E.J. Dionne

E.J. Dionne Jr. is the author, most recently, of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right. He is a Washington Post columnist, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, and a professor at Georgetown University.

Recent Articles

The Politics of the New Middle America

In 2010, disaffected voters didn't embrace the Republican vision. They looked in vain for the Democratic one.

(Flickr/The White House's photostream)
Among the poll findings that bombarded us after the 2010 elections, three are of overwhelming importance. First, the age composition of the electorate changed radically. In 2008, 18 percent of voters were under 30 and 16 percent were over 65. In 2010, only 12 percent were under 30, while 21 percent were over 65. Not surprisingly, 2010's older electorate was also more conservative. Second, Democrats lost enormous ground among white working-class voters. In 2010, Democrats lost white working-class voters by 30 points. In 2006 and 2008, they lost them by only 10 points. Third, Republicans won control of the House of Representatives because many voters who didn't really like the GOP voted for its candidates anyway. According to the major TV networks' combined exit poll, 52 percent of November voters had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, yet 23 percent of this group voted for Republican House candidates. These are the quintessential disaffected voters, and they may be the key...

Practical Liberalism Redux

Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Barack Obama is capable of being a pragmatic progressive.

Last October, after the economy's downward spiral became obvious, I closed an e-mail to a friend with the words: "I never thought my obsession with the 1930s would ever be relevant to my life." That obsession had many roots, not the least being that my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, was a '30s kind of place with a '30s kind of culture, a '30s kind of economy, and '30s-style New Deal politics. But if there is a single person who inspired my fascination with an era, it is the historian William E. Leuchtenburg. I can't remember which of two inspiring high school history teachers, Jim Garman or Norm Hess, gave me Leuchtenburg's Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal: 1932–1940 . Rereading it recently, I was reminded of the excitement I felt at age 15 over the realization that a graceful writer could bring politics to life. Leuchtenburg's version of FDR launched my teenage journey toward a practical kind of liberalism. And my latest reading underscored the point that our times...

The Right in the Rearview Mirror

It took liberals 30 years to take conservatism seriously. Now we're obsessed with it. E.J. Dionne considers four new books about the end of the conservative era.

Flying High: Remembering Barry Goldwater by William F. Buckley Jr., Basic Books, 208 pages, $25.95 Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein, Scribner, 881 pages, $37.50 The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008 by Sean Wilentz HarperCollins, 564 pages, $27.95 Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s edited by Bruce J. Schulman and Julian E. Zelizer, Harvard University Press, 384 pages, $49.95 *** The left first ignored the American right, then imitated it, and then became obsessed with it. That pattern is likely to reproduce itself in reverse, even if conservatives are currently stuck in the first stage: They are so persuaded that ours is a "center-right country," to use a phrase Karl Rove is fond of, that they cannot take the center-left seriously. Just as a legion of liberals initially dismissed the resurrection of Richard Nixon and the rise of Ronald Reagan as aberrations, so many conservatives are now dismissing the parlous...

After the Fall of the Right

The Plan: Big Ideas for America by Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed (Public Affairs, 224 pages, $19.95) Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea by George Lakoff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 277 pages, $23.00) Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn from Conservative Success by Paul Waldman (John Wiley and Sons, 266 pages, $25.95) Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South by Thomas F. Schaller (Simon and Schuster, 352 pages, $26.00) Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community by Douglas B. Sosnik, Matthew J. Dowd, and Ron Fournier (Simon & Schuster, 260 pages, $26.00) Democrats have become “the party of second opinions, wandering from one pathologist to the next,” Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed write in their unexpectedly witty policy manifesto, The Plan . “Consultants,” they say, “told the Democrats to talk more about God; bloggers told them to talk trash...

Democratic Détente

For two decades, the Democratic party has been riven by sharp ideological arguments. Those debates were in some respects necessary and important. But it's obvious that many of those conflicts are irrelevant to our moment, and say far more about the past than the future. The road to nowhere is paved with rote disputes between center and left. Here are 10 tired and useless arguments that progressives ought to stop having, and 10 new ones that they should start making. The Wrong Stuff 1. Big Government Versus Small Government. What is the point of this argument? Progressives and Democrats clearly favor a rather large government when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education spending, environmental rights, worker rights, civil rights, and consumer protection. There is nothing here that requires apologies. Progressives don't have to defend themselves against charges that they favor the government takeover of private business because they are proposing no such thing. And...

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