How could such an inversion take place? The Personages might be working for a world-girding conspiracy run by the Mossad, I don’t know, but there’s a simpler explanation, too. Buckley was right, but in the wrong way; and Vidal was wrong, but in the right way. From the 1950s, before Ike had even left the White House, Vidal was announcing that the right-wingers had seized the Republican party from the sensible members of a generation before; a generation later, the right-wingers had seized the party from the sensible members of a generation before; and so on, for half a century. In his world “the generals” were always two ticks away from declaring war and imposing martial law; the theocracy would be arranged before the decade was out; he saw the dying embers of capitalism; and the dark curtain of fascism was falling even as you were reading his words.

Try keeping that up for 50 years! No wonder he was a hero to the Personages. For them too every day is Groundhog Day, bringing fresh news from the day before about what won’t happen tomorrow. His career must stand as a great reassurance. If you’re wrong in the right way, all will be forgiven, until everyone forgets that there was ever anything to forgive.