News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A swing to the left

The United States is moving sharply to the left. The latest evidence from the Pew Research Center shows 54% of Americans think "government should help the needy even if it means greater debt." In 1994, only 41% agreed. Those who believe “the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep” has reached 69%. These numbers reflect a growing disdain for the conservative ideals of smaller government. So what’s behind this sudden repudiation of conservatism?

The nation’s current move to the left is the latest swing of a historical political pendulum. Put most simply, Democrats have traditionally fostered prosperity from the bottom up, creating new members of the middle class. After a time, these new arrivals in the moneyed ranks begin to think their prosperity was solely a result of their own efforts. They want to keep what they have and resent paying taxes to fund “deadbeats.” So they become Republicans and the nation swings to the right. Before long, Republican policies bring either a recession or a sharpening of class divisions. Sometimes both. Then the one-time Republicans find themselves voting Democratic again. This is where we find ourselves now. The working classes at the center of the U.S. economy are the driving force in this political see-saw.

So Republicans out there don’t need to worry. The pendulum will be swinging your way once the Democrats start doling out the wealth once again.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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