Back from several days in Washington.
The city still has all the disadvantages of being a one-industry town,
with almost everyone working for the government or lobbying the
government or reporting on the government or trying to influence the
government or litigating on behalf of or against the government.
like LA and the entertainment industry, or downtown New York and
finance. Everyone is in the same bubble, and every conversation sounds
The only difference this time is Washington
feels under siege, as if marauding bands are closing in on it. Unlike
Europe, America doesn't have feudal traditions that in the last century
spun into fascism and communism. Our right and left are much closer to
the center than are Europe's.
But the American right -- whose roots
are found in Jeffersonian libertarianism and the Jacksonian alliance of
small southern farmers and northern white workers -- is moving further
right, and pulling the Republican Party with it. It's fueled by economic
fears combined with racism, anti-immigrant nativism, and southern white
The puzzle is why Wall Street and
corporate America are going along with it when their interests are so
different. The new Republican right is anti-Wall Street and
protectionist. It doesn't want to expand immigration. It distrusts big
business and opposes the sorts of special tax cuts, subsidies, and big
government contracts that big business has thrived on. The Obama
administration has been far better to corporate America and Wall Street
than the new Republican right would ever be.
I don't get it, but
the alliance between the energies of the new right and the money of big
corporations and Wall Street is formidable, and in this early summer of
our discontent, Washington can already sense the barbarians at the
Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.