Frank Rich's Selective Nostalgianomics for Disneyland


Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Frank Rich published a textbook example of the late-breaking lefty nostalgia for the 1950s that was so artfully diagnosed by Reason Contributing Editor Brink Lindsey in his classic 2009 piece "Nostalgianomics." The hook was a documentary about a 1956 family pumped up about going to Disneyland, the lament is that "economic equality seemed within reach in 1956, at least for the vast middle class," and the loss is of "America's faith in its own unbounded future." The Rich kicker:

America can't move forward until we once again believe, as they did, that everyone can enter Frontierland if they try hard enough, and that no one will be denied a dream because a private party has rented out Tomorrowland.

It really wasn't that long ago when public displays of affection for the 1950s were routinely greeted with fury by liberal Baby Boomers. Including, as the Washington Examiner's Byron York unearthed yesterday, Frank Rich in 1995. Here's Rich then on Newt Gingrich's '50sphilia:

May we go back to 1955 for a moment? Mr. Gingrich, who prides himself on knowing history, might profit from checking out modern scholarship on the 50's. He would then learn—if he doesn't in fact remember—that the halcyon pre-counterculture era of the Eisenhower Presidency was not all "Father Knows Best" and sunny Norman Rockwell family tableaux for The Saturday Evening Post. […]

The truth about the 50's is that all the post-World War II fissures in American life were present and simply papered over—with the aid of racial segregation, the denial of equal social and economic status to women, the repression of homosexuals and the refusal to recognize crimes like wife battering and child abuse. It was inevitable that this phony nirvana would crack at the seams, as it did in the 60's. […]

If America were such a picture-postcard of familial bliss in 1955, there would have been no reason to create Disneyland, which also opened that year—with one of its chief attractions being an idyllic all-American (and all-white) Main Street that could no longer be found beyond its gates.

Like Boomer-lefty pining for the days when all good Democrats believed in the "efficacy of government," nostalgianomics requires forgetting not just what happened in America, but how the lamenters themselves reacted to it at the time. Pretty odd, that.

Seriously: Go read Nostalgianomics again.