This morning, my wife and I went to the gym, and because the weather the past few days has been the worst — there’s a thick layer of slick ice beneath all the snow — we decided to walk rather than take the car. That may have been a mistake. It’s dangerously slippery for feet as well as wheels, and Mary did take one unpleasant fall (but she’s OK!). It was slow plodding, but the one good thing is that it took us long enough to do the hike that I caught up with my podcasts.
So, as I was picking my way carefully across the glaciers that are our sidewalks, I listened to this episode of Serious Inquiries Only, “Are We Headed for Another Depression? with Dr. Robert S. McElvaine”. Spoiler: the answer is probably, by the way. But they were talking about the history of our two political parties, and how even, over a hundred years ago, the Republican economic policy was all about rewarding the rich and allowing the benefits to trickle down, while the Democrats were all about rewarding the poor and middle class and allowing the benefits to rise up. They cite Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech, which is mostly about monetary policy and is ineffably boring to me, but does include this paragraph:
There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Reagan didn’t invent trickle-down economics, it’s been the nasty heart of the Republican party for a long time. They’ve been wedded to evil economic policy for a long time.
But then they also pointed out that the Democrats of that time, especially the Southern Democrats, endorsed wicked social policies, being against civil rights and equality, but then as we all know, in the Sixties, thanks to the infamous Southern Strategy, the Republicans adopted the regressive civil rights stance of the Southern Democrats, and there was a major recombination event. Before 1960, the Republicans had bad economic policy + better (at least, neutral) social policy and the Democrats were better economic policy + terrible social policy. After the Recombination Event of the Southern Strategy, Republicans were bad economic policy + terrible social policy, while the Democrats were better economic policy + better social policy.
OMG, I thought, this was elementary genetics. This is bog-standard theory for one of the benefits of recombination — it can combine deleterious alleles at different loci into single individuals who can then, by their elimination by natural selection, purge the gene pool of multiple bad alleles at once. For example, as mentioned in this recent paper.
Current theory proposes that sex can increase genetic variation and produce high fitness genotypes if genetic associations between alleles at different loci are non-random. In case beneficial and deleterious alleles at different loci are in linkage disequilibrium, sex may i) recombine beneficial alleles of different loci, ii) liberate beneficial alleles from genetic backgrounds of low fitness, or iii) recombine deleterious mutations for more effective elimination.
Cool beans! Now the Southern Strategy makes biological sense to me, at least.
All we need to do is purge the country of the Republican party, and we clean out two deleterious traits at once. That’s something to look forward to, anyway.