What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

Cross-posted from Patterns That Connect

As the once-fringe idea that Democrats could sweep to power in the House becomes the new conventional wisdom, the closing days of the campaign will be partly informed by what people think this could mean.  Naturally, those who were the last to see this coming will hog the airwaves and printspace telling us what it all could mean.  But online reality-based community is used to that noise.  So what should we be thinking instead?  My tentative answer involves a brief review of some scholarly theorizing, as well as a good hard look at election numbers since 1892, aided by a nice clean graph.

First off, of course, "don't take anything for granted" remains as true as ever.  But increasingly, people are realizing that the prospect of a massive "wave" victory can be just as motivating as fear of defeat.  Perhaps even moreso.  But what is this "wave" we speak of?  Some tell us it is rare event, that comes only once or twice in a lifetime ("water flowing underground").  This raises three questions: (1) What do they mean by that?  (2) Is it true?  (3) If so, what does that mean?

The first-take answers are:

(1) They are talking about so-called "critical" or "realigning" elections.
(2) They are relatively rare, but more like once-every-10-to-20 year events, if we count "sub-critical" elections the experts don't all agree on, but are noticeably not run-of-the-mill.
(3) This is a huge opportunity, and Dems should make the most of it.

Critical "Realigning" Elections

But that's only the beginning of the discussion.  The classic notion of the critical election was one that defined the political landscape for several decades to come.  


Realigning election or realignment are terms from political history and political science describing a dramatic change in politics. It may center on a "critical election" or be spread out over several elections. More specifically, they refer to any one of several United States presidential elections in which there are sharp changes in the rules of the game (such as campaign finance laws or voter eligibility), new issues, new leaders and new bases of power for each of the two political parties, resulting in a new political power structure and a new status quo that will last for decades. The usual focus is on the transition between party systems, as between the First Party System and the Second Party System, and then to the Third Party System and so on.

The central holding of realignment theory, first developed in the political scientist V.O. Key's 1955 article, "A Theory of Critical Elections", is that American elections, parties, and policymaking routinely shift in swift, dramatic sweeps.

The first examples were precisely spaced--eerily so:  Washington's election (1788) followed 36 years later by Jackson's in 1824, followed 36 years later by Lincoln, 1860, followed 36 years later by McKinnley 1896, followed 36 years later by Roosevelt, 1932--all presidential elections, you will note.  And 36 years after Roosevelt--over a decade after the idea was first floated by V.O. Key--we arguably had another one: Richard Nixon in 1968.  

The important point about these elections is that they served as more-or-less sharp breaks with the defining terms of politics in the years before them.  This does not mean that the parties who won these elections necessarily dominated politics at all times.  Indeed, the opposite party often controlled Congress, or even the White House for a significant portion of time, but they never dominated the terms of debate.  The fact that Nixon's victory was followed by a long period of GOP presidential dominance while Dems retained control of the House--and most often the Senate as well--lead to the refinement of calling 1968 a de-aligning election.  This concept came from Walter Dean Burnham.

More recently, a number of other candidate elections have been proposed--such as the Congressional elections of 1974 and 1994.  But 1974 didn't change control of Congress, it merely increased an existing Democratic majority.  In contrast, 1994 shifted control of the House from Democrat to Republican.  This seems to be a true realigning election--a rare Congressional one.

But is this really true?  My suggestion is that it's not--and the reason is very important for what this election means.

My objection to classic realignment theory comes from two directions--the micro-level of examining specific Congressional elections, and the macro-level of looking at historical forces on scales larger than 36-year cycles.  Let me be clear--I have great respect for realignment theory.  I think it makes good sense of a fairly long stretch of American political history.  But it is far stronger as a descriptive theory than a predictive one, because of the larger forces that it cannot possibly account for.  

Micro-Level Critique of Realignment Theory: It's The House, Stupid!

Before considering the macro-level objections, however, we need to start with the more easily-grasped micro-level ones.  And these come directly from examining House races over time.  I could have gone back to the 1850s, but the 1890s are early enough for the points I want to establish.  As the chart below shows, the two most definite realigning presidential elections--1896 and 1932--were preceded by sharp shifts in House elections.  (I use percentages to standardize across changes in House size.)

The chart below shows the House share controlled by Democrats (top, blue line) and the percent change in share (bottom, red line), regardless of whether its a gain or loss.  The yellow lines mark the three realigning elections--two definite (1896 and 1932), one questionable, at best (1968).  The dotted purple lines mark the congressional elections of 1974 and 1994:

    [See appendix at the end for a table with the underlying figures.]

    In 1896, the Democrats had lost roughly 10% and 35% of the total House share in the two preceding elections.  They lost so much that they actually gained back some marginal seats, even as they lost the presidential election of 1896.  In 1932, the Democrats won more than 20% of the House share, on top of more then 10% in the 1930 election. Despite the slight difference in timing, these two elections shared three things: (1) a congressional shift preceded the presidential shift, (2) the congressional shift was substantial for two elections in a row, (3) the largest congressional shift in these two cases were the largest seen in the period covered.  They are the only two shifts larger than 20%.  (This is not an artifact of ignoring earlier data.  A similar pattern occurred in 1858 and 1860, when Democrats lost 34.9% and 24% respectively.  Party alignment broke down completely from 1820 to 1824).

    It's worth noting that the next three largest shifts--in the 16-17% range--were compensatory, corrective elections: (1) The Democrats retaking power in 1948, following the first GOP House since before FDR took office in 1932. (2) The Democrats dropping from almost 80% down to 60% in 1938, losing about half their 1932 gains, plus all their 1934 and 1936 gains--but only after three straight elections winning over 70%.  (3) The Democrats 1922 rebound of 17.4% following an almost-equal loss of 14.1% in 1920.  Indeed, the period from 1910 to 1922 also saw the Democrats gain 14.4% in 1910 and lose 14% in 1914, rounding out the rest of the top eight, all of the elections in which more than one seat in eight changed hands.  This period of time saw the Republicans split into progressive and conservative wings, giving the Democrats an opening to break the era of Republican dominance--which they ultimately failed to do.  This is what this series of corrective and counter-corrective elections is all about.

    Immediately below these in size of shift is the 1994 election, when the GOP gained 54 seats--just shy of one in eight (12.5%).  It is followed by the Democrats 1946 loss (12.4%)--producing a GOP majority that lasted just two years--the Democrats 1930 gain of 11.9%, and the Democrats 1974, post-Watergate gain of 11.9%.  The Democrats 1958 gain of 11% comes next--the last remaining shift of 11% or more.

