Monday, November 27, 2006

Democrats and sectionalism

Finished reading Richard Bensel's Sectionalism and American Political Development: 1880-1980. A very impressive work that traces the division between the core and periphery of the American political economy and the changing alignments. Published in 1984 it predicts the electoral realignments of 1994 and 2006 that consolidated first the Republic south and then the Democratic north-east, reversing the 19th century polarity. All of this with no reference to culture wars, a triumph of Occam's razor. Curious to see the vehement anti-imperialist rhetoric of the Democrats, which would gratify the contemporary left, combined with a stalwart defence of white power in the south. Much of the book examines the New deal coalition and how the Democrats maintained southern bourbons and the northern working-class in one party by a brokerage system of strong Congressional committees. Bensel brings up how conservative was the old Democrat's southern wing, in particular extremely anti-union because they saw unions as threat to south's competitive advantage. Hence their 'conservative coalition' with Northern Reoublicans. But now allegedly conservative southern Democrats (a silly Australian run of this idea from Stephen Loosely here) are staunch champions of increases in the minium wage and legislation to facilitate union organising as noted by Nathan Newman. This marks the prospects of cross-party 'moderate' co-operation unlikely. Bensel predicted that 1980s politics would pit a protectionist North-Eastern core against a Southern & Western free-trade periphery. The working-class American south is in the age of globalisation part of the world economy core. Nevertheless the South is still more conservative as shown by graph from here. Cultural poltics is important.


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