BOOK REVIEW Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are BY GEOFF RIPS The Emerging Democratic Majority By John B. Judis & Ruy Teixeira Scribner 213 pages, $24. Here’s the feel-good political book to read if you’re still waiting for the hangover of the 2002 elections to dissipate. John Judis \(former Washington corre spondent for In These Times and a senior editor of the and Ruy Teixeira \(author of The Disappearing think we’re sitting on a powder keg of new Democratic purpose in this country, and we’ve just got to find a way to light it. They don’t think that the Clinton years were the interregnum in the Bush dynasty, but rather that George W. is just the silver-spooned offspring of countryclub lineage and Reaganomics who’s played his hand deftly \(or, at least, had last wheeze of a Republican political philosophy that has declining drawing power with a changing electorate. In fact, they believe Bill Clinton was the imperfect avatar of a new age of Democratic ascendance, something they call “progressive centrism.” How can they believe this in light of the skunking that took place this year on top of the Bush rollbacks of Clinton policy on the environment, social welfare, division of church and state, as well as the Democrats’ sheepish concessions on tax cuts? Doesn’t it look like the great ball of public policy is rolling back down the hill at a faster clip than we’ve seen since the early days of the Reagan Administration? Well, though they wrote the book prior to the November election, the authors did hedge their bets in light of foreign policy developments. Writing prior to the escalation of Presidential rhetoric about Iraq, the authors gave themselves some wiggle room by asserting that “a continuing public preoccupation with national security will certainly benefit the Republicans…in November 2002 and at least mitigate whatever gains the Democrats might have expected from a recession occurring during the Bush presidency.” the Guardian, Judis explained the Republican payoff in the November elections by citing a CBS/New York Times poll, which found that “Americans preferred Republicans” to carry out the war on terrorism by 52 percent to 30 percent and a Gallup Poll, which found that voters were more concerned about terrorism and war than about economic issues. Despite the election returns, Judis and Teixeira believe their argument holds. Judis ends his Guardian article by writing that “long-term domination by Bush and the Republicans is unlikely. It won’t end tomorrow, but it could in two or four years.” Let’s hope we live that long. The thesis for The Emerging Democratic Majority is based on an analysis of electoral and demographic data that the authors believe mark a significant transition in American social and political life. It’s the mirror image of Kevin Phillips’s 1969 analysis of a previous political watershed that ushered in the Reagan counterrevolution. In The Emerging Republican Majority, Phillips argued that the New Deal coalition that had guided national politics for more than three decades was on the verge of collapse based on the imminent defection of the workingand middle-class white voter. A host of issues led to this defection. Foremost was the Democratic embrace of civil rights, led by Lyndon Johnson’s push for the Civil Rights andVoting Rights Acts. Johnson knew that Democratic leadership on civil rights, juxtaposed against Barry Goldwater’s opposition, would cut deeply into the Democrats’ traditional base among Southern whites. But white blue-collar voters in northern cities also reacted against their party. Racism became the key building block for the rebirth of the Republican began to increasingly portray the Democrats as the party of inner-city rioters, hippies, draft dodgers, anti-war protesters, bra burners, and the “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Large government programs, which had served the white middle class well in the form of veterans’ housing, the GI Bill, and Social Security, were suddenly being characterized as programs for “welfare queens.” All this was a calculated campaign to separate the Democratic party from its white middle-class bases in the cities and the South, and it worked well, bringing us more than two decades of Republican hegemony, interrupted only by Jimmy Carter’s one term on the heels of the Watergate scandal. Judis and Teixeira argue that another realignment is taking place. One generation after the Republican realignment, 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/17/03
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