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The New Majority

The New Majority: Toward a Popular Progressive Politics

Stanley B. Greenberg
Theda Skocpol
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 333
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  • Book Info
    The New Majority
    Book Description:

    In an era of widespread and unsettling change in workplaces, families, and communities, most Americans yearn for a government that will take their side. The contributors to this bold and visionary book argue that America is ready for a progressive politics with substance and bite. They contend that by embarking on a popular progressive course, the Democratic Party can become the moral voice-and practical partner-of all American families striving for a better life.This provocative book is a dialogue among Stanley B. Greenberg, Theda Skocpol, and other well-known thinkers. The contributors reject conservative answers to America's most pressing problems-fraying social ties, hard-pressed family life, sluggish economic growth, and widening gaps between the life circumstances of the most privileged and of everyone else. They discuss a renewal of the nation's social contract, suggest how to revitalize American democracy (not only by reducing the role of big money, but also by reconnecting people to politics), and explore how popular Democrats can fashion broad electoral alliances in the years to come. The Democratic party must undertake a new mission to champion the daily needs of Americans who work for a living, the authors maintain. In this period of change, America needs a government that does more, not less. By opting for a popular progressive course, Democrats can realign national debates and inspire a broad new electoral majority.Contributors:Alan BrinkleyMarc CaplanMichael C. DawsonJeff FauxMarshall GanzStanley B. GreenbergIra KatznelsonTheodore R. MarmorJerry L. MashawKaren M. PagetMiles S. RapoportMichael J. SandelTheda SkocpolPaul StarrMargaret WeirWilliam Julius Wilson

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14741-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Stanley B. Greenberg and Theda Skocpol
  4. A Politics for Our Time
    (pp. 1-20)
    Theda Skocpol and Stanley B. Greenberg

    Democrats can build a new majority in national politics by championing the needs and values of American families striving for a better life in the face of unsettling changes. While daily headlines may trumpet the partisan bickering in Washington and the public cynicism everywhere else, most people yearn for a responsive government that will take their side and help them cope with unprecedented transformations in the economy and in the lives of families. People want to tame and channel changes that may threaten the family, exacerbate racial conflicts, and separate the rich from all others. Most Americans hope for a...

  5. Part I A Renewed Social Contract

    • You Are Not Alone
      (pp. 23-41)
      Jeff Faux

      Expanding economic opportunity is at the core of most Americans’ conception of the good society. People all over the world want a better material life, yet a rising standard of living is especially valued by, and necessary to, a multicultural and mobile people like ourselves. We vary by ethnicity and religion, but we are united by our faith in the American dream—the hope that, through hard work, we can do better for us and our families.

      Economic opportunity is not the only value that makes up the American dream and thereby energizes national politics. But in a highly commercialized,...

    • The Economy, the Community, and the Public Sector
      (pp. 42-56)
      Alan Brinkley

      One of the most conspicuous casualties of the past twenty-five years of national anxiety has been the idea that the federal government has any useful role to play in promoting economic growth and social progress. A broad coalition of Americans once had considerable faith in the power of public investment to assist economic expansion and improve the quality of citizens’ lives. The absence of that faith today is a major impediment to creating a new progressive majority. Restoring it should rank high on a new progressive agenda.

      Republicans have been arguing for years that virtually all public spending (other than...

    • The New Social Inequality and Affirmative Opportunity
      (pp. 57-77)
      William Julius Wilson

      As the turn of the century approaches, the movement for racial equality needs a new political strategy. That strategy must appeal to America’s broad multiethnic population, while addressing the many problems that afflict disadvantaged minorities and redressing the legacy of historical racism in America.

      The nation seems to have become more divided on issues pertaining to race, especially since the first O. J. Simpson murder trial. And affirmative action programs are under heavy assault. Americans’ understanding of the meaning and significance of race has become more confused. Many Americans are puzzled by complex racial changes—not only the growth of...

    • The Case for Social Insurance
      (pp. 78-103)
      Theodore R. Marmor and Jerry L. Mashaw

      Imagine for a moment an America without social insurance—without Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, or any sort of broadly pooled employee health coverage. In this America, middle-aged, middle-income citizens would have to bear the burden of financially supporting their aged parents. They would be at the mercy of corporate downsizings and the vagaries of the business cycle, and they have to cope entirely on their own with the potentially catastrophic medical costs of their and their parents’ illnesses.

      Many people would escape most of these calamities, of course, and many more would believe that they could escape them—until...

    • A Partnership with American Families
      (pp. 104-130)
      Theda Skocpol

      Americans barely arrived home from the polls in November 1996 before pundits and politicos grabbed the airways to declare that the voters did not mean they had just said about sustaining social supports for families.

      The popular message was clear. Because most voters wanted to preserve domestic programs from conservative “revolutionaries,” Bill Clinton became first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second presidential term, and Republicans very nearly lost control of the House of Representatives. Female voters were especially concerned that Medicare, Medicaid, and federal education supports be protected. So were working people of modest means, many of whom...

