Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy Meme

Last week I asked you about the 1960s. There are a few easy ways of generating a whole lot of comments on a blog post.  One of them is to analyze a netroots-friendly Presidential candidate.  Another way is to talk about the netroots itself.  And another way is to bring up a piece of liberal history from 1960 onward.  I believe the reason we want to talk about our history so fervently is because there is a hunger that we have to understand the roots of modern politics and the name-calling directed our way.  A lot of the arguments I hear in elite discourse seems to presuppose that liberals, especially those on the internet, live on hippy communes and disdain the establishment in some revolutionary spirit, as opposed to being mainstream professionals who are seeking relatively tame political reform in the face of an extremist right-wing.  Even though we are who we are, the elites seem to think of us as part of one of several political factions from the 1960s.

Speaking personally as the child of two very non-radical apolitical middle class professionals (both of whom grew up in the 1960s), it's been quite frustrating to essentially be called a dirty hippy for opposing the way that power lies and insults us.  Chris has documented the way that new progressives are called emotional children with no credibility by mainstream pundits and old leftie types alike.  This is a result of many forces, and one of them is ignorance.  They don't know who we are and they don't know how we can possibly differ ideologically from the 1968 convention protesters.  And while there are those among us who know and have been through those fights, until recently I wasn't really aware of the 1960s experience except through the hollow and annoying shell of the single-issue groups and a legacy of a shattered and self-hating collection of frightened liberal politicians.  

So let me humbly try to sketch out a few differences between who we are and the 1960s left, and then seek feedback once again.  

The first difference is the energy animating our origins.  While we are products of an insane right-wing that impeached Clinton, stole the 2000 election, and took us to war in Iraq, the 1960s left was the product of a tired set of liberal elites that had failed to deliver on a full set of promises towards social justice.  While we saw Iraq and an out of control set of religious conservatives in our formative political experiences, the 1960s generation grew up with the New Deal rhetoric and suburbia clashing deeply with the reality of racial segregation and a McCarthyite political culture clashing with a new hypersexualized youth culture.  In other words, while we are a reaction to insane conservative elites, the 1960s left was a reaction to liberal elites that couldn't deliver.

While there were commonalities, it's almost impossible to consider what they did as similar in any way to what we're trying to do.  The crucible of the New Left, before Vietnam, was the civil rights struggle and the McCarthy era anti-Communist crusade.  For 1960s era youth, loyalty oaths and crushed career paths based on radical politics were a very real source of fear.  Free speech on college campuses was not taken as a given, and genuine racial equality as a moral good was still a radical idea.

The white part of the New Left was a youth movement, essentially liberal college students who had grown up in suburbia and accepted a more liberated culture as the norm.  The youth component of their movement was critical - black-infused rock music and cultural modernism was a real and stark dividing line that couldn't really be overcome between generations.  Their left-wing elders were split between Communists and Communist-sympathizers who had been driven underground, and liberal internationalists who had accepted a sort of managerial liberalism that took as its defining axiom a rabid anticommunism.  The right was a joke and nonplayer in their formative years - 1960s leftists was birthed in many ways with the Democratic Party and old labor as a reactionary enemy.  Because of its initial struggle, the movement was necessarily racially integrated and was built completely outside of both parties.  White liberals were a distinct part of the movement, but the movement was multiracial.

While the 1960s left came out of an era where liberals held substantial power, we have been birthed in a time when those in control are mostly insane theocratic right-wingers and a press that slavishly worships power and celebrity.  I'm dating our movement from 1998, the Clinton impeachment, and see us moving through a series of shocks, including the recount, 9/11, and Iraq.  There are so many differences it's hard to know where to start.  First of all, we're not a youth movement, but a group of accomplished professionals who operate in the cultural mainstream and seek political reform.  Our opponent isn't labor or Democrats, but Republican and right-wing extremists, and as such, strategically the Democratic Party isn't an obstacle for us but an effective vessel for political reform.  Unlike the 1960s left, this movement is not about experience or cultural transformation, it's about politics and institutional reform.  The internet left is also as of yet still mostly white; while 1960s liberal youth were pulled into the extant civil rights struggle by the NAACP and Martin Luther King's associated groups, there is no analogue for us.  We're angry about Iraq, corruption, elitism, and cronyism, but race is a subtext not a major source of motivation.  We aren't a multiracial movement yet, and we don't put our bodies on the line in the form of mass protests.  There's just no point in doing so, since that doesn't serve to stop reactionary forces from doing whatever they want.  

