For George Bush the elder, the recession of the early 1990s was a
difficult subject, something best not discussed in public. As he put it
on November 20, 1991, "I think more than anyone else in this country,
obviously, that if the president misspeaks or sounds euphorically
optimistic, or overly pessimistic, you send the wrong signals to a
skittish market and to the people. So I'm trying to say, 'Look, we're in
tough times; they're going to get better.'"
In one of last year's cheekiest works of social criticism, Russell Jacoby argued that what ails modern politics is a lack of utopian thinking (The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy, Norton). Politics has become dull, according to Jacoby. We live in a time of "political exhaustion and retreat," of "collapsing intellectual visions and ambitions." With the death of socialist hopes, politics has lost its left wing. A direct result, says Jacoby, is that liberalism has become "spongy and vague," "earnest and woozy," and suffers from "waning determination and imagination."
Reading Mixed Signals: Ambivalence in American Public Opinion
about Government, by Albert H. Cantril and Susan Davis Cantril. Woodrow Wilson Center Press (distributed by the Johns Hopkins University Press),
"Retro-Politics: The Political Typology, Version 3.0," report by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, 163 pages.
Republic Of Denial: Press, Politics, and Public Life, by Michael Janeway. Yale University Press; 216 pages.
And now a word of discouragement. Abandon hopes, all ye who look to the nation's journalists to lead the way through the valley of darkness. For the republic is in deep doo-doo, as former President Bush once said, and it's going to take more than a collection of civic-minded scribes nattering about democratic renewal to save us.
Experiencing Politics: A Legislator's Stories of Government and
Health Care, by John E. McDonough. University of California Press, 342
Toward the end of this useful handbook on the politics of lawmaking,
the author laments the dearth of novels and films about what really goes
on inside legislatures. After all, it is through popular art that the
broad public is exposed to unfamiliar worlds. And, says John E.
McDonough, "The breadth of what legislators do is simply astounding, far
beyond what most citizens understand."