A Fool for a Client
Jay Cost’s Spoiled Rotten tells the story of the Democratic Party’s transformation over the past 100 years—from an alliance of local Catholic political machines such as Tammany Hall and Dixiecrat racialists to today’s assemblage of bureaucrats, environmentalists, feminists, African Americans, public-sector unionists, and rent-seeking corporations. The 2012 Democratic Party is organized, Chicago-style, as a patronage-dispensing national version of the old Tammany political machine. What remains constant, as Cost explains, is clientism, the process whereby “factions of voters” are transformed “into loyal members of the party’s coalition by offering them special privileges.”
Spoiled Rotten is a profoundly important book that locates President Barack Obama’s precipitous fall from grace in the insatiable demands placed on the American government by the Democratic Party’s entitled interest groups. “This is a story,” he writes, “not about morality” but about the effect of patronage politics on national policy. “The more client groups the party has brought on board,” he argues, “the more it is obliged to tend to their needs, and the less able it is to govern for the people as a whole.”
About the Author
Fred Siegel is a scholar in residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. His article “How Highbrows Killed Culture” appeared in our April issue.