Glenn Greenwald is just one of the latest Americans to decide that Bush Administration policy is "deranged."
My problem with this formulation is it assumes that the disease is in some person, or some movement, which is unique in-and-of-itself.
Not so. In fact, part of my argument is that what is happening right now happens whenever a generation's political myth reaches its sell-by date.
The ship becomes rudderless because the captain's compass is broken.
Some past examples:
- Lyndon Johnson tried to fight two wars at once, in Vietnam and at home. He thought he could win the first with bullets, the second with welfare. He was tragically wrong on both counts. But he was just following the political myth of FDR past its logical conclusion.
- Herbert Hoover had no cure for the Depression. In fact he named it. It's not a recession, the President said in 1930, just a slight depression. Was he crazy? No. He was merely following the Teddy Roosevelt playbook, progressivism balanced against the needs of business.
- Grover Cleveland signed away the government to JP Morgan and Louis Rothschild. He really did. This at a time when workers were being killed in strikes and farmers were being destroyed by "sound money." But he was merely following the Lincoln playbook, Union controlled by Wall Street.
- James Buchanan (above) diddled while the clouds of Civil War rose into a storm. Was he crazy, was he gay? No, he was following the playbook of Andrew Jackson, the West balancing North and South.
These men weren't crazy. They weren't blind to events. They simply had no political vocabulary with which to address the crises of their time. They had grown up, and grown to age, inside a political myth whose time had passed, and which could not address the problems they faced.
Bush is the same way, as are all the people around him. As are, by the way, most Democrats. We still live in the Age of Nixon, and our leaders therefore have no vocabulary, other than the inoperable beliefs of Richard M. Nixon, with which to address today's gathering storm.
So the unity FDR had built was shattered. So the Republican progressivism of Teddy Roosevelt died. So Lincoln's myth was crucified on a Cross of Gold. So Civil War came.
So the Age of Nixon will come clattering down.
What was needed, at all these times, were new political myths, new values, in order to create a new meaning for power, a new guide which addressed the questions of the day, with answers that would work in the future.
For our time, I submit, this is the open source myth. Not because I'm a great political theorist. Not because I lead a movement.
Because history demands it, and this myth has been building, all around us, for more than a decade. Until history turned to it, as it is turning now.