The End of an Era

“I’m no expert on American politics,” says Tom Friedman, “but I do know something about holes.” A Freudian slip? Who knows. But he’s pretty much right about this:

If you step back far enough, you could argue that George W. Bush brought the Reagan Revolution — with its emphasis on tax cuts, deregulation and government-as-the-problem-not-the-solution — to its logical conclusion and then some. But with a soaring deficit and a banking crisis caused by an excess of deregulation, Reaganism has met its limit. Meanwhile, President Obama’s passage of health care reform has brought the New Deal-Franklin Roosevelt Revolution to its logical conclusion. There will be no more major entitlements for Americans. The bond market will make sure of that.

In other words, both major parties have now completed their primary 20th-century missions, first laid down by their iconic standard-bearers. The real question is which party is going to build America’s bridge to the 21st century — one that will strengthen our ability to compete in the global economy, while practicing much more fiscal discipline.

Actually, healthcare reform isn’t done yet, but point taken. Instead of being a big battleground, it’s now likely to evolve steadily into an Americanized version of European national healthcare, and that’s basically the final big brick in the New Deal/Great Society wall. Likewise, communism has been defeated and tax cutting has been taken about as far as it can be, and conservatives have been flailing for years to come up with something new to add to that. Right now, they’re still flailing.

The rest of Friedman’s column is sort of an uninteresting mishmash, but at least it gets at an interesting topic. Conservatives ran out of relevant ideas several years ago and their response to that hasn’t been pretty. Liberals aren’t there yet, but they could be in a few years. It’s worth some thought now and again about what the next chapter is going to look like.