Wingnut Woodstock

Regular readers know my pretty straightforward theory of what’s happened to the conservative movement and the Republican Party since 2008: the same old torch of resistance to the New Deal and Great Society and the decline of the patriarchal family, passed on from generation to generation, reached critical mass within the GOP during the George W. Bush years, and just as it consummated its conquest of the party was radicalized by the multiple traumas of the Iraq War disaster, the financial crisis and Great Depression, and most of all the election of Barack Obama.

But others have more baroque interpretations of the same phenomena, such as the New York Times‘ Bill Keller:

What’s happening here ain’t exactly clear. But I have a notion: The Republicans are finally having their ’60s. Half a century after the American left experienced its days of rage, its repudiation of the political establishment, conservatives are having their own political catharsis. Ted Cruz is their spotlight-seeking Abbie Hoffman. (The Texas senator’s faux filibuster last week reminded me of Hoffman’s vow to “levitate” the Pentagon using psychic energy.) The Tea Party is their manifesto-brandishing Students for a Democratic Society. Threatening to blow up America’s credit rating is their version of civil disobedience. And Obamacare is their Vietnam.

Well, it’s hard to imagine Abbie Hoffmann without a sense of humor, or the 60s without distinctive music. If the Teds (Cruz and Nugent) are the best the right-wing counterculture can manage in the way of street theater or music, I don’t think it’s going to rival the actual 60s. But on the other hand, Keller’s take suggests it’s all a fad like bell-bottom pants or pop art posters. Unfortunately, the material and cultural forces driving the right’s grip on the GOP aren’t going away any time soon.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.