New Vs. Old Guard

Jon Stewart can pretend all he wants that the point of his big rally Saturday was just for chuckles, or just to encourage a more reasonable, substantive and civil tone in American politics. The reality is that his own audience on the Mall had an additional agenda, and it was decidedly partisan and decidedly liberal. … It’s self-defeating and even delusional to think progressive policies are going to be achieved just by agitating nobly for a more positive style in politics. (more)

So why is the U.S. left suddenly so eager to emphasize its civility and maturity compared with the right?

In both primitive tribes and modern board rooms, incumbents play out a standard script when arguing with upstarts. When a new guard bids for more influence relative to an old, the new suggests the old is weak, corrupt, out of touch, and past their prime, while the old suggests the new is immature, inexperienced, unrealistic, and untried. The old guard tries to sound calm and reasonable and suggest things are ok, there’s no need for disruptive change, or perhaps that we can’t afford to change captains midstream in a crisis. The new guard will suggest a crisis, with problems getting worse until we change tact, or perhaps that only new leadership can take full advantage of new opportunities.

We are so habituated to expect these patterns that we use these arguments, and are persuaded by them, even when they are unlikely to apply. For example, in a modern two party political system, the party out of power is probably nearly as corrupt and mature as the party in power. Nevertheless, the out party will complain of corruption, while the in complains of immaturity.  The circle of autopilot-thought life continues.

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