So cool it’s uncool

Michael Gerson, protege of the great David Brooks, visits a coffee shop near his home in Northern Virginia. He sees pictures of radicals, makes some remarks about how they were Stalinists, or something, and draws the conclusion that the left suffers from radical chic. Not only that, but the right is so cool its uncool: it’ll never be popular man. That’s right, you’d never be cool enough to wear a Reagan shirt.

But only late in the piece does he notice the obvious:

>Some on the left are suspicious of this trend, which social critic Thomas Frank calls “commercialized dissent.” “It is,” he told me, “symbolic of the eternal revolution of the market” and its “constant search for the new.” “The ideology expressed is generally not liberalism; it is the ideology of the market, libertarianism.” Political trendiness of the Body Shop and Whole Foods variety, in short, has little serious emphasis on economic or social justice.

A t-shirt with Che Guevera is not the same as membership in the Democrat(ic) party or the affirmation of its non-work camp or internment policies. No matter, the right has branding problems of it’s own:

>But there also should be concerns on the right. On its current track, the emotional branding of the Republican Party among the young will soon be similar to Metamucil. The party’s emphasis on spending restraint and limited government may be substantively important, but these themes are hardly morally inspiring. And the Iraq war is a serious drawback among younger voters — except, of course, among those 20-somethings with buzz cuts who actually fight the war. Appealing to cause-oriented consumers will require addressing issues such as global poverty and disease, global warming, and economic and racial justice. This reality of the market is also a reality of American politics.

“Spending restraint and limited government” is about as true as saying the democrats are the party of “big government.” But the weirder thing is the claim that those fighting the Iraq war do not find it a drawback, as if they (and not the belligerent scribes at NRO and elsewhere) were the real cheerleaders for the cause of being in Iraq (and later Iran and Syria).