Glenn Greenwald has a post up right now asking a question that has concerned me for some time. How far are Bush’s most fervent supporters willing to go in order to retain power? (The picture is of leaders from a 1976 Argentine Junta, one of many which transformed that country from one of the hemisphere’s richest to one of its poorest.)
This plays into one of two current obsessions of the "paranoid" left. Might Bush stage a military coup? (The other obsession is that he already has.) A coup would indeed be the real end of American history.
My knee-jerk reaction to this fear is to thank God for the NRA. You think our military is having a tough time in Iraq? Imagine trying to subdue America. While many NRA members might join that fight, many others would not. There would be no shortage of arms for an American Insurrection.
Now, let’s remove our tinfoil hats a moment, and take The Long View.
What is happening on both sides is a natural part of a political generation’s final days. Those who believed in that generation’s assumptions are becoming increasingly disillusioned, even violent. Those who have been out of power are becoming increasingly fearful, and this too can result in violence.
The real problem is that assumptions are no longer holding, and there are no new assumptions to gravitate to. Both the thesis of the last 40 years and its antithesis are failing. And that process of failure has just begun.
Think back again to 1966. All the craziness we associate with the 1960s was still in the future. Or think back to 1930. All the worst of the Great Depression was still ahead. Or 1858. John Brown was still alive.
If you want to stay sane, however, I have a cunning plan.
I have a few thoughts. Environmentalism. Getting back together with the world. Consensus instead of confrontation.
This thesis has yet to emerge, but you can see it in some of the principles articulated by the Netroots. Balance the budget. Make government more transparent. Open markets to real competition.
Some of these principles are, in the context of present politics, surprisingly conservative. But they have all been articulated, for some time, by Howard Dean. We’ve just been so obsessed with calling him a "lefty" we haven’t listened. (Most people didn’t really listen to Goldwater, either.)
Most of what I hear on the left these days, in fact, leads to less government, not more of it. And that’s a very good thing, because we can’t afford more government — we can’t even afford the government we have.
And this, ultimately, is what I continue to maintain will bring the new thesis into being. The collapse of Bush’s current poll numbers may be tied to Iraq, but the new thesis will mainly be about the economy, stupid. And our generals went to West Point long enough to know they can’t handle it.
We’ll see what "we can’t afford" when we really, really can’t. And that day of reckoning is still to come.