A couple of passages--the first, from Greg Sargent, I read just moments ago; the second I read a few months ago in Don DeLillo's sprawling, engrossing 1997 novel, Underworld--remind us of our strangely human and seemingly enduring need for enemies. Sargent:
The preoccupation with the "silliness" of the "platinum coin" is striking when viewed alongside the business-as-usual acceptance of the Republicans' willingness to threaten to destroy the country’s economy to create an entirely fake crisis.
Power meant something thirty, forty years ago. It was stable, it was focused, it was a tangible thing. It was greatness, danger, terror, all those things. And it held us together, the Soviets and us. Maybe it held the world together. You could measure things. You could measure hope and you could measure destruction.
What Sargent observes is of course fleetingly insignificant when compared to the multidecade enormity of possible nuclear annihilation. But while comparatively insignificant, it also perspectivizes (please pardon my "ization" of a perfectly good noun): Where would the left be today without the right's wholesale madness? The left is defined by the right; it's arch idealism is defensive--Save the New Deal and Great Society!--while its political offensives are guided hither and yon, which is to say unguided, mostly by the latest pseudoconservative antics. Take those madcap nihilists away, and the left would feel as emotionally abandoned as Bogart in Paris.
Probably more than coincidentally, the institutional right as a domestic Bedlam began its collective drift toward unrestrained humbug shortly after the Soviet's collapse. Prior to that inevitability, both liberal interventionists and Republican realists could wile away each day in mutual dread of the Soviet Bear, their elaborate fear of which provided some sense of cooperation and comity. China's currency-manipulating wickedness has been an exceptionally poor substitute.
What are we left with? Debating the "silliness" of a trillion-dollar platinum coin and the vulgarity of an "entirely fake crisis"--which is what the Soviet Bear's always immiment world domination was, but it was also "greatness, danger, terror, all those things. And it held us together."