Jay Cost | Temporary majority: The problem Democrats can’t solve

If the Democratic party cannot bring about improvement in the economic numbers, it will not retain control of political power. It is as simple as that. No enduring majority coalition has been able to hang on to power for very long amid such widespread disappointment over the economy. And the warning signs are already there for the Democrats, if they care to look: The historically small numbers of Democrats in the House of Representatives, governorships, and state legislatures, plus the fact President Obama won fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, are all signals that public patience with the party has its limits.

What’s more, the Democratic coalition is bound to have trouble doing what is necessary to grow the economy. The party of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s was a party of farmers and industrial laborers who depended on private-sector economic growth, so the Democrats of that era focused their efforts accordingly. But today’s Democratic party has many powerful constituents within it who are isolated from the ebbs and flows of the private economy. Upscale social liberals in the Northeast and Pacific Coast are so well off that they are basically recession-proof. And, what’s more, the position of the farmer-industrial working class has been usurped by unionized government workers and far-left gray-collar labor unions like the SEIU, which are more interested in expanding government than the economy.

All of this raises the key question: Can the Democrats keep these groups happy and grow the economy? The evidence to date suggests the answer is no. Witness the Democratic opposition to opening up domestic energy production, which would have been a no-brainer 50 years ago. Witness the party’s stimulus bill of 2009, which focused more on political patronage than economic growth. Witness the party’s continued efforts to push for a cap and trade system, which would kneecap economic growth. And above all, witness Obamacare, a vast regulatory system that saddles businesses with even more burdens. The Democrats have proposed all of these things since 2009, when they were voted into office to jump-start the economy.


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