Good cover story in the previous issue of Economist magazine on the political direction of the U.S. The significant momentum behind the Democrats is illustrated:
Having recaptured Congress last year, the Democrats are on course to retake the presidency in 2008…Voters now favour generic Democratic candidates over Republican ones by wide margins. Democrats are more trusted even on traditional conservative issues, such as national security, and they have opened up a wide gap among the young, among independents and among Latinos…
…and a rather interesting theory for it is offered:
…the worrying parallel for the right is not 1992 but the liberal overreach of the 1960s. By embracing leftish causes that were too extreme for the American mainstream…the Democrats cast themselves into the political wilderness. Now the American people seem to be reacting to conservative over-reach by turning left. More want universal health insurance; more distrust force as a way to bring about peace; more like greenery; ever more dislike intolerance on social issues.
…along with an important caveat (with a great one liner about European bishops):
America, even if it shifts to the left, will still be a conservative force on the international stage. Mrs Clinton might be portrayed as a communist on talk radio in Kansas, but set her alongside France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron or any other supposed European conservative, and on virtually every significant issue Mrs Clinton is the more right-wing. She also mentions God more often than the average European bishop. As for foreign policy, the main Democratic candidates are equally staunch in their support of Israel; none of them has ruled out attacking Iran; Mr Obama might take a shot at Pakistan; and few of them want to cede power to multilateral organisations.
…and a rather encouraging reminder that the American electorat hasn’t changed all that much since the 18th century:
One finding that stands out in the polls is that most Americans distrust government strongly. Forty years ago they turned against a leftish elite trying to boss them around; now they have had to endure a right-wing version. In democracies political revolutions usually become obvious only in retrospect. In 1968…few liberals saw…a long-term turn to the right. All that was clear then was that most Americans urgently wanted a change of direction. That is also true today.
But as an investor and a stakeholder in this country’s future, I’m still concerned. We continue to believe that the biggest risk of full Democrat control is the enactment of policies that lessen the economic competitiveness of the U.S. in a world full of emerging tigers. That risk does not come from France, Germany, the developed nations of Europe, nor does it come from Israel, Iran, or Pakistan for that matter. It comes from those countries and regions of the world that have, as Henry Paulson recently noted, learned from our successes and from stories like Ireland’s, and are now staking their futures on attracting business investment and productive human capital. And unless fiscal, regulatory, and other impediments to American business activity are lowered, permanently, we will face either a relative contraction at home, or U.S. dollar inflation, or some combination of the two in the years ahead. As things stand, it’s unlikely to turn into unmitigated disaster, but it will undoubtedly inflict some economic pain.