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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Don't Wanna Be A Candidate For Vietnam Or Watergate...

I wish I had written this:

So now we, as a nation and a culture, have seen G. Gordon Liddy accuse Deep Throat of having acted unethically. A lot of people, in the past few years, have been talking about the death of irony. I think now it's officially time to get the paddles and charge to 60.

Lots of people had their pet theories about who Deep Throat was - most of them more interesting/intriguing/famous than Mark Felt. Pat Buchanan, except that he's not capable of shutting up about anything. Alexander "I'm in charge here" Haig, ditto. Pseudo-celebrities Ben Stein and Henry Kissinger also made some people's lists. Reportedly, Nixon always suspected Felt as the source.

I regard Watergate as a watershed moment in the American body politic perhaps even more than most people.

My own pet theory is that Watergate, while bad for the Republican Party in the short run, was very good for them in the long run since it combined with the Vietnam debacle to essentially destroy any faith America might have had in government in general and the federal government in particular. Such a mood left people primed for "government is the enemy" rhetoric coming from the likes of Reagan and Gingrich.

Deep cynicism has been very fashionable, and pervaded every aspect of American culture ever since. In a very real sense, it's given us a world people laughed with the cast of characters on Seinfeld rather than merely laughing at them and a world where playing "Grand Theft Auto" or watching Jerry Springer and his parade of sad freaks doesn't fill one with guilt.

Politicians in both parties have been "running against Washington" with redoubled fervor ever since. (It wasn't exactly a new phenomenon but was significantly ramped up in the 1970s.) It's worked better for the GOP, being the putatively "anti-government" party, though the reality is, to put it mildly, much more complicated than that. Although at some point, from a rational point of view, that should stop working sometime after this party gains control of the entire apparatus of the federal government, and it hasn't yet stopped working. Conservatives have essentially run Washington ever since, liberal is an insult (long after they could reasonably be blamed for much of anything that's happened in American politics lately) and both parties have moved to the right.

Of course, this is more about style than substance in many ways. It makes no rational sense to continue to credibly "run against Washington" when your party actually runs Washington. And the "small government" bit shouldn't work either. Neither party has much interest in that, and not without reason; dramatically shrinking the size of government is electoral gold in the abstract but electoral poison in practice.

So something will have to give at some point. I can't say I'm optimistic about what will give and when anymore.


At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Josh Levy said...



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