Happy days are here again—or are they?

For the Americans in the middle, who have no strong partisan allegiances, we have failed to articulate a real plan or vision,” say Markos Moulitsas Zúniga and Jerome Armstrong, two of the most popular Democratic bloggers. “It's not that people know what we stand for and disagree; it's that they have no idea what we stand for,” say James Carville and Paul Begala, two of the architects of Bill Clinton's winning presidential campaign in 1992. The.....On most other issues, people tell pollsters that they prefer the Democrats. On the economy, there are some good reasons to do so—though tempered by doubts. America's most urgent macroeconomic ill is the federal government's budget. Under Mr Bush, this has slithered from showing a surplus of $236 billion in 2000 to running a deficit of $318 billion in 2005. That would be worrying enough in normal circumstances, but with the baby-boom generation about to retire and start claiming Social Security (government pensions) and Medicare (government health care for the elderly), it heralds catastrophe.

One topic on which the Democrats are plainly less liberal than the Republicans is trade. Bill Clinton may have had the courage to push through the North American Free-Trade Agreement in 1993, but his party is now increasingly protectionist. Mrs Clinton describes herself as “a very staunch supporter” of trade agreements, but voted against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement last year, and also against granting the president clear authority to negotiate such deals. Only 25% of Senate Democrats backed the Central American one, and only 15 out of 202 Democrats in the House.

A Democrat-controlled Congress would pose a grave threat to the further liberalisation of world trade—and so to world prosperity—unless power prompted the party to become more responsible.

http://www.economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6823528

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