    A Pattern Emerges--Successful vs. Failed Realignment

    If we put these all together, a pattern emerges: unambiguous realignment comes from two consecutive elections totaling at least a 30% shift, and they produce a two-term president who wins re-election easily.  It is followed by a major corrective election coming within two to three cycles, which reduces the majority, but does not change control of the House.  Failed realignments do not achieve that level of shift in such a short period.  The Democrats failed realignment of the 1910s came close--with a combined 22.9% shift from 1910 and 1912, and a combined 31.9% shift from 1906 to 1912.  The problem with taking so long to accumulate such a gain is that a turnaround is inevitable. Indeed, this series of five consecutive gains is the longest streak since 1890.  The Republicans followed up by gaining share in the next four elections--taking back 36.7%.  The Democrat's majority was gone in just two elections (1916).  They would not have a majority again until 1932--eight elections later.  Furthermore, this failed realignment produced a two-term president--Woodrow Wilson--but he won election only because the Republican Party was split with the Bull Moose defection, and he was re-elected only by a hair.

    The Republican's failed realignment of the 1940s and 1950s was even weaker.  They gained a House majority in 1946 on the strength of three staggered election gains topping 10%: 16.5% in 1938, 10.3% in 1942, and 12.4% in 1946, for a total of 39.8%.  In between, however, the Democrats won 5.7% back (1940 and 1944 combined), and immediately after (1948) they won 17.2%. The GOP nibbled back, gaining 11.5% in the next two elections combined, to eke out a bare majority in 1952, when they finally elected a president--Eisenhower, a war hero who ran a decidedly non-ideological and largely non-partisan campaign.  But they lost that majority the next election, and did not regain it again for 40 years--even though Eisenhower was easily re-elected.

    Using these guidelines, it's obvious that Nixon's election in 1968 cannot be considered part of a realignment.  The GOP did pick up 10.9% share in the 1966 election--but this was a correction to Democrats 8.3% share pickup in 1964, and was followed by only an anemic 1.1% pickup in 1968, and a 2.8% loss in 1970.  Even without Watergate, there was nothing close to the makings of a realignment in these numbers, even (or perhaps especially) considering the deep split in the Democratic Party over race and civil rights.

    De-Aligning Elections/Politics

    However, this perspective on the failure of 1968 to measure up as a realigning presidential election reinforces the case--promoted by William Dean Burnham--for seeing it as a de-aligning election--one that breaks the connection between presidential and congressional voting, making divided government the norm.  This same perspective also undermines the case for seeing 1980 or 1994 as realigning elections, since both simply undid temporary alignments, such as the election of 1992, which produced a President and Congress of the same party.  The actual realignment following 1994 did not take place until 2000--an election in which the "winner" lost by half a million votes, and won by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court.  Although it produced a return to presidential/congressional alignment, the popular vote support was not there for it, and Jefford's defection reflected the mismatch of this reality with the ideological over-reach of the Bush administration.  Without the accidental gift of 9/11, the 2002 election looked to repeat the pattern of 1994, returning to a solidly de-aligned configuration.

    In short, this perspective on what makes for realigning elections reinforces the sense from other sources that where we find ourselves today is historically anomalous and unlikely to be stable.  However, there's one more perspective to take on the micro-level before turning to macro-level considerations.  This concerns the volatility of elections.

    Decreased Volatility--A Longterm Process

    If we look at the 26 elections from 1910 to 1960 (inclusive), we find that 11 of them had a shift in share of 10% or more, compared to 15 with a share shift of less than 10%. In comparison, the next 22 elections--from 1962 to 2004--look strikingly different: only three had share shifts of more than 10%, while 19 had share shifts of less than 10%. Examining the other extreme, just one election from 1910 to 1960 had a share shift of less than 1% and one more had a share shift less than 2%.  In contrast, from the 1962 to 2004, six had share shifts under 1%, and another six had share shifts of 2% or less--combined, that's more than half the elections since 1960.

    Clearly political volatility has dropped dramatically--as is perfectly obvious if one looks back at the chart above. The two most prominent peaks--1974 and 1994--would be quite unremarkable in the pre-1960 era.  They are only regarded as exceptional, defining events because such volatility has become remarkably rare, not because they are historically significant.  What's historically significant is the lack of half a dozen or so other elections like them since 1960.

    Of course we're all familiar with explanations for why there's been so little change in Congress since the GOP took power in 1994.  But this longer-term perspective tells us that this is just an accentuation of a much longer trend.  Up until recently, when the conventional wisdom was that the Democrats could not retake the house, this equated to saying that the share shift would not be more than 3.5%--what it was in 1978.  From 1910 to 1960, only 5 out of 26 elections were that placid.  It is unthinkable that such a disastrous term as the past two years would result in such a placid election.  But since 1962, 14 of 22 elections had shifts of less than 15 seats, 7 were more volatile, and one (1978, as noted) saw a shift of exactly 15 seats.  Aside from 1994, the last time an election saw more than 15 seats shift was 1984, when 16 shifted.

    Decreased Volatility and The Macro-Environment

    This recent history is indicative of a changed macro-historical environment.  Whatever commonplace explanations we may have--increased advantages of incumbency, the perfection of bipartisan gerrymandering, etc--these need to be seen as historical manifestations, along with the set of assumptions that encourages us to accept it as "just the way things are" and discourages us from seeking deeper historical perspectives.

    If volatility had not changed dramatically, there would be some fairly straightforward conclusions to draw about this election and its significance--that one election is not enough to change things, and that we should be thinking in terms of how to make major gains in at least two consecutive elections.  Seeing lack of volatility as part of the problem of a moribund political system, our goal should still be the same--but with the added caveat that we have to think very seriously about what to do to enhance volatility (aka the power of the people to choose their representatives, rather than the other way around).  Serious campaign finance reform, such as the clean money model from Maine and Arizona, currently on California's ballot, would certainly be part of the solution.  So would serious media reform, with reinstatement of the fairness doctrine as a no-brainer first step.

    This is, in short, another supporting argument in favor of Chris Bower's post-2004 election analysis conclusion that the way to grow the Democratic coalition is by aggressively embracing governmental reform.  But it's also an invitation to think more deeply about what's behind decreased volativility, about what it means for our democracy, and the general welfare.

    Just as the Beltway Dem establishment opposed--even ridiculed--the idea of running hard in a wide field in this election, in favor of narrow targeting, we should expect them to want to be satisfied with whatever majority we win in this election, trying to do what the GOP did after 1994--limit volatility to maintain whatever margin they have, rather than use power robustly to strive for more gains in a second election--which is the key to a true realignment.  This may not always be so blatantly stated, but it will be the underlying operating assumption.  It is already the operating assumption behind those who see no problem with taking as much K-Street money as we can.

