Smashing the Overton Window

I had a dream.

Sohrab Amari and Caitlin Johnstone were stripped down to skimpy little outfits and they were fighting like hell to shift the Overton Window, she left, he right. Finally, exhausted, they collapsed against the wall and it fell over, Overton Window and all.

When I woke up, and after my morning ablutions, I went down to the county jail to see if my friend Joe could tell me what it meant.

“Sure,” he said. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Amari and Johnstone are both illiberal, albeit in different ways. Amari is furious that conservative fusionism not only didn’t get the cultural conservatives what they wanted (he says “we,” but he’s late to the game at least as a Christian conservative), but they’ve lost the culture, too. He has declared all-out war to immanentize the eschaton, a damnfool utopian delusion, not least because, well, his side has lost the culture.”

“Johnstone is an über-progressive atheist or agnostic, but that doesn’t mean she’s without her ideals. Her ideal is perfect social justice, a damnfool utopian delusion, too, and she villifies anyone like, say, Nancy Pelosi who doesn’t think that’s quite exactly politically realistic, since there’s a slightly more conservative party that has a different idea of what politics should do. Further, the conscience-smitten cowards (that’s how Johnstone views realists) think that bravado of Johnstone’s sort, and that of The Squad, just might blow the election prospects for the side that is at least moving toward Johnstone’s perfection.”

“Everyone seems to assume that the Overton Window is what it is and is as big as it has always been and always will be. But knocking down the wall is the ultimate enlargement of the Overton Window, so instead of enjoying a modest window that favors your side, you get no window, just the wild, wild, polarized West, ranging from Stormfront on the Right to Antifa or worse on the Left.”

“But Joe,” I ask. “What’s wrong with seeking to immanentize the eschaton or to achieve metaphysically perfect social justice?”

“Have you ever heard the expression that ‘politics is the art of the possible’? It can be a bitter pill to swallow that the eschaton and perfect justice aren’t possible, but that’s the way it is. You can make yourself crazy acting otherwise.”

“Yeah, I’ve been feeling a bit deranged sometimes.”

“I know that feeling,” Joe sighed, “but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it in here. Sometimes, it’s not just the political perversity of your adversary, either. Sometimes, it’s the ineradicable passions of your fellow-humans — and you, too, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“F’rinstance, by all means punish the Harvey Weinsteins and Jeffrey Epsteins (if you can), but don’t kid yourself that you’ll ever put an end to sexual predation, and don’t allow the government to destroy everything else in pursuit of that impossible dream.”

“Thinking you can stop scary changes, not just manage and ameliorate them, is another instance. That was my big delusion.”

“Are you getting this?”

“I hope so, Joe. I get it at the moment, and it does seem kind of obvious, actually. And I don’t like this polarization. I think my project will be rebuilding the Overton Window just big enough to fit center-left to center-right. (Or maybe I’ll just give to GoFundMe for that.)”

“I’m not sure that’s possible, pal. But if you think so after sleeping on it a couple of nights, good luck. Or better luck than I had anyway.”

“Yeah. joe. I read your manifesto. See you next Visitor’s Day.”

* * * * *

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