October 26, 2002
RED STATES THROUGH BLUE GOGGLES:Dead Parrot Society (PAUL KRUGMAN, October 25, 2002, NY Times)
[T]he Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying to maintain a populist facade. Its domestic policies are designed to benefit a very small number of people--basically those who earn at least $300,000 a year, and really don't care about either the environment or their less fortunate compatriots. True, this base is augmented by some powerful special-interest groups, notably the Christian right and the gun lobby. But while this coalition can raise vast sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage bourgeois riots when needed, the policies themselves are inherently unpopular. Hence the need to reshape those malleable facts.
What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing the public's fundamental views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr. Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied around the flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking out of that balloon.
Right now the administration is playing the war card, inventing facts as necessary, and trying to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain control of all three branches of government. But then what? There is, after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever intends to move to the center.
So the administration's inner circle must think that full control of the government can be used to lock in a permanent political advantage, even though the more the public learns about their policies, the less it likes them. The big question is whether the press, which is beginning to find its voice, will lose it again in the face of one-party government.
It sometimes seems fair to question whether the NY Times is even competent to cover Red State America. Note the breath-taking ease with which Mr. Krugman dismisses as unpopular and marginal both conservative Christians and gun owners, who between them (even allowing for presumably significant overlap) must make up between them if not quite a majority of Americans then at least one of the largest pluralities you can manufacture out of constituency groups.
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2002 5:05 PM