The central dispute between the camps of the supercommittee — the Republicans wanted no tax increases to stimulate economic growth and entitlement cuts to shrink the size of government, while Democrats wanted tax hikes on the wealthy — will certainly be the central debate of the upcoming national election.And that is as it should be.
It is also right and proper, writes Yuval Levin, that the Democratic Party should be demonstrating the two sides of progressive liberalism: its technocratic side in the yearnings of people like Peter Orsag for less democracy, and its populist side in the envious ravings of the OWS crowd.
Yuval proposes two types of liberalism, the conservative liberalism of constitutionalism and limited government and the progressive liberalism of progress towards an ideal society.
One view, which has always been the less common one, holds that liberal institutions were the product of countless generations of political and cultural evolution in the West, which by the time of the Enlightenment, and especially in Britain, had begun to arrive at political forms that pointed toward some timeless principles in which our common life must be grounded, that accounted for the complexities of society, and that allowed for a workable balance between freedom and effective government given the constraints of human nature. Liberalism, in this view, involves the preservation and gradual improvement of those forms because they allow us both to grasp the proper principles of politics and to govern ourselves well.The Tea Party, a popular movement to restrain government, is today's instantiation of conservative liberalism, and the Democrats, with technocrats and populists blazing away, exactly represent what you would expect from progressive liberalism: frustration in the technocrats that they can't execute their well-crafted plans, and envious rage from the street that the ideal society hasn't happened yet.
The other, and more common, view argues that liberal institutions were the result of a discovery of new political principles in the Enlightenment — principles that pointed toward new ideals and institutions, and toward an ideal society. Liberalism, in this view, is the pursuit of that ideal society.
Everyone thinks that next Fall the decision will be a pretty close-run thing. But I don't. I think we are going to see a 55-45 Republican win. It's true that the president is stirring up his base and lambasting the Republicans at every turn and he is moving the needle on his popularity. But the problem is that the president doesn't have a plan that gets us out of the jam. Raise taxes? Steady as she goes? You must be joking.
The American people are frightened, and are looking for someone to lead them forward. They know that government is too big, and they know that we need jobs. Obama's plan isn't working, and it doesn't look as if things are going to be much better by next fall. The Euro debt debacle will take care of that.
But don't think that a resolution of the Euro debt mess would help the president. If the Europeans turn the corner then the hot money presently sitting in US debt as a safe haven will be looking at Europe for safety. That would not be good for US Treasury debt yields, and it would not be good for President Obama's reelection.