Swing Politics: Is There Still a Leftward Drift?

Swing Politics: Is There Still a Leftward Drift?

Nearly twenty-five years ago I published in Dissent (Winter 1974) a theory of a left/right rhythm in democratic politics—a rhythm that over time produces a leftward drift because conservative administrations on returning to power tend not to reverse the reforms enacted by their left-wing predecessors.* Left parties are initially at a disadvantage that I called “mobilization lag” because their potential supporters from the lower classes are less politically aware and thus less likely either to vote at all or to vote for a party that speaks for their class interests. Eventually, however, the left mobilizes a sufficient constitutency to win elections and carry out part of its program. When I first presented this theory at a Dissent editorial board meeting, Robert Heilbroner described it by the metaphor of an automobile jack: the alternation of left and right parties in office resembled a cyclical up-and-down motion within an ever-upward linear progression corresponding to what I had called “leftward drift.”

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima