Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kurt Andersen on American politics

In the New York Times, Kurt Andersen writes about what’s wrong with American politics:

Sincere, passionate, hysterical belief that the country is full of (make-believe) anti-American enemies and (fictional) foreign horrors is the besetting national disease. And I’ve diagnosed the systemic problem: the American body politic suffers from autoimmune disorders.
It’s a compelling metaphor, but it’s really nothing new. Richard Hofstadter made the same diagnosis in psychological terms in “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (Harper’s, November 1964). Here’s a sample:
The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now-familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism. . . .

The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.

Finally, the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media is engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans.
It makes sense then that Michele Bachmann just warned against “the rise of the Soviet Union”: she’s operating from the mindset that Hofstadter described in 1964. As Andersen points out, autoimmune disorders are incurable.

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