For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Red States Blue States, and the Coming Sharecropper Society
  • Stephen D. Cummings
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Red States Blue States, and the Coming Sharecropper Society .
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Countering the conservative Red State culture and its result, a quasi-vassal state indebted to foreign interests, the author analyzes Democratic Party politics and lays out a theoretical justification and historic, economic and social framework for advancing a new set of liberal-progressive ideas. Analyzing Red and Blue regions and the links with economic history, he shows how the Democrats can become the majority party again.


About the Author

Steve Cummings has been campaigning for Democratic candidates since the rise of Eugene McCarthy in 1968.

With an MBA in Finance, he spent 18 years in the banking industry. He has been active in economic development issues and since 1990 has published economic statistics on Ventura County, California. Active in the Democratic Party for many years, he is a member of the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee and the Democratic State Central Committee of the California Democratic Party, an officer of the California Democratic Council (CDC), the statewide organization of Democratic Clubs, and treasurer of a new Labor-Democratic organization affiliated with Tri-Counties (California) Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

He is the author of the book 'Red States, Blue States and the Coming Sharecropper Society' (Algora, 2008) and "California after Arnold" (Algora, 2009).

 

About the Book

Conservative economic policy has created what investor Warren Buffett has called a “Sharecropper Society,” a quasi-vassal state indebted to foreign interests. This is the result of a conservative Red...

Conservative economic policy has created what investor Warren Buffett has called a “Sharecropper Society,” a quasi-vassal state indebted to foreign interests. This is the result of a conservative Red State culture. The author contends that Democrats need to restore a liberal Blue State culture which will deliver the country from its economic servitude. The book lays out the historical basis for doing that.

In addition, the author presents a statistical analysis of the Red and Blue states, showing the economic context in which they operate. Further statistical data on the Red and Blue states is in the Appendices.

Candidates have roughly nine seconds to get their message across to the average voter. This book gives coherent statements of Democratic and liberal values and encapsulates information, particularly economic and Democratic Party historical data, in a focused message.

The book provides a theoretical and philosophical basis from a historical and economic point of view to advance those ideas that were so successful for the Democratic Party from 1930 to 1964. This is a one-volume reference work for Democrats and should be of interest to anyone involved in the political process.


Introduction
Democrats have been frustrated not only by the lack of a clear message by the party leadership in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 campaigns but also by the lack of courage in articulating such a message. This book started as an answer to that persistent weakness, particularly for those of us in the California Democratic Party who, in campaign after...
Democrats have been frustrated not only by the lack of a clear message by the party leadership in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 campaigns but also by the lack of courage in articulating such a message. This book started as an answer to that persistent weakness, particularly for those of us in the California Democratic Party who, in campaign after campaign, have seen national candidates and their consultants paralyzed by polling data and focus groups, and acting as if they were afraid of their own shadow—doing their best not to offend anyone. In the process they ended up not only alienating everyone but looking weak and confused, to boot. We have seen them position their campaigns in this direction or that, trying to gain the support of disparate voting blocs. We have seen them attempt to appear strong on defense, when in fact their convictionless mush made them look the opposite—regardless of what they said or did. We have seen them attempt to position themselves on an issue such as “choice,” or express their religious beliefs, and throw around the word “values” like a new found toy; most of these attempts have not been very convincing. And while all of this was going on, we saw the activist base that we depend on abandoning the Democratic Party, in many cases because they were fed up with manufactured campaigns promoted without conviction. On top of this the ground-level activists felt that they already had been abandoned for big money–big media campaigns.

These activists said time after time that the candidates had no backbone or, in the political parlance of the Vietnam War era, lacked the courage of their convictions. Many activists were alienated by the fact that candidates would run away from their basic principles and political reference points, even running away from words such as “liberal,” as if basic political principles can be re-invented through the right media relations campaign. In an attempt to make the Democratic Party more effective, we have seen a number of new initiatives, such as George Lakoff’s work on framing issues. We are also seeing the California Democratic Party embark on its new “faith and values” initiative across the state, certainly a valuable project, worth doing.

But what these efforts and responses lack is a fundamental justification for why the average American should take any of this seriously; there has been no attempt in recent times to justify why anyone should be a liberal or follow a liberal progressive agenda. In fact, much of the effort has been to show why Democrats are NOT liberals, and why they can be trusted because they are not that much different from the other guys.

That was not the case forty years ago. Anyone watching the 1964 Democratic Convention on television knew exactly where the Democratic Party stood. They were liberals and proud of it. And they took no prisoners when it came to excoriating the Republicans at their convention that year. Vietnam and subsequent political events changed all that. But the most important loss was the separation of the Democratic Party from its mid-century liberal New Deal roots. The subsequent Democratic Party editions as represented by the Carter and Clinton administrations have been pale reproductions of the original and not all that convincing. When one realizes that George W. Bush managed to get over 50% of the vote in 2004 with an administration that will go down as one of the worst that this country has endured (rivaling James Buchanan’s administrative drift into the crisis of the Civil War), one can only begin to grapple with the magnitude of the weakness of the Democratic Party message.

