The Clinton Presidency: First Appraisals

By Colin Campbell; Bert A. Rockman | Go to book overview

of their own ideological analysis of the situation. But given their mentality and the constituent and investor interests that support them, their vision must inevitably appear to a great many other Americans as a one-sided, even brutal and heartless, exercise in class favoritism. They are playing "go for broke" politics on a scale beyond any historical precedent that readily comes to mind. The Democrats, for their part, as befits the party of operational liberalism, can be expected to stress the concrete, the specific human-interest impact of policy in its appeals to the electorate. In their turn, they are now and will continue framing the issues in terms of tax breaks for the rich versus school lunches for children.

At the loftiest level of contestation, the challenge the Republicans have launched against the preexisting order of things rests on their ideological conviction that there is no objective or legitimate reason for the existence of a domestically powerful or competent federal government. Many or most others not sharing that ideology would come to the opposite conclusion--and much of the history not only of this but of other advanced capitalist democracies over the past half-century would seem to support them. The present political struggle thus amounts to a colossal clinical experiment to decide this issue. The stakes in this experiment are as high as stakes have been in any realignment in American political history. For the foreseeable future, accordingly, we are condemned to live in what an old Chinese curse is said to have called "interesting times."


Conclusion: Realignment Leading to What?

One supposes that the most important reason for doubting that 1994 will inaugurate a classic partisan realignment at the end of the day is that it is difficult to imagine that the durability criterion can be met. Is it possible for a stable partisan regime order lasting a full generation to develop and flourish as in the past? The full integration of the United States into a world economy lessens the control that politicians of any party have over the nation's economic fate. This, in turn, raises substantial doubts as to whether a stable party regime order can emerge.

We may find, nonetheless, that substantial parts of the Republican agenda will be put into place even if Bill Clinton is reelected in 1996, and even if Republicans lose control of either or both houses of Congress. Some form of "devolution revolution," for example, is strongly implied by spokesmen on both sides of the aisle. Renewed and urgent effort to move toward balancing the budget will be impelled by the force of financial market-driven necessity. If so, and if the Republican solution is also rejected in its turn, some other budget restricting option will have to be sought. As moving in any such direction inevitably negates much of what the Democratic Party

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