    The key to understanding our macro-environment comes from two books by Kevin Phillips--not from their main theses, but from important background themes. In Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, Phillips draws parallels to the three most recent world powers that preceded us: Spain, Holland and Britain.  All three started off as industrious, productive domestic economies, with a healthy overseas trade.  As their overseas trade came to dominate the world, more money, talent and resources went into trade itself, but even more into finance.  At the peak of their power, each experienced a stunning, unexpected reversal--much as we did in Vietnam.  After that, the finance sector really took off, to the benefit of the upper quarter or so of society, while the rest of society stagnated, producing a highly polarized society, legitimized by more than a generation of reactionary politics, until a breaking point is reached.  This results in a broadly egalitarian, populist reformation, reigning in the power of wealth and taking steps to rebuild the domestic economy.

    The growth of international power, to point of empire, and the concentration of economic power that goes with it seem like prime candidates for macro-level forces disrupting the earlier regularity of realigning elections.  For a more fine-grain look at how this manifests, we need to turn to a second book.

    In American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, Phillips discusses the cultural fascination with wealth and aristocratic lineage that began in the Reagan Era, then moves on to the specific politics of restoration--drawing parallels between the restoration of the GOP and the Bush dynasty after the Clinton presidency, and Stuart Restoration in Britain and the Bourbon Restoration in France.   These parallels highlight a court-centered politics of nepotism, favoritism and incompetence, deeply estranged from concern for the common good.  It's hard to imagine a more apt description of the Bush Regime and its constellation of enablers in Congress, the media, on K-street, and throughout the land.

    Decreased volatility is but a natural symptom of the forces Phillips describes as part of the background of these two books.  The good news is that these forces inevitably wane--as they seem poised to do in America today.  How soon the tide is turned, how well and wisely a new order is constructed--these cannot be guaranteed by history.  But the downfall of the current system is virtually inevitable.  It is simply unsustainable, despite its own narcissistic fantasy of triumphant and eternal rule.

    Hints For Constructing A New Majority

    Phillips is a self-identified populist, by which he means he is economically liberal and socially conservative.  This is how he characterizes the natural inclinations of the middle class, and of the reformation movements that follow the reactionary phase of politics.   But the evidence related to social conservatism--and even its meaning--is a good deal fuzzier than that related to economic liberalism.  Furthermore, the three previous examples Phillips cites were all much more culturally unified than multi-racial, multi-cultural America is.  

    It is natural to assume that economic liberalism will bind together a new majority more certainly than any social policy, for the simple reason that even a majority of conservative voters favor the welfare state.  Views on a wide range of social issues are more fragmented and diffuse.  Economic liberalism has been opposed by elites of both parties over the past thirty-odd years--but not by all of them, as seen, for example, in the mobilization of wealthy opponents of abolishing the estate tax.

    The driving, defining force in the historical processes that Phillips describes is fundamentally economic--a restoration of broad equality in sharing the rewards of work.  The notion that this is somehow culturally conservative derives from conservative caricatures of the welfare state, defining it in terms of its help for the most downtrodden and dysfunctional.  But the vast majority of welfare state spending and benefit (including tax policies, investments in education, health, technology and infrastructure, etc.) has gone to the middle class to make them middle class.  This should be our model in shaping new policies for the century ahead.   Policies that broadly benefit everyone create conditions in which social and cultural tolerance flourishes.  

    The realignments of 1896 and 1932 hold important lessons for us.  In the 1880s and 90s, the power of plutocracy was consolidated because the broad mass of people were divided.  The rural populists, Jewish and Catholic immigrants and native Protestant working class were all structurally exploited by the Guilded Age plutocracy, but were deeply divided culturally--which is what allowed the realignment of the congressional elections of 1892 and 1894, leading up to the presidential election of 1896.  This was not a stable arrangement, however, as seen in the progressive revolt, and the relative strength of the failed Democratic realignment, which nonetheless had a strong ideological component.  In contrast, the realignment of 1930-1932 bought together the Catholic and Protestant working class, united the Northern urban working class with the South, and produced a much stronger coalition of forces, as seen in the much weaker failed Republican realignment.

    Thus, what's needed for a new realignment is the bringing together of previously splintered groups with common economic interests (the lesson of 1932), but it's also helpful to splinter the other side (the lesson of 1896).  It's safe to say that 2006 is primarily a referendum on the Republicans, and is playing out as a substantial splintering of their side.  This is the prime significance of the Foley scandal.  While it is relatively minor in real-world significance, it is a major disruption of the GOPs conservative discourse, threatening to utterly undo the alliance of convenience between social conservatives and economic conservatives.  A successful realignment--not just for the next election cycle or two, but for generations--requires that the 2008 election is about bringing together previously splintered groups.  This is what the GOP failed to do following its 1994 success.  The failure was hardly surprising, given the nutcase leadership of Newt Gingrich,  But we need to work hard not to repeat his mistake.

    There will be at least three different versions of how to bring groups together that we are likely to see.  One from the Beltway and two from the netroots.

    The Beltway's favored solution is--as always--to "move to the center," which means that Democrats again must move right.  This will be supported by narratives about non-partisanship, blaming "extremism on both sides," etc.  It means further abandoning economic populism, which enjoys the overwhelming support of the American people.  It's the DLC all over again.  The most plausible salesman of this approach is Barack Obama, who far too many people still mistake for a progressive.  Well, some of his rhetoric surely is progressive.  But that's rhetoric, not reality.

    The netroots have two counter-visions.  Markos--a former Republican--is the most visible supporter of a libertarian realignment.  This is especially meant to appeal to people like him--people who resonate to traditional pre-religious right GOP narratives.  Paul Hackett was a classic articulator of this view. Chris Bowers--a pragmatic lefty--supports a government reform agenda.  It's not the New Deal, but it is New Deal 2.0.  Government is and should be a much bigger player in this view, compared to the others, but transparency, responsiveness, and participatory democracy are central to this vision. It is very much about growing a deeply democratic culture, much as the union movement was in its pre-bureaucratic heyday.

    The two netroots visions can either conflict with each other, or find common ground by concentrating on specific examples.  The spirit that Markos is after--of autonomy and enterprise--has historically always required much more government support than people realize, from the building of canals and the Louisiana Purchase to the massive, prolonged government spending on science and technology that gave birth to Silicon Valley and the personal computing revolution.  If we look toward specific challenges and how to meet them, we are far more likely to find ways that the two netroot visions can integrate into a coherent, but multifaceted whole.

    An important aspect of doing this is looking for specific policy packages that address regional and sub-regional needs.  Policies for the West, for example, will involve ways of bringing together environmentalists, ranchers, hunters and others to develop ways of preserving what's best and most distinctive about the land and its people, while developing new industries, technologies and cultural practices that give people a future as well as a past.

