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Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic Hardcover – May 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Democratic Party has long presented itself as the party of the poor, the working class, the little guy. As Jay Cost's sweeping revisionist history reveals, nothing could be further from the truth.

Why have the Democrats gone from being the people's party of reform to the party of special-interest carve-outs? In Spoiled Rotten, political analyst Jay Cost tells the story of the modern Democratic party from the end of the Civil War to the present, tracing the sad decline of a once noble political coalition that is no longer capable of living up to its lofty ideals.

When Andrew Jackson formed the Democratic party in 1828, he promised to stand up for the little guy against the rule of privileged elites. What has become of this promise? According to Cost, recent history has shown the Democrats to be anything but the party of and for the people. Instead, they have become a collection of special-interest groups feeding off the federal government, exchanging votes for subsidies and benefits.

With the creation of a partisan spoils system in the nineteenth century, both parties practiced the politics of patronage. But, starting with the New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the power of big government to transform whole classes of society into clients of the Democratic party. Urban machines, southern segregationists, and organized labor all benefited from this approach. FDR's successors—Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter—followed suit, turning African Americans, environmentalists, feminists, government workers, teachers, and a number of other groups into loyal Democratic factions. As a result, the Democratic party has become a kind of national Tammany Hall whose real purpose is to colonize the federal government on behalf of its clients.

No longer able to govern for the vast majority of the country, the Democratic party simply taxes Middle America to pay off its clients while hiding its true nature behind a smoke screen of idealistic rhetoric. Thus, the Obama health care, stimulus, and auto bailout health care bill were created not to help all Americans but to secure contributions and votes. Average Americans need to see that whatever the Democratic party claims it is doing for the country, it is in fact governing simply for its base.

Hard-hitting and uncompromising, Spoiled Rotten is a timely, powerful polemic from a rising intellectual star.

About the Author

Jay Cost writes the twice-weekly "Morning Jay" column for the Weekly Standard and was previously a writer for RealClearPolitic and a popular political blogger. Cost received a BA in government from the University of Virginia and an MA in political science from the University of Chicago. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Broadside Books (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062041150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062041159
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jay Cost has been a top political analyst for nearly a decade. He currently writes MORNING JAY for The Weekly Standard. He got his start with his simple, no-frills "Horse Race Blog" in September, 2004 because he was sick and tired of the inane media coverage of the Bush-Kerry contest. With his data-driven approach to the election, he was consistently ahead of the curve, and by the end of the campaign season his blog was drawing thousands of readers a day.

In 2005 he began working for the premier political website RealClearPolitics, where his audience reached into the hundreds of thousands. It was there that he again was ahead of the curve covering the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, predicting earlier than anybody else that Obama would be a real challenge to Clinton, then later sensing accurately that Clinton was down but not out. Today, he writes a twice-weekly column for the top conservative opinion journal The Weekly Standard.

Jay received a B.A. with High Distinction in Government from the University of Virginia, and later an M.A. in political science from the University of Chicago, where he is currently working towards his Ph.D. His approach to politics is an unusual blend of scholarly grounding, statistical know-how, and good old common sense.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Mark Morris on May 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book, terrible title. I understand why this title was selected. It was selected to sell books. And it worked. I bought it. I figured it would provide information that would show Democrats in a negative light but that is not what it does. What it really shows is how special interests have helped get both Parties elected and why that can be bad for America. The actual title should have been "Why Bill Clinton was the greatest Democrat President since Andrew Jackson." Or "How Jimmy Carter's refusal to cave into special interest brought down his Presidency." But I don't think those titles, while they are an accurate portrayal of the book, would help sell the book. I would recommend this book to everyone except members of the current Democrat special interest groups (labor unions, trial lawyers, African Americans, environmentalists, feminists, ect.). If you are a "single issue" voter then this book is not for you, it is about you. I can't tell you how disappointed I am that I now know positive things to say about Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. I wouldn't have thought that was possible. But I guess you can't judge a book by the title. If you are interested in why the 2012 election gets compared to the Truman/Dewey 1948 election or how and why the South went from solid Democrat to solid Republican then you will enjoy this book. It is a great history of the Democrat Party and the forces that changed it. No hero's, no villains. Just a look at the situation each Democrat President found himself in and how they had to balance the special interests, re-election, and the good of the country.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Michael T Kennedy VINE VOICE on May 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent history of the evolution of the Democratic Party from its belief in small government and individualism in the Andrew Jackson era to the changes that occurred with the New Deal and , especially, under Lyndon Johnson. The Civil Rights acts of 1957, and especially 1964, shifted the black vote from Republican to Democrat in a very short period. The black vote and the Congressional Black Caucus became an integral part of the Democrat structure. The labor unions were similar, especially after the Wagner Act of 1935 which created an adversarial relationship between labor and management. Mickey Kaus, among others, has decried the effect of this 1935 law on the ability of unions to adapt to the modern economy. The auto industry is one example.

Reviewing Kindle editions is more difficult because it is not easy to leaf back and forth in the book to refer to earlier sections so this review will be written, as I have done others, as I read the book. One main theme that runs through much of the story since the Depression is the desire of the unions to eliminate section 14b from the Taft-Hartley law of 1947, passed over Truman's veto. This is the provision that allowed states to ban closed shops, the "right to work laws." The provision originated in the alliance between Republicans and the old Southern wing of the Democratic Party. These two Congressional entities combined to frustrate many left wing desires of the Democrats over the years, none more important than the right to work laws. When the Japanese car companies were obliged by US tariffs to build plants in the US, they expected them to be unionized. However, they found that southern workers did not want unions and that situation continues today. It can be seen in the controversy over the Boeing plant in South Carolina.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sean Trende on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are buying Spoiled Rotten hoping for a simplistic, bombastic assault on the Democratic Party, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a smart, well-written evaluation of the evolution of that party over the past few decades, then this book will significantly exceed your expectations.

In a strange way, I almost felt like I was re-reading early netroots critiques of the DLC, which isn't at all what I expected. Cost's argument is basically this: The Democratic Party figured out under Franklin Roosevelt how the could assemble a national majority by bringing various client groups on board. In the 1930s it was labor, in the early 1960s it was African Americans, and in the late 1960s it was a panoply of liberal interest groups. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Party worked to bring Wall Street and big business into the fold. This allowed the party to win elections, but ironically reduced the ability of progressives to implement their agenda.

Taken at face value, Cost's argument is basically that liberals should fight on their own terms, and fight to break the various influences on the party that have taken hold in the past decade, especially the corporate ones. As Cost trenchantly explains, catering to these various interest groups diminished the effectiveness of the stimulus, weakened the President's health care bill, and brought about an ineffective financial reform bill.

In other words, for liberals who question why the Obama Administration didn't live up to its promise, Cost offers the answer: It couldn't. A Medicare expansion would have alienated the insurance lobby, which Obama courted assiduously in 2008 and 2009. A strong financial reform bill, or breaking up the banks? Same problem.
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