The Missing Middle: How Gridlock Adds to the Wealth Gap
In Chapter 18, “The Missing Middle,” Hedrick Smith quotes several veteran legislators describing a time of bipartisan cooperation and interparty camaraderie, when families of legislators of opposing parties would have dinner together in their homes, or offer to help one another with re-election–practices impossible to imagine in today’s toxic partisan climate. He compares the passage of the healthcare legislation of the 60’s–Medicare in 1965–with the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and looks at the passage of the signature Democratic legislation of the 60’s, the civil and voting rights acts, which could not have been achieved without significant support from key Republicans. Smith demonstrates that common, innocuous (if unethical) practices like gerrymandering safe districts inexorably leads to increasingly extreme political views, and the disappearance, over time, of the moderate middle.
Smith relates the fascinating history in a very readable narrative, in this case beginning with the political realignment initiated by these highly controversial (in some quarters) bills–the deliverance of the southern block of conservative Democrats to the Republican column, culminating, over decades, in the rise of the far right. Reading this material raises questions and a hunger for more understanding of a complex history–the convoluted and obscure story of the history of the Senate’s operating rules, for example, having to do with filibusters (talking and phantom) and cloture thresholds of 67 senators needed to cut off debate. Though not everything can be addressed even in this rather sizable volume, there is a tremendous amount of political information and understanding to be gained from this book.
Richard Ronner is a nurse practitioner and a long time independent. He is active with the NYC Independence Clubs and New Yorkers for Primary Reform.
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