Even David Brooks, dapper NYT apologist for the Bush Administration ("The Bursting Point"), acknowledges that Katrina and its aftermath, coming after a host of other "institutional failures" have "cumulatively changed the nation's psyche." Brooks contends that "it is beginning to feel a bit like the 1970's, another decade in which people lost faith in their institutions and lost a sense of confidence about the future." That's wrong.
It's really more like a less intense version of the 1960's (if that's not an oxymoron). There's a sense that the greed and self-indulgence which really took off in the '70's and stoked by Bush and Co. to a fever pitch, have gone too far and have to be replaced with a greater focus on the common good.
For instance, the problems with the environment are real. As two scientists recently put it:
The real question we are faced with is not whether humans are changing climate. The science on this is clear, and decades of research have culminated in a scientific consensus on this point. The real question now is what we need to do about it.It is true that governmental intervention alone will not solve these environmental problems. But it is not acceptable for the govenment to abdicate its role under the guise of "we don't know enough yet."
Similarly, it is obvious to anyone who wants to look that there are widening disparities in wealth in this country. Trickle down economic and tax policies have not narrowed these disparities, they have expanded the distance between classes. The high water mark of this lunacy (I use that phrase with only a hint of a smirk in light of Katrina) was reached this week in Grover Norquist's appeal to help the victims of Katrina by repealing the estate tax. Americans will only tolerate fools such as this for so long.
The symbolic end of the McCarthy era came when Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, stood up against McCarthy and said "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?". But Welch really didn't expose McCarthy. McCarthy exposed McCarthy. And this week, Frist, Norquist, and, last but certainly not least, Bush, exposed themselves as enemies of the commonweal. As a result, they have been forced to abandon the most grotesque of their excesses. This, I suspect, is the start of a more general retreat.