Jacob Weisberg has
in Slate unpacking the unfolding anomaly of Democrats as the
party of fiscal discipline and Republicans as the party of scroungers and
But there's one point he doesn't bring up; and it's one that, as far as
I can see, hasn't been mentioned much during the budget debate at all.
It's true that Democrats historically have been the party unafraid of
modest deficit spending while Republicans were the ones who worshipped at
the altar of the balanced budget. But the present-day turnaround on fiscal
policy isn't the only one that has taken place.
Unlike what we know today, the Democrats also used to be the party with
its strongest roots in the country's hinterlands -- the Mountain states,
the Prairie states and the South. Conversely the Republicans were the
party of the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, and social-capital rich
states like Wisconsin.
(The classic example of this change comes in a comparison of last year's
election map and the map of the
1896 election. Bryan, the Democrat, won virtually all the Bush states.
And McKinley, the Republican, won pretty much all the Gore states. More
recently, when Harry Truman won his upset
victory over Tom Dewey in 1948 the one region in which he was pretty
much shut out was the Northeast, the region which is now the Democratic
heartland. If you've got a moment you can see the trend over the course of
the century in this helpful list of
The party of the Northeast and Upper Midwest has historically tended to
be the one favoring more disciplined fiscal policy while it's the party
with its base in the South and the West which has preferred more
In this current article
in the New Republic Robert Reich argues that Democrats got on the
fiscal discipline bandwagon by way of incidental or opportunistic
political calculations by Bill Clinton during the late 1990s (perhaps even
because of Monica). But I suspect this is something more fundamental, and
tied to the parties' changing geographical bases.