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« "Inspired by real-life events": How good sports writing is fiction and why that's fine with me | Main | Temperamental Presidents. One: FDR, a first class temperament, sure, but a first class intellect too »


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El Jefe

I'll return to my three-parties rubric for the "well, yeah" to Rauchway's excellent observations here.

Party 1: Runs from the serious Left to "American liberals" (who are, on that number line, the rightward part of the party but only in an intra-party sense)

Party 2: The combination of classical liberals (what we tend to describe as "big-business supporters") and small-c "real" conservatives (people well-described by the generic term "conservative" rather than reactionaries camouflaging themselves with that label)

Party 3: The frothing mass of weaponized fundamentalism, American apartheid, and general-purpose authoritarian tribalist xenophobes

The "Pain Caucus" language is the language of Party 2's right wing, a pivotal force in American politics from the absolute get-go and in various forms throughout US history. Their party's leftist element -- what we used to call Rockefeller Republicans -- believe in either 1) taking the mighty engines loosed by those attitudes and taxing them for public improvements and to level out the rough spots (roughly the US "third way" and British "New Labour" approach) or 2) in the tradition of William Scranton especially (but also the younger, pre-Drug War Rocky) introducing public spending and measures for greater civil equality as brakes on the system's excesses. It's one of the reasons people like George Romney were champions of civil rights: on the one hand it was the decent thing to do from a noblesse oblige point of view, being true to American civic ideals while running an economy that sometimes ground those down at a material level. On the other, it broadened (and cheapened, financially) the labor pool by bringing women and minorities into the workforce and -- from the POV of the Rockys and Romneys of the world -- broke the (their view) stranglehold of unionized working-class white male tribalists on wage levels. Now, there were good actors there in the unions too (paging Walter Reuther...) but there was also plenty of the Southern yeomanry-meets-Free Soilers racial/gender tribalism about the power and prestige having "a man's job" gave.

But Nelson Rockefeller (and, now at last, Barry Goldwater too) definitely lost his share of that metaphorical "argument" that George Wallace won. (And then the Rockefeller Republicans, barring a few old soldiers from the Midwest and Northeast, decamped to the DLC but that's a story for another time.) So the right wing of Party 2 -- the Pain Caucus triumphant -- rode the tiger of Party 3 to decades of immense, defining power in American politics. And just like (I say this as a social-democratic Southerner) the pernicious Neo-Confederate historiographical war, waged over decades in the late 19th and early 20th century, worked to destroy the reputation of the one president (Ulysses Grant) who tried to preserve some of Lincoln's legacy after the Civil War, decades of small cuts have done, well, just what Rauchway describes about FDR in those two last, short grafs.

El Jefe

Just to amplify the buried lede in that last paragraph of my comment:

It's fascinating that one of the things we folks in the left-blogosphere have gotten really, really right, is how precisely the Party 2 right wing 1) totally screwed the democratized society of union labor, pension-ized shares in large industrial corporations (closest thing to real workers' control we ever had), and the New Deal/Great Society safety nets, and then 2) took the right-leaning elements of that screwed-over workforce, the angry white-male tribalists who voted for Wallace in Michigan, made the mess in 1970s Kanawha County, etc., and used them as a voting base, and then (thanks Ailes and Limbaugh) a hermetically-sealed culture (a tendency they had anyway being the heirs of the old Northern European peasantry where, further from river basins and coasts, there was a lot of that cultural-segregation-by-choice going *very* far back) that has at last become the Trumpenstein monster.

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