Do Americans really want a new New Deal?

The great long-term question about Mr. Obama’s economic program, the great political question, is: Is this what the people want? There are economists who believe, and who make a reasonable case, that more money is needed to get the credit system, now frozen like icebergs, flowing in warm streams again. But in terms of leaps in the size of government, including a new health-care system, and higher deficits, and increased borrowing, and debt—in terms of the sheer scope and size of what is being planned—one simply wonders: Is this what the people want?…

This is a hard time to be president. The questions and issues that arise, their depth, complexity and implications, amount to an almost daily parade of horribles. There is considerable goodwill for the president, and all the polls show considerable support—half the nation in a time of sustained crisis is not a small thing—but one wonders for the first time if Mr. Obama’s support isn’t becoming, in the old phrase, a mile wide and an inch deep. Something has been lost in terms of fervor when one talks to Obama supporters. There is little of the spirit that led FDR’s supporters, for instance, in another great economic crisis, to put signs in their front windows supporting the National Recovery Act. We were a younger country then, and the two crises are not completely comparable, but there’s a lot of wait-and-see out there. There’s also a growing divide observable between the American establishment—of both parties—and the rank and file of Americans living normal, non-politically-obsessed lives. The latter seem more patient, more forgiving toward the president. The former, the establishment—again, in both parties—now commonly voice grave doubts as to his domestic ambitions.