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Saturday, October 29, 2005
The Other Electoral Coalition
I've spoken about the three parts of the Democrats' New Deal coalition, and how its collapse in a changed environment has led to party's current straits. Now, a generation on, it's time to look back at the Reaganite coalition and see how it's faring. John Eastman of the Claremont Institute writes in The End of Federalism? (a look at the Miers nomination):
The conservative coalition that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 was always a bit of a three-legged stool. The anti-communist wing, or 'Hawks,' consisted of strong advocates of national power in the Cold War (and now the war on terror). The 'Moral Majority' wing—let's call them 'Doves'—wanted to reverse the declining moral trends in society, on issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and religion in public. The pro-business and free enterprise/personal liberty wing of the coalition—'Marketeers'—sought to roll back some of the more onerous government regulations, whether statutory, regulatory, or court-imposed via tort law, that were crippling the nation's economy. The glue that held these disparate groups together was an intellectual movement dedicated to recovering the original understanding of the Constitution—one that recognized the scope of federal power over matters truly national, such as national security, but that sought to revive the limits on federal authority in other areas of daily life, as the Constitution envisioned. The Hawks loved this theoretical formulation, of course, because it kept the national focus on national security. The Doves and Marketeers were comfortable with it, too. The doctrines of strict interpretation, limited government, and federalism promised an end to the judicial activism that had banned school prayer and imposed abortion as the law of the land, and it also meant (theoretically at least) less governmental regulation of the economy.
Rifts in the coalition began to appear long before the president's nomination of Harriet Miers. ... [snip] ...
The big business component of the Marketeer part of the triad began to realize that a broad and preemptive federal regulatory power was better for them than having to deal with less sophisticated regulatory agencies in 50 different states, placing them squarely at odds with the limited government and federalism ideology. And the Doves, for their part, began to see a national government in their hands as a solution for the ills of society, a view equally at odds with limited government and federalism. In other words, the new glue that cemented the three legs of the governing coalition was no longer the original intent intellectual movement, but an expanded federal government in Republican hands. The era of 'big government is over' was over.