For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Changing Party Coalitions: The Mystery of the Red State-Blue State Alignment
  • Jerry F. Hough
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Changing Party Coalitions: The Mystery of the Red State-Blue State Alignment.
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Where did the so-called “Red” states and “Blue” states come from? What really occurred in the transformation of American politics, and why? 

The author shows that narrow cultural issues are used to fragment the electorate, not because these issues are important but because of party strategies. Prof. Hough then explains how we can return to the healthy debating role that a two-party system is supposed to play in a democratic nation and why this is so crucial.


About the Author

Jerry F. Hough is James B. Duke Professor of Political Science at Duke University, where he teaches courses on the US Presidency. A well-known figure in comparative politics and especially the Soviet Union, his earlier works were published by the Brookings Institution and by journals including World Policy Journal, Post-Soviet Affairs, Post-Soviet Politics, Problems of Communism, The Nation, and Commentary. As a long-time specialist on comparative political development, he brings a rare perspective to the study of American political evolution. Expert and student alike will find his revision of the conventional wisdom fresh and thought-provoking.

About the Book
Where did the so-called “Red” states and “Blue” states come from?  Prof. Jerry F. Hough observes that the historic Democratic-Republican party alignment was based on the great conflict between the North and the South and on that among the hostile...
Where did the so-called “Red” states and “Blue” states come from?  Prof. Jerry F. Hough observes that the historic Democratic-Republican party alignment was based on the great conflict between the North and the South and on that among the hostile European-American “races.” Both of these conflicts basically ended in the 1960s and 1970s as European-Americans became “whites.” This made a party realignment inevitable, but the politics surrounding the conflicts made it difficult to understand what was happening. As a result, the political elites crafted a highly unnatural and unhealthy red state-blue state alignment.

This political reality is not incorporated in the theories of comparative politics and of nation-building, Hough explains, because it has been too encased in this mythology. The 1950s through the 1970s was a period of great political turmoil in the United States. The dramatic events of the black revolution, the anti- Vietnam demonstrations, and the women’s liberation movement caught everyone’s attention, but some of the most fundamental changes were less visible. The book, based in substantial part on archival work, breaks outmoded taboos on the American past. 

The relations between North and South were highly confrontational, but the period actually led to the end of the historic North-South conflict that had defined the American political system since the Revolution. The two parties have been groping ever since to find a satisfactory new set of coalitions, but they have thus far failed. The new divide, the red state-blue state alignment, produces even narrower and more polarized electoral results in a society that is not fundamentally polarized. What is going on?

The author insists that narrow cultural issues are used as electoral platforms in today’s politics not because of their inherent importance, but because of party strategies. He explains how we can return to the healthy debating role that a two-party system is supposed to play in a democratic nation and why this is so crucial.


Preface

The book is not a distillation of the conventional wisdom on American politics and history. I have a very unusual perspective for a scholar writing about the evolution of the American political system. From the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s I...

The book is not a distillation of the conventional wisdom on American politics and history. I have a very unusual perspective for a scholar writing about the evolution of the American political system. From the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s I was known as a specialist on comparative government, first of all, on the Soviet Union. I abandoned teaching and research on Russia in the late 1990s, and I have only taught the courses on the US Presidency at Duke University since then. This book essentially expands on what I have been teaching. The change in the focus of my research and teaching did not, however, change the basic questions that I have worked on since the mid-1950s: the relationship of long term economic development and political institutions. This was the central question about the Soviet Union at the time of Joseph Stalin's death in 1953 when I was a college undergraduate, and it was always the focus of my work on the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia.

The goal of my recent work has been to look at the American experience in order better to understand the way that states, markets, and democracies develop and the way in which effective and stable ones can be created and maintained. The American experience is not incorporated in the theories of comparative politics and nation-building because it has been too encased in mythology. The taboos were created to help solve the North-South conflict and the antagonistic relationship of European-American “races.”

Now that these problems have been solved, it is time to break the taboos. My interest in American politics and history did not begin in the 1990s. My first memory of public events was hearing the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when I was a six-year-old in Bremerton, Washington, the great naval port on the West Coast. The opening pages of this book on the old South do not come primarily from research. My parents were also typical representatives of the ethnic groups found in western North Carolina, my father coming from German-American roots and my mother Scotch-Irish ones. All of this combined to give me an intense interest in American history.

