Lenin graces the cover of a recent issue of The Economist. The Financial Times is running an entire series on the “crisis in capitalism.” Francis Fukuyama, a recovering neoconservative,makes a plea in Foreign Affairs for the left to get its intellectual act together. And that noted class warrior Newt Gingrich has been assailing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for being a ruthless moneybags.
Lenin depiction on recent cover of The Economist
Excuse me? Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? What parallel universe did we all just stumble into?
It’s not the first time, of course, that the political spectrum has become all jumbled. Ten years ago, the 9/11 attacks sent some liberals scurrying rightward in support of the Bush administration’s extended response. The disastrous aftermath of the Iraq War then pushed even some leading neoconservative lights, like Fukuyama, in the other direction. The aftershocks of this upheaval can still be felt in the debate around the Libya intervention and the “right to protect” doctrine.
Now, the financial crisis and the Occupy movement have convulsed the political spectrum along a different dimension. The political categories of Right and Left—which derives from where opposing representatives, royalists versus radicals, sat in the French national assembly around the time of the 1789 revolution—have been woefully inadequate for some time. But if the house organs of the financial sector and the house intellectuals of the Right are all talking like a Marxist study group, then perhaps we are on the verge of a major transformation—not only in terminology but, more importantly, in the facts on the ground.
The message from the traditional Right is by no means unified. Let’s start with Gingrich, who is what passes for a conservative deep thinker these days (which makes me almost nostalgic for the days of William F. Buckley). Gingrich knows that his reputed “smarts” will go only so far in attracting votes in the Republican presidential primary. He has orchestrated a late surge, toppling Mitt Romney in South Carolina and threatening him in Florida, by combining two qualities: meanness and class resentment. Although Gingrich’s national unpopularity has become the stuff of legend – it’s at a nearly toxic 56 percent – a core group of Republican voters thinks he has the best chance of scoring a below-the-belt knockout blow against President Barack Obama in the November election.