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I recently revisited Richard Hofstadter’s 1955 essay “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt,” and I have to say, I was struck by how relevant it is to our time.
Hofstadter originally published the essay to explain the rise of his generation’s alt-right: A loose coalition of conspiracist anticommunists that opposed President Dwight D.
It was the woman who complained about “eight more years of socialism” after Eisenhower’s 1952 election.
It was the delegate to the Omaha Freedom Congress who denounced Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren for his “middle-of-the-road” thinking and, paradoxically, his supposed communist sympathies.
Eisenhower, public works projects, and free speech.
A cornered animal of sorts, the pseudo-con regularly made fretful lunges in defense of its political life.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, a generation of likeminded policymakers and activists now remembered as the “New Dealers” rallied behind the platform of Franklin D.
For good or ill, the country has become ensnared in decades-old politics.
Embedded in these tactics was Hofstadter’s old psychology of possession, which treated Hillary as the heir apparent to the 2008 Democratic wave. In the run-up to the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Democratic National Committee has drafted a number of potential party slogans, some more inspiring than others.
Among the least inspiring options from last summer, and one that gained serious traction, was the comical jab, “I mean, have you seen the other guys?
I find Hofstadter’s assessment more exciting: that “[a]fter twenty years the New Deal liberals [had] quite unconsciously taken on the psychology of those who have entered into possession.”Democrats back then “could look back,” writes Hofstadter, “to a brief, exciting period in the mid-thirties when they had … In 2016, it was thought by some that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton represented President Barack Obama’s third term.
been able to transform the economic and administrative life of the nation.” Apart from that, though, the Democrats were parched for rhetoric. Even as some Democrats worked to disavow this view, others on the left—including Obama—embraced it, if in thinly veiled terms.