    The New Deal had important regional aspects to it that are undeservedly forgotten.  The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), for example, brought electrical power and economic development to a previous backwater.   Regionally-specific policies, generated primarily by the people of those regions, should have an even bigger role to play this time around, both for pragmatic and for political reasons.  They are the key to turning different regions blue, and the key to integrating the two netroots visions to provide a unified alternative to the Beltway/DLC vision.

    It's also a hint at where to concentrate our efforts in the waning days of the election: on those races where we see and feel a particular opportunity and capacity for articulating a regional vision that serves to bring a national vision down to human scale.

    Appendix: Dem House Share Table: 1890-2004*

                    % Gain/
    Year  % Share      Loss

    1892     61.2     -10.4
    1894     26.0     -35.2
    1896     34.7       8.7
    1898     45.0      10.3
    1900     42.2      -2.8
    1902     45.6       3.4
    1904     34.9     -10.7
    1906     42.7       7.8
    1908     43.9       1.2
    1910     58.3      14.4
    1912     66.8       8.5
    1914     52.8     -14.0
    1916     49.1      -3.7
    1918     44.2      -4.9
    1920     30.1     -14.1
    1922     47.5      17.4
    1924     42.0      -5.5
    1926     44.5       2.5
    1928     37.7      -6.8
    1930     49.6      11.9
    1932     71.9      22.3
    1934     74.0       2.1
    1936     76.7       2.7
    1938     60.2     -16.5
    1940     61.3       1.1
    1942     51.0     -10.3
    1944     55.6       4.6
    1946     43.2     -12.4
    1948     60.4      17.2
    1950     54.0      -6.4
    1952     48.9      -5.1
    1954     53.3       4.4
    1956     53.7       0.4
    1958     64.7      11.0
    1960     60.1      -4.6
    1962     59.5      -0.6
    1964     67.8       8.3
    1966     56.9     -10.9
    1968     55.8      -1.1
    1970     58.6       2.8
    1972     55.6      -3.0
    1974     66.8      11.2
    1976     67.1       0.3
    1978     63.6      -3.5
    1980     55.6      -8.0
    1982     61.8       6.2
    1984     58.1      -3.7
    1986     59.3       1.2
    1988     59.7       0.4
    1990     61.3       1.6
    1992     59.3      -2.0
    1994     46.8     -12.5
    1996     47.3       0.5
    1998     48.5       1.2
    2000     48.7       0.2
    2002     46.9      -1.8
    2004     46.4      -0.5

    * Note: Unlike the chart, this table gives the change in shares as gain (positive) or loss (negative). The absolute value of this column was used in the table, in order to focus attention on the magnitude of change.

    Tags: 2006 House, Democrats, Realignment, Republicans (all tags)



    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    Lot's of good thoughts here.

    One thought I had. It is very dicey to make comparisons between modern industrialized societies to pre-industrial societies. Trying to draw analogies between 18th century England or 17th Holland and 21st century America are frought with difficulties.

    Drawing off this point and in conjunction with your analysis of decreasing political volatiliy, I think there is another reason why realignments are so difficult now. Ever since the New Deal brought the US out of laissez-faire capitalism into the modern world of a mixed economy, the middle class has been largely shielded from economic depressions. And historically, when depressions reach into the middle class, you get political unrest and major changes in governments (i.e. the New Deal, the post-war labor government in Britain). But with that New Deal government, we got FDIC, we got social security, we already had the Federal reserve, we got Medicare, we got Ag subsidies. In essence the success of the New Deal took away a lot of impetus for future major political changes. People (meaning the middle class) are comfortable. Sure there's anxiety, but we don't have bread lines anymore. Sure there are homeless and very poor people, but as long as the largest share of the country can still afford to buy a house, get a job, and retire, I believe it will be very hard to get enough political enthusiasm to make major changes in this country.

    Your regional planning idea is great and I wish during the New Deal there had been more of it as there is in France and Canada. But in today's society, it will take a massive effort of constant political education in order to engage enough of the public to radically alter our current state of affairs.

    by adamterando 2006-10-21 10:33AM | 0 recs
    Yes And No...

    I think you're largely right about the New Deal.  While people have proposed a number of "realigning elections" to end the New Deal Era--1968, 1980, 1994--none of them fit the bill, and the New Deal basically survives, although it's been dangerously weakened, most notably in its regulatory side.

    The declining fortunes of wage-earners have been too gradual for the large mass of people (though different sectors have been hit hard at different times), so a shielding of the political process has been possible that simply wouldn't have worked before.

    I think that media concentration plays a role as well, along with several other factors discussed in the book Democracy Heading South.  But those factors came on the scene relatively late, in a landscape where volatility had already decreased significantly.  (The 1940s was the last decade to see more than one "wave" election with a shift greater than 10%).

    OTOH, my "no" is in response to your lead-off statement:

    One thought I had. It is very dicey to make comparisons between modern industrialized societies to pre-industrial societies. Trying to draw analogies between 18th century England or 17th Holland and 21st century America are frought with difficulties.
    We're actually not talking about pre-industrial societies here, on several counts.  First, we're talking 19th Century (and early 20th Century) England, not 18th Century.  So it's very much an industrial empire we're talking about.  Second, Holland was a lot more industrialized than most folks realize.  Phillips discusses this in some detail in his most recent book, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.  Whale oil was Holland's primary energy source (though wind- and water-power had long been important to them, and continued to be), and it was a true industrial enterprise, no ifs ands or buts about it.  Third, if you've read any Lewis Mumford, you'll know that European industrialization began back in the Middle Ages.  The so-called "Industrial Revolution" was more of an inflection point (granted, one helluva inflection point) than something entire new.

    Even more fundamentally, however, there is all sorts of evidence that things don't change nearly as much as we think they do because of new technology.  The differences in everyday life are dramatic, to be sure.  But in socio-cultural terms, the same sorts of things keep happening, only with somewhat different metrics.  Civilizations tend to rise and fall for similar reasons across broad reaches of time. Our ecological problems, for example.  A lot like those faced by the ancient Sumerians.  (They didn't make it, btw.)

    Finally, there was more regional planning than most folks realize during the New Deal, but of course there was also stiff opposition from "states rights" ideologues, as well as from the pre-existing decentralized political structures of American politics.  So, there could easily have been much more, if the political culture had been different.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-21 06:24PM | 0 recs
    Re: Yes And No...

    I should have stated my leadoff better. You're absolutely right BUT... I think the same thing still applies. We might be comparing ourselves to an industrializing or industrialized 19th and early 20th century England, but it is still a laissez-faire England with minimal government regulation and redistribution of wealth.

