Generational assumptions always fall in the same way they rise. (Picture from NetCharles’ George Orwell links.)
- The Jackson Assumption — the North and South balanced by the West — fell in the 1850s when we ran out of West to place in the South.
- The Lincoln Assumption — a United States defending its interests — fell in the 1890s after a colonial war.
- The Progressive Assumption — reform maintaining economic stability — fell in the 1930s with the Great Depression.
- The New Deal Assumption — unity in the face of adversity — fell in the 1960s with Vietnam and the hippies.
What few with power are willing to admit, yet, is that the Nixon Assumption is, and was, inherently fascist and paranoid. The Nixon Thesis of Conflict was based, from the beginning, on the identification and destruction of enemies, on the maintenance of narrow majorities. This is the Thesis that still defines our politics, in 2007.
When the Nixon Majority grew large, as it did in 1972, 1984, and
1991, the response by those in power was always to create new enemies.
Harry Blackmun (left, from Wikipedia) was a Nixon appointee, yet he and every other pro-choice
Republican was deemed anathema after 1972. The Moral Majority against
gays and science became prominent in the wake of Reagan’s
overwhelming re-election in 1984. The War Against Muslims began in the
wake of George H.W. Bush’s 90% approval rating following the 1991 Gulf War.
You would think this a self-defeating process, this tossing
aside of constituencies at the approach of consensus. But this is
precisely how authoritarian governments operate. They constantly narrow
the circle of the elect, thereby forcing those who wish the blessings
of power to censor themselves, until the beliefs of the movement become
whatever the leaders decide they are.
To state this fact in the face of a generation’s political
assumption, in a nominally democratic nation, is a profound shock. It
marks the person making the statement as anathema to all those who
still follow the movement. And everyone in
a position of media power, or economic power, everyone who enjoys fame, is dependent in
part on being at least acceptable to political power.
This is the lesson of the Dixie Chicks and Dan Rather. Those who
defy the power pay the price. Whether they are right (Bush is a shame
on Texas, Bush did not serve honorably in the National Guard) does not
enter into it. The Dixie Chicks are no longer a country band. Dan
Rather is no longer a TV anchor. Two plus two equals five. This is the equation that defines authoritarianism. The fear of this equation produces self-censorship.
This is why, even now, AntiThesis politicians like Hillary Clinton fear stating truth to power. This is why, even now, major journalists turn a blind eye to corruption
until they are forced to do so. Self-preservation means
self-censorship. Self-censorship of this sort is antithetical to the
very idea of democracy.
Here is a shorthand for what I am saying today. Joe McCarthy won.
The forces behind McCarthyism have held sway in our cultural, economic
and political life for a generation now. Thus we fear speaking truth to
power, even obvious truth, such as that George W. Bush is a lot more
like Robert Mugabe than any of us are willing to accept
The masses of people around the world, however, know this. They feel
free to state this plainly, and they are not being manipulated by Al
Qaeda or some other anti-American bogeyman when they say this. It’s
like a joke Reagan himself told years ago, of a man in Red Square
comparing his own system with that of the Soviet Union, saying he was
free because he could say "Reagan is a jerk." To which the Soviet
responded, "Well I’m free too. Reagan is a jerk."
What is happening right now is that these scales are falling from
more-and-more eyes. The nature of the regime is becoming apparent, even
to long-time Republicans. Democrats have lost patience with the equivocation and self-censorship practiced by AntiThesis leaders. And this process is far from complete. (Followers of the Thesis, meanwhile, demand greater-and-greater adherence to it. That’s why Fred Thompson looks appealing. Thompson, remember, defended Nixon during Watergate.)
But the movement away from the Thesis is ongoing, and it can no longer be stopped. Just as the move by
suburban parents to the right could not be stopped in 1967. Or the move
toward FDR could not be stopped in 1931. Or Progressivism could be
stopped in 1895. Or the Civil War could be stopped in 1859. (In the 1967 Game, Thompson becomes Bobby Kennedy.)
The harder Bush and his cohort fight against this process, however,
the more likely it becomes that they will suffer, not the fate of
Herbert Hoover or Lyndon Johnson, but the fate of those whose tactics
they have emulated.