that this isn’t primarily a Confederate problem. The conservative east of California was settled by Okies and other Southerners. The South metastasized. Bakersfield is part of the heartland for country music. Religion is not the only reliable cultural marker.

Here we take cheer in the gradual replacement of catsup by salsa, one bottle of Tapatío at a time.


Chris Bertram 10.21.13 at 10:50 am

@JohnQ wrote: “@45 Other CTers are more expert than me, but I’m pretty sure that support for the Communist Party peaked before 1950 in most Western countries”

Well, the big test cases are going to be France and Italy. In France the peak is November 1946 (28.26% in 1st round) but the PCF vote stays pretty solid afterwards. There’s a dip below 20% in 1958 but then the vote recovers to above the 20% level up to and including the legislative elections of 1978. In Italy, the peak doesn’t come until 1976, when the (by then Eurocommunist) PCI got 34.4% in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies.


otpup 10.21.13 at 2:21 pm

@Chris, 51 Iianm, France is not representative of much since the CP was fairly marginal before WWII and it was their connection to the resistance that legitimized them.


David A. Guberman 10.21.13 at 5:15 pm

By the time I entered college in the fall of 1967, SDS had lost interest in political realignment, having gone over to competing forms of ultra-leftism. Having myself been recruited as a first-year into the Realignment Caucus within the Socialist Party, my recollection is that we thought a stable electoral majority would include a vigorous labor movement and its penumbras. (See, if I recall correctly, Michael Harrington’s Toward a Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority (MacMillan June 1968).) That effort broke apart on the shoals of the Vietnam War, which also divided the Realignment Caucus between opponents of the war, who joined Michael in what became the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, and supporters, who, having defeated us with the Socialist Party, transformed it into Social Democrats, U.S.A. Much of SDUSA aligned with the early neoconservative movement (as Michael named it).


Bruce Wilder 10.21.13 at 8:29 pm

In between the observations about the importance of washing machines [and, yes, I can actually remember sitting on the basement stairs, watching my mother use a ringer washer, turning a crank to squeeze out the water garment by garment, and hanging each on clotheslines strung across the (fairly filthy) basement (Winter in Michigan). Should we mention the proper uses of lye soap, chlorine bleach, ammonia, bluing agents and starch? Talk about your chemical hazards!], there have been a few interesting points peaking out of comments on the actual topic of OP.

Political realignments are a cyclical feature of American partisan politics, and, yes, John Quiggin, Americans have had some experience with partisan politics — longer experience, in fact, than any major European state. The Democratic Party claims to be the oldest political party in the world, tracing its founding to Jefferson and Jackson. The Republican Party, founded around 1854, is older than the vast majority of national European parties. What’s relatively new is the more strictly ideological and issue divisions overlaying the partisan identifications. That’s a strange business, and not, imho, healthy.

Any democratic system has to find ways to reconcile popular ambivalence about political choices, with the policy choices actually made by the people elected to office. Political parties, regardless of other aspects of their makeup, are always “coalitions” of people, who seek office and the status and opportunities (for lack of a broad, general term) that go with office, and people, who are concerned with ideas and issues. The former are the more reliable base of support; the latter, often ill-informed and mercurial. If a country has more numerous political parties, then it is possible to have nominally more ideological parties (or parties based on other aspects of personal identity), but governance will still tend to whittle policy things down to binary choices, at best, or no choice, among grand coalitions.

The ineffectualness of the American Left can be traced to its blindness to the importance of patronage in maintaining an effective Party organization. “Partisan” is never about ideology, per se; “partisan” is identifying with a political party, for the tangible benefits it can produce for the members, who identify with it and support it, for the “pork barrel” benefits and jobs it can deliver. Only a minority in any population have anything like a political philosophy, and only a minority of them, anything like a coherent political worldview, founded on critical observation and reason — to the extent that ideas matter, it is because of effective propaganda and indoctrination. At best, political ideas matter because they provide a credible rationalization for why a particular policy matters, why that policy has particular consequences that an individual citizen or community of interest should care about. As a foundation for believing in an idea about policy among large groups, at least, the critical elements are the attitudes of political psychology and the emotional responses associated with those psychologies.

Nixon, bless his black heart, was a master of the politics of resentment.

Resentment. Not racism per se, though the legacy of racial resentments would be exploited ruthlessly in implementing the so-called Southern Strategy (which, in Reagan’s hands, was especially effective in northern states, with weakening union movements and suburbanizing Catholics).

I think the college-educated, privileged New Left, though exhibiting resentments of their own, simply failed to appreciate resentment as a political tool, and the numbers resentment could mobilize with relatively simple propaganda tactics, and that, combined with a failure to appreciate the implications of a goo-goo politics targeting patronage and pork barrel willy-nilly, left the country without any effective opposition to the so-called “Southern Strategy”. And, oddly, “racism” is now as effective in keeping those identified with the Democratic Party corralled as it supposedly is among the Tea Partiers.

