Tragically or perhaps just

Tragically, or perhaps just bummerly, the Talking Points Memo entries for June 1st through June 7th have been irretrievably lost due to a late night server error. [LATE UPDATE: The entries in question have now been restored.] But be that as it may, an entry from last week posed the question of why Tony Blair had succeeded so brilliantly with so-called Third-Way politics in the United Kingdom while Al Gore is off living on a farm somewhere in Tennessee.

There are many possible answers to this question: Some say Gore blew it by departing from the New Democrat gospel. Some say he ran a lousy campaign. Some point out that it couldn’t have helped having the party’s incumbent president having sex with an intern half his age in the Oval Office. Some note, more prosaically, that the Brits are just more collectivist than we Americans and that, in any case, three consecutive terms for one party is just difficult to manage.

Each of these explanations contains an important measure of truth, I think. But none touches the deeper, more significant difference in the two nations’ political cultures or adequately explains the different levels of success enjoyed by the two parties. That is, the persistent centrality of ‘social issues’ in American politics and their relative absence from politics in the UK.

I sketch this argument out more fully in this column in today’s New York Post.