Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Democratic Party’s dilemma

This New York Times article is not especially good, but it cannot hide the fact that there is a growing rift among Black church leaders: More and more have become Bush and GOP supporters. Democrats are realizing this and are, in my humble opinion, in a near panic over it. Clarence Page (not a Republican) reflects on all this and says he is happy to be wooed by both parties. Both articles, interestingly enough, make reference to Bush’s faith based initiative as a "new form of patronage," (for Blacks, I presume). There is much political significance to all this, and I prophesize that the GOP will pick up more and more black voters in the next many election cycles. I don’t think that moving from 8% support to 11% among Blacks for the GOP is what scared the Dems. What shook them is that Bush got about 16% of the Black vote in Ohio (and 13% in Florida), and the fact that Blacks are ever more publicly questioning their past absolute support for the Dems by noting the appeal of the GOP based on some principle.

Blacks are not the only group within the Democratic Party that is being picked off by the GOP, of course, but this group has a greater moral and symbolic value than any other. The Demos can’t find a way to keep their factionalized Party together at a time--even more so now than in Van Buren’s time--when there has been a GOP call for a national and principled view of the Republican Party for many decades. In short, the Democratic Party, born of a need to give formal voice for the people in a way that is disciplined in a party (rather than upholding a constitutional and principled view) that acted as an intermediary between government and society, can no longer be held together as it once was. For example, FDR’s emphasis of programmatic rights and entitlements and the federal government acting as the guarantor of social and economic welfare meant that he used the Democratic Party to support the centralized welfare state, and each part of the Party would benefit. That arrangment was thought to be permanent by the Demos (and most Republicans during the last century).

The Democratic Party was useful to 20th century Progressives and Liberals as long as it supported the progress of Progressive democracy (Croly’s term); the older form of patronage was petty compared to what the new Democratic Party wrought. But this could only last as long as the older constitutional view of a political party did not reassert itself. Well, it has reasserted itself both in theory and in practice, and now the Democrats can’t figure out what holds them together as a party. The loss of those vital links is especially painful for them because they had thought--from FDR on--that those links were permanent. It should not surprise us that the debate over Social Security reform, moral issues, and the needed principled clarification of what America stands for in a post 9/11 universe, is causing havoc within the Democrtic Party. And the slow but certain movement of Blacks away from the Demos, reveals the heart of the problem.

Discussions - 5 Comments

"I prophesize that the GOP will pick up more and more black voters in the next many election cycles. I don’t think that moving from 8% support to 11% among Blacks for the GOP is what scared the Dems. What shook them is that Bush got about 16% of the Black vote in Ohio..."

I wonder... has the "balck vote," and what they really want, changed all that much over the years? Case in point, this is what Pat Buchanan wrote about Nixon (during the Trent Loot ordeal in 2002) and his reaching out to blacks:

Between 1969 and 1974, Nixon – who believed that blacks had gotten a raw deal in America and wanted to extend a helping hand:

raised the civil rights enforcement budget 800 percent;

doubled the budget for black colleges;

appointed more blacks to federal posts and high positions than any president, including LBJ;

adopted the Philadelphia Plan mandating quotas for blacks in unions, and for black scholars in colleges and universities;

invented "Black Capitalism" (the Office of Minority Business Enterprise), raised U.S. purchases from black businesses from $9 million to $153 million, increased small business loans to minorities 1,000 percent, increased U.S. deposits in minority-owned banks 4,000 percent;

raised the share of Southern schools that were desegregated from 10 percent to 70 percent. Wrote the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1975, "It has only been since 1968 that substantial reduction of racial segregation has taken place in the South.

For all of this, Nixon garnered 18% of the black vote. In the light of history, was it a waste? Sure, everybody is looking for something... that’s the spoils system our democracy naturally breeds. But what have the blacks gotten for stickin’ with the Dems at a 90% clip since? Lots of words, and a few of Trent Lott heads-on-a-silver-platter: Gosh, it most feel really good, eh? Oh, yeah, affirmative action still rules. I guess that is worth the price of admission.

When one thinks of the trauma, the Great Depression and WWII, that turned blacks from the Party of Lincoln to voters for the Party of FDR, one needs to pause a bit when reflecting on what might cause these folks to "come back home."

Would it all be worth the "price of admission"

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Good idea, I butchered mine ( "balck vote" & "Loot") pretty daggone bad. :)

Reports of the death of the Democratic Party are premature. What we are witnessing, IMHO, is an ideological shift in both major parties, a shift that currently favors the Republicans because the two main streams of political ideology (libertarianism and traditionalism) are better held together in the G.O.P. as it now stands. But as these streams separate (and we’re already seeing some of that separation in both Social Security reform and in faith-based initiatives), there will be more greater tension within the Republican Party and a likely revitalization of the Democrats. After all, if the Civil War couldn’t kill the Democratic Party, I doubt John Kerry will be any more successful.

Mr. Meckler: What you write is perfectly sensible. I do not expect the Democratic Party to die. I just expect it to have less authority over the next thirty years or so. You are also right that, therefore, the internal divisions within the GOP will become greater and more interesting. That also is, so to speak, a natural development. It happens to every party that claims the status of majority, including the Demos in the 1940’s and post-1960’s.

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