The mood of this large group of voting age Americans, likely to grow owing to dismay with local, state, and federal governments for their slow and ineffective responses to Hurricane Katrina, was well described by Associated Press political analyst Ron Fournier today:
Americans do not necessarily want bigger or smaller government. They want better government; less bureaucracy, less partisanship and more focus on delivering services that help people thrive in a complex new era.For several decades, it seems, American politics has been mired in a predictable kabuki dance. The Right and Republicans have their proscribed talking points as do the Left and Democrats. Each are supported by a shrinking and increasingly partisan cadre of true-believing volunteers, contributors, pundits, radio hosts, and more recently, bloggers.
But, at the same time, a large and growing group of Americans feel increasingly alienated from politics and government. The pols and their supporters argue over the size of government and whether prosperity can be achieved with Keynesian or Laffer Curve budget deficits. But, like Goldilocks, looking for the place that was "just right," Americans aren't particularly concerned with partisan propriety. They want government that is the right size, has the right priorities, and when lives are on the line, does the right thing.
Many in this constituency were already taking a pass on voting, seeing the actions and arguments of the Left and the Right as irrelevant and immobilizing. They're part of an even larger number of adult Americans, one that also includes those who vote, but do so with little enthusiasm. All have an increasingly disenchanted view of government or its ability to get anything done.
It's not really that the members of this large group are moderates, adhering to positions between the Right and the Left. Their politics has really moved beyond these twentieth-century constructs and they're disgusted to see pols and pundits, like generals applying obsolete battle plans to new wars, fight old battles in the face of new challenges and opportunities.
If a 2008 Presidential candidate is able to credibly articulate a program and an approach that goes beyond the platitudes and conventions of Right-Left politics, arguing that government ought to be big enough to do its job and small enough to leave the law-abiding to live in peace, they may energize this Goldilocks constituency, both the disenchanted current voters and the ones who haven't been inspired enough to vote.