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It's interesting that your Frank quote doesn't mention the elephant in the room - race.

It's no accident that when the Democratic Party in the US began to be seen as the party of blacks, the white working class began to turn conservative.

Now, would you say that this is one of the "mistakes" of the left? I wouldn't. The civil rights movement in the US is exactly the kind of thing we need a left for.

I am sympathetic to arguments that specific programs for equalizing economic and social outcomes by race were implemented in ways that put much of the cost onto white urban working classes (school desegregation, for example) while bypassing more affluent suburban communities. And that implementing many of these programs through the courts instead of through legislation allowed opponents to portray those initiatives as undemocratic power grabs.

But this brings up the real issue - what would you have done as an alternative? What policies would you have proposed that brought about racial equality without imposing undue burdens on the white working class? What was the right political strategy to get those programs passed while keeping the white working class inside the Democratic tent?

You just simply can't escape these issues, no matter how uninteresting you think they are.

by TGeraghty on Sun Oct 30th, 2005 at 08:46:32 PM EST
Dead-on question.
The problem is, when the Democratic Party supported integration (leading LBJ to predict -accurately or perhaps optimistically - that the Democrats had lost the South for a generation) it did not tackle the issue of school finance and property taxes.  A leftist party might have taken this opportunity to propose a national or at least state-based educational finance system that did not promote economic apartheid.  All the Dems did was let the Courts order busing, while millions of northern whites fled to the suburbs, while southern whites fled to white academies, first, and then to white suburbs, later, when they were tired of paying private school tuition.

My point is that the Dems did not examine the class issues around school finance in order to find a position/solution that would benefit all working people everywhere.  They were content to stick with moralism - the moralism of anti-racism - precisely at the point where Martin Luther King had moved on to stress economic issues.

by cambridgemac on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:45:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Class" is a Marxian concept and for that reason will never make it to a mainstream American party's platform.

The systemic function of the Democratic Party is to keep leftists penned so they don't form their own party with a class message.

The Green Party is not left, it's green, and so it avoids class as an issue as well.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:51:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I am doubtful, I still question your assertion that class will never make it to the mainstream as an issue -- it would take a different word, since the word "class" has been ruined.  

I agree with you that CLASS, not race, is the unmentionable in the United States.

by cambridgemac on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:56:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's rather the opposite. The Dems have been tiptoeing away from race forever, and only during LBJ did they confront race directly.

Remember, Clinton's Sistah Souljah moment, his "welfare reform", his sacrifice of Lani Gunier,  ...

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:16:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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