What the Democratic Party lacks today is a theoretical justification, historic, economic, and social, for its liberal policies. Without such a justification, its policies and its platform positions have lacked the cohesion and conviction necessary to compete in, let alone win, the ideological battle with the Republicans and conservatives who have been working on that message since their defeat in 1964. In a sense the victories that the Republicans have achieved can now be seen to have been accomplished by default, because they had no real competition. And despite such lack of competition and with complete command of the ideological platform, as well as the media vehicles to deliver it, the Republicans have failed spectacularly. The day-to-day soap opera of incompetence that is the George W. Bush Administration is graphic evidence of that failure. And yet this administration has survived because there has been no credible alternative to them and there is no answer to the question of why a liberal–progressive orientated administration would do any better.

These are the questions that this book seeks to answer: What are the historical and economic roots of what we now call liberal–progressive thought; and why could it and its political vehicle, which is currently the Democratic Party, succeed where the Republicans have failed? An initial response to that question was made in the first part of my 1998 book, The Dixification of America: The American Odyssey into the Conservative Economic Trap. In that book, an attempt was made to split the US into two economic models that had their origins in the economies of the Northeast and the South. It was observed that the liberal model of the Northeast was more successful than the conservative model of the South, but that the political dynamics of the country following Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy allowed a nationalized version of the Southern model to become US economic policy over the next four decades, and with it, the long-term economic dangers of that model.

Today these questions take on new urgency. First and foremost, even without the Iraq War and subsequent occupation, the George W. Bush Administration has become the new standard of economic failure. The budget deficits, the financial crises in the real estate and securities markets, the dependency on foreign funds and central banks, the destruction from Hurricane Katrina and the bungled “recovery” efforts in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and the virtual abandonment of domestic needs and priorities all point out the risks I outlined in 1998.

Second, a whole list of terms has been coined in the last decade to enable political discourse on general problems like those outlined in my earlier book. High on that list are the terms “Red state” and “Blue state”. On the night of the 2000 election, as states won by Bush (red) and Al Gore (blue) were posted on the election night board shown to TV viewers, the geographic pattern created by the red and blue blocs of color created a whole new political lexicon and a new reference for discussion. The Red states were clustered in the states of the Old Confederacy, connected to the states on the High Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Those states plus some key Midwest states and New Hampshire gave Bush an electoral college victory while losing the popular vote. Gore’s Blue states were clustered in the Northeast, the upper Midwest and the Pacific. Beyond being places on a map, the red and blue areas seemed to convey a larger meaning. As a general statement, the Red states were more rural, culturally more conservative and poorer. The Blue states were more urban, culturally liberal, and richer.

Since the 2000 election, many a political article has referenced “red states” and “blue states,” and we have further variations of the color scheme of light and dark red and blue, purple, and everything else in between. We have seen it applied to counties, to cities, and just about every political construct you can think of in this country. And we have also seen this color system integrated by political analysts in many different ways. This book was not written for the purpose of defining or clarifying such terminology; in fact, it will no doubt add to the confusion. It will not attempt to define what is a red or blue state, which states or regions they comprise and which election they refer to (although the 2004 election is used as a reference point for discussion and to simplify the geographic anomalies of earlier elections), whether they are Democratic or Republican, or even to some degree liberal or conservative.

Those factors change over time in each state. And certainly within a state or political jurisdiction there will be exceptions. But Red states and Blue states have general economic and political characteristics and this book will present a discussion of historical patterns regarding those characteristics that have long term economic consequences. Some of the current impacts can be seen in the statistical charts in this book. In this regard, the Red state–Blue state discussion in this book is an extension of the argument made in The Dixification of America ten years ago.

Today, the political dialogue is dominated by those states that elected George W. Bush—the Red states. At the core of the Red states were the old ante-bellum slaves states which symbolized four centuries of worker exploitation, from indentured servants to slaves to sharecroppers to factory workers, and along with their compatriot Red states they represent today’s abandoned workers as America has been put up for sale and jobs leave for overseas. It is the people in these Red states and their counterparts elsewhere that investment guru Warren Buffett was referring to when he noted in his March 5, 2005, annual letter to his Berkshire Hathaway investors that, far from becoming George W. Bush’s “Ownership Society,” America was turning into the new “Sharecropper Society” — a place where people are virtual tenant workers for foreign masters in what is tantamount to a quasi economic vassal state. Like the Old South, whose economic fortunes were in the hands of New York and London banks, twenty-first century America finds itself at the economic mercy of Asian central banks.

