Press and political warnings of the danger of "protectionism" testify to the establishment fear that economic nationalism is back. As the economy slowly sinks, Americans are going to demand more than a mythical "level playing field." They are going to want to stop losing and start winning.
The Democratic fight seems to be more about personality than philosophy. Barack and Hillary are both for national health insurance, both for bringing the troops home, both for battling global warming, and both for abortion and gay rights. In the GOP, however, the consensus seems to be breaking down and the conservative coalition breaking up.
Rudy is pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Fred Thompson and Ron Paul seem to be states' rights men on both. Huckabee is solidly pro-traditional family and pro-life, positions to which Mitt has lately been converted. But the old Reaganite consensus is gone.
On taxes, a signature issue for the GOP, Huckabee raised them in Arkansas and McCain opposed cutting them at the federal level.
With Barack pulling Hillary to the left and the clamor for change pulling Republicans away from Bush's brand of conservatism -- i.e., Big Government, foreign policy bellicosity, globalism and open borders -- the fall could bring a dramatic clash of philosophies and policies on the largest questions facing the nation.
Is it time to bring the U.S. troops home from Iraq, no matter the consequences? Under what conditions should the United States go to war again? Is Afghanistan winnable, and if so at what cost? Do we confront Iran or talk to Iran -- and Russia?
Can a nation facing a Social Security-Medicare crisis and falling revenues from a failing economy afford not only a Democratic national health insurance program but the Republicans' enlarged Army?
If the free-trade era is over, what replaces it? Reciprocal trade agreements? How do we stop a foreign run on the dollar and rising prices for oil, food and commodities if the Fed has to keep lowering interest rates and pumping out money to prevent us from sinking into recession?
Will we allow the sovereign wealth funds of Asia and Arabia, the new investment monsters, to buy up what they want of our country?
That the American people have had enough of Bush-Cheney is undeniable. They have also had more than enough of Pelosi-Reid.
One wonders if this wailing for change and praise for anyone who will promise it is much more than the cry of spoiled children who want what the family can no longer afford, and who cannot face the truth that, as Merle Haggard sang, the good times may be over for good.