Jun 6, 2013 0
Europe and Japan have parliamentary democracies where parties represent their share of the vote. In the United States, it’s winner takes all. This has distilled U.S. politics to a two party system, and that makes it easier for a large minority of voters- in this case, pro-investment tax cutters- to join forces with another large minority of voters- The Christian Right- to seize power.
Row (Row v Wade) might have had a minimal effect on U.S. politics were it not for the fact that Christian fundamentalists are a large enough portion of the country’s population to affect the outcome of an election. Twenty five percent of U.S. voters identify themselves as evangelical Christians. Prior to Roe v Wade, evangelical Christian voters were split 15 percent Democrat , 10 percent Republican. (Many of the fundamentalists were African American who weighed the redistribution of income much heavier than abortion rights.) When Reagan endorsed the pro-life movement, these percentages reversed. Reagan combined the Christian Right with the pro-investment tax cutters to create a majority. Pro-investment tax cutters maintained control of the party, selecting fiscally conservative but socially moderate presidential candidates like John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford.
This marriage of convenience between odd bedfellows- pro-choice fiscal conservatives with pro-life social conservatives- brought the larger pro-investment faction in this coalition to power. Without the unique set of circumstances surrounding Roe, the United States would likely be in the same position politically as Europe and Japan with respect to the well-intended but misguided anti-business economic policies. Instead lawmakers cut marginal tax rates from an astonishing 70 per cent prior to Roe to about 30% after Roe. They also left trade borders open and allowed labor redeployment costs to remain low.
From Unintended Consequences by Edward Conrad
Conrad notes that without the alliance of the fundamentalists it was unlikely that the sharp tax cutting that came under Reagan and served to advance our economy well beyond the Japanese and European, would have obtained voter approval. This was critical to the United States avoiding the path that led Japan and Europe to stagnation.
There are those who contend the path toward Republican domination was strictly racist and was traceable to the Civil Rights Act. This explanation doesn’t fit with recent history nor does it explain Jimmy Carter’s victory. Yet many on the left find comfort in just describing the opposition as racist, thus avoiding any understanding of the either the economic policies or legitimate social differences.
Conrad’s explanation may underestimate the failure of Carter’s policies as ground breaking for Reagan’s policies, but the political power from this coalition is worth noting.