Monthly Archives: August 2016

More Edsall on the Parties

Thomas B. Edsall had an good discussion in the NY Times last week entitled “Is Trump Wrecking Both Parties?” He isn’t sure of the answer but his analysis is fascinating.

Like Thomas Frank (in his latest book Listen Liberal) Edsall notes the same fundamental changes in the Democratic Party Base since the Sixties, the shift of support from the old social democratic working class to a highly educated meritocratic elite that Frank calls the professional class.

The makeup of a national political party is partly determined by the groups who have traditionally found common ground within and new  groups who are attracted to it. The party can change character depending on how the leadership (elected and appointed) reacts to support new groups and old.

We have seen the working class shift away from the Democrats over the years and they probably represent a significant part of the support base in the Republican party that Trump is exploiting. How will this election effect the two parties long term?

Edsall has gathered together a lot of comments by liberal commentators for this article. It’s thought provoking.

Bigger Government?

Bill Clinton told us that the era of big government was over, as part of his effort to appeal to the new upper-income Democrats that were discovered in the closing years of the twentieth century. Now the question is being raised again with the recognition that many of the working class who have been encouraged to abandon the Democratic Party have popped up in the ranks of Donald Trump’s angry followers.

Eduardo Porter has written an interesting, and I think important, column in today’s New York Times Economic Scene called  “The Case for More Government and Higher Taxes”. It draws heavily on a new book written by four economists.

Last month, four academics — Jeff Madrick from the Century Foundation, Jon Bakija of Williams College, Lane Kenworthy of the University of California, San Diego, and Peter Lindert of the University of California, Davis — published a manual of sorts. It is titled “How Big Should Our Government Be?” (University of California Press).

“A national instinct that small government is always better than large government is grounded not in facts but rather in ideology and politics,” they write. The evidence throughout the history of modern capitalism “shows that more government can lead to greater security, enhanced opportunity and a fairer sharing of national wealth.”

This is the most important issue facing the US in coming decades. Initially the belief that the only good government is small was a touchstone of conservatism, but many Democrats reacted negatively to Bernie Sanders’ proposals this year on the grounds that the were too costly. This column differs from most discussion of the issue by its reliance on data.