It’s Sam Tanenhaus (left), now editor of The New York Times Book Review. Tanenhaus cut his eye-teeth with a well-reviewed book on Whittaker Chambers in 1998, moved to the Times as a minor functionary on the editorial page, then moved on to Vanity Fair before picking up his current gig in 2004. (Despite this picture he’s about my age, about 9 months younger in fact.)
In this week’s Review of the Week, he correctly identifies the Netroots as a less-ideological heir to the Goldwater tradition, not the "McGovern Wing" of the 1972 Democrats the GOP seeks to paint them as. He understands that the Dean Campaign was our equivalent of the Goldwater debacle (no reference to William Scranton as Kerry, too bad) and correctly identifies the DLC (and Joe Lieberman) with the Eisenhower Republicans the right-wing finally rode out of the party on their way to power.
There’s still a lot missing, but this is a good start.
The Current Crisis — The eerie comparisons to 1966 I’ve remarked upon so often here are entirely missing. The movement is seen in isolation, always a mistake.
- The Brain Dead Establishment — The idea that today’s heirs of the Goldwater legacy are on auto-pilot, trying to deal with 2006 as though it were still 1964, isn’t there. There’s no need for a new movement without a brain-dead establishment.
- The Brain-Dead Anti-Thesis — The reason behind the DLC failure, its leaning against the Nixon Thesis just as Eisenhower leaned on the FDR thesis, isn’t there.
- Nixon — Tanenhaus continuously refers to the current political Thesis as belonging to Barry Goldwater. It doesn’t. It belongs to Nixon, and understanding Nixonism (in all its paranoia) is essential to seeing Bushco clearly.
What Tanenhaus has created is a comparison, not an analysis. But anything is better than the brain-dead analysis we’ve had until now.
The fact is, the Bush people aren’t really evil, although they are doing great evil. They are on auto-pilot. And they are on auto-pilot for the same reason Lyndon Johnson was on auto-pilot, because their beliefs have outlived their usefulness and they have no replacement. (Just as Herbert Hoover had no answer to the Depression, or James Buchanan had no answer to the coming Civil War.)
The new Crisis will respond neither to the Nixon Thesis currently being applied by the Bush Administration nor to its Anti-Thesis, as explored best by the Clinton Administration (and represented here by Lieberman). The current crisis, in fact, has nothing to do with the 1960s.
The only true comparison between now and 1966 is that Washington is lost. It has no moorings. The steering wheel is broken. We’re all looking for a new Political Myth to believe in. That myth is being created in the Netroots, and it is called Open Source Politics.
But given that Tanenhaus is working in print, not online, I guess we shouldn’t expect him to get all that…yet.