Political change: unidirectional?
Christopher Hitchens made some interesting statements in this interview (via Seekerblog).
Here's Hitchens describing an experience he had while in Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War, at a time when he positively hated George Bush Sr.:
I was bouncing around in a jeep with some Kurdish guerillas at that point. And on my side of the windshield, there was a big laminated picture of George H. W. Bush. And I said to them, "Look, comrades, do you have to do this? For one thing, I can't see out of my side of the windshield. But for another, I know quite a few reporters in this area and might run into one of them at any moment. And I don't want them seeing me in a jeep that has this guy's image on it. So do you have to?" And they said, quite soberly and solemnly to me, "No, we think we should have this picture because we think, without him, we would all be dead, and all our families would be dead, too." And from what I'd seen by then in that region, I thought, that's basically morally true. I don't have a reply to that. I don't have a glib one and I don't have a sound one. It's true. So at that point my criticism of the war became this: that it had not been a regime-change war, that the slogans of liberty and justice that had been used to mobilize it had not been honored. But if they had been, I would have been in favor of it. It's a narrow but deep crevasse to cross, and once you've crossed it, I'll tell you this, you can't go back over it again. You can't find yourself on the other side of it. Some of you may be in transition across this crevasse yourselves or be thinking about it. I warn you: don't cross over if you have any intention of going back, because you can't.
He is speaking of a specific position regarding the justification for the Gulf War, but I think he is also speaking generally of political change and political changers.
It does appear, for the most part, to be a one-way street (except for Churchill, who famously said "Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat"). It's certainly not a path that's commonly traversed--one of the major topics of my "change" series is how difficult the negotiation over that crevasse can be. But, once crossed, that path seems ordinarily to go in one direction only (hint: it's the same way we read, left to right).
Why is this? Those on the right would say it's because the position of the right is more grounded in facts, logic, and experience, and that of the left on hopes and dreams and wishes. The former tend to be the province of maturity, the latter of youth. The former can overrule the latter more easily than vice versa.
It's an oversimplification, no doubt, but I think it has a certain validity nevertheless.