Shifting Sands

I’ve driven 400 kilometers south to Albany to visit an old friend so this will be a short post.

David Brooks catches in this piece something I have been feeling for a while – the mood of the US electorate may be changing. I’ve been looking for someway to characterize it and I have to tentatively give Brook’s idea a lot of credit. Essentially he is saying that the electorate is turning from a wartime frame of mind to a post war attitude.

But the more comprehensive difference between a wartime election and a postwar election is that there is a shift in values. In wartime, leadership traits like courage, steadfastness and ruthlessness are prized. Voters are willing to vote for candidates they distrust so long as they seem tough and effective (Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani).

I’m picked that quote because I don’t particularly agree with it as far as trust is concerned, but I agree that both are seen as likely to be tough and effective. I’ve sensed that as Iraq settles down that the way the world looks in Nov 2008 may be a lot less threatening. The dynamics of the war on terror are changing and both sides of politics haven’t found a new position. The shifts in the polls with Obama and Huckabee surging are pretty astonishing. Bill Bradley has some commentary here that details this amazing phenomena.

I’m still very much of the opinion that we are still in for a long war, but I can see there really is a lull right now and that this lull is having a dramatic effect on the US electorate. Here is Brook’s description of the lull:

In Washington, the National Intelligence Estimate was released, suggesting the next president will not face an imminent nuclear showdown with Iran. In Iraq, the surge and tribal revolts produce increasing stability. In Pakistan, the streets have not exploded. In the Middle East, the Arabs and Palestinians stumble toward some sort of peace process. In Venezuela, a referendum set President Hugo Chávez back on his heels.

Again I don’t buy that all these things are what they seem, but I can also see why things appear calmer, and however it turns out I think that the reaction of the public reveals how strongly people wish it were over. I would like to be wrong, but I think the Islamic fanatics will persist and the West will continue to feel its way into the future and continue to make mistakes and stumble on things that work.


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