The problem with our politics is not so much that it hasn’t solved these problems, but that it hasn’t effectively addressed them.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT DEMOCRATIC LIFE that scholars seem to think warrants diagnosis and treatment? I would suggest that the discontent that has afflicted American public life in recent decades is distinguished by two interrelated features. The first is that despite the success of American life over the past 25 years—including rising affluence, the end of the Cold War, and greater social justice for women and minorities—there is a widespread sense that Americans are less and less in control of the forces that govern their lives. There is a sense of disempowerment. The second feature of Americans’ discontent is the fear that from the family, to the neighborhood, to the nation, the moral fabric of the community is unraveling. These two fears—about the loss of self-government and the erosion of community and moral authority—define the anxiety of the age. The problem with our politics is not so much that it hasn’t solved these problems, but that it hasn’t effectively addressed them. It hasn’t provided us with an avenue for making sense of them, and responding to them, and debating them.