Stanley B. Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and a co-founder of Democracy Corps. He is a co-editor of The New Majority: Toward a Popular Progressive Politics, published by Yale University Press.
Distrust of government is down and the public is clearly looking for an
expanded governmental role in a vast range of areas related to the September 11
attacks. How else can we explain the big debate on airline safety? The U.S.
Senate wants to federalize security workers and the U.S. House wants to subject
them to intense regulation independent of the airlines. Federalize or regulate?
This is a Democratic dream.
Most Democrats have a hard time being optimistic these days, and it's easy to
understand why. The 1994 midterm election produced a swing to the Republicans
and a new nationalization of politics that undercut Democrats who had survived
in Republican districts and states. A review of polling data suggests that a
conservative surge was in evidence as early as mid-1993, as ideological
conservatives mobilized against the national Democratic government and its
agenda. Three groups in particular--evangelical Christians, lower-income
voters, and seniors--rushed to the Republicans, shifting the electoral balance
against the Democrats.
Working- and middle-class voters remain economically anxious. But in the absence of a convincing narrative that connects to their lives, many are concluding from their condition that the only remedy is rugged individualism.
progressive economic narrative today begins with the stagnation and growing
inequality that characterizes this period of change and possibility. That seems
a natural enough starting point. Throughout this century, progressive movements
have found their purpose in capitalism's failure to deliver on its promises to
ordinary citizens. Once again, this is the central challenge of our own time.