James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Parties and Ideas

Sometimes I think that "conservative" and "liberal" are concepts too unique to the European experience of landed aristrocracy, and are not suitable expressions of American politics.

The history of American parties and politics seems rather to be of ever-shifting alliances of four ideas: progressivism, populism, individualism, and mercantilism (Wall Street interests). Parties that win the allegiance of two or three of these groups tend to win elections.

Early last century, progressives left the Republican for the Democratic Party and remained. Wall Street has usually stayed with the GOP (with slight exceptions for people like Bill Clinton). Individualists were driven to the GOP during the New Deal, are small in number and influence, but many are defecting. The balance is populism, and the ability of the Democrats to exploit economic envy and the Republican's exploitation of moral outrage/anti-elitism.

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