If you got to see Bob Dylan last month at Thompson’s Point, you probably noticed that “Forever Young” is just a song.

Dylan is 75, and he sounds it. His connection to history is reinforced by his current set list, which features spooky renditions of World War II-era romantic ballads like “I’m a Fool to Want You” and “The Night We Called it a Day.”

But with the sun setting across the Fore River, the songs of wistful longing and the raspy voice all seemed to work, judging by the aging army of Dylan fans, who felt inspired to shake their booties one more time, as the evening came on.

At one point my wife asked me, “If this wasn’t Bob Dylan, would we like it?” But that’s not the point. It is Bob Dylan.

Hearing him bark out “Tangled Up in Blue,” a song I first encountered coming through the wall of my sister’s bedroom more than 40 years ago, connects me to the person I used to be. It’s called nostalgia.

It’s a powerful force, which is why it should be no surprise that it dominates our politics, from both the right and the left.

It’s most obvious in Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” refering to a time before manufacturing jobs moved overseas, when America was the world’s dominant military and economic power and people were unified by a strong national spirit – or the decades after World War II, when the 70-year-old Trump was growing up.

But this longing for the past is just as strong in Democrat Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric, and she even seems to be dreaming about the same same historical period, but for different reasons.

Clinton and other liberals (like me) miss the shared prosperity of the post-war era, the strong middle class and the chance for people to rise out of poverty and go as far as their talents would take them. They (we) also miss the bipartisan politics of the time, when, regardless who controlled the White House or the Congress, there was a general agreement on what the problems were and how to solve them. You could pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and Medicare in 1965, but you could never get them through Congress today, even though most Americans think they are great.

A critique of our nostalgia politics is the major theme of a new book by conservative editor Yuval Levin, “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism,” which makes a strong case that both parties’ desire for a return to the past prevents them from dealing with the problems that exist right now.

Levin argues that the mid 20th century was a historical anomaly, caused by circumstances that would be impossbile to recreate – like getting all of our economic competitors to bomb each other’s factories as they did in World War II.

And it was a golden age only in memory. The “we’re all in this together spirit” that conservatives miss was a legacy of fighting a war and the Great Depression, and came with 90 percent tax brackets and heavy industrial regulation.

The strong government control of the economy and bipartisan consensus that liberals miss came with stifling conformity. The ’50s weren’t so nifty if you were a woman, or black or gay. The consensus unraveled about the same time as people demanded equal treatment despite their differences, and who would want to retreat on that?

Liberals like to make fun of Trump and his followers for wanting to turn back the clock, but what would a forward-thinking liberal policy look like? We haven’t seen one in a while.

So far, Clinton’s proposals are greatest hits, like taxing the rich to invest in public infrastructure, and providing protections for workers at the bottom of the economy, with higher minimum wages and paid leave.

That’s good, but what should we do about an economy where busineses prosper without creating jobs? “What’s good for General Motors is good for America” might have been true when Eisenhower was president, but it’s not true for Apple or Google, who rake in huge profits with domestic workforce one-tenth the size of GM’s at its peak.

Nostalgia is a nice way to pass a summer evening, but it won’t tell us how to solve problems created by 21st-century pressures. Recognizing that would be a good place to start a conversation about what might work now.

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