E.J. Dionne

E.J. Dionne Jr. is the author, most recently, of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right. He is a Washington Post columnist, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, and a professor at Georgetown University.

Recent Articles

The Right in the Rearview Mirror

It took liberals 30 years to take conservatism seriously. Now we're obsessed with it. E.J. Dionne considers four new books about the end of the conservative era.

Flying High: Remembering Barry Goldwater by William F. Buckley Jr., Basic Books, 208 pages, $25.95 Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein, Scribner, 881 pages, $37.50 The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008 by Sean Wilentz HarperCollins, 564 pages, $27.95 Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s edited by Bruce J. Schulman and Julian E. Zelizer, Harvard University Press, 384 pages, $49.95 *** The left first ignored the American right, then imitated it, and then became obsessed with it. That pattern is likely to reproduce itself in reverse, even if conservatives are currently stuck in the first stage: They are so persuaded that ours is a "center-right country," to use a phrase Karl Rove is fond of, that they cannot take the center-left seriously. Just as a legion of liberals initially dismissed the resurrection of Richard Nixon and the rise of Ronald Reagan as aberrations, so many conservatives are now dismissing the...

After the Fall of the Right

The Plan: Big Ideas for America by Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed (Public Affairs, 224 pages, $19.95) Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea by George Lakoff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 277 pages, $23.00) Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn from Conservative Success by Paul Waldman (John Wiley and Sons, 266 pages, $25.95) Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South by Thomas F. Schaller (Simon and Schuster, 352 pages, $26.00) Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community by Douglas B. Sosnik, Matthew J. Dowd, and Ron Fournier (Simon & Schuster, 260 pages, $26.00) Democrats have become “the party of second opinions, wandering from one pathologist to the next,” Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed write in their unexpectedly witty policy manifesto, The Plan . “Consultants,” they say, “told the Democrats to talk more about God;...

Democratic Détente

For two decades, the Democratic party has been riven by sharp ideological arguments. Those debates were in some respects necessary and important. But it's obvious that many of those conflicts are irrelevant to our moment, and say far more about the past than the future. The road to nowhere is paved with rote disputes between center and left. Here are 10 tired and useless arguments that progressives ought to stop having, and 10 new ones that they should start making. The Wrong Stuff 1. Big Government Versus Small Government. What is the point of this argument? Progressives and Democrats clearly favor a rather large government when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education spending, environmental rights, worker rights, civil rights, and consumer protection. There is nothing here that requires apologies. Progressives don't have to defend themselves against charges that they favor the government takeover of private business because they are proposing no such thing. And...

The Co-Presidency

Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Brain Behind the Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush By Lou Dubose, Jan Reid and Carl M. Cannon, Public Affairs, 256 pages, $15.00 Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential By James C. Moore and Wayne Slater, John Wiley & Sons, 400 pages, $27.95 The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush By David Frum, Random House, 384 pages, $25.95 If Karl Rove did not exist, George W. Bush would not be president of the United States. Surely this reviewer jests -- or has been bamboozled by the premise of two of these books for which that idea is essential. Nope. Consider the sheer anomaly of two biographies of the president's chief political adviser appearing just two years into his boss' term. Roll over, Jim Farley. Start screaming, James Carville. Rove is the essential man for many reasons. He was certain, utterly certain, about Bush's political potential much earlier than Bush was. "Bush is the kind of candidate and...

Did Clinton Succeed or Fail?

Dear E.J. Dionne: Did Clinton succeed or fail? It depends on how you define success. We need to consider him as a president, as a party man, as a world leader, and as a political figure who we hoped would rebuild confidence in the enterprise of democratic government. The U.S. economy certainly boomed during his presidency. For this, Clinton shares credit with Alan Greenspan, and with fortunate timing. Thanks to information technology and the disinflation of the 1990s, these were likely to be good years. Clinton had the wit to strike a deal with Greenspan and the markets: a lower federal budget deficit in exchange for eased interest rates. Early in his presidency, when the Democrats controlled Congress, Clinton even achieved his deficit reduction by raising taxes on the rich rather than by slashing public services. But also, during his first two years, Clinton made big mistakes as a partisan--two in particular. First, he contrived a national health insurance scheme in a manner more...

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