Sunday, July 11, 2004

Off to a bitter start: "The Republicans...are denouncing Edwards' career as a 'greedy' trial lawyer representing plaintiffs injured by the illegal and mistaken practices of doctors, insurance companies, corporations and other businesses. But surely voters have more empathy for a lawyer who has defended ordinary people against indifferent companies than for a White House that has consistently catered to the whims of those companies"

But surely not. Bush, a National Guard drop-out accused McCain, who spent over 5 years as a POW of being "weak on veterans issues" and Kerry as soft on defense. Dubya awed citizens by landing on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in a flight suit while Bush Senior, a WWII fighter pilot who was shot down over the Pacific, was always perceived as a wimp compared to Reagan, who only played soldiers in the movies.

I was just reading The Right Nation. The depressing conclusion is that we will never have a European style social democracy no matter who is elected in November or years to come. Conservativism, of a peculiarly American kind, is so embedded in the national ethos that Right Nation is here to stay and we had better learn to live with it.

19% of Americans, we're told, believe that they are in the richest 1% of the population and almost as many others believe that they will be at some time in their lives. They will certainly have more empathy for a bogus cowboy from Andover and Yale who caters for "indifferent companies" than a self-made lawyer from North Carolina State who defends "ordinary people" because they do not believe that they are ordinary people. On holiday, they will certainly prefer mock-ups, theme parks, resorts and cruises to European capitals, Cotswold villages and cathedrals. They like mega-malls and prefer mega-churches, with padded theater seats and singers crooning into mikes to boy choir cathedral Evensong. The will trade off architectural interest for multiple bathrooms and high-tech kitchens.

But wait--that's just my rhetoric getting the better of me. If they want to play cowboy and go to Disneyland it's no skin off of my nose. The core issue is whether it is possible to get a reasonable welfare state. The thesis that our history and ethos lock us in to this brutal system is a little too Hegelian--and Hegel's deductions about the course of the Absolute's unfolding in history through the spirit of nations weren't any better than his proof that there could be no more than seven planets.

Maybe there's hope--if Edwards and other Democrats can convince the electorate that the liberal agenda is not about tastes, pretensions and "lifestyle issues" but economic security and opportunity.


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