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[Essays on the Cold War Era - Origins of the Neoconservative Impulse - Historic Christian Theology]

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American Reform Movements, 1877-1997:

The Dynamics of Coalition Reform

 

This essay, in theoretical book proposal form, details a common dynamic in American reform movements.

The survey places emphasis on the New Deal coalition, which lasted from 1948 to 1968.  

 

 

 

 

Thesis -The Dynamics of Coalition Reform

American reform movements are characterized by the tendency of groups to mobilize into "associations", in order to achieve common goals, create alliances with other mobilized groups, and work to balance the interests of alliance members after a coalition has been established. Movements splinter or fall apart when a group loses direction over its primary "interest issue", the overall coalition is unable to adapt to changing circumstances, or one group within the coalition challenges the interests of an allied group. This model, with certain modifications, is able to explain the structural dynamics of American reform movements.

In the past, when groups emerged to assert their interests, they had in effect, created a discrete "association" among founding members. As influence developed, group members aligned themselves to other like-minded "associations" and a larger alliance was established. As mobilization of these alliances continued, they soon encountered different "interest" alliances that shared similar concerns. If both alliances were receptive to one another, a regional or national coalition developed. If alliances within the larger coalition successfully balanced the interests of its diverse groups, then reform continued to move forward unimpeded.

 

The dynamics of this model must be applied to the relative circumstances surrounding each successive reform movement. For many reform movements, this model proves valid from a "grass roots" perspective. Farmers of the late nineteenth century aligned themselves into local "associations", which, in turn, united into state and regional alliances. In time, the Populist Party emerged from these Farmer's Alliances to seek coalition with the Knights of Labor.

 

Yet, this model is invalid if it is applied, in strict form, to the New Deal Era. In this case, the model is valid if presented from a "top to bottom" perspective. After his election in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt committed himself to lift America out of the Great Depression. With the support of key advisors, a Roosevelt "association" emerged. This association mobilized, rapidly creating an alliance with "associations" of like-minded Democratic congressmen from within the House of Representatives. Mobilization continued into the Senate and the Roosevelt associations secured an alliance with the overall Democratic Party. The Roosevelt alliance then pushed for legislation to aid diverse groups of Americans. For example, the Roosevelt alliance passed the Wagner Act, which ensured collective bargaining for labor unions. The Wagner Act ultimately brought organized labor into coalition with the Democratic Party. Similarly, other New Deal legislation aligned farmer and African American alliances under a 'Grand Coalition'.

 

In the case of the Progressive movement (which, began at a grass roots level), the definition of "national coalition", as demonstrated above, is no longer valid. Progressives entered into an alignment with labor, but this alliance did not produce, strictly speaking, the same type of national coalition later forged by FDR's coalition with labor. One could argue many Progressives were pro-labor, but this is not the same as stating the Progressives allied with the pro-labor Socialist Party on a national level. In this case, the model proves valid if one defines the Progressive coalition more broadly. The Progressive coalition entailed diverse "associations" and "alliances" from within the middle class. Progressives worked as advocates for many groups and causes. Social workers, labor organizers, social scientists, and politicians came forward to join forces in reform on the municipal, state, and national levels. Progressives worked toward this end, for a while, through a faction of the Republican Party.

The Progressive coalition, did, in time, manifest itself in the short-lived Progressive Party. However, Democrats co-opted the Progressive program and defeated the Progressive Party in the election of 1912. The displaced middle class Progressive groups, now under Woodrow Wilson's leadership, became disillusioned. The informal coalition, which Wilson inherited, withered.

 

Some mention should be given to defining the term "reform". Reform may be defined as the by product of collectivized (and democratic) activities intended, at least nominally, to secure the interests of concerned advocates, or the perceived interests of any given advocated group. This definition is valid when referencing the local cooperatives of the Farmer's Alliance, Progressive legislation at the state level, or the anti-war platform of the New Left-Eugene McCarthy coalition.

Conditions that lead to coalition splintering or coalition demise can also be identified. In some cases, a coalition will fracture or fall apart if it loses its primary "interest issue" to another group. The Populists lost a primary interest issue to the Democrats when the latter co-opted the "silver issue" in 1896. The Populist coalition soon collapsed. In other cases, a coalition may splinter or fall apart if one association in a coalition attempts to dominate, or is perceived to dominate, another aligned association. The Grand (or "Popular Front") Coalition splintered when (pro-communist) progressives bolted the (increasingly anticommunist) Democratic Party in 1947. Despite their challenge to the Democratic Party in the election of 1948, the Grand Coalition remained largely intact, as the anticommunist "New Deal" coalition.