The courses I currently teach at Duke on the US Presidency are not the first that I have taught on the United States. At the University of Illinois, I taught in freshman courses that centered on the US in comparative perspective. At the University of Toronto, all my courses dealt with the Soviet-American-Canadian comparison. At Duke University in the 1970s I taught courses on American political participation, as well as the Soviet Union. In addition, however, I was a very active participant in the American debates on Soviet-American relations beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1990s. As such, I developed a very keen sense of which aspects of the American foreign policy process could not be discussed at the time. Republican Presidents, after all, always improved relations with the Soviet Union, and Democratic Presidents always had severe conflict with that country. Even though the rhetoric of the two parties made this seem almost a chance occurrence, this was not the case.

It became clear that the conflicts between Britain and Germany affected the two largest ethnic groups in America — my ethnic groups, the British-Americans and the German-Americans — as deeply as policy toward Cuba affects the Cuban-Americans in recent decades. I came to understand the crucial role of European-American ethnicity in US policy toward Europe. I came to understand that the consistent pro-détente position of the Republican Party, the party of the Northern British-American and German-American Protestants, came from the party's need to hold its coalition together. This all led me to look at earlier stages of American history to see where and how this coalition originated.

This short biographical survey is important for two reasons. First, it helps to explain why, besides my comparative background and political experience, this book has a very atypical different perspective. My ethnicity and Southern roots not only created a sensitivity to the conflicts between the North and the South and those between the British-Americans and German-Americans in the 20th century, but also removed any of the psychological awkwardness that those of different backgrounds might have in breaking the taboos on these subjects. I have no desire to offend the memory of my father and mother or their traditions. I firmly believe that I have not done so.

…Stalin died during my first class on the Soviet Union. It was taught by Merle Fainsod, a great Americanist and a great specialist on the Soviet Union who became the supervisor of my doctoral dissertation. Perhaps my greatest debt at Harvard is to William Yandell Elliott, who was given the task of being my tutor in my junior and senior year and who supervised my honors thesis on American policy toward the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1946. At that time Elliott was a close adviser to Vice President Richard Nixon and the dissertation supervisor of Henry Kissinger — and, as such, had a key unrecognized role in bringing the two together. I learned about the problems of nuclear deterrence from Elliott five years before Kissinger was to make the arguments in public. But most of all Elliott delighted in teaching a young boy from the California desert the insider's perspective on how Washington politics really worked.

Others also come to mind. Talcott Parsons and Barrington Moore infused Soviet studies at Harvard with a developmental perspective. I took courses from Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, and was the teaching assistant for Marshall Shulman, who was to become the adviser on the Soviet Union to Cyrus Vance, Carter's Secretary of State. Never was I a more confident — or accurate — forecaster than on the problems Carter would have in his foreign policy when he gave both of my former professors a key role in his Administration. Yet, I learned an enormous amount from the conflicting perspectives of the two. There are many others from whom I have, no doubt, stolen many ideas, but without remembering which ones. It seems to me wrong to mention any of the thousands and thousands of scholars, government officials, and students with whom I have had contact both directly and through their writing in subsequent years. Finally, I would like to thank Andrea Sengstacken for her patience as she edited the manuscript at Algora Publishing.


Introduction

The 1950s through the 1970s were a period of great political turmoil in the United States. The media directed its attention at the dramatic events of the black revolution, the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, and the women’s liberation movement, but some of the most fundamental changes were less visible. The relations between...

The 1950s through the 1970s were a period of great political turmoil in the United States. The media directed its attention at the dramatic events of the black revolution, the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, and the women’s liberation movement, but some of the most fundamental changes were less visible. The relations between North and South were highly confrontational, but the period actually led to the end of the historic North–South conflict that had defined the America political system since the Revolution. This required a fundamental change in party alignment. The two parties have been groping for three decades to find a satisfactory new set of coalitions, but they have thus far failed. The red state–blue state alignment produces narrow and polarized electoral results in a society that is not polarized. Both parties have structured their economic policy so as to try to maximize their support in the upper class of the population — the 25% of the population that makes above $75,000 a year in family income. Without any meaningful choice on economic questions, voters have been forced to choose between the parties on the basis of cultural issues alone. Those of middle income are highly alienated because neither party focuses on their economic interests, and the result may be explosive if major economic difficulties develop.

