Learning to Love the Welfare State

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Hot Pew Center data released a couple of days ago shows that the pendulum has swung decisively back from its mid-nineties skepticism about the welfare state and the social safety net. Older Americans, white Americans, and poor Americans all showed large increases in their level of interest in big government, meaning that for the next couple of cycles we may not be finding ourselves wondering what's the matter with Kansas (except that Kansas is actually has a high median income, a low poverty rate, etc., and will probably stay firmly Republican).

This is part of what makes the prospect of a presidential campaign -- to say nothing of a White House -- substantially guided by the Mark Penn worldview so frightening. If there ever was a time for Penn-ism in the Democratic Party it was in the years 1995-97 when, not coincidentally, he first cemented his relationship with the Clintons and landed in the top ranks of the consultantocracy. Things have, however, changed since then and I see no evidence that Penn and similar operators have taken this into account (to be fair, a lot of people who are right at the moment refuse to acknowledge that more centrist approaches were probably right in the past; liberal political operatives are just as good as centrist ones at finding ways to assimilate new evidence to their pre-existing worldviews).