Discontented voters aren’t just calling for a bigger or smaller government; they’re calling for a fairer government. Ron Klain writes in his new column, “Americans Want A Government That Ties Rewards To Work”:
David Brooks of the New York Times recently applied this classic model to the 2012 election, arguing that President Barack Obama’s new “fighter” posture puts him on the “big government” side of the divide, and at risk of defeat.
Yet Brooks’ analysis — like most conventional thinking about 2012 — fails to grasp the seismic political change under way. Yes, as Brooks emphasizes, there has been a collapse of confidence in the government’s ability to “do the right thing”; poll after poll has shown mistrust of Washington at historic levels.
Critically, however, this isn’t resulting in a traditional pendulum swing toward a laissez-faire mindset about the private sector. Instead, there has been a similarly deep erosion of the public’s belief that corporations and big businesses are any more likely than government to “do the right thing.”
This is a paradigm shift. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were propelled to the White House because the public feared that government was doing too much for the poor or welfare recipients, which created a backlash for the sort of small government policies that favor conservatives.
Today, however, the public has a sense that an unduly close relationship has developed between government and the corporate sector, as evidenced by “bailouts,” special interest provisions in legislation, and a tax code full of loopholes and special breaks.