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Living in Reaganland

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Here’s all you need to know about how seriously to take Serious Conservative Public Intellectual David Brooks. From today’s New York Times column on the ever-fresh topic of the insidious effects of Political Correctness on American life:

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump reintroduced anti-intellectualism into the American right: a distrust of the media, expertise and facts.

I’ve been reading Rick Perlstein’s forthcoming Reaganland — LGM will be hosting an interview with the author in a couple of weeks — which covers the years 1976-1980. (Perlstein’s previous three books chronicled the rise of the New Right from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s). While navigating its 1000-plus pages, I’ve been struck by how, despite the immense superficial changes in American political life in the years since, the obsessions of the American right wing are almost exactly the same as they were when the New Right was taking over the Republican party in the 1970s.

As to the former point, consider for instance that in 1976 Jimmy Carter won every state in the Deep South, plus Texas, while Gerald Ford won California, Oregon, and Washington.

As to the latter, a typical Richard Viguerie fundraising letter in 1976 provides a practically perfect template for the current daily programing of the Scream Machine, with the only change of any note being that the obsession with the Soviet Union has been transmogrified into an obsession with “cultural Marxism.”

The Alanisesque nature of the latter obsession is reflected by the fact that the real Marxist-Leninists in American political life have always been the members of the New Right vanguard, many of who were of course former communists, who maintained their goal of subverting the American political system, while switching the object of their allegiance.

But as Perlstein documents in fascinating and horrifying detail, it wasn’t just the Neocons who were (and are) basically Leninists: The whole ideological structure of what was then called the New Right, but is now simply identical with the Republican party, is a relentless radical project, intending to cancel everything that has happened since at least 1932, if not since 418.

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