    I think the formation of social democracies within industrialized nations is the major revolution.

    Your point about the same things bringing down empires is well taken as well. I just think it takes a lot more to bring them down (such as a world war or world economic depression, e.g. Germany and/or England).

    But I think the US could be heading there as well with China rising and the decline of wage earners in this country. China's growth will ultimately be retarded though as I believe until the workers engage in a second revolution to make the transition to a social democracy instead of a totalitarian lassez-faire state.

    I agree there could have been much more regional planning. People were in the government that wanted to make it happen (one of them, Gilbert White, is still alive I believe). But, alas, it was not meant to be.

    by adamterando 2006-10-21 07:50PM | 0 recs
    A few points

    First, good work. My husband and I think you're basically sound.

    However you've missed a few points as he pointed out to me. First, you stated:

    Economic liberalism has been opposed by elites of both parties over the past thirty-odd years--but not by all of them, as seen, for example, in the mobilization of wealthy opponents of abolishing the estate tax.

    The mobilization of opponents  were few and far between. By and large, this was a ripple in a sea of opposition to what was actually re-labelled a "death tax" and soundly defeated. Best we should not identify victory in defeat.

    Kevin Phillips wrote: "Most revolutions dismast themselves trying to take dynasties out of power"  - this especially true of the move against the bourbons. As a Nixon Republican, Kevin Phillips belongs to a distinguished group of men who are not only within the party of the GOP but also truly conservative in the old sense - I am certain that Phillips would not predict - as you have, a realignment to the Democrats, but rather, he would simply have his advice to his own party fall on deaf ears.  It is interesting that you picked it up. My husband laughed when he saw you quoting his old friend.

    Lets test your theory, paul.

    What would you say about the candidacy, of one of the six key senate races - where the tide has shifted to the Democrats.

    Please apply this theory to Tennessee. Explain how it is a socially liberal victory.

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/ 0,8599,1548892,00.html?cnn=yes

    by heyAnita 2006-10-21 10:44AM | 0 recs
    A few Counter-points

    (1) I'm not sure what the point is about elite opposition to the estate tax.  So what if a lot of folks were for it?  My point was that although elites have grown much more insular and polarized generally, this is not uniformly so.  I fail to see how you've undermined this point, but I think the fault is mine for not making it clear enough in the first place.

    (2) Phillips is no longer a Republican, he's an independent.  And he's not a conservative, he's a species of populist--socially conservative, economically liberal.  He left because, as you say, his advice fell on deaf ears.  Regardless of the party vehicle, he predicts a populist (in his sense) future.  I think it's more up for grabs, for a number of reasons, including the vagueness of what's meant by "socially conservative."

    BTW, Phillips has gotten increasingly upset with his old party over the years--he hates the Bushes and all they stand for--but I've paid attention to him since long before he came out like this.  

    (3) I think it's utterly mistaken to try to translate what I'm saying about what should be generally to what is in any specific instance.  I think that Ford is a retrograde politician, not a harbiner.  Much more disturbing to my hopes is someone like Barack Obama, who is seemingly both retrograde and a harbinger.

    But what I think we can do is talk about the Senate races as a whole, which presents a rather multi-faceted picture--even though I think that the House is where the real dynamism will come from in the short run.  I see Tester as the real harbinger here--something we haven't seen in a while, coming back and taking a somewhat different form.  Brown is somewhat in the mold of Metzenbaum, a resurgence of Ohio liberalism, something that lots of folks don't know exists, despite the persistence of folks like Denis Kucinich.  Casey is even more retro than Ford.  Cardin, well, I don't really know him well enough.  Seems like just another machine chump to me.  But I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised.  Webb looks like someone close to Markos's ideal.  So, in short, we've got a real mixed bag, just among the ones I've mentioned.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-21 06:48PM | 0 recs
    Re: A few Counter-points

    I wonder how much being Lieberman's protege twisted Obama...

    by MNPundit 2006-10-22 09:47PM | 0 recs
    phillips is now an independent

    he came out after american theocracy was released.

    by colorless green ideas 2006-10-22 11:18PM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    BTW My husband pointed out that your work is really nice , but drinking too deeply from the spring of knowledge makes you too fat to run a triathlon.

    He and I discussed your post at length, it really was quite good. Please know that the exceptions I pointed out (for example, the defeat of the "death tax" by permanent repeal of the tax in 2010 had 42 democrats voting for it) were merely fine tuning and in no way do we see Ford's successful run down in Tennessee as counter to what you are saying.

    Instead, what I think we're both saying is - if we are not to test your ideas (as we certainly would - lest we not drink deeply enough of that spring of knowledge)

    Rather - is not the completion of your thought, with the final graph - that of a very simple message?

    Your final table shows Democrat control in every major military victory.

    And it shows the republicans being completely unable to wage any kind of successful, large scale war on terror. Certainly Reagan's victory in Grenada would count as these people's ability to win over sheep farmers...  but that's it.

    So, here is our idea

    The democratic victory in the house represents the return of a clear, connected, and confident America.

    Simply put, the Democratic realignment represents , finally, the ability of those who would play to win - finally returning to power.  I like to call it a party of the clear, confident, and connected.    We oppose legislation authored by lobbyists, rather, we seek legislation from the people itself - from the reality based community of the internet, for which we have several champion movements such as moveon. We are not opposed to christian coalitions, or conservatism, but rather, like the libertarian descriptions you have mentioned - we seek a government that simply disintermediates the entrenched corporate and media entertainment lobbyists such as the broadcast media lobby, and others.

    In short, what is happening is America is waking up to what the internet can really do , in Government - and the Democratic party best represents those ideals.

    Paul, you've posted world class political analysis that I and my husband can read, here in Atlanta, while you're all the way on the west coast. We didn't have to listen to anyone keep you from posting it, because they didn't like the cut of your sails - or have any one pressure you because your story didn't play well with the advertising they are planning in their next issue. You posted data that could be tracked down easily, but also alot of it - not just the simple ten seconds of analysis that has given Karl Rove and Joe Lieberman so much in their careers.

    Instead, you have just illustrated by your example of the existence of a new electorate.
    I believe if the Democratic party identifies with that electorate it will be a new party that will last as long as the internet.

    Wait, I've said that before... oh well.

    And again my husband is shoulder surfing me to say - that you should tell us more about Fords run in Tennessee and how this fits into your narrative because he is saying we need to get on with telling the world what a Democratic senate would look like too...

    I think it probably won't look like Joe Lieberman.

    by heyAnita 2006-10-21 11:09AM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    PS My husband also asked me to write, that the democratic landslide in both houses could also just simply mean that Bush lost the war in Iraq and he'll be remembered as a loser.

    by heyAnita 2006-10-21 11:10AM | 0 recs
    I Agree!

