America’s Partisan Dystopias

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As Adam notes below, Steve Law, the head of American Crossroads–the political action committee preparing to blast Barack Obama with tens of millions in attack ads this year–warns that the Obama campaign is peddling a “dystopian vision” of the future, namely that ordinary Americans should feel “the rules of the game are stacked against you” by an “economic plutocracy.”

Methinks Law is defining down the meaning of a dystopia. To be literal about it, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a dystopia as “An imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible.” That probably overstates its common usage, which is to describe a warped, 1984 or Brave New World type of society where reason as we know it has been perverted.

What does not seem aptly called dystopian is the idea that middle-class Americans get the short end of the stick in a country where the wealthy have overwhelming power and influence, and that their financial and job security has rapidly shrunk while the rich have gotten richer. You can argue about how much of this is some kind of rigged deck, as opposed to the harsh vagaries of a capitalist system. But you hardly need to be Terry Gilliam to dream it up. This happens to be one of the recurring themes of modern industrial society.

Compare that, meanwhile, to the common conservative vision of life under a second Obama term: A pseudo-socialist, semi-authoritarian government that euthanizes expensive-to-care-for grannies while force-feeding its citizens broccoli to go with with their freedom crushing health care, all of it sanctioned by Sharia-observing activist judges.

I know I’m making too much of Law’s rhetorical flourish. But in case he does want to start a real debate about an American dystopia, Obama’s warning against the right’s “Social Darwinism” would be a more promising, and valid, starting point than the idea that the game is rigged in rich people’s favor.