Monday, March 01, 2010

Richard Hofstadter, Broderized

I'm starting to wish that star pundits and reporters would stop making ritual reference to Richard Hofstadter, whose book version of The Paranoid Style in American Politics came out in 1965. As valuable as his description of the "paranoid style" is, our press stars seem to have thoroughly embedded it into their Broderian Centrist narrative where all good ideas quickly wither and die.

Hofstadter was working in the Cold War years, where it was taken for granted after the McCarthyist years and the Progressive Party campaign of 1948, in which Communists did have an active part, that the Democratic Party would draw a sharp line between itself and the Communist Party or anything that sounded too suspiciously like it. One of President Kennedy's advisers even opposed using the name "Peace Corps" for that project because "peace" was too identified with Communist propaganda. The John Birch Society was suspicious of Barry Goldwater - they were rightwing isolationists and Goldwater's parents had once been, you know, Jews - and the Republican Party officially repudiated the Birchers at the 1964 convention.

So it actually made sense in 1965 that Sacred Centrism had prevailed and that real reforms like the Great Society could happen because the Democrats and Republicans had respectively walled themselves off from the toxins of the fringes. Hofstadter's analysis was far more sophisticated than that, but that's pretty much what High Broderism assumes to this day.

But applying that model to today's politics makes about as much sense as saying that this snazzy new invention of color television is just as cool as the latest version of the iPhone. The Democrats today are almost as desperate to wall themselves off from New Deal/Great Society ideas as the Dems back then were to avoid Communist associations of any kind. While the Republicans have such a symbiotic relationship with the crackpot radical right of the Birchers and the Birthers and the Tea Partiers that it's hard to picture how they could cut the cord.

The Village didn't want to face up to the consequences of the torture policy and the Cheney-Bush Predator State approach to governance. And that also don't want to face up to what the Republican Party as a whole has become.

[This is adapted from a comment I made on a Digby post at Hullabaloo.]


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