In essence, the two parties have gone back to the period prior to 1933 when they did not compete on economic issues. The Constitution had been designed to guarantee autonomy for the South, and this was restored after the Civil War. The Democrats formed an alliance between the conservative Southern elite and the conservatives of New York and New Jersey, while the Republicans united well-to-do Easterners with populist Midwesterners. This pushed the Republican Party just marginally to the left of the Democratic Party on both economic and social issues, and Theodore Roosevelt correctly called the Democrats a party of “rural toryism.”1 Today the middle income whites vote as if they believe that the Democrats are once again to the right of the Republicans on economic questions.

In 1933, however, Franklin Roosevelt moved the Democratic Party from the right side of the economic spectrum to the left side, and he took measures that clearly were unconstitutional by existing Supreme Court interpretations and by the rules of the game that the Founding Fathers had established. Then in 1937 the President proposed an expansion in the number of Supreme Court Justices to force a change in its interpretation of the Constitution. The highly credible nature of the threat induced the old Court to reinterpret some of the powers of the federal government. Roosevelt’s intention was to legalize his New Deal economic policy, but in the process he inevitably ended the historic guarantee of autonomy to the South. The redefinition of the powers of the federal government made a party realignment inevitable. Yet the actual realignment was to take over three decades. It only began when Truman proposed civil rights legislation in 1948 and when Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson then enacted it. It was not completed until the 1980s. Indeed, the current alignment seems very unlikely to survive for any length of time in its present form.

In part, the process of party realignment took so long because the old alignment itself had lasted for almost two centuries. But, in addition, ancient antagonisms greatly complicated the formation of new party alliances. Those between Northern and Southern white Protestants dated back to the British civil wars and probably earlier. If the South were to feature party competition, Southern Protestants would have to ally with at least some Northern Protestants and/or with different Northern non-Protestants. A new sense of community had to be created between North and South — and at a time when the North was forcing the South to change its behavior toward blacks.

The attitude of many Northern and Southern Protestants toward non-Protestants was even more hostile. The European-Americans outside the South had called each other “races” prior to World War II, and the word connoted the kind of emotion we attribute to it today. Indeed, the phrase “race, creed, and color” was not redundant, and “race” referred primarily to white “races.” A firm in the 1930s could answer a survey on its hiring practices by saying “no colored hired in office [and] no discrimination as of race.”

The greatest problem for European-Americans in the North in the 20th century resulted from World Wars I and II. Since almost all their homelands were at war, the European-Americans naturally reacted to US policy in Europe as the Cuban-Americans have reacted to policy toward Cuba. Yet the two main protagonists, the British-Americans and German-Americans, were not tiny minorities like the Cubans; each constituted a quarter of the white population. The conflict among European- Americans over European policy remained so intense after World War II that it produced McCarthyism from 1946 to 1954.

In addition, while new coalitions and programs would be part of the new party alignments, their nature was not foreordained. As late as the 1950s and 1960s, politicians and political observers usually foresaw a continuation of the old party strategies. The Republicans had been the culturally liberal party of the middle class in the mainline Protestant churches of the North, and the party was building its Southern base among like-minded voters. It seemed likely to continue to do so.

Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had added Northern Protestants to the Democratic non-Protestant base with a New Deal economic policy and a moderately conservative cultural policy associated with the Catholic Church. This policy should have been attractive to many of the poor Evangelicals of the South who were suspicious of the mainline Protestant churches. The spectacular failure both of Barry Goldwater’s “red state” strategy in 1964 and then of George McGovern’s “blue state” cultural strategy in 1972 strengthened the expectation that old party programs would continue.

Yet, in practice, the Evangelicals came to define the cultural face of the mainstream- Protestant Republican Party, and the McGovern supporters came to define the cultural face of the Catholic Democratic Party. The Democrats abandoned the New Deal economic strategy, and the two parties essentially ceased to compete on economic issues. The result was a highly unnatural and polarized party alignment based on cultural issues in a country that was not culturally polarized. The result was the neglect of economic issues in a country deeply worried about the economic situation and alienated from both parties because of it.

