I just walked downtown and got my hair cut (still going to the same place I have been going for fifteen years, $11 plus tip), and while I was there I read an older issue of TAC that I had not gotten around to yet. That, in and of itself, is amusing. First, I have a ginormous melon. If I were a cowboy I would have to wear a twelve gallon hat. My head is so big I had to special order my hat while I was in the Army, because they usually did not have size 7 7/8’s – 8 in stock. Second, I no longer wear contacts (my logic was there are so many other things I could focus on to fix my personal appearance, so what is another torpedo in a sinking ship? Just wear glasses, they are easier.), and I am blind as a bat without my glasses. To give you an idea how bad my vision is, one day when I was standing at attention in formation in basic training, and I was wearing my birth control glasses (“You’ll never get laid in ’em!”), my Drill Sergeant was behind me, looked through my glasses, and exclaimed: “Holy Cow, Private Cole! Your glasses are so thick you can see the future throught them!” Try standing at attention after that. Thank goodness modern plastics make my glasses much thinner. At any rate, imagine a middle-aged pudgy guy with a basketball sized head wearing an apron and holding a magazine three inches from his face, and you get the picture. The picture portrait of dignity, if you will.
ALMOST COMPLETELY ignored in the excitement over Barack Obama has been the collapse of the New Left revival that peaked between the Nader campaign of 2000 and the Dean campaign of 2003. For a time, with the antiwar movement burgeoning and a deeply unpopular Republican in the White House, the politics of the late 1960s seemed poised to return. Even Students for a Democratic Society revived. But the moment quickly passed. This was more than the end of a fad–it was the death of a distinct American Left. Obama’s mass following and the liberal blogosphere today are moved more by partisanship than ideology, and they have scarcely any sense of a political past. In other words, they have about as much connection to the historic American Left as the pioneers of the New Right had to the Old Right.
To say that Markos Moulitsas and Obama’s liberal netroots represent the triumph of centrism may sound absurd–as absurd as arguing that Richard Viguerie and the 1970s New Right heralded victory for the political Establishment. But Murray Rothbard built a persuasive case for just that claim in a 1977 Libertarian Forum essay, “The New End of Ideology?” The title was a play on Daniel Bell’s The End of Ideology, which celebrated the triumph of the liberal-democratic center–Truman Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans–in the 1950s. Rothbard considered the partisan divide that started to take shape in the late ’70s to be a new end of ideology because it marked a) the final transformation of the American Right into what could be rightly called a conservative movement, characterized by a “drive toward Establishment respectability”; and b) the end of the New Left, in which he and other libertarians once staked a great deal of hope, as it rejoined the Old Left.***
This, then, is our new end of ideology. The Left has ceased to be the Left, just as surely as by the late 1970s the Right had ceased to be the Right to anyone, like Rothbard, old enough to remember a time when conservatives opposed war and welfarism. In place of the radical Left now stands an optimistic, impeccably patriotic mass movement that is far too young to have a discernible character beyond simple devotion to Barack Obama. If the president should achieve little else than to appoint competent technocrats to do what needs doing in both foreign and domestic affairs, this pragmatism will be the one sure path to success for the Left. Any loyal opposition from the Right will be shaped by this fact, hastening a true end of ideology.
Any thoughts on this? Yesterday, someone remarked that should the GOP continue their headlong descent into oblivion, the Democratic Party will become the new Republican party, and what could possibly happen is a new “left” will emerge in the vacuum. What do you think?