At Salon, Paul Rosenberg has issued a defense of Rick Perlstein. The author, most recently, of The Invisible Bridge (a history of the Watergate era that concentrates on Reagan's run for the 1976 GOP presidential nomination), Perlstein has been attacked by conservatives and mainstream academic historians alike. (I previously wrote about some of that criticism here.) Rosenberg locates the source of much of the animosity for his work where Perlstein himself has: in the resistance among political centrists to the idea that the right has not been a constructive, reasonable force in postwar American politics. Among these critics, Rosenberg writes,
the constant ideological straining to assert the existence of a sensible right produces distorted readings of [Perlstein's] work, with mundane sorts of careless misreading as one of its tale-tell consequences. Of course, it’s one of centrism’s primary conceits that only those to its left or right are tainted by ideology, but just how the center escapes from the world of politics...never gets explained. Instead, we get repeated displays of ideologically-loaded assumptions—it’s just that the ideology involved is a centrist one.
Rosenberg's assessment of Perlstein's project is thoughtful, and his attack on the political ideology of centrism is well-placed, welcome and timely. It's worth a read.