Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Who Gets the Handouts?

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In the 1930s, we experienced an economic depression like nothing we had ever experienced before. As a result, Americans demanded an activist government that helped people — but not all people. The New Deal helped white industrial workers and farmers more than it did blacks and Mexican-Americans. In real estate, the New Deal reinforced segregation and introduced redlining.

There is general consensus that the elections of the 1930s realigned the electorate, introducing what is called the Fifth Party System. Here are the election results for 1936:

1936 Presidential Election results.

1936 Presidential Election results. From Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (

There was a broad base of support for FDR, which is why he won four elections. The people who were advocating a reduced role of government were selling a product the majority of the electorate did not want.

In the 1960s, the Democratic Party shifted focus. It began advocating a more inclusive approach to government benefits. The largely white principal beneficiaries of the New Deal saw this and they didn’t like it, like it, no they did not. What did they do about it?

1968 Presidential Election results.

1968 Presidential Election results. From Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (

This shows the Southern Strategy wasn’t that effective: four southern states broke for Wallace, while Texas remained loyal to the Democrats. But the historical base of the New Deal coalition was alienated. In 1980, many defected to Reagan.

2008 Presidential Election results.

2008 Presidential Election results. From Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (

2008 is a picture of the Democratic coalition at about its strongest without an incumbent to support. Let’s take that result and back it off a bit (otherwise the Democrats would be winning all the elections, which is counterfactual) to find the base strength of the support for an inclusive program of aggressive government benefits.

The role of government is the key issue of our time. Everything else that is important flows from this. Laying 2008 over 1936, and attempting to adjust for changes in demographics over 80 years, this is what I get:

Educated estimate of the 2016 electorate.

Educated estimate of the 2016 electorate.

What can we learn?

  • There has been no realignment since the 1930s. The majority of the electorate still expects big government and benefits therefrom. The big fight is over who gets their promises kept and who has to go without.
  • In order to hold the line against dilution of their benefits, the favored groups of the New Deal — who I am calling the “White Big Government” group — often team up with the small government conservatives to block the extension of benefits to others, notably blacks and Hispanics, which threatens to dilute the benefits to which the former believe themselves entitled.
  • In a straight-up referendum in the current electoral climate, the big government side would trounce the small government side. Conservatives who believe otherwise are delusional.

What has happened this year in the Republican Party is really a hostile takeover. It is as if the Reagan Democrats had come over to the Republican Party in 1980 and nominated Jacob Javits (not that there is any comparison in terms of integrity or behavior between Sen. Javits and Donald Trump). But then,

All the noise about Donald Trump’s “hostile takeover” of the Republican Party misses a key point: Such takeovers only succeed when existing management has failed massively.
— “How the Republican Party Earned a Hostile Takeover”, New York Post (

The Trumpkins want to take the Republican Party away from the conservatives and the establishment pols who never deliver what the former consider really important. They feel abandoned by the Democrats, and are happy to return the favor. Why did 20,000 voters in Massachusetts stop being Democrats? It’s not a massive plot to undermine the Republican Party and elect Hillary Clinton. It is a hostile takeover. We’re going over here to get the candidate we want.

The Trumpkins are fed up with the standard shuck-and-jive, where candidates blow sweet nothings in their ears, then blow their interests off once elected. They don’t want a reduced role of government. They have enough common sense to realize that there is not enough wealth to keep all the promises that have been made by successive elected officials, and they don’t want to be the ones getting the shaft. Chasing after government handouts is at best a zero-sum game. In order for me to win, you have to lose. That is what all the anger is really about. All the rest is window dressing to them, and they are prepared to ignore it.

If you think this is ugly, we haven’t even got to the difficult part. Wait until the rest of the electorate cottons on to the fact that the entitlement cupboard is bare.


Written by srojak

March 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm

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