 

Chapters 1 and 2 survey the Populist/ Progressive Era. Chapter 3 addresses the New Deal. Chapter 4 deals with Kennedy liberalism and the civil rights movement. Chapter 5 discusses the Great Society. Chapter 6 surveys political and economic radicalism in the 1960s. Chapter 7 looks at George Wallace and Richard Nixon. Finally, chapter 8 addresses the "Reagan Revolution", and recent coalitions under Ross Perot and Bill Clinton.

 

Chapter 1:

"Forefathers" -The Farmer's Alliance & the Populist Party

Credit is given to the work of Laurence Goodwyn, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights this theoretically proposed chapter on the Farmer's Alliance.

Associations:

After 1865, southern farmers moved west in search of opportunities. By 1877, farmers in Lampasas County, Texas organized themselves to address ongoing problems in the crop-lien system. Farmers bought needed supplies against a lien on their future crops. Often enough, the value of the crops did not cover incurred charges, and a cycle of debt developed.

Alliances:

Farmer's "alliances" developed in Texas, from over one hundred "associations" in the state's counties.

Coalition:

Regional Alliances developed, in 1885, as alliances continued to mobilize associations. In 1888, The Farmer's Alliance created the Populist Party, forging a coalition with the Knights of Labor.

Reform:

-The Farmer's Alliance created collectivist strategies to secure economic security-

Trade Stores: Merchants sold supplies at a
low price, in exchange for exclusive rights to Alliance business.

 

Sub-treasury Plan: A proposal, in which, the federal government would offer low interest loans to farmers, through the issuing of "greenbacks" to pay off creditors.
Farmers would sell stored cotton, paying back the loans with inflated dollars.

 

The National People's Platform of 1892: The platform equated longstanding concerns: It argued for public ownership of railroads, a move to the silver and gold standard, and a graduated income tax.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

The 1892 platform affirmed the Knights of Labor and argued for the boycott of goods produced by anti-labor businesses. It also called for immigration restrictions, in order to protect union jobs.

Demise of Coalition:

In 1896, both the Democrats and Populists nominated William Jennings Bryan for president. Populists nominated Tom Watson for vice president, while Democrats nominated Arthur Seward. By nominating Bryan, Democrats divided the Alliance/ Knights coalition, through co-opting the Populist advocacy of the silver currency standard. The Populists lost a primary interest issue: The farmer-labor coalition soon collapsed.

Relevance to Thesis:

This is a good example of a "grass roots" approach to coalition building.

 

Chapter 2:

"Hail the Victorians"-The Progressives

Credit is given to the work of Robert Crunden, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights this theoretically proposed chapter on the Progressives.

Associations:

Progressives were influenced by the earlier Social Gospel movement. As society continued to industrialize, so Progressives committed themselves to reform.

Alliances:

Oberlin College became a training school for many progressives.

Politicians, like Robert Follette of Wisconsin and Theodore Roosevelt, utilized politics for Progressive reform.

Coalition:

A broad coalition of middle class Progressive "associations" and "alliances", actively involved in reform efforts for years, organized into a formal political party in 1912. The Progressive Party chose Theodore Roosevelt as their presidential candidate. Hiram Johnson was nominated for vice president.

Reform:

-Local level-

Jane Adam's Hull House aided the poor. Local municipalities took control over utilities.
City planner initiatives created managers to run cities more efficiently.

-National level-

Anti-Trust measure (1902): President Theodore Roosevelt promised stricter enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906: Required a clean work place and honest labeling on products.

-Journalistic contributions-

Popular magazines exposed corruption and unsafe working conditions, pressuring institutions to correct abuses. Reporters exposed
false advertising claims for a whole variety of products.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:    

The Progressive Party attempted to balance pro "trust busting" and pro-business regulation factions.

Demise of Coalition:

The Progressive Party was organized to pursue reform. Yet, the Democratic Party co-opted the Progressive agenda in the election of 1912. Progressive associations and alliances lost their primary interest issues. Woodrow Wilson inherited the leadership for the broader coalition of middle class reformers, as resulting disillusionment destroyed the movement.

Relevance to Thesis:

This is a good example of a "grass roots" approach to coalition building.

