The Corner

Galston Explains It All

I’ve been plowing through the latest issue of The Public Interest. There’s a short but typically brilliant book review by William Galston (offline, unfortunately) that explains a lot about today’s politics. Galston’s review of Diminished Democracy, by sociologist and political scientist Theda Skocpol, is about presidential politics, but even more about deep changes in the way the levers of power now work in America. Although Galston doesn’t put it this way, he and Skocpol are talking about the “bobo’s” (David Brooks’ “bourgeois bohemians”) who have taken over–and split–the Democratic party. Bobo’s are social liberals and economic moderates. Howard Dean is their candidate. Gephart, with his pro-labor stance and universal health care plan appeals to the Democrats old time working class constituency. The upper-middle class bobo’s haven’t just changed the balance of power within the Democratic party; they’ve been part of a deeper change in the way the country’s politics are organized. Prior to the sixties, politics was largely driven by broad based associations like, say, veterans groups or women’s religious societies. Nowadays, politics tends to be dominated by single issue organizations with very little in the way of national membership. Instead, the issue-based organizations are run from the top down by a few experts, lawyers, and lobbyists. An army of professionals is taking over much of the work of politics from large scale grass roots organizations. This has to do with the rise of a huge class of educated professionals, they fraying of local communities, and even with the movement of women into the workforce. (Women used to supply much of the drive to grass roots volunteer organizations.) It also has to do with the fact that many traditional grass roots associations were organized along sexual or religious lines that many now see as discriminatory. None of these themes are new, but Galston’s review lights them up very nicely.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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