In this deeply researched and lively work of revisionist history, Jay Cost tells the story of the modern Democratic Party, examining the tragic decline of a once-noble coalition that has long since abandoned its lofty Jacksonian ideals. According to Cost, recent history has shown the Democrats to be anything but the party of and for the people. Instead, they have become a collection of special-interest groups feeding off the federal government, exchanging votes for subsidies and benefits.
With the creation of a partisan spoils system in the nineteenth century, both parties practiced the politics of patronage. But, starting with the New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the power of big government to transform whole classes of society into clients of the Democratic party. Urban machines, southern segregationists, and organized labor all benefited from this approach. FDR’s successors—Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter—followed suit, turning African Americans, environmentalists, feminists, government workers, teachers, and a number of other groups into loyal Democratic factions. As a result, the Democratic party has become a kind of national Tammany Hall whose real purpose is to colonize the federal government on behalf of its clients.
Cost argues that the Democratic party, no longer able to govern for the vast majority of the country, simply taxes Middle America to pay off its clients while hiding its true nature behind a smoke screen of idealistic rhetoric. Hard-hitting and uncompromising, Spoiled Rotten is a powerful polemic from a rising intellectual star.