Principalities & Powers

The New Populism

In the 12 months since Bill Clinton stumbled into the White House, the most notable political events in the country have consisted neither of his own successes and failures nor of the triumphs and achievements of what purports to be the administration's loyal opposition in the Republican Party. Mr. Clinton's performance in his first year was remarkable chiefly for its inconclusiveness, and if he eventually extracted a kind of victory from the congressional fight over his preposterous budget proposals, he has used no small amount of his time backtracking from, qualifying, explaining the true meaning of, evading, and outright violating a number of his more exotic campaign promises.

As for the Republican opposition, its main claim to our attention is that it provides a seemingly endless supply of potential extras for a future remake of Night of the Living Dead. With the exception of the reasonably united Republican resistance to the Clinton budget, not one of the challenges to or reverses of the administration has derived from the Grand Old Party. Nevertheless, reverses and challenges there have been. Mr. Clinton spent a good part of his first year in office trying—none too successfully —to locate a law-abiding Attorney General; to explain to the lavender portions of his rainbow coalition why he did not at once live up to his promise to remove the ban on homosexuals in the military; to keep Haitian boat people...

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