Trent Lott's sudden ousting as Senate majority leader seems part of a calculated effort by Republicans, led by the White House, to kill the controversy over the party's alliance with neo-Confederate forces as quickly as possible. But like some sort of shameful partisan ghost, the spirit of that alliance still haunts the Republicans, and will continue to for a long time to come. The careful maneuvering by Karl Rove and the White House political team, in their efforts to disavow Lott without angering the party's neo-Confederate constituency, shows that the party's basic character has not changed. The Republicans' coded appeals to "states' rights" may grow a little muted for a time, but the GOP will remain the party of the neo-Confederates.
Looking forward to 2004, liberals and progressives have become embroiled in an argument over whether Democrats ought to embrace or reject populism. Pro-business moderates -- or, more precisely, anti-anti-business moderates -- have lambasted Al Gore's 2000 campaign for overemphasizing "economic populism" and for slighting the "pro-growth" agenda advanced by the Democratic Leadership Conference and its current leader, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).
The Enron affair is shaping up as quite possibly the largest political and financial scandal in American history. Untold billions of dollars have vanished down the drain in the biggest bankruptcy filing ever. Political connections ensnare every level of the Bush administration. Even more fearsomely than in the past, Americans will learn some hard lessons: that business corrupts politics, that capitalism cannot be trusted simply to the capitalists, and that without government safeguards, the public trust and the public treasury are always at grave risk.
In a pathbreaking study of the mass media and modern culture, The Image, first published in 1961, the historian Daniel J. Boorstin coined the term "pseudo-event." A pseudo-event, Boorstin wrote, is "not spontaneous ... but planned, planted, or incited"--an event whose "occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media," and whose "relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous."
Liberalism took a fateful turn in the 1960s by redefining reform in racial terms. Two new books on urban politics sometimes overstate their case against recent liberal policies, but they help clarify what went wrong.