 

Chapter 3:

"It's a Big Pie"-The New Deal

Credit is given to the work of William E. Leuchtenburg, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights this theoretically proposed chapter on the New Deal.

Associations:

-In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was elected President. Roosevelt committed himself to leading
Americans out of the Great Depression. Members of this "association" included-

 

The Cabinet:

Secretary of Agriculture Henery Wallace and Secretary of the
Interior Harold L. Hicks

The 'Brain Trust':

Economist Rexford G. Tugwell and political scientist Raymond Moley

Alliances:

The Roosevelt association rapidly mobilized like-minded associations in the House of Representatives to push for initial New Deal legislation. The Roosevelt association mobilized Democrats in the Senate and soon created an overall alliance with the Democratic Party.

Coalition:

The Democratic Party created specific legislation designed to bring the various interest groups into a Grand Coalition.

Reform
(From 1933 to 1941):

-For farmers-

The Agricultural Adjustment Act: Paid farmers for slowing output of crops and raw materials.
The Act sought to prevent farmer surplus and lower profits.

 

-For labor, for minorities-

The Wagner Act: Secured collective bargaining for unions.

A 1941 executive order banned hiring discrimination in the defense industry.

-For the middle class-

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: Secured up to $100,000 to prevent people from losing
their money, if there was a run on a bank.

 

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

FDR balanced the interests of diverse groups under a "Popular Front" coalition. Roosevelt liberals worked with minorities, labor, (anticommunist) socialists, businesses, and even the American Communist Party.

Splintering of Coalition:

Due to the emerging Cold War with the Soviet Union, an anticommunist liberal faction mobilized to purge communists from the Popular Front coalition. In response, communist labor organizers and pro-communist liberals defected. Anticommunist labor unions pleaded with members to reject overtures from the newly organized defectors. Support for defectors would divide the labor vote, in the 1948 election, and ensure victory for a Republican president. Labor's loyalty to the Democrats secured Harry Truman's victory. The Grand Coalition, endured, albeit splintered, as the "New Deal" coalition

Relevance to Thesis:

This is a good example of a "top to bottom" approach to coalition building.

 

Chapter 4:

"Government for the Common Good" -New Frontier Liberalism & the Civil Rights Movement

Credit is given to the work of Allen J. Matusow, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights this theoretically proposed chapter on Kennedy liberalism and the civil rights movement.

Associations:

President John F. Kennedy and advisors, in 1960, proposed a New Frontier for America. The New Deal had alleviated the worst aspects of the Depression. The Kennedy "association" hoped to build on these achievements. By early 1961, Kennedy initiated legislative proposals to reform the American public sector, through a mandated wage increase, funding for education, and urban renewal projects.


Alliances:

The Kennedy "association" aligned with Democrats in Congress and courted moderate Republicans.

Middle class civil rights "associations" worked together, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., to end segregation in the South

Coalition:

Kennedy hoped to strengthen the black alliance and align the poor with the Democratic Party.

Reform:

The Minimum Wage Act of 1961: Increased wages $.25 an hour. The Act hurt workers, causing inflation and a, relative scarcity, of jobs, as employers limited hiring to pay for the wage increase.

The Urban Housing Act of 1961: Allotted $5 billion for the renewal of urban areas, investment in public transportation, and the creation of housing. The Act, unintentionally, forced the poor out of neighborhoods,
through creating middle class and luxury (priced) apartments, in their place.

After the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson supported a pending civil rights bill and secured a voting rights Act:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Worked to dismantle segregation and voter fraud in the South. The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in public services. The Voting Rights Act gutted literacy voting requirements. If discrimination was established, federal election officials put voters on rolls.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

Kennedy sought to balance competing interests without alienating competing groups

Splintering of Coalition:

Many white southerners believed the civil rights and voting rights Acts challenged their interests within the coalition. The Democratic Party lost millions of white southern voters, yet gained more African American voters.
The New Deal coalition remained intact.

Relevance to Thesis:

This is an example of both a "grass roots" and "top to bottom" approach to coalition building.

 

Chapter 5:

"A Vision Not Realized"-The Great Society

Credit is given to the work of Allen J. Matusow, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights this theoretically proposed chapter on the Great Society.

Associations:

Johnson envisioned a "Great Society", which expanded on Kennedy programs. With the support of Francis Kepler, the Johnson "association" was established.

Alliances:

President Johnson was able to secure an alliance with Democratic legislators for the War on Poverty
(view a 1964 election ad here).

