The current group of conservative public figures in the United States wants to return to an age when certain middle-class values were ascendant, without acknowledging that many of those values were realized because President Franklin Roosevelt implemented progressive social policies and trade unions had real power. They maligned Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for his avowed socialist platform during the 2016 presidential campaign, but much of that platform constituted the status quo in the 1950s. Later, Ronald Reagan dismantled the government structures that made the era prosperous.

There's a similar nostalgia at work in today's Japanese general election. On the one hand, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to rewrite the Constitution in a bid to re-create the "beautiful Japan" he thinks existed before the country lost World War II, without recognizing that some of the qualities he admires led Japan to destruction.

On the other side of the ideological divide, some left-leaning politicians have feelings for the immediate postwar era, when the hard-won freedom of conscience was considered a precious right. And then there's Yukio Edano, the former Democratic Party Secretary-General who just formed the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan as a tribute to relatively iconoclastic leaders who held sway in the early 1990s, like Takako Doi, when the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — which had held power continually since its creation in 1955 — was losing its relevancy.