The More Things Change

The following is from an article, “Kennedyism” written by Midge Decter in Commentary magazine in 1970. She saw Kennedyism as a form of what was then called “The New Politics,” which she defined as:

The assertion of the right to be ruled . . . by attractive men, morally attractive, aesthetically attractive, in a morally and aesthetically attractive society. In such a society it is more suitable to speak the language of class: to speak of an individual man’s “instincts”, his “style”, his “sympathy for”, rather then to engage in a hard and clear explanation of whose interests are being served by a given political impulse. . . . The demand to be ruled in an attractive way is a reactionary demand — regardless of the radical rhetoric in which it may be couched. The alliance it bespeaks between the privileged and the lumpen and against the coarse-grained and sometimes brutal equalizing of the middle is nothing new in the history of Western politics.

“What the Kennedy administration wanted, then” Ms. Decter wrote, “what it sought to do, was to impose an image of itself on American society and American history: an image of itself as the rightful, by virtue of intrinsic superiority, American ruling class. And, in this endeavor, it was unquestionably successful.”

Every word she wrote could be written today about President Obama, his administration, and his admirers. No serious observer of American politics any longer believes in the myth of Camelot. We know now that the New Frontier, stripped of its pretensions, was a mixture of arrogance, ignorance, colossal failures, and, oh yeah, style, plenty of style, happily publicized and protected by a bedazzled media. Now we have its epigone. Except, instead of Camelot we now have Strange Interlude.

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