Coalition:

Johnson's goals mirrored Kennedy. New legislation was designed to align the poor with the New Deal coalition.
Much of the Great Society legislation also sought to strengthen the black alliance (many blacks were poor).

Reform:

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964: Created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). The OEO oversaw Community Action Projects (CAPS), which, in turn, created Community Action Agencies (CAA) that implemented local programs to benefit the poor. Community Action, plagued with corruption and mismanagement, failed to end poverty.

The Job Corps: Designed to train the poor, yet the job training failed to affect the poor's overall marketability.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965: Provided $1.5 billion to local schools, in order to help the poor. Head Start programs prepared these children for elementary school.

The Medicare Act of 1965: The Act combined hospital insurance with an optional plan to cover medical bills. Though, Medicare dramatically drove up the cost of medical expenses.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

Johnson's policies taxed middle/ working class whites for the benefit of the poor. Most Americans supported civil rights legislation and, initially, tolerated anti-poverty legislation (for, as noted above, many blacks were poor).

Demise of Coalition:

This chapter prepares the reader for Chapters 6 and 7. Chapter 6 discusses the impact of political and economic radicalism in undermining the New Deal coalition. Chapter 7 discusses a new coalition between Richard Nixon and America's "silent majority".

Relevance to Thesis:

This is a good example of a "top to bottom" approach to coalition building.

Chapter 6:

"Opposition from the Left"-Political and Economic Radicalism in the Sixties

Credit is given to the work of Allen J. Matusow, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights these theoretically proposed chapters on Political and Economic Radicalism in the Sixties
and latter Opposition from the Right.

Associations:

New Left "association": Tom Hayden created the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1960, which took part in local community reform efforts.

Black power "association": The civil rights tactics used in the South were not successful in addressing economic concerns. In August 1965, Watts erupted into a riot. Black anger increased.

Welfare rights "association": The National Welfare Rights Association (NWRA) sought to mobilize the American poor towards bankrupting the welfare system. The poor would seek the greatest possible income benefit offered by local welfare offices. Once the welfare system had been exhausted, the federal government would bailout local offices and perpetuate entitlement programs.

Alliances:

Opposition to the war in Vietnam developed to destroy the New Deal coalition from within. Robert Kennedy advocated increasing the scope of welfare entitlement payments (cf. Social Justice and "Band-Aid" Politics) to disassociate himself from Great Society programs.

Coalition:

Kennedy envisioned a coalition for a "New Politics", which would unite elements of the New Left, the "black power" movement, and the NWRA into a new consensus. Eugene McCarthy created a strained anti-war coalition from these alliances in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

Reform:

-Local SDS efforts, until 1968: New Left activists worked with black civil rights and anti-poverty activists in various hands-on projects.

The "Liberal Student Movement" of 1961:
SDS worked with black activists for civil rights in Mississippi.

"Teach-ins" of 1965:
SDS, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, organized ongoing lectures, in March, wherein faculty members argued against the war in Vietnam. The SDS sought to use academics as a vehicle for social change. The teach-ins consisted of about 3,500 faculty and students, and became a crucial first step in organizing the anti-war movement.

The Anti-War Protests of 1968:
Consisted of more than 200 campus demonstrations. Many protesters included the SDS, black civil rights activists, and anti-poverty activists. Thousands of people gathered in Chicago and protested the Democratic convention. Many protesters began to advocate violence.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

Johnson became alienated. He was unable to satisfy anti-war sentiment and the demands of activists.

Demise of Coalition:

President Johnson dropped out of the 1968 presidential race. A national New Left-based/ Eugene McCarthy coalition collapsed after McCarthy's defeat in the primaries. Republican Richard Nixon co-opted the welfare entitlement agenda.

Relevance to Thesis:

Good example of a "grass roots" approach to coalition building, respectively, for the short-lived New Left-Eugene McCarthy coalition.

 

Chapter 7:

"Opposition from the Right"-Wallace, Nixon, and the Final End of the New Deal Coalition

Associations:

Many middle/ working class whites rejected the Great Society programs because they came to believe these programs were created exclusively for African Americans. Though many programs aided blacks,
other programs, such as the earlier Appalachia Aid Act of 1965, worked to help poor whites. Regardless, middle and working class whites lost patience. Michael Kazin notes: "Angry African Americans gutted American cities, and the long simmering white backlash finally arrived." Kazin continues: "It was the liberals, those 'big people' in Washington, who got the blame for leading the nation...into a war on poverty whose promises grossly overshot its achievements. A bloated state appeared to be meddling, ineptly, in areas they didn't belong- and damaging the lives and pocketbooks of the hardworking white middle in the process." (The Populist Persuasion: An American History; New York: Basic Books, 1995, 203)

George Wallace, ex-governor of Alabama, sought aggrandizement. He and his staff created an "association" that planned to obtain power through playing off working class anxieties.

