Three Broken Compacts

Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1997.


The received Republican wisdom now proclaims that Americans don’t hate the federal government after all. Most Americans like the federal government. Republicans must let the American people know that they too believe in government’s affirmative role.

This argument draws support from Americans’ polling responses when asked about whether government can have a positive impact (we still believe it is possible) and our attachment to the nation (we continue to love America passionately). But these positives should not obscure the significant deterioration in Americans’ attachment to the federal government. “Hatred” is not the right word for the state we have reached at the end of 1997. But “alienation,” “distrust, “disillusionment,” and “estrangement” are all close to the mark.