It may be true that the era of big government being over is over, as conservative Christopher Caldwell has argued, done in by President Bush's reluctance to challenge popular spending programs. But it may also be true that the era of big business being over has just begun.
Pity the poor Democrats. They thought they had discovered
the perfect issue: "fiscal discipline." By draping themselves in the mantle of
fiscal rectitude, Democrats discovered they could oppose tax cuts without
advocating any specific government spending -- thereby avoiding both the
potentially controversial nature of any new outlay and the generic "Big Spender"
label (as in "Democrats who just want to spend the taxpayers' money instead of
letting them have some of it back"). Even better, with the invention of the
"Social Security lockbox" -- which would wall off surplus revenues coming into
the Social Security trust fund from the rest of the budget -- it became possible
Over the last few months, the public's attention
shifted dramatically from a single-minded focus on combating terrorism to
concerns about the ailing economy. That's a big and politically significant
change: A bad economy almost always hurts the incumbent president's party in
What is "the third way?" According to the joint declaration by Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder ("The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte"), it is "about addressing the concerns of people who live and cope with societies undergoing rapid change--both winners and losers. In this newly emerging world, people want politicians who approach issues without ideological preconceptions and who, applying their values and principles, search for practical solutions to their problems through honest, wellconstructed and pragmatic solutions."
Its key features, according to the same document, are:
increased flexibility of labor, capital, and product markets
As the election goes down to the wire, it's easy to forget how dramatically the dynamics changed in August. Before the Democratic convention, most polls showed George W. Bush with a double-digit lead over Al Gore. Media discourse was dominated by a conventional wisdom about a complacent electorate that Democrats seemingly couldn't crack. Economically contented, centrist and increasingly upscale voters (symbolized by the iconic soccer mom) didn't have much interest in government programs to solve problems.