LOPEZ: What’s so different about the South?
COST: The South mostly avoided the cultural and social revolution that rocked the North; they also do not have much of a labor movement. This gave Democrats from the region a level of independence that their counterparts in California or New York simply lacked. This is why Carter and Clinton were, at their core, party reformers (although both failed).
What’s the Democratic party’s equality problem? Isn’t that why people vote for them, to end inequality?
COST: That is certainly the party’s rhetoric. My argument is that the Democrats talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
LOPEZ: Does the Occupy movement suggest the Left is on to the Democrats? What role does OWS play in the upcoming November elections — on all levels?
COST: The Occupy movement has been captured by the Service Employees International Union, which makes me skeptical. It might be a player in an internecine war between different factions within the party, but the fact that it is attached to the party’s most energetic interest group makes me skeptical that it is a true change agent.
LOPEZ: Is there a likely or even plausible scenario in the short term where there is competition for some of the Democratic-party clients?
COST: I’d say no. They have a tight control over political power in the Democratic party, especially in the House of Representatives. Why should they bolt? Meanwhile, so much of the GOP coalition exists because it sees these Democratic clients as a threat. Why should the GOP try to court them?
LOPEZ: Recapping the 2008 election, you write: “There was something about the junior senator from Illinois that seemed to make everybody on the Democratic side comfortable, Clinton loyalists notwithstanding.” How has that changed? Can Obama fix it?
COST: I doubt he can fix it, but I’m not sure it matters. The Clinton loyalists in the elite ranks of the Democratic party are loyalists until the end. Obama dealt with them by bringing Hillary Clinton in as secretary of state, thus neutralizing her as a future opponent.
As for Clintonites in the mass public — e.g., working-class Democrats in places such as western Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, and West Virginia — 2008 proved that Democrats can win without them, at least for now. These are not so much Clinton Democrats as they are New Deal Democrats who have been in the process of abandoning the party since 1968. These “Clinton” Democrats are just the last of the lot to bolt.