Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fighting old wars

Taking the Adversary Seriously: History and Condescension I highly recommend this essay by Rick Perlstein about his new book, Nixonland. While his book is apparently about how the condescending attitude of liberals towards conservatives allowed the right to ascend to its current position of power (I've just added it to my library reading queue), the essay itself is about how said condescension has virtually vanished from liberal discussions while the right still thinks it is as strong as ever. I agree with this sentiment:
... the fact that conservatives keep on trying to do so strikes me, as a liberal, with absolute delight. The left has changed and matured; and our adversaries on the right haven't even begun to reckon with that change. They still think we're all John Lindsay and Abbie Hoffman (who is, truth be told, probably treated as harshly in my pages as Richard Nixon). When I say Americans are still stuck in the categories of "Nixonland" even as the objective reality those categories seek to describe have largely slipped away, my most forceful possible argument is the prose of George Will. His "liberals are condescending" trope is the only way a conservative like him knows how to talk about liberals. Even as an entire new generation of American voters probably has absolutely no idea what he's talking about.
Hmm, sounds like condescension has switched sides, doesn't it?


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