Yes, I know—the headline is redundant. But it is part of a headline that appears in the New York Times today, in an interesting article that debunks a number of favorite Democratic theories and talking points. I thought the name of the author, novelist Kevin Baker, was familiar, and sure enough, he wrote a nasty review of my first Age of Reagan volumes in Harper’s magazine way back in 2002.
But today’s article, “Delusions of the Democrats,” has much to recommend it. Baker doesn’t buy the demographic destiny theory that the rising tide of minorities, women, college towns, and soy-latte suburbs will soon begin delivering consistent Democratic majorities—a theory first posed confidently back around 2000 by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira.
He really gets going, though, noticing the weaknesses of the famous “southern strategy” argument about how the GOP flipped the South:
The accepted wisdom is that the Democrats hamstrung themselves many years ago, when they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and thereby lost the Solid South forever. It’s a nice story, one that allows everyone to feel good. . .
The only trouble is, it’s not true.
Yes, the South was never “solid” for Democrats again after 1964, and the party lost five of six presidential elections from 1968 to 1988. But at every other level of government, Democrats remained highly competitive, even dominant, in the South for years to come. . .
Democrats did lose the South, but they didn’t lose it because of the Civil Rights Act. Instead of waiting for all those mean old Southern white men to die, Democrats might be better off asking themselves why so many of them were still voting Democratic just 22 years ago.
From here the piece gets a bit confused, but still has some interesting observations, especially how the Democrats’ cultural progressivism, which seems to dominate the party today, is hobbling their appeal to the working class.
Suffering a series of historic defeats is not a sign that you’re winning. The Democrats no longer please anyone much, neither their depressed base nor the less committed. . .
THE trouble was that the Clinton-Obama strategy got things upside down from the start. Why try to cast yourselves as economic moderates and cultural progressives when the disparate elements of your coalition have little in common culturally, but are all struggling with the same wretched economy?
Baker better be careful with these heretical thoughts, ot he might not get invited on Nation magazine cruises.
By coincidence, the same Week in Review section includes economics writer David Leonhardt on “How the GOP Can Court the Working Class.” He has the perspicuity to quote from one of Reagan’s most notable speeches from 1977:
“The new Republican Party I am speaking about,” Ronald Reagan said, in 1977, “is going to have room for the man and the woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat.”
In fact, what got into the Times today? The lead article in Week in Review, “Mishandling Rape” by Jed Rubinfeld of Yale Law School, decries the lack of real due process in the current witch hunt against sexual assault, and notes the politically correct hypocrisy of the whole scene. This is another sign (along with the 28 Harvard Law School professors who recently protested against the new regime) that the tide may be starting to turn.