Conservative author Jay Cost uses history lessons to debunk the long-standing belief that the Democratic Party is working on behalf of the poor and working class in his new book, “Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic
Cost, a columnist for the Weekly Standard, starts off by taking readers back the 1820’s when Andrew Jackson founded the Democratic Party and won the White House.
Jackson’s “prescription” for the government of the early 19th century was a government that didn’t get in the little guy’s way. It was a “small, lean republican with a small ‘r’ government. A government to represent everybody,” Cost told Newsmax.TV during an exclusive interview.
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The book goes on to explain how presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt changed the direction of the party for personal and political gain.
“What happened was the progressive era. The Democrats do a classic flip-flop around the turn of the last century with Woodrow Wilson being the first progressive Democrat.
“And then Franklin Roosevelt follows in his footsteps, but he does Wilson one better. Wilson was focused on big government to reform the country, at least in the ways he thought it needed reformed. Roosevelt did the same, but he also started using big government to pay off factions within the country.
“It really started a tradition in that party which has resulted in them becoming the opposite of what Jackson founded them to be, which is the party of everybody.”
“Now they are the party that plays favorites.”
“Spoiled Rotten” also examines the history of government healthcare and president Harry Truman’s attempts to be the first chief executive of the United States to implement a nationalized medical insurance program. Cost compares Truman’s healthcare conquest to President Barack Obama’s to illustrate how the Democratic Party has doubled down on trying to win approval of political factions and voting blocs.
“The American Medical Association cried foul and called it socialized medicine. Truman, you know — to his credit in a lot of respects, refused to compromise with the AMA.
“The difference, of course with Barack Obama — when he was trying to push national healthcare — he was more than happy to make a special deal, a special carve-out for the American medical association, as he did with so many other special interest groups.” I think that really in a nutshell summarizes what’s happened to the Democratic Party,” Cost tells Newsmax.
Cost accuses Democrats of “servicing” clients, like a salesman. He said he borrowed that idea from the old “machine style” of politics popular in cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco in the early 20th century. Then, locally elected officials rewarded their supporters with government contracts and favorable legislation.
“The problem with the Democratic Party is they imported that style of “pay to politics” to Washington, D.C.
“No longer are they really capable of governing for the national interests because there are so many groups that want a piece of the action.”
When asked if Republicans are guilty of the some of the same tactics, Cost said: “The Republican party has historically had this problem. For instance, if you look at the late 19th century, the Republican economic policy was really a major payout to well placed business magnates in the Northeast.”
During the interview, Cost also called out the “Republican reformers” of the 1990s, who eventually courted Washington’s K Street lobbying firms for large financial donations as a modern version of political patronage.
“Yes, I think the Republican Party has these sorts of problems as well,” Cost said.
He further explained that those historical examples of political patronage expose the real problem with the two party political system and why elected officials face a quandary when trying to tackle the current debt and deficit problems. Once people start benefitting from programs like Medicare and social security, it can be politically dangerous to trim them back.
“We have such a massive deficit problem in this country. And the scope of which . . . you know the polling data that I’ve seen, shows the average voter really doesn’t understand it.
“We need to reform the entitlement system and make it work for the 21st century. And it’s hard to judge if that’s actually possible.”
Cost said Medicare and Social Security are entitlements that both parties support, even though historically, they would not be things the GOP would favor.
“Republicans end up voting overwhelmingly for Medicare because it [benefits] such a large group of people. So it’s not so much that senior citizens are clients of either political party, but it does create a problem,” Cost said.
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