    The democratic victory in the house represents the return of a clear, connected, and confident America.

    When all is said and done, the Dems are the Daddy Party after all, as well as the Mommy Party.

    The GOP is the drunken frat boy party, with a big helping of Sunday morning penance just to give the appearance of "balance."

    I'm sorry I can't say more about the Tennessee race.  My knowledge of Ford is pretty much from his record in the House--which smelled a lot of center-right opportunism--not from the nature of his campaign.  (You're a lot closer to it than I.)  I've been far more aware of Coker's meltdown than Ford's campaign.

    I'm not sure what's so good about a candidate saying that we need to tell people what a Democratic Senate would look like.  They should just say what they intend to do.  But perhaps I've misunderstood.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-21 06:59PM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    Excellent analysis, Paul.  There is a great deal to think about here.  The historical analysis seems basically sound to me.

    Most intriguing is what to do next.  Your characterizations of the three positions are apt. You are right to stress how much governmental support is needed for Markos-style "libertarianism."  But it needs to be fair, transparent and well-policed.  What killed 1960's-'70s Dem "liberalism", aside from race, was the fact that so much of it was top-down do-goodism--elites telling poor people and employers and everyone else how to be virtuous, with onerous bureaucratic requirements.  The real beneficiaries of poverty programs were the middle-class professional problem solvers that grew out of them, not the poor.  There was just enough truth in the right-wing caricatures to make them potent to both those who thought the programs were a waste and those who felt they had been excluded.  Using the private sector, however, is just an invitation to scam artists.

    So while I definitely come down on the Bowers side, we must not repeat those mistakes, but instead stress opportunity and the removal of obstacles--programs that provide a platform or launching pad for individual and small-group initiative, for example in the energy field.  Take advantage of the opportunities for decentralization to promote high-tech enterprises in communities (chiefly in the Midwest) that are losing population, and more grants for low-income students to go to college or get real technical training.  (But policed, so that it doesn't go to sham/scam schools, which probably means direct grants to public colleges and jr colleges.)  

    Most important, however, is the need to reverse the trend toward wide disparities income and asset accumulation we have seen.  Interesting that commenters mentioned the estate tax.  It is not repealed as of 2010.  Or rather, its, but only for one year.  Then in 2011 it reverts to an exemption of $1 million and a top tax rate of 55%.  In light of inflation (especially of house prices) there will be pressure to change that.  The easiest and most sensible thing is NEXT YEAR to freeze it at the 2007-2008 level of a $2 million exemption and 45% top tax rate.   Dividends will have to be taxed at the same rates as ordinary income again, but there could be an exclusion for the first $1000-3500 in dividends.  (In the '60s, when I started working, there was an exclusion for the first $600 of dividends in US companies; with inflation that would be about $3500 now.)  Of course the top two rates will have to be raised back to the Clinton level.  There should be a real "peace dividend" when we get out of Iraq and scale back our military/imperial ambitions; there seems to be widespread support for that.

    The more that cultural institutions can be enlisted in a campaign to combat excessive materialsm and greed in favor of family, community and the common good the better, but has to be a genuine change of attitudes, not a government program.  

    by Mimikatz 2006-10-21 01:08PM | 0 recs
    A Slightly Different Take

    What killed 1960's-'70s Dem "liberalism", aside from race, was the fact that so much of it was top-down do-goodism--elites telling poor people and employers and everyone else how to be virtuous, with onerous bureaucratic requirements.  The real beneficiaries of poverty programs were the middle-class professional problem solvers that grew out of them, not the poor.
    America's welfare state is riddled with dysfunctional conservative influences.  One of those is the heavy reliance on narrowly-targetted means-tested programs.  In contrast, most European welfare states rely much more on universal programs.  These programs are larger and more expensive, but much less intrusive and bureaucratic.  (Like Medicare and Social Security, as opposed to welfare, food stamps, federal housing assistance, etc.)  Ironically, because they are larger and serve more people, there is stronger support for them, even though they cost more.  The benefits are relatively more visible, widespread and part of a general logic, rather than a special case.

    While it's true that there's a top-down legacy from the New Deal we need to fight against (I've always been a grassroots outsider, so I was making these sorts of criticism back in the 60s and 70s), it's not enough to think in terms of redressing older-style liberalism's shortcomings.  We have to recognize systemic shortcomings of all kinds, regardless of where they come from.  And, of course, the internets give us an empowered, laterally-organized and informed activist base that can do a much more effective job of that than anything we've seen in a long, long time.

    Everything else you say--and it's a lot--I pretty much agree with.  One of the purposes that government can serve is to foster a certain sort of spirit in civil society.  So, when you end with this:

    The more that cultural institutions can be enlisted in a campaign to combat excessive materialsm and greed in favor of family, community and the common good the better, but has to be a genuine change of attitudes, not a government program.
    I have just one caveat: government can help promote this sort of change in attitudes.  For example, government can structure student aid and loans in such a way that people can choose to go into lower-paying professions that serve the common good, and get a government benefit in return--such as forgiveness of loans.  But you're absolute correct that government should not and cannot be the prime mover.  It can do part of the job, not all of it.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-21 07:21PM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean
    Your whole presentation was great.  I did my little five minutes of research a few weeks ago and saw that it took three elections for the Democrats to take that huge majority in the thirties.
    I think that although people have several strong issues for change: the Iraq war, health care, corruption, poverty, the issue that I think could sustain us for long enough to transform our society would be global warming.  It's hard for me to imagine that the party of the oil industry could field a candidate who would be as credible as Al Gore, and I think he would carry the necessary extra 20% of Democrats to power.  And that issue, done right, contains the seeds of societal regeneration.  It will make us think long term.  It will make us think about how our society functions as a system instead of just how individuals survive.  It will make us internationalists and make us work with other people around the world.  We will have to make friends.  We will not be able to afford a war with each other if we want to survive.  Overcoming our greatest weakness, the destruction of our planet, may lead us to our greatest strength.
    by prince myshkin 2006-10-22 12:51AM | 0 recs
    A Very Good, Strong Point

    I think you're absolutely right, but it has to be done right.

