The two axes of domestic politics

The contrast that came out last night

Marc Ambinder

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, concedes that Americans tend to be skeptical of activist government, tend to believe that government is not able to solve big problems and is suspicious of the distribution of rewards and resources. This is the culmination of a 40-years-long conservative philosophical ascendency that has shifted public opinion to the right. At the same time, government's size and reach has grown significantly. This disjunction is at the heart of the Democratic Party's long-term dilemma, which is that Americans are increasingly isolated from and not cognizant of the role government plays in their lives and are more skeptical, generically, of that role.

But there is another axis, too, one that keeps Reagan Democrats Democrats and one that, thanks to the economic turbulence of the last three years, has grown increasingly prominent: The poor and undeserving may be historical scapegoats, but to the extent that government has been helping anyone as of late, it's been helping the big guys — the corporations and large institutions. And it's not just government. It seems like all of society is arrayed in a way that benefits those who least need it.

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Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder is's editor-at-large. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. Marc is a 2001 graduate of Harvard. He is married to Michael Park, a corporate strategy consultant, and lives in Los Angeles.