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Perspective

August 8, 2014

American political debate tends to take place in an ideological frame: What is someone’s underlying political philosophy? What policies do they hold because of that? Which assumes that how one thinks about politics should lead to the same stances regardless of the actual culture, problems, parties, and recent history in which today’s politics is done. So it’s interesting that once and maybe future conservatives Thomas Ricks and Andrew Sullivan reference the political landscape to explain why their politics is moving left. Neither man has experienced any great ideological shift. What they have experienced is the foreign policy catastrophe of the Bush years, and the radicalism of the Tea Party. Neither of which are conservative, in past senses of that term. There is — or should be — more to politics than ideology.

That partly explains why the American right today has to play games with American history to create a backstory that makes sense to them, e.g., how to fit economic data to their economic notions or how to see the Iraq war as somehow appropriate. For some, this backstory runs deeper. Part of the Tea Party’s mythology is that they are following in the footsteps of America’s founders. I recently had an interesting discussion with a conservative who thought other nations viewed Obama and America’s recent history much as he does. Of course, mostly they don’t. There are tricks to maintaining mythology. Discount the views of those distant. Get your news from Fox and Breitbart. And don’t look for data.

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