Debate will then follow the new course until a new crisis for which the previous course has no meaning is reached.
When the ship of state tacks, of course, all hands who’ve lived on the old course are completely at sea. They can’t conceive of a shift in course, and start crying like scalded cats. That’s what you’re seeing now, in the Washington Village, in the media which covers it, and among the groups nurtured by the followers of the old course.
The old course has become so ingrained in the minds of the lazy that they have created terms to describe the course to make it all sound scientific. One such bit of nonsense is the Overton Window.
The Overton Window is named for the late Joe Overton, who worked at a right-wing think tank in Michigan.
It described a range of possible options, the smaller window of what’s
considered acceptable, and claimed that repetition of extreme points of
view could magically push this window of options in a chosen direction.
It’s like thinking a person on a cruise ship, looking out the
porthole, is changing the terms of the reality which is going by. It’s
as nonsensical as Marx’s scientific socialism, and for many of the same
reasons. All any of us can really see is what’s outside our windows,
from inside our perspectives, and this view is defined only by what
we’ve personally lived through. It’s not all of reality, just what we
think of as reality.
Where the window is useful is in describing how lazy people rise in
politics and why the discourse sounds so ridiculous when real policy
guidance is most needed. As the National Lampoon observed, a walk through
the ocean of most souls will scarcely get your feet wet, and this is
especially true for people like Chris Matthews and David Broder, those
in the chattering classes who think they define "conventional wisdom" but who are in fact defined by it.
It’s reality, in the form of new problems which the conventional
wisdom has no way to view, which causes the course to shift. It’s only
after the vast majority of people understand there are new problems
demanding new solutions, and forcibly grab the wheel, that a new course
can be set, at which point a new chattering class is created which
defines itself based on the new course, and we all go back below-decks.
That’s really the strength of democracy. It lets us shift the
course. The need for major shifts in course are always seen from below before
they’re seen from above, because most of us have to live in the real
world, while those who set the course, and describe it, sit in a salon
above it, hermetically sealed from reality, which is a very good
description of Washington, D.C.
In the present situation, it’s global warming, a need for a War
Against Oil, and the rising myths and values of the Internet which are
causing the shift in course. Those who first embraced the new media are
using it as a prism to impact the world, just as was done a generation
ago with TV, and a generation before that with movies and radio.
This course change is going to be wrenching, and it will result in
not only a new window of options, but a new way to describe left,
right, and all policy choices. If you’re open to this macro change you
may be asked to serve the new direction. If not you will remain stuck
where you are forever, and no one on deck will miss you at all.