I just read Thomas Friedman’s column suggesting that a third party will emerge that will actively tell us what hard things we need to do as a nation to succeed. We could only wish that were the case. Elsewhere, a news story tells us that TARP, a bipartisan bill, is only going to cost under 10% of the original amount allocated and could even generate a profit; this act probably prevented a financial freefall into another Great Depression. The reaction from a public hungry for realistic, non-partisan solutions to pressing problems? Rejection at the polls or even within their own party. Look back in recent history: George H W Bush does the adult thing and backtracks on his “No new taxes” campaign pledge, laying the groundwork for nearly a decade of prosperity, and his reward was to be defeated by Bill Clinton. His son learned the lesson well, and so gained 8 years in the White House in return for bankrupting the country fiscally and morally.
If not competence or adult solutions to large problems, what does the public want? Vision. Ronald Reagan isn’t the patron saint of the GOP because of Star Wars, Iran-Contra, or even Reaganomics; his allure was “Morning in America” and the promise of a better future. Obama seemed to start down this path before handing leadership over to Congress; his drop in popularity is arguably not because of what he succeeded or failed in doing but because of the inspiration he stopped providing.
The danger of a nation enthralled with vision and dismissive of hard solutions is that it is easy to imagine demagogues seizing control. Perhaps the Weimar Republic might provide a more relevant caution than ancient Rome: Hitler captured Germany with a vision; are we equally at risk?
Craig H. Jones