Magazine July 30, 2012, Issue

Cronies, Clients, and Corruption

(Thomas Peter/Reuters)
Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, by Jay Cost (Broadside, 368 pp., $26.99)

‘It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” So begins Spoiled Rotten, Jay Cost’s new history of the Democratic party. Cost is referring to the presidency of Barack Obama, who was going to be a post-partisan, post-racial leader for the 21st century. More importantly for Democrats, Obama was also going to usher in a new era of Democratic dominance based on the changing demographics of American society.

Since the 1960s, Democrats have increasingly pinned their electoral hopes less on white working-class voters and more on an alliance of upper-middle-class professionals, minorities, young voters, and women. The election of 2008, which included Democratic

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