As historian Paul Kennedy pointed out, when you run any organization (not to mention a country) on other people’s money, bad things are bound to happen. For Britain, two world wars brought virtual bankruptcy and allowed the United States to surpass it as the dominant global power. Now the US finds itself having to borrow several billion dollars a day to finance the war in Iraq. Thus we have an amazing situation: China, the country considered by many to be the greatest threat to America’s super power status, is lending billions of dollars each day to finance our war, just as we lent billions to Britain and its allies to fight World War I. Needless to say, it is a parallel that most Americans find very uncomfortable. And when the market value of the European stock markets exceeded US stock markets for the first time since World War I (first quarter 2007 report by Thomson Financial/ Datastream), the parallels are even more ominous.

This book will show that since the founding of this country, two economic models have guided this nation, one that evolved into the economic activity of what we now call the Blue states, and one for what we now call the Red states. One of them expanded economic opportunity; one stifled that opportunity through economic exploitation. One made the United States a global economic power; the other became an economic colony for the rest of the nation. One was an agent of innovation; the other was an agent of reaction. One represented change and reform. The other clung to the status quo. It is this division that has powered the American experience. Through much of that period, when the values exemplified by the Blues states have predominated, the nation has prospered. Likewise, the discouraging performance of the current Red-state dominated culture reinforces the case for Blue-state economic and social policies.

However, while this book extensively discusses American economic development in terms of seventeenth- through twentieth-century geography, it is important to understand that this is not a book about economics or social behavior. It is not an intellectual discussion over some economic or social point. At its core this book is about politics—twenty-first century American politics in general and Democratic Party politics in particular. Some readers will be disappointed that the potential political discussion about Red states and Blue states is cut short. But I have found in my years in Democratic Party politics that fine sounding discussions and political repartee do not do a whole lot of good if you lose the election. The voters have the final say, and if you can’t convince them, it doesn’t matter who else you can convince. This book is not about noble political debate; it is about how to influence the elections in 2008 and thereafter, and how to run the country.

This book provides Democratic Party leaders with a theoretical and philosophical basis from a historical, economic, and social point of view to advance those ideas that were so successful for the Democratic Party from 1930 to 1964. Many things have changed over time, but it is my belief that the core values embodied in those years by the Democratic Party (and those that they borrowed from earlier periods) are as important today as they were then. In fact, I would argue that the polls showing that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel that the country is heading in the wrong track clearly show that the values subscribed by the Democratic Party of 1930–1964 have a ready American audience waiting to hear them if the party would adapt them for use in the 2008 election.

And so, based on the above, this book is divided into two parts. The first part begins by outlining the problems this country faces after forty years of conservative economic policy and the vicissitudes of the George W. Bush Administration. As this section points out, the United States has descended into a quasi-bankrupt vassal state of China and the Asian central banks, deep in debt to foreign interests. The next chapter goes on to outline the historical economic forces that have divided this country, their consolidation into what can be called Red-state and Blue-state culture, and their long-term economic impact on the country. The third chapter presents a set of statistical charts divided by Red states and Blue states based on the 2004 election. They note various economic characteristics in the current economic data. The fourth chapter of the first section discusses the economic implications of the Red- state culture, which has dominated the last 40 years.

The second half of this book deals with the Democratic Party response to what is laid out in the first half of the book. The first chapter of this section is a general political discussion of the party and recent events. The final three chapters, an overview of the Democrats in the 1920s, the speeches of William Jennings Bryan, and a brief discussion of the 1932 campaign and the early organization of the New Deal, are presented to bring to modern-day Democrats some of the historical background with regard to the making of the Democratic Party up to 1932. This provides Democrats a model by which to make the Democratic Party a majority party once again. The last portion of the final chapter is an attempt to put together a modern-day Democratic Party platform outline based on the methods used in putting together the New Deal in 1932–33.

While there are no doubt other avenues that this book could have taken, it is my belief that the most critical need of our time is to change political direction in 2008. And as inadequate as it has been in recent times (the Iraq funding vote in May 2007 is a chilling reminder), the only realistic option is the Democratic Party—a Democratic Party that knows what it wants and has the historical, economic and philosophical tools to get there. It is only by making major changes that we have any hope of escaping the Sharecropper Society.

My thanks to Algora Publishing for making this book possible.

Stephen D. Cummings

Ventura, California


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Pages 236
Year: 2008
LC Classification: JK2316.C766
Dewey code: 324.2736—dc22
BISAC: HIS036070 HISTORY / United States / 21st Century
BISAC: POL008000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Elections
BISAC: POL023000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / Economic Conditions
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-627-7
Price: USD 24.95
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