Richard Nixon also played on the "white backlash", yet he used more subtle appeals. His "association" demanded a return to "law and order", and an end to Great Society legislation. Nixon appealed to the middle and working classes through verbiage like the "silent majority."

Alliances:

The Wallace "association" sought alliances with racist associations such as the White Citizens Councils and the Liberty Lobby.

The Nixon "association" created alliances with conservative "grass roots" associations.

Coalition:         

Wallace sought, unsuccessfully, to create a coalition with labor.

Nixon created a coalition with the middle class and labor. Nixon also sought, unsuccessfully, a coalition with poor whites and blacks.

Reform:

The Family Assistance Plan of 1969: A negative income tax proposal, in which the needy would receive benefits in proportion to the income they earned. As clients made more money, benefits would go down. Initial payments were to be based on income tax returns. The plan would ensure an annual income of, at least, $1500. The proposal failed to pass. Its failure dashed Nixon's hopes for a coalition with the poor.

The Clean Air Act of 1970: Held industries accountable for pollution. This legislation helped, indirectly, to improve living conditions for workers in urban areas.


Wage and Price freezes of 1971: A short-term measure to curb inflation. Though, Nixon's price freeze did contain inflation, it created scarcity in some consumer goods.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

Nixon worked for the "silent majority". Nixon came to identify the silent majority as hardworking "whites, blacks, and browns [that is, Hispanics]".

Demise of Coalition:

Failure of Great Society programs, economic radicalism, and opposition to the Vietnam War, led to the destruction of the New Deal coalition. Richard Nixon successfully played on these issues to win the 1968 presidential election.

By 1972, the Democratic Party did consolidate itself under a rump "New Politics" coalition with some labor, minorities, and remnants of the New Left. Under the direction of senator George McGovern, the Democratic Party continued to affirm welfare entitlements. The New Left/ McGovern influence caused the Democratic Party to become more socially progressive. In addition, because of the conflict over the Vietnam War, the Democratic Party adopted a dovish stance on foreign policy issues. Nixon, running for re-election that year, defeated McGovern. The Nixon coalition later fell apart due to its inability to adapt to the circumstances surrounding the Watergate scandal.

Relevance to Thesis:

Good example of a "top to bottom" approach to coalition building in the Nixon alignment with the "silent majority".

 

Chapter 8:

"Old Time Religion...and Fleetwood Mac"-The Reagan Revolution and Recent Coalitions

Credit is given to the work of Lisa McGirr, which, in the fair-use paraphrase below, highlights this theoretically proposed chapter on California and national conservatives.

Associations:

Conservatives flourished in California during the early 60's. The economic prosperity associated with the emerging defense industry facilitated the growth of beliefs in economic individualism. Many of these conservatives affirmed the existence of a moral order, in which, a [Creator is the Author of moral commands]. Southern California conservatives tended to distrust centralized political power.

60's conservatism may be defined through libertarians and cultural conservatives.

Libertarians: This "association" developed during the 1964 election, from within the Republican Party. Local residents collected thousands of signatures to place Barry Goldwater on the California ballot. Like Goldwater, libertarians resisted the increasing power of the federal government. Similarly, they opposed social programs, due to their costs. They also opposed economic regulation, which they believed, damaged the economy. Libertarians endorsed local and state governments.

Cultural conservatives: This "association" justified government activism in support of traditional values. For example, early 60's cultural conservatives advocated comprehensive laws prohibiting prostitution and recreational drug use. By the mid-1970s, they sought to reform welfare programs, hoping to promote self-reliance in Americans. 70's cultural conservatives also wanted to reinstate prayer in school and criminalize legalized abortion.

Ronald Reagan spoke at the 1964 Republican convention. He condemned big government (view the speech here). After Goldwater's defeat to Johnson, Reagan and his associates hoped for a consensus with California conservatives.

Alliances:

The Reagan "association" courted with conservative associations like the Young America's Foundation and the John Birch Society.

