Faith à la Carte

"Faith à la Carte," The Times Literary Supplement, May 26, 2000.


With an unprecedented level of prosperity and the end of the Cold War, the American people say they want change—it is practically un-American for someone to say he does not want change—but it is clear they will not be dismayed if they don’t get it. Ordinarily, this is to the advantage of the incumbent in the White House, who partakes of the manna that flows from his office. (The imperial presidency is now a fact in our democracy.) But this situation is now complicated by the nature of the two parties and their candidates. The Republican candidate has now reverted to a more classical American conservatism—cautious in his commitments to the reform of the welfare state and its allied institutions, emphasizing civil concord rather than the discord of the Newt Gingrich period. At the same time, the Democratic Party is moving to the Left, in deference to the trade unions, which have themselves moved to the Left, and is today more populist, more polemical, sounding more and more like the party of the dispossessed rather than the party of peace and prosperity. So it would not really be surprising if, in the upcoming presidential campaign, it is the Republican Party and its candidate that captures the ethos of an “era of good feeling” and benefits therefrom.

The Times Literary Supplement