    A major ingredient is the way in which minorities are brought into the mix.  The Willie C. Velasquez Institute, under the leadership of Antonio Gonzales, has put great emphasis on re-imagining environmentalism from a Latino perspective.  I wrote about that last Earthday for Random Lengths News in my article, "Green is Brown."  I was not focused precisely on global warming, but I think the argument applies nontheless.  Here's an excerpt:

       "If you think of us as I think of us, we're going to rule America. But by the time we get power it's going to be all messed up," Gonzales explained. Hence the need to develop policies now--ones that make sense for everyone, not just Latinos, so they will begin to be implemented now.
         "We have to think on a 50-year continuum. We already know what it's like to do it the wrong way. The black community inherited the Rust Belt when whites were abandoning it. So they had to dig out and revitalize and restore urban messes, as whites moved to suburbs and the Fortune 500 said `forget it, we're leaving."
         "We don't want that to happen to us. We don't want that to happen to anybody."
         How this applies to environmental concerns is simple: they are an integral part of a community-centered agenda, an ecosystem of issues.
         "We're organizing socioeconomic policy initiatives, trying to show our leadership how to craft this hybrid agenda. Working across sectors, across issues, not organizing housing and education apart from the environment," Gonzales continues.
    That's a key factor in how to do it right, IMHO.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-22 08:43AM | 0 recs
    Re: A Very Good, Strong Point

    That plays into my one good political idea which I have been working on for a little while now.  I wish I had a cool idea for a name, but my working title is Local Resource Network.  I would love to have feedback from you when I have my weblog set up.  I'm putting together a diary series for after the election.  I don't want to be a distraction from the task at hand, or have my very good idea be completely overlooked.  But I'm bursting to talk about it.  So, maybe I'll be lucky and you'll read it.  A lot of the inspiration for it comes from your posts, especially the graphs showing that Conservatives are Liberal too.  I know that is true,  because I'm from Alabama; you can present any idea you want and people will love it as long as you don't use certain loaded words.  And don't tell them you can't stand Reagan.

    by prince myshkin 2006-10-22 11:09AM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    I don't know about a realignment in the political structure, but I think we are headed into a very significant 'protest vote' from the Right.   That means we're going to see a big turn against the Republicans next month, then that same electorate will probably  go back and vote for Republicans in the general.  

    This could also mean that we're in a temporary stretch of "good man" vs. "bad man" politics that has shaken things up, loosened some gaps in the political structure that has forced some old wood to slip out and the opportunity for some new to slip in.

    All the stuff in the blogs--the big conversation--has been more about the form of government, than the challenge of governmening.  So there's no platform vision per se from someone like Markos or Bowers, no list of priorities, no sense of what the promise to the people should be.  Only a charge to the Duma, so to speak.  I don't know that we've ever seen such a situation:  where the leaders of the "movement" have absolutely no interestin becoming the leaders of the system once the movement succeeds.  Typically, someone like Markos would have emerged with clearer leadership aspirations by now.  So it's a strange  dynamic,  a vacum of sorts.

    Having said that, I'd say the major realignment could well be in the media, not government. This whole 2004-06 run of events could really not be about the Democratic Party at all, but about the return of partisan journalism to the U.S.A. (c.f. "FOX NEWS" in your 2050 highschool civics textbook).   It may take some time also to see how that plays out, but in the short run, I think we will see a flood of ad money into the net in '07-'08 that will change some lives significantly.   And that money seems to be the large amorphous mass that shifts or mantains the ballast in our system.

    by Jeffrey Feldman 2006-10-22 05:37AM | 0 recs
    Intersting Ideas, But...

    I probably end up disagreeing with you on every point, even though I think that you're making important points. For example:

    I don't know that we've ever seen such a situation:  where the leaders of the "movement" have absolutely no interestin becoming the leaders of the system once the movement succeeds.
    How about the Civil Rights Movement?  The Abolitionist Movement?  The First Wave Women's Movement? The Second Wave Women's Movement?  In all cases, the leaders quite realistically saw their roles as that of national conscience, not national legislator or executive.

    But you're right to say that something is different here.  It's just that I think you've mis-identified it.  You were more on target to note the lack of a clearly prioritized agenda.  And I would trace this back to our failure to consciously evolve the design of the blogosphere to serve our future-oriented political needs.  We're still stuck in a model that prioritizes shorter diaries about breaking news (especially at DKos), with a lack of means for sustaining policy discussions over time outside of issue-specialized blogs, which tend to have much smaller readerships, and limited influence on the rest of the blogosphere.

    As for a "media realignment"--I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about.  We've had an increasingly partisan media for quite some time now--long before the last two years.  It's just that the Dems have no place in it.  However much you want to shift the focus--and I agree that the media is vitally important--you can't avoid the fact that elections are the ultimate arbiters of political power in our system, and thus, inevitable, the turning points on which realignments depend.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-22 09:09AM | 0 recs
    Re: Intersting Ideas, But...

    Hmm.  The ornery voice in my head wants to part with you on that rule about elections being the ultimate arbiters of political power. I know that sounds ass-backwards, but I just don't see tectonic change happening in singular moments.   As I read it, in valuing elections as you have, as the key events where political alignments happen, you are asking that we put aside the idea of hegemony--or at least hold it at arm's length.  But then again, maybe you're right.  Maybe that's how we should be looking at things right now...

    by Jeffrey Feldman 2006-10-22 09:50AM | 0 recs
    Not Exactly What I'm Saying

    I think media and cultural narratives are tremendously important.  But they don't just happen on a single day, conferring vast institutional power. Nor are they as clearly defined in terms of a binary divide. These are reasons why the concept of "realignment" is a good deal mushier for the media.

    Plus, there's always the question about the still-changing role of the internet and blogosphere in the media landscape.

    I simply prefer to think of the media as part of the entire realm of cultural/economic forces in the sphere of macro-level forces, rather than breaking it out separately for purposes of this analysis.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-22 10:10AM | 0 recs
    Fix Sentence

    I don't mean to be a pain in the ass but this is too good too leave this typo uncorrected.

    This same perspective also undermines the case for seeing 1980 or 1994 as realigning elections, since both simply undid temporary alignments of 1992, which produced a President and Congress of the same party.

    Aparantly you changed your thought and thus the sentence but you did not edit out  of 1992. I assume the sentence should read

    This same perspective also undermines the case for seeing 1980 or 1994 as realigning elections, since both simply undid temporary alignments which produced a President and Congress of the same party.

    Please fix as it is jarring and interrupts the flow of an otherwise excellant read which deserves to be front paged here and on Kos.

    by molly bloom 2006-10-22 06:59AM | 0 recs
    Re: Fix Sentence to- clarify

    the election of 1980 cannot be said to undue a temporary alignments of 1992, although the election of 1994...

    by molly bloom 2006-10-22 07:32AM | 0 recs

    As you see, I lost a few words there.  It should have been (and was, at one time!) "such as the election of 1992."


