David Lauter

Recent Articles

The Smoldering Electorate

Three books about American politics help illuminate the deep frustration of voters -- and suggest how much of a change Democrats must undertake to reach them.

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY Kevin Phillips, Arrogant Capital (Little Brown, 1994). Jonathan Rauch, Demosclerosis (Times Books, 1994). Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to George Bush (Belknap Press, 1995). F or well over five years now, accounts of the American mood have used such descriptions as "sour" and "cranky" and "irritable." After a political stasis that seemed to give congressional incumbents life tenure, impatient voters began a housecleaning in 1990. Even before the earthquake of 1994, the 1990 and 1992 elections had produced congressional turnover at levels comparable to such previous high- water marks as the post-Watergate election of 1974. In 1992 the voters ended the Republican Party's 12-year reign in the White House and then two years later handed the new incumbent the worst mid-term defeat since 1946. Through all this, except for a brief interlude during the Persian Gulf War, polls registered record high levels of Americans...