Governing a Divided America

"Governing a Divided America: Cling to Principle," The American Enterprise, 2001.


Politics in a democracy ordinarily produces more frustration than satisfaction. There is always a further victory to secure. The other side never goes away. The losers must grind their teeth and struggle to come back. The systems are set up to prevent domination. Our recent election makes this sometimes hidden truth quite obvious.

After this last election, Republicans awakened to their dream come true-for the first time since 1955 they hold both Congressand the Presidency. But of course they won only by the slimmest of margins, so their victory makes them more anxious than exultant. But if Republicans feel disappointed, consider the position of the Democrats-coming so close to winning the three battles of presidency, House, and Senate, yet falling just short.

To seize his moment, George W. Bush should start with a tax cut for our slowing economy and falling stock market. The moment is propitious, and can be used to create pressure for relief that at least some Democrats will not want to disappoint. Bush will have to compromise, but every step toward general, non-targeted tax relief will be a welcome advance.

Bush should also push entitlement reform. The courage he showed in raising this issue during the campaign must not be allowed to dissipate. The same applies to his proposals for bold education reform. In both entitlements and education, the Bush goal is increased personal responsibility. Any small advance along that road should be regarded as a victory for principle, and used as a wedge to pry out further change. Republicans have not boasted enough of the IRAs they instituted as a supplement to Social Security. “Here,” they should say, “is our chance for more of that same healthy medicine.”

UNZ [pdf]