How Do We Get Out of This? The Views of Two American Columnists.

David Brooks:

From The New York Times, November 21

…Independent voters are trapped in a cycle of sour rejectionism – voting against whichever of the two options they dislike most at the moment. The shift between the 2008 election, when voters rejected Republicans, and the 2010 election, when voters rejected Democrats, was as big as any shift in recent history.

Sometimes voters even reject both parties on the same day. In Ohio this month, for example, voters rejected the main fiscal policy of the Republican governor. On the same ballot, by 31 points, they rejected healthcare reform, the main initiative of their Democratic president.

In policy terms, [this is] an era of stagnation. Each party is too weak to push its own agenda and too encased by its own cocoon to agree to a hybrid. The supercommittee failed for this reason. Members of the supercommittee actually took some brave steps outside party orthodoxy (Republicans embraced progressive tax increases, Democrats flirted with spending cuts), but these were baby steps, insufficient to change the alignment….

So it’s hard to see how we get out of this, unless some third force emerges, which wedges itself into one of the two parties, or unless we have a devastating fiscal crisis – a brutal cleansing flood, after which the sun will shine again.

David Frum:

From a report on NPR, November 24

Republican David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is seriously upset with the state of his party. He’s written an article in the current New York magazine, titled “When Did the GOP Lose Touch with Reality?”

As he tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep, one of Frum’s complaints is the idea that his fellow Republicans insist on having their own set of facts.

“One of the issues that’s taken for granted, for example, at a lot of these Republican debates, is that one of the reasons that the recovery has been so slow from the crisis of 2008 and ’09 is because, of course, the economy is burdened by taxes and regulation,” Frum says. “But taxes are not higher than they were in October of 2008; they’re lower, as a matter of fact. And the total rate of tax collection from the economy is at 14 percent now – which is a rate last seen during the Truman administration.”

But that doesn’t mean Frum is a fan of President Obama, whom he voted against once and plans to vote against in 2012.

“In a crisis like this, you need a very strong and forceful president,” Frum says. “And I don’t see Barack Obama as having been that president….”

Frum has some ideas about where his party went wrong, when it embraced what he describes in the article as an “ever more fantasy-based ideology.”

Part of the conflict, he says, comes from peoples’ concerns that they will be hurt economically as the United States tries to find its way out of its financial woes.

“The big winners under the American fiscal system are the rich, who pay some of the lowest taxes anywhere in the world; the old, who are the main beneficiaries of the American social service state; farmers, rural people,” Frum says. “These are Republican constituencies. So, the party is trapped. Its ideology calls for reducing the state’s take. And yet, its voters are the people who get the state’s take, or who are lightly taxed by the state.”

When he looks to the future, Frum says that he sees a “period of intensifying ethnic competition.” In that scenario, he says, many white Americans are fearful and pessimistic about both their own futures, and their children’s prospects.

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