Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

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Opportunity Knocks

Editors' note: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who passed away yesterday at age 89, contributed several articles to the Prospect over the years, in addition to serving as a founding sponsor of the magazine. His last piece, written for the December 2004 issue , foresaw the ruling GOP coalition's swift post-election demise. --- Alan Brinkley's illuminating piece is right in concluding that the "only real option" for Democrats is to convert Republicans (and, presumably, independent voters) into Democrats. He sees years of hard labor before this can be accomplished. I am more optimistic. I think that the lethal Republican combination of hubris and incompetence will expedite matters, but only if the Democrats are prepared to step into the breach. First, hubris. George Bush the Younger, perhaps in conscious or unconscious reaction to his father, does not dismiss “the vision thing.” He believes that the Almighty summoned him to high office, and he cherishes visions. Having won the popular vote in...

Opportunity Knocks

Alan Brinkley's illuminating piece is right in concluding that the “only real option” for Democrats is to convert Republicans (and, presumably, independent voters) into Democrats. He sees years of hard labor before this can be accomplished. I am more optimistic. I think that the lethal Republican combination of hubris and incompetence will expedite matters, but only if the Democrats are prepared to step into the breach. First, hubris. George Bush the Younger, perhaps in conscious or unconscious reaction to his father, does not dismiss “the vision thing.” He believes that the Almighty summoned him to high office, and he cherishes visions. Having won the popular vote in 2004 by more than 3 million, he is exposed to the temptation of overreaching. Colin Powell, who resigned on November 15, told the Financial Times that foreign policy in the second term will be aggressive. Already premonitory warnings and threats against Iran are eerily reminiscent of warnings and threats that preceded...

Not the People's Choice

T he true significance of the disputed 2000 election has thus far escaped public attention. This was an election that elevated the popular-vote loser to the American presidency. But that astounding fact has been obscured: first by the flood of electoral complaints about deceptive ballots, hanging chads, and so on in Florida; then by the political astuteness of the court-appointed president in behaving as if he had won the White House by a landslide; and now by the effect of September 11 in presidentializing George W. Bush and giving him commanding popularity in the polls. "The fundamental maxim of republican government," observed Alexander Hamilton in the 22d Federalist, "requires that the sense of the majority should prevail." A reasonable deduction from Hamilton's premise is that the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in an election should also win the election. That quite the opposite can happen is surely the great anomaly in the American democratic order. Yet the...

A Question of Power

L iberals may well wonder where we go from here. An ambiguous and questionable election, a president who ignores the fact that he lost the popular vote by more than half a million, a cabinet of corporate retreads and right-wing ideologues, a near statistical tie in Congress--all this creates a tricky terrain on which to maneuver. Nor should the new president be underestimated. He is not so dumb as he sometimes seems. He may lack intellectual curiosity, but he is shrewd as well as amiable, and in one mood he seems determined to put a human face on his retrograde party. He is a big-tent Republican who appears to have dumped the hot-button issues of the age of Ronald Reagan: criminalization of abortion, legalization of school prayer, abolition of the Department of Education and the endowments for the arts and the humanities, dismantlement of affirmative action, exclusion of immigrants, and the like. Sixty percent of George W. Bush's acceptance speech and 90 percent of his inaugural...

The Liberal Opportunity

The startling collapse of communism, not with a bang (except in Romania) but a whimper, presents the democratic world with a new array of challenges. For the United States, an age of military competition with the Soviet Union is coming to an end. In its place looms a new age of economic competition. The chief rival is no longer the communist foe that has preoccupied American policy for forty years. The chief rivals today are, ironically, the nations the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union defeated in the Second World War -- Japan and Germany -- now the most dynamic and thrusting economic powers on the planet. Our very passion to win the military competition may well have disabled us in the economic competition. Seventy per cent of federal research and development spending has gone to the military. The defense program has withdrawn American scientists, engineers and laboratories from productive work in the civilian economy. In the meantime, Japan and Germany, happily liberated...