Epochs do not change on a dime. Yes, the era of market extremism is waning, Republicans' ratings are plummeting, and, the polls agree, more of us believe that Elvis is hiding in the hills with the Shining Path than still have faith in American big business. But none of this means that the liberal era, or hour, is upon us.
The liberal moment, perhaps. The all-but-unanimous congressional enactment of Paul Sarbanes' financial-reform bill was such a moment -- and how long has it been since American liberalism had one of those? But just one week later, the same discredited corporations that the Sarbanes bill took aim at still had enough clout to get a renewal of the president's fast-track authority through the very same Congress.
Where in the annals of class conflict do we put the current tiff between America's investors and its CEOs?
Up until a few weeks ago, this would have been considered a question not worthy of an answer. Both groups bobbed on the same tide. They felt the same exultation when their stock rose, the same apprehension when it fell.
Ask any liberal to identify the force in American
politics most intent on destroying progressive prospects and causes and you're
sure to hear that it's the Bush administration or the Republican right or some
such reactionary power. Let me gently suggest, however, that a very different
force has wormed its way onto this list, and may indeed be right at the top: the
Few things in contemporary American politics have been
more certain than the Senate's support for free trade. While the critics and
criticisms of global laissez-faire have been growing in number and the House's
support for free trade has become increasingly iffy, the Senate has rolled
merrily along, Republicans and Democrats alike ratifying whatever trade bill was
up for a vote.
In Europe, the year 1968 has always meant only half of what it's meant here in the United States. On both sides of the Atlantic, 1968 was the year of the great youth uprising, of the emergence of a distinct New Left. The protesters who took to the streets from Chicago to Paris weren't simply opposing the war in Vietnam but the Cold War liberalism of their nations' parties of the center-left. And their goal wasn't simply to repudiate Cold War policies but to confront the New Deal-cum-social democratic politics of those parties with a host of new concerns: civil rights, individual liberties, feminism, environmentalism, and what might be termed lifestyle liberalism.