Barring an extraordinary economic boom, the American situation will soon require the slow and painful restructuring of the welfare state that liberals have spent decades building. This environment may or may not lead to a revival of D.L.C.-style centrism among the Democrats, but at the very least it’s hard to see it proving congenial to further adventures in sweeping social legislation. I’ve talked to liberals who seem to understand this: The reckoning is coming, they allow, and the theory of health care reform has always been to get everybody inside the barrel before it goes over the falls. (I’d lay good money that this is Peter Orszag’s view of the matter.) But seen in this light, the health care victory looks less like the dawn of a bold new era, and more like the final lurch forward before a slow retreat.
Or rather, surely, to embark on long-term, dead serious fiscal reform, while making sure the poorest and those most struggling in the barrel are kept on as equals, not cast aside as burdens. In the big fiscal task ahead, we'll need a sense of fairness as well as strictness if we are to persuade a majority - rich an poor - of necessary but painful change.
Or did I just lapse into total Disraeliism?