    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-22 08:27AM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    Here is what a Democratic landslide should NOT mean. No more actions to further antagonize blue collar white males like more gun control and more affirmative action programs for women and minorities and please no amnesty for people who sneak into our country and take jobs away from Americans.The middle class is slowly sinking into a 3rd world economic status and we don't need Democratic majorities to hepl it along.

    by Litvak36 2006-10-22 01:27PM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    yes I agree demonize anyone who is different, that's a strategy for making sure that white male undereducated voters are okay in both the short term and long term.

    by bruh21 2006-10-22 03:05PM | 0 recs
    Beat Me To It!

    Actually, this is a perfect example of someone caught in the backwash of the last party system, trying to dictate what the new party system should look like.

    Can't you just hear the same sort of working-class-white-male-centric advice being paraded out against the emergence of the Republican Party in 1858?

    What defines a new party system is precisely the fact that it reorders things, so that the "common sense" of the old era is replaced by a new common sense.  And the conservative identity politics emobodied in Litvak36's remarks are perfect embodiments of the old "common sense."

    In addition to a new common sense, a new party system generates new concepts of identity as well.  So long as fear of challenging old identities predominates, a new order cannot be born.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-22 04:14PM | 0 recs
    Re: Beat Me To It!

    I agree with what you said, but my problem with this person's post is that it is just plain factually, morally and intellectually wrong. The problem that this segment of the population faces is a direct concesquence of people placating their fears rather than being honest with them about what they need to do in order to get back into the game. It's incredibly easy to blame external boogeymen, but if this poster can explain to me how afirmative action is a factor as to why multinational corporations are farming jobs abroad, or how low paying illegal immigrant jobs that no one wants is hurting a factory worker working at a union rate, then he or she is better at econ than just about every nobel laurete on the issue. They are also vastly missing the shifting demographic make up of this country. The problem that white male undereducated workers face is that they are no longer the hands down predominant power in this society. Sure, back 2 decades ago, that didn't mean anything as well dealt with the last vestiges of racism, but now, even as we continue to deal with racism, etc, we still have the reality that things are slowly but surely becoming a game where even the white undereducated voter is being hit my a reality that blacks and low wage immigrants workers have been dealing with all a long: the harsh realities of the American way of doing business. Such a worker would be better suited under the social democracies of Europe, but here in the US they are told that such systems are against them, and the system set up in the US which leaves them to the wolves are somehow for them?

    I agree that there is maybe a paradigm shift happening- which is what I understand you to mean by reallignment, but I have no idea how it will form. One of my major problems with the social conservative, economically liberal types is that they don't get it anymore than the socially conservative, economically conservative types do. The primary issue is the nature by which they construct reality. It's about demonizing some segment of the population or explotiation of that minority group (at base thats what drives social conservatives). It's also a failed approach because it distorts discussions. People who are not being presecuted- the christian conservative, are walking around as though they have big crosses on their back, and mean while they places others under the barrel of their beliefs. The result is that it divides the country. if they instead took a real conservative view that said that pluralism is the key to a liberal democracy. If they understand for that matter what liberal democracy even means- it's not rule of the majority, it's rural of law which is in part equal protection and fairness. However, that's a lot of ifs.

    I think two of the problems the reallignment faces are: a) the undereducation or dumbing down of the average voter (they really have no clue how our system works, and they, if the above poster had his way- would never know), and instead are told what they want to hear rather than the truth b) we live in an aging democracy which has never been good at figuring how to properly change beyond sloganeering- I hope i am wrong, but things like gerrymandering, voting suppression, lack of understanding of our process, etc don't suggest to me any real change is afoot. I think what is more likely are tweaking at the edges. Nearly every reallignment you mentioned- as I remember- occured during moments of intense real existential crisis in the US. In other words, in the other changes, after we changed or we died. What is the impetus for such a change now?

    by bruh21 2006-10-22 05:06PM | 0 recs
    The Impetus For Change

    Look at the number of people saying we're on the wrong track.  There's much that's wrong, but it's not that easy for people to define.  The old order has been very good at obscuring things.  And so, I think that a major key will be the ability to define problems so that people can see them clearly, freshly and distinctly.

    For all the reasons you cite, this will not be an easy task by any means.  But that doesn't mean it's impossible.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-22 06:06PM | 0 recs
    Re: Beat Me To It!


    I want to clarify two points: a) racism still does exist, but I think we can't compare it to what preceeded it because racism of the preceeding systems were caste systems, the present racism is more a soft kind of racism b) the illegal immigration does hurt workers in the sense of race to the bottom economic thought, but the core issue there is not the illegal immigration its that workers who obssess over social conservatism are played for them to set up a system that allows corporations to exploit both the union worker and the illegal immigrant.

    by bruh21 2006-10-22 05:10PM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean


    When the Democrats take over Congress we will see the final, irrevocable, destruction of that oddest of governing coalitions: business conservatives and social conservatives.  This was an unstable coalition at the best of times; what they had in common was what they wanted to accomplish in government what they just didn't have in common was how they were going to do it.  Tax cuts vs. gay marriage, balanced budgets vs. total abortion bans; the list goes on and on.  We are beginning to see the outlines of the coming r civil war.  I am sure that it won't be pretty.  Each of the warring tribes doesn't give a wits end about what the other wants.  The thing that kept the coalition together this long was the blind faith that social conservatives had that the republicans would eventually fulfill their end of their Faustian bargain.  They have finally realized that they have been played for naïve suckers since the 1980's.  They talked the talk but didn't walk the walk.  The finger pointing will be long, loud and public, and the knives will be very, very sharp.  Will this mean that the Democrats will again have a durable governing coalition, probably not, it will mean that we will have to do the grunt work that was started this year to ID people who can be persuaded to a message of people first, things second.

    by RED MEAT DEMOCRAT 2006-10-22 01:41PM | 0 recs
    Re: What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

    Great work Paul. I especially like the references to the importance of government action in our history from the Lousiana Purchase to Silicon Valley.  Very well said.

    by John Mills 2006-10-22 08:08PM | 0 recs
    regional specific policies are key

    our country is to big and diverse.  yet the states are too small and arbitrarily deliniated. it's time we start dealing regionally in ways that make sense.  some areas are already starting to think--and act--this way, for example, cascadia, aka salmon nation.

    by colorless green ideas 2006-10-22 11:13PM | 0 recs

    Will you cross-post this at ProgressiveHistorians?  I think the historical context (Reagan, New Deal) would be of interest to our readers.

    Wonderful piece.

    by Nonpartisan 2006-10-23 09:38AM | 0 recs
    Thanks For The Invite!

    I finally took you up.

    The last 3 days have been just too full of work & frazzlement.  I've finally caught up--a bit.

    by Paul Rosenberg 2006-10-25 07:39PM | 0 recs


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