  6. Part II Reclaiming Democratic Politics

    • The Political Economy of Citizenship
      (pp. 133-148)
      Michael J. Sandel

      In order to succeed, a progressive political movement needs to revise the terms of American political debate.* This requires more than a political strategy. It requires a new public philosophy, one that draws on stronger notions of citizenship and civic virtue than those informing our present politics. In recent years, cultural conservatives have invoked the language of virtue, while liberals, for the most part, have resisted it. But this is a mistake. The tradition of civic virtue contains important resources for contending with our political condition, and liberals should not ignore them. Central among these is an emphasis on the...

    • Reconnecting People and Politics
      (pp. 149-171)
      Margaret Weir and Marshall Ganz

      A mid the media exposés about money in the 1996 campaign were several less prominent stories about the frustrations of ordinary people who tried to participate in the elections but couldn’t find a way in. A Connecticut woman sent a check to the Democratic Party, attaching a note asking how she could volunteer. Although the party sent her many more fund-raising solicitations, no one ever contacted her with information about how to get involved, and she never found any local campaign organization on her own. A woman in New York actually put together a volunteer organization for a local candidate,...

    • The Battle for the States
      (pp. 172-194)
      Karen M. Paget

      What I can do between now and Easter is break up the Washington logjam, shift power back to the fifty states, break up all the liberal national organizations—and make them scramble to the state capitals in Texas, Georgia, in Missouri.” Having just taken over as new majority leader in the 104th Congress in early 1995, Newt Gingrich of Georgia was exuberantly regaling journalist Elizabeth Drew with his game plan for the conservative Republican revolution. Gingrich’s friend and former House colleague, Vin Weber, interpreted and expanded on the Speaker’s remarks. “He wants to change the political dynamic that was put...

    • Championing Democracy Reforms
      (pp. 195-218)
      Miles S. Rapoport and Marc Caplan

      As the challenge of shaping the future is engaged, progressives have the responsibility and a tremendous opportunity for championing a comprehensive Democracy Agenda to enhance and revitalize the nation’s political process. Any progressive revival in America must include a full agenda of reforms, leading toward more citizen engagement, deeper democratic participation, increased accountability from powerful institutions, and a significantly reduced place for money and fund-raising in politics. Such reforms are just as important as the stands that progressives take on questions of economic and social policy, because a revitalized national democracy is vital to the improved quality of life that...

  7. Part III Building the New Majority

    • An Emerging Democratic Majority
      (pp. 221-237)
      Paul Starr

      The 1994 election devastated the self-confidence of the Democratic Party, and 1996 only partially restored it. After narrowly escaping the “Republican revolution,” many Democrats have lowered their expectations and become resigned to the prospect of center-right government even though the public has recoiled from the agenda of the far right.

      Skepticism about progressive possibilities reflects not simply the latest voting returns, opinion polls, or signals from the White House. Most sympathetic observers do not see why the underlying trends in American society and politics should return the Democrats, much less liberals, to a majority position. Democrats themselves do not have...

    • Reversing Southern Republicanism
      (pp. 238-263)
      Ira Katznelson

      The most significant shifts in the central tendencies of American politics in the past six decades—the New Deal, the civil rights revolution, and the sharp turn toward conservatism and Republicanism—all have had the South at their core.* From 1896 to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party essentially was a southern party with a small number of urban-immigrant bastions. The Roosevelt realignment nationalized the Democratic Party and its coalition, but the South—with rock-solid Democratic majorities provided by white voters in an exclusionary and authoritarian electoral system—continued to provide the party with a stable, though...

    • Globalization, the Racial Divide, and a New Citizenship
      (pp. 264-278)
      Michael C. Dawson

      Large numbers of Americans believe that they are further from achieving the American dream than they were a decade ago, and the resulting economic anxiety is responsible for a good deal of the unease that people feel about their future. The globalization of the American economy has spurred new political conflicts and alliances, many of which are profoundly racialized. Globalization makes inequality worse, exacerbating the deprivation of many African-Americans, Latinos, and other less privileged Americans who have been in difficult circumstances all along. Immigration pressures also increase in a more globally integrated economy, and this can spark new or renewed...

    • Popularizing Progressive Politics
      (pp. 279-298)
      Stanley B. Greenberg

      The two national political parties have fought to a draw and nearly to exhaustion.* In 1996, they split the national vote for the Congress right down the middle and did the same at state level. But this photo finish was actually a race to the bottom, because Americans now look on the two major parties with similar disdain. Approval ratings for both parties now rank at the lowest levels in three decades of such record keeping (Greenberg 1997). Americans see a political world torn by unresolvable conflicts, where no one is ascendant and no one seems to speak for them....

  8. References
    (pp. 299-314)
  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 315-318)
  10. Index
    (pp. 319-333)