I don’t anticipate saying much in a political vein here, since so many others do it much better than I ever will (a few examples will show up in my blogroll – eventually). I’m an ol’-timey liberal who remembers coming home from elementary school to find my mom watching the Army-McCarthy hearings with steam coming out of her ears, exclaiming in a tone almost of disbelief, “What a wicked man!” And she didn’t mean Joseph Welch.
I’ve read a bit of Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal. Also read a bit about the history of American political mores, highjinks and obsessions. I think people in my and Krugman’s age group grew up in an unusual era of left-center-right consensus, probably the result of having unified under the threat of the Axis and the Rising Sun, having won WW2 and come out Top Dogs, and then facing the overarching fear of the USSR.
Sure, there were rumblings, severe ones, shoving at the undersurface of the consensus: dread of the Bomb(s) and our commitment to nuclear arms, for one; civil rights for another. But there was a period of collegiality in the halls of congress, which older Reps and Senators now recall nostalgically. There was a broad sense of trust in science and rationality. I look at it now, not as a norm, but as a point in a long series of waves, progressive to reactionary to progressive to reactionary, over and over, going back to the earliest disagreements after the Mayflower landed, stretching forward to the Goddess knows where.
Is any progress away from sheer emotional reactiveness inherent in this wave phenomenon? You got me there, pal.