The “Southern Strategy” describes a propaganda strategy for using resentment, tactically. The policy strategy, though, was to destroy the economic foundation for a liberal (or social democratic) politics. The economic basis for a union movement, or a free press staffed by professional journalists, or a banking system to support a middle class, or a liberal academy independent of business interests, or . . . fill in the blank. The policy goal wasn’t to re-establish the segregation of a semi-feudal white supremacy, and no effort was ever made in that direction.

“Hot-button” propaganda tactics, without economic pillage, tend to wear out, and I think much of the social progress that the U.S. has experienced, even as it has sunk into a plutocratic pit unimpeded by either Party, has to do with the way the politics of resentment — which has always been primarily symbolic and dependent on keeping its more fervent adherents frustrated victims, and pointedly never delivering dispositive policy substance — has accelerated changing social attitude adjustments. If this changes — if the stealing and pillage identifies victims, in a way the victims recognize, provoking reactionary organization in self-defense, then politics changes; it might be a politics of prison guards against prisoners — that seems to be the emerging design, the Plan B, for when Obama is gone — and, maybe the Republican theocrats and Tea Partiers will compete for the prison guard / vigilante jobs in that American dystopia. Even then, we may be waiting for a Left.


jake the snake 10.21.13 at 8:31 pm

@David A, Guberman #53

Veddy interesting. I have heard that many of the early neocons were disillusioned leftists. I am curious about how any of even the late SDS were pro-war.
I know there were a lot of “splitters” (Judean Liberations Front, anyone?)
However, I didn’t know there were any supporters of the war. I thought the neocon warmongering was a reaction to the peace movement. i.e., they were for whatever the
“New Left” was against.


SamChevre 10.21.13 at 8:56 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 54

The ineffectualness of the American Left can be traced to its blindness to the importance of patronage in maintaining an effective Party organization

I’m not certain that this wasn’t recognized negatively, even if it was not recognized positively. (The “Makers vs Takers”/democratic plantation memes is a statement of belief that it is recognized positively.)

By “recognized negatively”, I mean that a primary project of the Left over the past two generations has been breaking down the traditional systems and sources of patronage for their opponents. Churches have been largely driven out of public life with Abington and Lemon; small businesses have been greatly diminished relative to larger ones by a general increase in regulation, and their distinctiveness reduced by the Civil Rights Acts; separatist schools have been crippled by the >i>Bob Jones/Hillsdale cases; traditional family and sexual norms have been pressured by a whole row of decisions (Griswold, Eisenstadt, Roe, Levy, Lawrence). (Note that most of these couldn’t have been passed democratically–they were either court innovations or administrative agency rulings.) (This breakdown drives a lot of the populist anger of the Tea Party. )


left wing trainspotting 10.21.13 at 9:56 pm

jake the snake – I think the antecedents were a little muddled – the post started out talking about SDS and finished with the Socialist Party.

In the 50s, the old Socialist Party absorbed Max Shachtman’s (then Trotskyist) Workers Party. By the 60s, a division had emerged between Shachtmanites who had moved (with Shachtman himself) to the right and renamed the party Social Democrats USA, Shachtmanites who had remained on the left (e.g. Harrington) and left to form what eventually became Democratic Socialists of America, and a group that wanted to continue running candidates on a separate socialist ticket, which started Socialist Party USA.

SDS, on the other hand, was (early on) closely involved with the Young People’s Socialist League (originally Socialist Party-affiliated, realigned with the Workers Party I think in the 30s). By the end of its life, it was dominated by members of the Progressive Socialist Party (Maoist split from the CPUSA) and two factions of the former Revolutionary Youth Movement: RYM I (which became the Weather Underground) and RYM II (which became the Revolutionary Communist Party).

My main source on this is Maurice Isserman’s If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left, but it’s been a few years so details may be a little off


Bruce Wilder 10.22.13 at 12:12 am

SamChevre @ 56

Wow! I’m going to thank you sincerely for your comment.

It seems to me that the anger, and willingness to fight, on the Tea Party Right is fundamentally justified, but wrongly focused — even wrongly labeled — in ways that make it impossible to form political coalitions or work toward incremental policy change in sensible political compromises.

“Churches have been largely driven out of public life . . .”

I do not even know what you are talking about. I don’t think Churches have left public life, let alone been driven out. And, that’s before I even consider the specific consequences of eliminating official, ceremonial public school bible readings.

In the bad old days, many people, I suppose, commonly believed some morally regrettable things — they had viciously racist beliefs to rationalize, say, white supremacy — but not many thought the sun rises in the northwest.

