Tracing the Democratic Party's shift to the left over the last thirty years and its concurrent demise, the author proposes that the Democrats will never be able to recapture the strength of the New Deal
In 1983, Ronald Radosh's co-authored book The Rosenberg File established once and for all that the celebrated "victims" of McCarthyism were, in fact, guilty. As an anticommunist Democrat, Radosh has for decades focused his historiographic laserbeam on both foreign and domestic affairs, from Latin America to Washington. Now, in this startling history, Radosh takes a close look at his own party.Drawing on original archival materials concerning key Democrats such as Scoop Jackson, Eugene McCarthy, and Allard Lowenstein, Radosh challenges conventional wisdom at several points. He argues that the Student Nonviolent coordinating Committee was wrong in its allegation that white liberals sold out the black freedom movement in 1964, an allegation that has become a touchstone of civil-rights history. He reanalyzes the evidence surrounding the infamous 1968 Chicago Convention riots, arguing that yippie leaders intentionally provoked violent clashes with the police. And he resurrects Scoop Jackson's 1972 candidacy, showing how Jackson's positions might have held together the party's vital center - if only the apparatchiks had not united behind a hopelessly unelectable George McGovern.The second half of the story, from the wilderness years of Reagan-Bush to the plurality victory of Bill Clinton, reveals a widening fault line in the party's traditional liberal-labor coalition. With labor in disarray, with suburban voters turning Republican, the party has lost its New Deal "have-not" base, exchanging it for an urban minority. In the tumultuous 1994 elections, not a single incumbent Republican lost, while dozens of Democrats were turned out of office. Since then, over two-hundred officeholding members have changed parties. Bill Clinton may well manage to win reelection, and the Democrats may temporarily recapture state Houses or even Congress, but they have lost their definition, their purpose, and their majority support.