Walter Russell Mead: Another One Bites The Dust

Roundup: Historians' Take

Walter Russell Mead is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of The American Interest.

The news that Herman Cain is suspending his presidential campaign was no surprise by the time it was made; it had been clear for sometime that his presidential bid had been hit below the waterline.  One hopes that he and his family will have some peace and quiet in which to come to terms with the events of the last few weeks, and Via Meadia wishes them the best.

The restlessness in the Republican electorate has been remarkable this cycle.  One after another, the voters have looked at some flashy political figures, toyed with them, and set them back down on the shelf.  It is just as well; the American primary process is too expensive, too long, too full of malarky — but it does allow voters to size up the candidates, and their verdicts seem generally sound.  Donald Trump and Sarah Palin tested the waters and decided not to jump in; Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain all intrigued voters for a while, but none of them strike Via Meadia as ready for the big job.  In Donald Trump’s case, it is difficult to think what job he is ready for, but de mortuis nil nisi bonum, and politically at least Mr. Trump has passed on.

Given the breadth and depth of the opposition to President Obama, and the number of people who have served or currently serve in state and federal posts, it is surprising that a stronger field of opponents has not appeared.  A much smaller republic was able to field candidates like Daniel Webster and Henry Clay; the three way contest between William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in 1912 would be hard to replicate today: Gingrich, Obama and Bloomberg?

The problem is not a decline in our gene pool.  It is that our economy and our society have outrun our political ideas.  The Democrats stand mostly for defense of an order that is passing away.  They seem to have no idea how to do anything other than try to slow the decline of the blue social model; this is a party that has been out of ideas since the 1970s.  Republicans seem mostly divided between those who hearken back to the pre-progressive 19th century past and others who know change is needed but are less sure about what to do.  How much of the progressive state must, can or should we carry into the future?  What if anything do we put in its place?  How do we deal with an entitlement crisis that will burst upon us sooner than we had hoped? How do we rethink our educational, health and legal/governmental systems so that we can get more done with less friction and less economic cost?...

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