It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality and they struggled - often looking ridiculous in the process - to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white southern evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.
Now, the conventional wisdom sees Republicans becoming merely a Southern regional party (And you're welcome to it, bitchez! - G). Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now, religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens of the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.
Only a few months ago, it was widely thought (and not just by Republican consultants) that accusing opponents of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq would be enough to cast political enemies into an unpatriotic netherworld of wimps and "defeatocrats."
Now, the burden of proof is on those who claim that fighting in Iraq was a good idea and that the situation can be turned around. The call for a "surge" of additional troops is greeted with skepticism because Americans have been told too often that this or that new approach would transform the situation in "three to six months."
The Iraq Study Group's grim description of what's going on is the accepted definition of reality. Polls show majorities embracing the report not, I suspect, because most Americans are conversant with its every detail. Rather, they see its take as closer to the truth than the president's accounts over the last three years, and because it appears to point toward disengagement.
How durable are these changes? In both politics and culture, the side that thinks it's losing usually accommodates itself to the ascendant order. My hunch is that we will be seeing many new claims to moderation and social concern on the right, and many fewer fake NASCAR fans on the left.
Speaking as a real NASCAR fan of 20 years, NASCAR has lost a lot of its appeal to me, because it "accommodated to the ascendant order" its own damn self by pandering to a wider stick-and-ball TV audience. NASCAR is bigger than it's ever been, but it's just about lost me. It started as a Southern regional sport but it actually has nothing to do with politics other than by inference and stereotyping, like fried chicken and watermelon.
I hope Mr. Dionne's right.