Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics

By Mary D. Edsall; Thomas Byrne Edsall | Go to book overview
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1
Building a Top-Down
Coalition

THE RISE of the presidential wing of the Republican party over the past generation has been driven by the overlapping issues of race and taxes. The Republican party has been able to capitalize on these two issues, capturing the White House in five of the last six elections, and shaping a new polarization of the electorate—a polarization which has replaced the traditional New Deal cleavages that sustained the Democratic party from 1932 to 1964.

The overlapping issues of race and taxes have permitted the Republican party to adapt the principles of conservatism to break the underlying class basis of the Roosevelt-Democratic coalition and to build a reconfigured voting majority in presidential elections. Together, the twin issues of race and taxes have created a new, ideologically coherent coalition by pitting taxpayers against tax recipients, by pitting the advocates of meritocracy against proponents of special preference, by pitting the private sector against the public sector, by pitting those in the labor force against the jobless, and by pitting those who bear many of the costs of federal intervention against those whose struggle for equality has been advanced by interventionist government policies.

In a steady evolutionary process, race and taxes have come to intersect with an entire range of domestic issues, from welfare policy to civil-service testing, from drug enforcement to housing regulation, from minority set‐ aside programs to the decline in urban manufacturing jobs, from prison construction to the globalization of economic competition, from college admissions standards to suburban zoning practices, from highway con

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