A Fighting Chance. BY ELIZABETH WARREN. Henry Holt, 2014, 384 pp. $28.00.
Talk of the Republican Party’s internal divisions has become a staple of the American news diet. Battles between the conservative establishment and the Tea Party, over matters ranging from foreign policy to immigration, have played out on cable news channels like movie-house serials. Yet no such internal malady seems to be afflicting the Democrats. That’s not because things are going so swimmingly on the left. After all, the median American household income -- the amount earned by the very people the Democrats claim to champion -- totaled just over $51,371 in 2012, a staggering 6.6 percent decline since 2000. The Democrats want to deliver more for the middle class, but after more than five years under President Barack Obama, they haven’t.
Luckily for the Democrats, they have reactionary Republicans to blame for their inability to make headway on their top priorities, from creating an infrastructure bank to enacting a carbon tax to raising the minimum wage. But what if the Democrats didn’t have Republican obstructionism to use as an excuse? Imagine if every jurisdiction that could possibly elect a Democrat did so. The party would have 68 senators (as many as President Lyndon Johnson had in 1965) and would hold a veto-proof majority in the House of Representatives. What would the party then pass into law? It would have to prioritize, since the public would tolerate only so much spending on government programs. Faced with such restrictions, the party’s internal fissures -- which the Democrats have temporarily patched up to fight the Republicans -- would reopen.
Such divides among Democrats are generally not matters of deep ideological conviction, as they often are on the Republican side. There is, for example, no Democratic version of Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, steering the party toward exotic ideological shores. The Democrats already underwent their own internal feud of the sort that is currently consuming the GOP, during the presidency of Bill Clinton in the 1990
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