How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic
By Jay Cost
(Broadside Books, Hardcover, 9780062041159, 355pp.)
Publication Date: July 2012
List Price: $26.99*
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The Democratic Party has long presented itself as the party of the poor, the working class, the little guy. As Jay Cost's sweeping revisionist history reveals, nothing could be further from the truth.
Why have the Democrats gone from being the people's party of reform to the party of special-interest carve-outs? In Spoiled Rotten, political analyst Jay Cost tells the story of the modern Democratic party from the end of the Civil War to the present, tracing the sad decline of a once noble political coalition that is no longer capable of living up to its lofty ideals.
When Andrew Jackson formed the Democratic party in 1828, he promised to stand up for the little guy against the rule of privileged elites. What has become of this promise? According to Cost, recent history has shown the Democrats to be anything but the party of and for the people. Instead, they have become a collection of special-interest groups feeding off the federal government, exchanging votes for subsidies and benefits.
With the creation of a partisan spoils system in the nineteenth century, both parties practiced the politics of patronage. But, starting with the New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the power of big government to transform whole classes of society into clients of the Democratic party. Urban machines, southern segregationists, and organized labor all benefited from this approach. FDR's successors—Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter—followed suit, turning African Americans, environmentalists, feminists, government workers, teachers, and a number of other groups into loyal Democratic factions. As a result, the Democratic party has become a kind of national Tammany Hall whose real purpose is to colonize the federal government on behalf of its clients.
No longer able to govern for the vast majority of the country, the Democratic party simply taxes Middle America to pay off its clients while hiding its true nature behind a smoke screen of idealistic rhetoric. Thus, the Obama health care, stimulus, and auto bailout health care bill were created not to help all Americans but to secure contributions and votes. Average Americans need to see that whatever the Democratic party claims it is doing for the country, it is in fact governing simply for its base.
Hard-hitting and uncompromising, Spoiled Rotten is a timely, powerful polemic from a rising intellectual star.