Dionne's central frame -- that we Americans have been struggling with the twin Angels of individuality and community since before our founding -- is not only accurate but is also the font of our unique strength. We have a profound history of moving the pendulum back and forth over the central balance between these two natures, perhaps most concretely in the Hamilton/Jefferson (commercial/agrarian) tug-o-war early in our history. The historical antecedent to the current Tea Party period is not, as they would enshrine, our revolutionary period but rather the 30 year aberration of high-individualism and robber-barons know as the Guilded Age that ended in the early 1900's during the presidency of Republican Teddy Roosevelt.
Dionne says all the right things, but in such a pedantic and erudite-to-the-point-of-obfuscation manner that the reader is left either to assume that no winning idea would be this obtuse or that community could never match the red meat entertainment of conservatism: "get your governmental hands off my medicare!"
But lest we leave this review with a sense of dread, I'd like to quote the non-Dionne of his time, H. L. Mencken, who observed the balance-seeking nature of the american electorate when they abandoned the Democrats of Wilson to embrace the Republicans of Warren G. Harding in 1920: "tired of the intellectual charlatanry, the electorate turns to honest imbecility."
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