Role Reversal

Andrew Sullivan notes a great email addendum to the Buruma essay: "Some of you may know Albert Hirschman's classic book, 'The Rhetoric of Reaction,' in which he parses the tropes of conservative argumentation in Western culture. A reader reminds me:
Hirschman lays out 3 aspects of this rhetoric:
1. The Perversity Thesis: 'any purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order only serves to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy.'
Opponents of the war on terror claim that fighting this war will only lead to more terrorism. Toppling Saddam Hussein has only worsened the condition of the Iraqi people, etc. etc.
2. The Futility Thesis: 'attempts at social transformation will be unavailing.'
Iraq can't possibly become a democracy.
3. The Jeopardy Thesis: 'the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high as it endangers some previous, precious accomplishment.'
Fighting the war on terror will lead to the destruction of democracy at home."

Well, this is partly a function of the Left being out of power and hating Bush. A few years ago these same isolationists were fighting to free East Timor and pushing for more in Bosnia and Kosovo. By some crazy circumstances, they've finally got a president who's a huge spender with a cowboy attitude, freeing people from despotism in Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa (Liberia). But if the guy's got a spotty environmental record and an eye towards his Big Oil buddies, well, the intervention and liberation can't be right, right?

Then again, who would have thought that one's opinions of whether hanging chads count as votes falls exactly in line with faith in tax cuts? It was an amazing coincidence that Republicans, who traditionally despise the activist judiciary, all spontaneously agreed on arcane procedures of vote counting and furthermore agreed that the courts should intervene. It's funny just how deeply political thought can penetrate into the most trivial of matters.

What interests me more is the possibly long-term changes to the social reputations of Left and Right. I grew up thinking Antiwar meant free love, cool drugs and great music. And something about self-determination 'n stuff. The Right was stodgy, afraid and, in a word, Conservative. Since my time at Brown, though, I've seen leftists do nothing but bitch, bitch, bitch. Everything the US does is imperialist, every enemy of the US is misunderstood... They've grown so reactionary and defeatist that I can't imagine many of them will have a good time at the Boston convention next year.

Meanwhile, SNL and the Daily Show, while still doing a number on Bush, have begun to target the lunatic antiwar fringe as well. Were they such an object of ridicule in Vietnam? During the freeze movement of the 80's? I don't know. But it seems to me that a group can't stay so angry, so humorless, so dogmatic -- and expect to remain a force, let alone grow. Especially not if the US makes substantial improvements to Iraq and Afghanistan. Which is why the Antiwar people are so anxiously hoping the US fails.

Maybe someday, the term Young Republican will stop connoting awkward Aryan-appearing preppies in ties. That's when we'll know the pendulum has swung.