“small businesses have been greatly diminished relative to larger ones by a general increase in regulation”

Small or local businesses have been diminished relative to larger, national and global ones in some important sectors. That, at least, seems to relate an observable fact, and a fact that causes a lot of concern among liberals and progressives. Does it make sense to attribute that to “a general increase in regulation”? There’s been secular change in economic regulatory policy. On the left and in the center, the common way to label it, has been to call the general policy trend, one of de-regulation, market liberalization or globalization.

If I think of the 30-year trend in banking and finance, media, retail distribution and high-tech, it is hard to make a case for a label of “increasing regulation” in a narrative analysis. Maybe, where intellectual property (IP) is concerned, but it is hard to make the case that the rise of CostCo, WalMart and the other big box stores is due to “increasing regulation”. The absence, say, of effective labor law enforcement vis a vis WalMart might be a subplot, and “free-trade” and financial policies, which transferred production to China, might be a big factor. The concentration of media and banking and finance is pretty dramatically tied in to deliberate regulatory change, which removed and reduced restrictions and oversight.

I absolutely get that both Tea Party leaders and followers might feel considerable resentment about the effects of these trends. It pisses me off, too. But, why adopt labels or narratives, which seem to deny what would otherwise be commonly observable facts?

“Increased regulation” isn’t just a different set of values or a different point of view on the facts, it is a different set of facts — a narrative so divorced in its references from the commonly recognized recent history, as to be equivalent to just making stuff up. And, that’s before mourning the restoration of common law expectations of public accommodation as a loss of local color.

The Tea Party is hardly unique or alone in this. In many ways, the “mainstream” in the U.S. (and even more so, in Europe) appears to be trapped in a neoliberal delusional fantasy, with regard to economic policy, with no more substantial theory than a cargo cult. But, that just raises the stakes on figuring out how to talk and disagree, but with a common grasp on reality. Without it, there’s only a politics of bullying and breaking things. Which, come to think of it, pretty much sums up Ted Cruz’ politics.


John Quiggin 10.22.13 at 12:14 am

@BW “What’s relatively new is the more strictly ideological and issue divisions overlaying the partisan identifications. That’s a strange business, and not, imho, healthy.”

At least in my usage, the term “partisan” is taken to imply such divisions, as opposed to “bipartisan” which implies that nominal party allegiances are subordinated to cross-party coalition building on a range of issues. I’ll be more careful to spell this out next time.

As I said, partisan politics (in my sense) is new and strange for the US. But, unhealthy or otherwise, it’s the norm in most democratic political systems.


Main Street Muse 10.22.13 at 12:21 am

To Bruce Wilder, not sure exactly what you mean by “The ineffectualness of the American Left can be traced to its blindness to the importance of patronage in maintaining an effective Party organization.”

The hippy left was not capable of this kind of patronage, but the left-leaning Democratic mayors certainly understood patronage. And used it well to maintain power. Unless you want to consider men like Boss Daley to be radical conservatives.

And yes, as you note, “the “Southern Strategy” describes a propaganda strategy for using resentment, tactically.”

The strategy was to use racism to inspire that resentment – to use racism as an appeal for the white voters who once were solidly Democratic. The goal may not have been to prop up the Klan once again, but it has certainly created a monster in the Tea Party.


SamChevre 10.22.13 at 12:35 am

Bruce Wilder @ 58

I hope to answer at greater length tomorrow, but just quickly on regulation/de-regulation. I think they happened together, and the best explanation is this piece by Steve Randy Waldman on regulation. In critical ways, the key things were de-regulated–but at the same time, lots of small things were regulated, so that opening a business or running one really required much more paperwork (which advantages businesses who are big enough to hire someone to do paperwork.)


John Quiggin 10.22.13 at 1:05 am

@SamChevre Leaving aside the regulation issue, you’ve missed the much bigger development of the increased share of income going to the top 1 per cent, which has created a pool of billionaires. Inevitably, a fair number of these (the Kochs, Adelson and others have engaged in political patronage on a large scale, overwhelmingly in support of the Repubs.

The policies that drove inequality, most obviously financial deregulation, had, and still have bipartisan support, despite their adverse consequences for the Dems.


js. 10.22.13 at 4:49 am

Just by the way, why are you troubled by the “GOP” business? Do you think it helps the party somehow, image-wise? (It’s easier to type!?) I guess I’ve never paid it much mind, and it’s not obvious to me that it helps or hurts either way.

(Apologies if this has been well-addressed on the thread—haven’t had a chance to read it all.)


John Quiggin 10.22.13 at 5:59 am

@js I don’t think it hurts or helps. Obviously it’s long since ceased to be an acronym and become an arbitrary string of letters. It’s just one of those things that strikes an outsider as strange, especially since, as BW points out, the Democrats are actually the older of the two parties.


otpup 10.22.13 at 2:59 pm

Wow. Its not really so surprising the SDS realignment strategy can be associated with the opposite camp, the extent they saw American politics are redeemable, they didn’t have a clue.

