Last week, former George W. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd offered up an archetypal example of what Harvard literature scholar Philip Fisher terms “nightmare envy,” calling for the U.S. to face an Arab Spring-style uprising against economic inequality–or, as he called it, “our own version of apartheid here.” He laments that Americans are not worthy of the same revolutionary spirit, perhaps because we “are preoccupied with video games.”
Dowd, who spent Sunday morning echoing Michael Eric Dyson’s complaints about inequality, has fallen for one of American liberalism’s most enduring fantasies–the celebration of what novelist Norman Rush called the “moment of insurrection,” the fallacy that revolutionary zeal represents real change. In service of that moment of “forceful” yet “non-violent” change, Dowd hopes Americans will rise up outside the democratic process.
That sort of hopeless romanticism is what animated the mainstream media’s interest in the Occupy movement. It is quite common among liberal commentators, yet rather jarring coming from a self-styled conservative. Of course there has been a populist uprising already in the U.S.: namely, the Tea Party, which resisted the unequal “justice” of President Barack Obama’s redistributionist agenda. Somehow, Dowd seemed not to have noticed.