Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnThe New PopulismrnIn the 12 months since Bill Clintonrnstumbled into the White House, thernmost notable political events in therncountry have consisted neither of hisrnown successes and failures nor of the triumphsrnand achievements of what purportsrnto be the administration’s loyal oppositionrnin the Republican Party. Mr.rnClinton’s performance in his first yearrnwas remarkable chiefly for its inconclusiveness,rnand if he eventually extracted arnkind of victory from the congressionalrnfight over his preposterous budget proposals,rnhe has used no small amount ofrnhis time backtracking from, qualifying,rnexplaining the true meaning of, evading,rnand outright violating a number ofrnhis more exotic campaign promises.rnAs for the Republican opposition, itsrnmain claim to our attention is that itrnprovides a seemingly endless supply ofrnpotential extras for a future remake ofrnMght of the Living Dead. With the exceptionrnof the reasonably united Republicanrnresistance to the Clinton budget,rnnot one of the challenges to or reverses ofrnthe administration has derived from thernGrand Old Party. Nevertheless, reversesrnand challenges there have been. Mr.rnClinton spent a good part of his first yearrnin office trying—none too successfullyrn—to locate a law-abiding AttorneyrnGeneral; to explain to the lavender portionsrnof his rainbow coalition why he didrnnot at once live up to his promise to removernthe ban on homosexuals in thernmilitary; to keep Haitian boat people outrnof Florida (again, contrary to his campaignrnpledges); to figure out how torncoax, intimidate, or bribe Congress intornpassing NAFTA; to control, pitch overboard,rnor just keep quiet the assortedrnpolitical nuts and crackpots in the shapernof feminists, Afrocentrists, lobbyists forrnforeign governments, aggressive bullrndikes, and nearly decrepit 1960’s leftoversrnwho clung to his coattails; and finallyrnto avoid or contain the innumerablernwars, invasions, police actions, andrnhumanitarian missions in which thernglobalist exuberance of his foreign policyrncadre would like the nation to embroil itself.rnThese efforts, of course, have occupiedrnonly the first year of the politicalrnquadrennium, and the thought thatrnthere are three more to go is nearly toornmuch for most normal Americans torncontemplate.rnYet almost none of the Clinton administration’srndifficulties sprang fromrnthe thick brows of those whose constitutionalrnfunction it is to create difficultiesrnfor the majority party. The Democratsrnthemselves were the first to voice oppositionrnto Mr. Clinton’s plans for a presidentialrndiktat on homosexuals in thernArmed Forces, as they were to expressrnskepticism about the Somali insanityrnthat the President inherited from his predecessorrnand that he quickly contrived torninflame, and probably no Democrat wasrnso shameless as to exude the coos andrncuddles with which the Republicansrnthemselves greeted most of the ClintonrnCabinet nominees last January. But despiternthe healthy skepticism of some inrnMr. Clinton’s own party toward his plansrnand proposals and the unhealthy supinenessrnof the Republicans, what is mostrnstriking about the difficulties of YearrnOne of the Clinton Era is that it hasrnlargely been the American people themselvesrnwho have forced the President tornretreat from his ill-conceived schemes.rnThis became apparent in the controversyrnover Zoe Baird, whose appointmentrnas Attorney General was originallyrnembraced by Republicans and Democratsrnalike. Not until Miss Baird’s own legalrninfractions came to light did anyonernraise a question, and even then suchrnbrainless stalwarts of the Stupid Party asrnOrrin Hatch and Alan Simpson seemedrnto find it inexplicable why anyone wouldrnobject to an Attorney Ceneral whoserncompliance with federal law was suspect.rnIn the Baird case, it was the massive andrnlargely spontaneous protest against herrnconfirmation that developed on a popularrnlevel, especially through the mediumrnof call-in radio shows, that quickly dispatchedrnher back to her six-figure salaryrnwith the insurance industry, and thernthreat to the Republic that these showsrnrepresented was soon recognized in subsequentrnlegislative efforts to muzzlernthem.rnSimilar popular outbursts were thernproximate causes of the President’s (andrnseveral other officeholders’) reversals onrnimmigration policy. In California, wherernuncontrolled immigration nearlyrnbankrupted the state last year, liberal RepublicanrnGovernor Pete Wilson revivedrnhis flagging political fortunes by a hastyrnretreat from his earlier enthusiasm forrnopen borders, and both of the state’srnnew and well-to-the-left senators, BarbararnBoxer and Diane Feinstein, retreatedrneven faster. California, it so happens,rnis the one region of the country wherernimmigration is a clear political issue, andrnit has become so precisely because thernstate sports probably hundreds of smallrnbut increasingly vocal citizens’ groupsrncommitted to blocking the human tidernfrom the south.rnThe opposition to NAFTA, too, wasrnlargely due to grassroots activism, andrnthough much of it was cranked up byrnRoss Perot, there were noticeable independentrnpopulist anti-NAFTA activitiesrnin Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan,rnif not other places. Not since the controversyrnover the Panama Canal Treatiesrnin the late 1970’s has the nation witnessedrnas much popular fury directed atrnits governing class as it has over NAFTA,rneven though none of the trade agreement’srnarchitects, supporters, or well-remuneratedrnlobbyists had anticipated anyrnsuch problem. Much the same kind ofrnindependent populist resistance lay behindrnthe growing efforts in several statesrnto enact resolutions condemning “homosexualrnlifestyles” or espousing variationsrnon that theme, with Mary Cummins’rnsmashing rebuff to the New Yorkrneducational elite. Will Perkins’ kick inrnthe teeth to the queer agenda in Colorado,rnand similar campaigns in Georgiarnand other states.rnBut such movements were only thernmost prominent. There now sproutsrnacross the country a dense undergrowthrnof citizens’ groups whose energies arernconcentrated on such issues as immigration,rnhomosexuality, gun control, andrnthe rights of crime victims, to name arnfew; the religious right has embarked onrnan ambitious crusade to muster politicalrninfluence at local levels, and both talk radiornand personal computer networksrnenormously facilitate all such efforts.rnLike Dr. Johnson’s dog standing onrnits hind legs, this new populist activism isrnremarkable not so much for being donernwell as for being done at all. What uslO/rnCHRONICLESrnrnrn