Ronald Brownstein

Ronald Brownstein is the national affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Recent Articles

Ready to Rumble

Political reporter Matt Bai dissects today's Democratic Party, and urges it to move beyond the Clintonism of the '90s -- something that the current crop of presidential candidates (John Edwards excepted) doesn't seem all that inclined to do.

The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics by Matt Bai (The Penguin Press, 316 pages, $25.95) Not since Watergate has the electoral landscape appeared as favorable for Democrats as it does today. All polls show gale-force discontent with the country's direction under President Bush (he recently received the second highest disapproval rating Gallup has ever recorded in seven decades of measuring attitudes about presidential performance). From the 2008 presidential candidates to the party campaign committees, Democrats are consistently outraising Republicans. Even the electoral calendar is cooperating: Democrats next year must defend only 12 Senate seats compared to 22 for Republicans, including seven in blue or Democrat-trending states where disillusionment with Bush and the Iraq War is most intense. Not all trends, though, are as positive for the party. Many Democratic strategists understandably remain uneasy about Congress' sinking approval...

How the South Rose Again

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson ( W.W. Norton, 238 pages, $25.95 ) The White House Looks South by William E. Leuchtenburg ( Louisiana State University Press, 668 pages, $45.00 ) White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by ( Kevin M. Kruse Princeton University Press, 325 pages, $35.00 ) The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South by Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston ( Harvard University Press, 240 pages, $39.95 ) Nothing has contributed more to the conservative ascendancy in American politics than the realignment of the South from solidly Democratic to reliably Republican. The South now furnishes the decisive votes for Republican control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. Outside the South, Democrats still hold the advantage in the competition on all three fronts. But the Republican dominance of the...

How the South Rose Again

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson ( W.W. Norton, 238 pages, $25.95 ) The White House Looks South by William E. Leuchtenburg ( Louisiana State University Press, 668 pages, $45.00 ) White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by ( Kevin M. Kruse Princeton University Press, 325 pages, $35.00 ) The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South by Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston ( Harvard University Press, 240 pages, $39.95 ) Nothing has contributed more to the conservative ascendancy in American politics than the realignment of the South from solidly Democratic to reliably Republican. The South now furnishes the decisive votes for Republican control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. Outside the South, Democrats still hold the advantage in the competition on all three fronts. But the Republican dominance of the...

Vexations of the Heartland

What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America By Thomas Frank • Metropolitan Books • 320 PAGES• $24.00 Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America By Garrison Keillor • Viking • 237 PAGES • $19.95 Few developments have changed American politics more in the past generation than the Republican breakthrough into blue-collar America. White working-class voters were a pillar of the New Deal coalition that allowed Democrats to dominate national politics for the generation after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But those voters began turning away from Democrats amid the cultural tumult of the 1960s, and the party has never entirely regained their allegiance. From the “silent majority” of Richard Nixon's era to the “Reagan Democrats” who flocked to Ronald Reagan, the angry white men of the 1990s, and the churchgoing legions who backed George W. Bush in 2000, voters of modest means have become central to the Republican political strategy. This...

The Life of the Parties

Party of the People: A History of the Democrats By Jules Witcover, Random House, 758 pages, $35.00 Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans By Lewis L. Gould, Random House, 588 pages, $35.00 Few institutions of any sort in American life have remained relevant for as long as the two national political parties. The Democratic Party traces its roots back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the 1790s. The Republican Party will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year. Not many other products on the shelf in 1854, much less the 1790s, are still attracting customers today. Even more remarkable than the sheer longevity of the two parties is their dominance. No other major party has emerged since the Republicans replaced the Whigs as the principal rival to the Democrats in the 1850s, though a steady procession of third-party movements, breakaway insurgencies and charismatic leaders (from Theodore Roosevelt to Ross Perot) have regularly offered alternatives. Invariably, reports of...

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