May 15, 2016


How Racism And Nativism Enabled The New Deal : a review of The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics, Jefferson Cowie  (Kyle Sammin, MAY 14, 2016, The Federalist)

The New Deal survived where progressive changes of the previous generations were rolled back for two reasons: segregation and nativism. As Cowie notes, Roosevelt united a once-fractious Democratic Party behind his New Deal plan by acquiescing in Jim Crow segregation. Cowie presents the South's racial collectivism and the North's economic collectivism as two unrelated issues, portraying the former as an idea of the Right, the latter of the Left, but both are collectivism, and both were essential components of the New Deal. The jobs most often performed by black Southerners--farm work and domestic service--were excluded from the new laws' protection.  [...]

In 2016, the only real would-be New Dealers are the supporters of Donald J. Trump.

Trump's people complain about welfare, but would not be opposed to accepting more "respectable" government handouts. They want guaranteed jobs at high wages, with tariffs taking the place of world war in keeping out foreign competition. How they seek to replicate our trade surpluses of the 1950s and 1960s is left unsaid, but Trumpites are not shy about embracing the dark side of the New Deal, too. They would gladly deport even more Mexicans than the Roosevelt administration, and the "alt-right" forces in Trump's ranks would likely not shy away from New Deal-era unions' racially restrictive membership policies.

Here, Cowie's book should serve as a warning to Left and Right. The New Deal was a unique reaction to a unique era of American history. Replicating it, whether in the Panglossian version preached by Sanders supporters or the malevolent version preferred by Trump's people, is unwise and unworkable. It is, at best, a nostalgic fantasy and will not survive first contact with the real world economy of the twenty-first century.

Posted by at May 15, 2016 10:22 AM