It is common for left political junkies to talk about American politics with complete obliviousness of some highly relevant comparative facts. The US system is pretty unique in being characterized by a series of interconnected exceptional traits:

lack of party discipline (properly speaking non-existence of parties, essentially making
all legislators free agents)
super-majority requirements (formal and de facto, the latter often stemming from “checks and balances” or federalism)
structural disenfranchisement (access to polls, gerrymandering)
political demobilization (poorer voters are both kept from voting and easily disaffected given the glacially slow pace of the reform process and all of the above)

All of these give big money (but also the upper third in terms of affluence) agenda setting power. Short of Constitutional change (i.e., a massive political crisis), I don’t think America’s turning into a social democracy in the next 50 years.


Lee A. Arnold 10.22.13 at 6:58 pm

“I don’t think America’s turning into a social democracy in the next 50 years.”

I think social democracy is the only future that is possible, anyway. But social democracy may be a looser category to me, than to most, because within it, I see a continued role for markets: for personal choice, innovation and economic growth. (Economic growth appears to be about one-half due to specialization and trade, and one-half due to reduction of trade/transform costs by centers of control:)

But the guess at the timeframe of 50 years depends on whether Obamacare is a success (i.e., is a qualified success that can be improved upon). If this question, which ought to be answered within a few years, is answered in the affirmative, then the U.S. will already be half-way to a social democracy.

Why? Because the key to the puzzle is to make a change in individual preferences.

As it stands now, most people would describe something vaguely like neoliberalism as their default belief. (“Most” people, not the readers of Crooked Timber.) Why is that? Because they never learned anything else. Almost all of the high priests of society, i.e. the mainstream media economists and op-edders, have been promoting it for over 30 years, and they are still banging away at it. Even most Democrats will answer this way. But it is still a belief, and it can start to change.

I think that is why the billionaire rightwing nuts are so adamantly opposed to universal healthcare. Indeed this fear stretches across the right; we read it often in rightwing comments. They think that if the move toward universal healthcare changes enough individual preferences about the role of the state, then, after that, all the disproportionality and gerrymandering in the world will not be able to stop it. In other words, if there can be a big new “government program”, yet we still have economic growth afterward, that basically destroys their simple message as it is understood by most voters. The conversation will then get complicated, and complicated conversations are not something that the rightwing can withstand.


otpup 10.22.13 at 8:43 pm

Lee, Well I hope you are right but…
We are talking about roughly the same s.dem., i.e., I am not using it as code for socialism (I think you can have a socialist society that relies on markets, it all depends on how much influence private interests have over the political process, but I digress).

Social democracy is an institutional logic where mass, ideological parties pursue reform and governance in the interest of their non-wealthy constituents, it relates to the logic of welfare state service provision benefiting workers and the middle class, blah blah, blah. In most parliamentary system, proportionality and ideology make this work (the mass of working class voters bother voting because they trust the ideologically left parties to work on their behalf).

The US is different in two fundamental ways (which are interconnected),
1) the workers/poor don’t vote (or much less)
(and the reasons aren’t culture or bad high school civics and are not easily remedied)
2) the US system is structured so that you actually need HIGHER rates of electoral support to achieve legislative reforms in the interest of the vast majority.

We are screwed coming and going.


Western Dave 10.23.13 at 5:05 am

Rick Perlstein points out that the Democratic coalition foundered on the attempt to pass a fair housing act. Nixon, sensing the trouble went all in for 1966, campaigning for every Republican who was in a seat occupied by a dem that had been waved in during the 1964 elections. He took the credit for the Republican success in 1966. SDS were overly optimistic about political realignment. And in 1963, they identified as anti- anti-communists (that is, they cared not a whit for events in the USSR one way or another and focussed instead on combatting conservatism in the US).

GOP is definitely a reference to GAR whose veterans carried the party to electoral victories for about 4o years.


SamChevre 10.23.13 at 6:45 pm

A quicker-than-I’d-like response to both Bruce Wilder @ 58 and John Quiggin @ 62.

Regulation/de-regulation–here’s an example from finance. Banks used to be limited to operating in one state, and their annual regulatory filings were in the tens of pages. Now, they can operate in multiple states, and their annual regulatory filings are in the thousands of pages (plus 100 pages per state).

For a big bank, that’s deregulation; for a small bank, that’s increased regulation–which makes competing against the big bank harder.

I simply don’t see that inequality is driving most of the fury, or could be. What made Detroit worse off has much more to do with Japan and China than with in-country inequality.

Overall, think of my analysis of patronage as Corey Robin’s analysis of conservatism looked at sideways. The left-liberal tendency has been to weaken and flatten small everyday hierarchies; this means that those hierarchies can’t provide the patronage they used to.

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