The main purpose of this book is to analyze the unexpected change in party strategy since 1975 and to explain how such an unnatural new party alignment occurred. In addition, however, the book deals with the future. The stability of the present party alignments seems to depend on a high level of personal consumption based on personal debt, on the use of housing equity for consumption, on a foreign trade deficit, and on a low saving rate. If, as most economists agree, this is not sustainable, then the present party strategies and the strange red state–blue state alignment will be very difficult to maintain. If so, the political stratum needs to be thinking about new party strategies. This book is intended to help in that process.

THE FORGOTTEN POLITICAL WORLD OF THE PAST

In the two elections of the 1990s, the Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates both came from Confederate states, and that Democratic ticket won each election comfortably. In 1994, the son of a prominent Connecticut Yankee family was elected governor of Confederate Texas as the candidate of Abraham Lincoln’s party. He then won reelection in 1998 in a landslide. In the 2000 presidential election, both major-party candidates came from states of the Confederacy.

The Republican Texan swept all the states of the Confederacy and also the three most southern slave states that had stayed with the Union. White Southerners voted overwhelmingly for this Republican. The only exception was Florida south of Orlando, an area that was settled largely by Northerners.

When the National Cathedral in Washington, DC held a memorial service for the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush approved every detail of the program. The closing number was the battle song of the Union Army in the Civil War, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. No one thought that this was strange. Instead, the service was universally hailed as a healing event that brought the country together.

None of this would have been remotely possible as recently as the early 1970s. The Republicans had no chance in the South until 1952 and made no effort to compete. The Democrats had not nominated a presidential candidate from a Confederate or even a border state between 1848 and 1948.3 Indeed, no candidate from a former slave state was nominated until 1976 except for two vice presidents, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, each of whom had become President when their predecessors died. A person driving through the United States in the 1940s and 1950s might hear The Battle Hymn of the Republic on the radio in the North, but never in the South. Instead, Southern radio played Dixie, the battle song of the Confederate Army.

In other respects, too, the American political scene today would be unrecognizable to a sophisticated observer from the 1930s. The Democratic Party had primarily been the party of the South, and it had been on the right side of the political spectrum prior to 1933. It was truly revolutionary when Franklin Roosevelt shifted it to the left side of the spectrum during the Great Depression. Conservatives worried that Roosevelt, like the first moderate revolutionaries of the French or Russian Revolution, was unintentionally preparing the way for a more violent revolution and for dictatorship.

The quite responsible Robert Taft, the son of President William Howard Taft, thought in 1936 that Roosevelt was introducing a socialist policy and worried that “no democracy has ever succeeded in operating a socialistic state.” He added, “I do not say, and no Republicans have said, that President Roosevelt is a Communist, but his policy of planned economy, if persisted in, will make democracy impossible.... Every radical party feels that four years more of Roosevelt will put it in a position seriously to enter the contest in 1940.”

Racial concerns and issues were crucial in politics in the 1930s, but they were totally different from those we take for granted today. When top New Deal reformers were later interviewed, they asserted that no one gave any thought to blacks at the start of the Roosevelt Administration because the issue had no political importance.


Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2. The Old “Irrational” Regional Alignments Chapter 3. Ethnic Diversity and the Old Party Alignments Chapter 4. The Making of
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. The Old “Irrational” Regional Alignments
Chapter 3. Ethnic Diversity and the Old Party Alignments
Chapter 4. The Making of “the Whites” and Party Change
Chapter 5. The Institutional Base for Party Realignment
Chapter 6. The Republicans and the New Red–State Strategy
Chapter 7. The Democrats and the New Suburban Strategy
Chapter 8. The Red State–Blue State Polarization
Chapter 9. Toward New Party Strategies
Chapter 10. Conclusion
Bibliography
Index
Reviews
CHOICE, September 2006, Vol. 44 No. 01 SOCIAL & BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES/ Political Science | More »
New Left Review 49, January-February 2008 | More »
www.booknews.com | More »

Pages 320
Year: 2005
LC Classification: JK2271.H68
Dewey code: 324.273'11—dc22
BISAC: POL015000
BISAC: POL504000
BISAC: POL008000
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-407-5
Price: USD 26.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-408-2
Price: USD 34.95
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