Brian's Reviews > Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic

Spoiled Rotten by Jay Cost
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's review
Nov 28, 2012

it was amazing
Read in September, 2012 — I own a copy

This is an excellently-written, meticulously-researched history of the Democratic Party. It explains the often confusing history of the party in the twentieth century, and how it gradually, in fits and starts, metamorphosed from the reactionary, agrarian, Southern- and immigrant-dominated party that it was at the close of the Gilded Age, to the socialist-in-theory, fascist-in-practice monstrosity it is today.

The one tie that binds the old party and the new party is clientelism. Then, as now, the Democrats are bound and ruled by special interests. From unions, ethnic and racial groups, and even--particularly in the past 20 years--to corporate interests, the party has forsaken the nation's interests--and those of the "little guy" they still have most of us believing they stand with--in favor of its patchwork alliance of clients.

Cost's case is quite convincing, and his meticulousness is a big part of the reason. Very little about demographic shifts of the last 135+ years escapes his notice. This makes for slow reading at certain points, but it helps his argument.

I would say that he probably pays too little attention to the tectonic ideological shifts that occurred in the Democratic Party in the twentieth century and the role that the radical left-wing (or what used to be considered such) takeover has had in determining the direction the Democrats and our country have taken, but that is not his main point. Any party as beset with clients as the Democrats are is unable to govern functionally.
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