The Politics of Disappointment: American Elections, 1976-94

By Wilson Carey McWilliams | Go to book overview
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only leave citizens at the mercy of private power. With good reason, voters want to simplify the process of government, but that does not necessarily mean that they want weak government. Quite the contrary, it may mean that they want a government that has discretion. There is considerable evidence that the suspicions of the 1970s are waning. The Reagan administration demonstrates, rather paradoxically, that Americans want a government that at least appears strong, direct, and decisive; and in 1984, state referenda suggest that the "tax revolt" is ebbing. It may be that the electorate wants a government that is checked, not by denying it power, but by holding it accountable before the law and in political life.

The election of 1984 symbolized the beginning of the politics of the electronic age. The coming political era has its bright possibilities, but it is full of dangers as alarming as those of Orwell's imagining. Citizenship and statecraft will be more necessary than ever, but they will have to rest on new foundations. Ronald Reagan has presided over the demolition of the old politics; in the years after 1984, it will be necessary for Americans to see if they can build anew.

New York Times, 4 November 1984, E5.
Hedrick Smith, "Political Memo," New York Times, 7 Decem­ ber 1984, B18.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America ( New York: Schocken, 1961), 1:33,364.
The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt ( New York: Random House, 1983), 2:11.
Dennis Hale and Marc Landy, "Are Critical Elections Extinct?" Boston College Biweekly 5 ( 15 November 1984): 8.
Tom Wicker, "The Other Fritz," New York Times, 3 February 1984, A29.
Hale and Landy, "Are Critical Elections Extinct?"
Tom Wicker, "After 1984, What?" New York Times, 23 Novem­ ber 1984, A35.


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