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A More Perfect Union?

- Abstract

The political insurgency that has transformed the face of American politics in the past year bears witness to the power of ideas. That the prestige media should only slowly have begun to acknowledge this fact should surprise no one. Aside from being very ungenerous, ABC’s Peter Jennings was also very obtuse when he interpreted the 1994 elections as a collective “temper tantrum.” Now, less than a year later, it is clear that something far different, and far more significant, has been emerging in American political life.

An intellectual shift is taking shape, one whose momentum has been gradually building for several decades, and whose eventual effects upon our understanding of government, public life, the Constitution, the political parties, citizenship, and much else besides, are likely to be deep and enduring. The shift is being driven by a serious erosion of confidence in the institutions and works of government, and most particularly of the federal government. Most thoughtful observers will readily admit that this erosion has occurred. But they do not agree about its meaning.

About the Author

Wilfred M. McClay, who holds the SunTrust Chair of Excellence in the Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, contributed “Is Conservatism Finished?” to the January COMMENTARY. His latest book is Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person in the American Past.