What we have not seen much of, except on the fringes of American politics, are redemptive reactionaries who think the only way forward is to destroy what history has given us and wait for a new order to emerge out of the chaos. At least until now.... Yglesias links to a critique* of Lilla's review, and himself poses a test question: if Lilla is right and Robin wrong, then why is low taxes for the super-rich the cornerstone of the GOP platform? (My metaphor, not Y's: do platforms *have* cornerstones?)
The real news on the American right is the mainstreaming of political apocalypticism. This has been brewing among intellectuals since the Nineties, but in the past four years, thanks to the right-wing media establishment and economic collapse, it has reached a wider public and transformed the Republican Party. How that happened would be a long story to tell, and central to it would be the remarkable transmutation of neoconservatism from intellectual movement to rabble-rousing Republican court ideology.
And the story here seems to be very much in line with Robin's framework. High income individuals have never been excited about progressive income taxation, and over the past few decades they've mobilized politically against it. At the same time, income inequality has grown and over the past 10-15 years it's grown very specifically with a concentration in the hands of a very small number of people. Naturally, in a political democracy if "the one percent" end up with a larger and larger share of national resources you're going to see a coalition mobilize to try to take those resources for various purposes. The richer the one percent get, the more attractive they become as a target and the more they counter-mobilize on behalf of their own interests. And conservatives in American politics today are largely united by a decision to embrace the one percent's side of the argument.A blog debate between Lilla and Robin would be useful.
(Also, if I'm not mistaken, Slate pays someone to proofread Yglesias's blog posts. Good idea.)
... Sheri Berman also regrets Robin's book, and points out something so obvious that we forget to notice it:
The questions Robin and his ideological confreres should really be asking themselves is why the contemporary left has been so bad at this, particularly in contrast to the contemporary right. Why, in an era of extreme unemployment, rising inequality and social dislocation, is it the right rather than the left that generated a movement like the Tea Party? Why are mass protests railing against tax increases rather than demanding more progressive and activist government?Indeed. The ability of the GOP to mobilize voters *against* their economic interests is masterful.
(I don't think Occupy Wall Street etc. are really counterexamples; how many OWS candidates are there for public office? Sixties-style "protests" play into the opposition's hands, is my fear.)
* Call me a sissy, but I would refuse to subscribe to a magazine that uses a guillotine victim as its promo art, even if it is called Jacobin. That's just despicable.