Coalition:

In 1968, the Reagan "association" forged an alliance with California
conservatives and secured the governor's mansion. By 1980, the Reagan alliance created a national coalition. This coalition included various elements
of the old New Deal coalition, who left the Democratic Party due to the failure of Great Society programs.

A particular element of these old democrats were displaced Cold War liberals,
also frustrated reformers, who rejected the social progressivism inherent in the "New Politics".
Though, they are basically known today for their hawkish foreign policy. These old Democrats make up much
of the present day neoconservative movement in the Republican Party.

Anticommunist socialists, like the Social Democrats, USA, also with roots in the New Deal coalition, came to
embrace later neoconservatism. Many social democrats served in Reagan's State Department. The SD-USA
supported Reagan's military buildup against the opportunistic Soviet Union (like the old Democrats,
they rejected the dovish post-Vietnam war policies of the Democratic Party).

The ["new conservatives"] placed a great premium on social
conservatism, and even eventually embraced a degree of fiscal libertarianism.
In their view, a strong work ethic and other traditional values afforded Americans the best means to prosper
in an imperfect free market system. The President worked with these groups for a "Reagan Revolution"
to streamline the size of the federal government and increase the strength of the military.

Reform:

The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1983:
This tax cut was devised to stimulate the economy by increasing incentive for consumer demand. The tax cut largely benefited large corporations and the middle class. In contrast to Keynesian economics, which argues for creating purchase demand in the public sector, the Reagan tax cut sought to create demand in the private sector through subsidizing large corporations. If corporations prospered, the economy should expand and create more jobs. New jobs would put more money in the pockets of consumers and facilitate consumer demand of goods and services. This theory is called "trickle down" economics. New jobs were created and consumer demand in the middle class increased, improving the overall condition of the economy.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

Reagan ignored social security, and set aside many moralist concerns, in hopes of fostering support in the Democratic Party for his military buildup against the Soviets.

Demise of Coalition:

After Reagan's departure in 1989, many Reagan "Democrats" left the coalition. The inability of Reagan's successor, President George H.W. Bush, to adapt to the changing circumstances of the economy led to the end of the Reagan coalition.

Associations:

Independent Ross Perot and Democrat William Clinton both created their respective "associations"
to play off the economic down turn of the early 1990s.

Alliances:

The Clinton "association" and Perot "association" worked to create alliances with groups that Michael Kazin signifies as the "New Populism": the Illinois Public Action Council, Richmond United Neighborhoods, and "Fair Share". These middle class groups supported socially progressive causes, while still affirming a relatively conservative economic agenda.

Coalition:

The Clinton alliance sought a coalition with economically conservative groups. Clinton presented himself as a "conservative" Democrat, in order to secure coalition with the same middle class that had supported Nixon and Reagan. Perot, a millionaire businessman, initially made gains with the middle class. Though, his candidacy also divided Republicans, ensuring Clinton's victory in the 1992 election.

Reform:

The NAFTA Trade Agreement of 1993:
This trade agreement eliminated trade restrictions with Mexico and Canada, creating more opportunities for American companies.

Balancing Interests in the Coalition:

Clinton worked for the interests of middle class women and minorities.

Demise of Coalition:

The Clinton coalition declined due to its inability to adapt to the circumstances surrounding the President's personal scandals.

Relevance to Thesis:

The Reagan and, later, Clinton coalitions are good examples of the "grass roots" and "top to bottom" approach, respectively, to coalition building.
The Reagan coalition saw the mobilization of conservative groups. Alternatively, relatively conservative economic voters found their voice in Bill Clinton, and moved the Democratic Party towards the fiscal right. Though, the modern Democratic Party retains a socially progressive focus dating from the "New Politics" of the McGovern period.

Conclusion (May 2003)

As globalization of the economy continues, new market opportunities develop. Yet, globalization can deter American investments in American based technological markets. Furthermore, globalization has disrupted traditional American industries. It is likely future reformers will strive to protect domestic economic interests, drifting toward economic progressivism. Indeed, some of today's Democrats, like Al Gore and Howard Dean, advocate economic progressivism. The social, or cultural, views of these men resonates McGovernism.

"Culture is more fundamental than politics or economics, for without certain basic ideas,
certain habits of the heart, a love for argument and evidence and open conversation,
and a few other moral and spiritual dispositions, neither a republic respecting
rights nor a dynamic capitalist economy can thrive, or even survive."
Michael Novak, National Review

 

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