Friday, April 02, 2004

In The American Prospect, Neal Gabler lays out a clear, cogent explanation of the emotional undercurrent of 20th century politics. His argument, in a nutshell, is that liberalism was an inherently optimistic ideology during its years of ascendency, but lost its optimism following Vietnam (and, I would add, the Kennedy assassination). Reagan picked it up. He doesn't map the elections following, except to point out that Bush is riding that wave of optimism, but it seems to me that Clinton's chief appeal to the electorate was in being "the man from Hope." Gore didn't quite find an emotional heart to his campaign, so Bush trounced him by running on a "what, me worry?" platform. Kerry seems to be doing a better job, at least, and Bush, having used fear of terrorism so often to hold down dissent, is particularly vulnerable on this front. Here's hoping Kerry and his people have the EQ to take him on.

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