Sunday, January 24, 2010


... or whoever the hell it is he's trying to be when he argues that America is never again going to have the kind of ideological realignment we saw in the FDR era, when large swaths of America became New Deal Democrats for life, and offers this as supporting evidence for his thesis:

In an accelerated culture, our loyalties toward just about everything -- laundry detergents, celebrities, even churches and spouses -- transfer more readily than our grandparents could have imagined. Now we dispose of phone carriers and cash-back credit cards from one month to the next, forever in search of some better deal. Forget the staying power of an institution like Johnny Carson; when Jay Leno starts to feels a little stale, he is shifted to prime time, then shifted back to late night.

Um, Matt? Back in 2006 we had a divorce rate that was the lowest since 1970 -- and now that we're in a severe recession, divorce rates are falling even further. As for Leno and Conan, what are you talking about? We didn't decide Leno should move to prime time, or move back; a few incompetent executives with obscenely high salaries decided that for us. Us? We're still watching Law & Order, fer crissake; we're still watching MTV reality series that are essentially indistinguishable from The Real World I, which we started watching in 1992. Hell, we're still getting some our political snark cues from Saturday Night Live, which has been on the air for a million years; how pathetic is that?

I understand Bai's point, which is that the much-trumpeted realignments of recent years don't seem to last:

Historians of the last century will note that one party -- the Democrats -- solidly controlled Congress, with only passing interruptions, for more than six decades, through recessions and wars and other challenges. The Gingrich-Bush-era Republicans, by contrast, managed to hold onto power for only 12 years; should Democrats lose their majorities in 2012 or even 2014, let alone this year, they will have ruled Washington for even less time than that.

But how different is that from what happened between 1964 and 1972, when (as Rick Perlstein notes in Nixonland) Americans gave LBJ a landslide victory, then turned around a mere eight years later and did the same for his seeming polar opposite, Richard Nixon? That wasn't because we had techno-ADD destroying our brand loyalty, Matt -- a lot of people didn't even have UHF TV in 1972.

Actually, it seems to me that we do have an enduring alignment: we threw in our lot with the GOP in 1968, and nothing's come along yet to unalign us. We went Republican because Democrats were dirty fucking hippies, and we've deviated from that alignment only three times, when Republicans (Nixon, Poppy Bush, and Junior Bush) screwed up royally -- and then we alomst immediately decided that we hated the Democrats we elected for being Democrats (even when they were betraying Democratic principles). What about that has changed since Nixon's time?

Democrats occasionally get a chance at realigning our politics for one reason only -- because Republicans can't govern -- but then they lose their chance at disalignment because they themselves won't govern. It's been that way nearly my entire life. I don't see any evidence that it's ever going to change.

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