N othing about the 2000 election matters nearly as much as the ugly means by which it was brought to an end. Throughout our history, with the terrible exception of 1860, every party has been able to live with the victory of an opposing candidate for president. One reason is our confidence in a legal system that is supposed to stand apart from politics and limit the consequences of political defeat. The presidency of George W. Bush may not be the republic's happiest era, but it will be endurable. What is not so easily endured is the Supreme Court's betrayal of our trust.
No one would feel that sense of betrayal if the majority of the Court had acted consistently with its judicial philosophy. Suppose the facts had been reversed and Al Gore had been leading by a small margin in Florida when he appealed to the Supreme Court to stop a recount requested by Bush. Suppose he had also argued that differences among counties in standards for judging ballots represented a...
D emocracy, many people have said, is a matter of faith, but why, dear Lord, must our faith be tested so often? Lately, the role of money in political campaigns has been mocking our civic creed. "Here the people rule," we are taught, and we would like to think so. But if the voters (and nonvoters) seem disbelieving, they may merely be acquainted with the material facts of political life. Congressional candidates in this last election cycle raised $1.3 billion, which is a lot of money to change hands with pure intentions. Fiorello La Guardia, New York's reform mayor of the 1930s and '40s, once said that politics requires "supreme ingratitude." That's just the problem. Among those who run for office, ingratitude may not be common enough. In many respects, the United States is positively fastidious about the influence of money on public officials. Federal employees cannot legally accept even trivial gifts from the public. They risk prosecution if they allow someone to pay for a meal or...
L et's say we decided to build a dam along a river. If we merely agreed to erect a small barrier that the river would run around, flowing easily through new channels and old ones, no one would celebrate our plan as a great achievement. But that is how editorialists have hailed the Senate's passage of the McCain-Feingold bill, despite the scant likelihood that the partial barriers it erects will stem the flow of big money or seriously diminish its influence in politics. As passed by the Senate, McCain-Feingold virtually invites circumvention. The bill bans unlimited soft-money donations to the parties and bars advocacy-group advertising that mentions candidates during the 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. I don't expect the limits on advocacy-group advertising to survive a trip to the Supreme Court, nor do I think they should (as I wrote in "The Loophole We Can't Close," TAP, JanuaryFebruary 1998). But even if the Court upholds this restriction on...
Bidding for your
N ot so long ago, employees of large corporations believed that if they did
their jobs well, they could count on working for the company for the rest of
their careers. The downsizings and reorganizations of recent years have
exploded that premise. Still, some remnants of the old beliefs linger on. Most
people assume that if they continue working for a company, they will at least
receive the same salary.
Now that premise is also giving way. Consider a practice that some
companies have lately adopted: bidding for your job.
Bidding for jobs is typically part of a corporate restructuring--as it
is, for example, at New Jersey's major electric and gas company,
PSE&G, which is itself now bidding for commercial customers in what used to
be a highly regulated and protected industry. According to PSE&G's
corporate planning department, the leaders of each business unit...
T he rise of the new economy and skyrocketing prices of Internet stocks have caused a certain discomfort and ambivalence among older Americans, which in this case generally means anyone over 26. There is, of course, due acknowledgment of the great promise of e-commerce and even some national pride about the phenomenon (only in America!). But logic, historical experience, and the fact that they didn't anticipate the explosion of new-economy stocks have convinced a lot of people that it must be a bubble. They wouldn't mind seeing it burst, if only that would take the smirk off the faces of the kids being featured as geniuses in the business magazines and didn't bring down the rest of the economy. We're in new generational territory here. One day last year in a class at Princeton on American society where we were discussing the 1960s, I asked my students what the phrase "generation gap" brought to mind. If you think it had anything to do with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, you're...