The Long View 2002-02-27: Getting Back to Normal

Thirteen years later, and we don't really seem back to normal. The immediate, searing impact of 9-11 on most American's consciousness has faded, but by and large we seem resigned to the changes it wrought on our country. We gripe about the TSA, but we still have it. The NSA still keeps absurdly detailed track of everything and everyone. Domestic politics has returned to the forefront after the Housing Bubble, but even President Obama cannot escape political fallout from events in Syria and Ukraine.

Getting Back to Normal

Here we are at nearly six months after September 11, and many people are saying that the time has come to get back to normal. They are not saying this because the security situation has changed fundamentally since then. The international terrorist network still exists. The clock is still ticking while states lethally hostile to the United States develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The problem is that the emergency changed the subject for almost everyone with a political agenda. Now the people with agendas want it changed back.

The bulk of the unrest is among partisan Democrats, of course. They want to talk about HMO regulation, women's issues, reparations for slavery, anything at all but foreign affairs and military strategy. The biggest effort to break free is the investigation, indeed the dozen investigations, into the Enron affair. This is showing signs of becoming the Democrat's version of the Vince Foster suicide: there comes a point when the the persistence of the investigators becomes the scandal.

That said, though, there are also quite a number of "conservatives," variously defined, who also wish to have done with post-911 politics. Moral reformers are frustrated that the Bush Administration has scarcely a word to say in opposition to abortion these days. The general drift of the Administration's social-service policy is pro-family, so the reformers' unhappiness is not acute. Among the most unhappy people in America, however, are Libertarians and some business groups.

War may or may not be the health of the state, but it certainly makes discussions about supply-side economics and privatization irrelevant. It is possible that the tax cuts the Bush Administration got enacted in its first few months will remain in place, but there will be no more. Since cutting taxes is the only reason some Republicans run for office, the Administration has not had a particularly easy time with its own party.

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