Now, there certainly are latent movements that exist in parallel, such as the immigrant rights movement, but there's very little direct interaction between the immigrant rights community and us.  I expect this to change as the forces that have created us are quite massive and are empowering reformers in other communities - it's only a matter of time before we form alliances.  But race came first in the 1960s, then came the stupid war.  The opposite is true for us.

There are a lot of other differences.  The 1960s saw a series of assassinations and deaths of important cultural and political figures, from JFK to MLK to Janis Joplin.  These only served to highlight the impatience and urgency of the 1960s youthful leadership, who already existed in a kind of pressure cooker because of the specter of the draft and various evil institutions (like Hoover's FBI).  We face no such pressure, and our movement's organizational principles in some ways eschew charismatic leadership as a guiding principle (consider Wikipedia versus the Yippies).  The deaths, the turbulence, the draft, the race riots - all of this served to create an atmosphere of faux revolution and instability, which cut against the idea of building long-term institutional fabric to build progressive power.  By contrast, we're constantly talking about the need to build liberal infrastructure to rival what the New Right built in the form of their think tanks and party machinery.

There's a lot more, obviously, and I still don't have a totally clear organizational framework.  I will say that the most obvious and probably most important difference is that the 1960s white left was a political and cultural reaction to top-down liberalism, whereas we are most directly a reaction to right-wing extremism.

Anyway, I would LOVE your thoughts.  Does any of this even start to make sense?

Tags: 1960s, netroots, New Left, progressive movement (all tags)




you've covered the major points well enough. two things i'd add that are intertwined: economic insecurity and health care. in the 60s, if you went to college, you were pretty sure you'd have a stable career for the rest of your life after that. you also didn't worry about losing your house if you got sick. i know that sounds a little simple, but contrast that with educated white collar types with the inclination to be active politically- perhaps for the first time in several generations, there is a clear common concern between the middle class and poor. this is both good and bad for activism and the progressive movement. many of us cannot be as active as we'd like, because if we get off the treadmill or rock the boat even for a moment, we risk losing our spot in the middle class world. it is also motivating- those of us who have been kicked out of the comfy club are pretty pissed about it, having worked hard for a good life and been promised it, but now found that dream to be a lie.

by chicago dyke 2006-12-28 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: nice

I found Stoller's post fascinating, and wouldn't have thought to add this, but I think you're so right on, chicago dyke.

Economic insecurity to the current progressive movement is water to fish: those of us who are younger (younger-ish?) can't even really imagine, I don't think, a secure middle class.

I think Kevin Drum wrote (months ago, and I can't find the link) that two-income families now (and that's virtually all of us, of course: I, at least, can't really conceive of any other way) make about five percent more than a single-income family did (in the early 60s?) in inflation-adjusted terms. That is such a tremendous pressure shaping everything about our current political reality, but really I don't know what to say about it other than: there it is.

'Scraping by' is a given, now--even for the white middle-class, and largely for the upper-middle-class, too, depending on how you define it. I imagine that this pervasive sense of economic desperation does more than simply motivate us, too: probably explains the press's celebrity worship, more than a little. Anything to escape.

And I didn't even talk about healthcare, which you wisely also mention. The only people I know with good healthcare are my 'Greatest Generation' parents. I'm self-employed, and my family has a $10,000 deductible. And I'm doing great, with all the good luck and undeserved privileges anyone could hope for.

Um, all of which is to say: good points.

by BingoL 2006-12-28 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: nice

i think there's a lot more to what you've said, BingoL, that goes to the heart of the movement's viability.  specifically, society is shaped such that people of conscience normally don't have TIME for political activism because educated elites need to work considerably more hours than they used to to make the same money.  the default for most educated liberals seems to be going to law school, since doing anything else risks not maintaining the socioeconomic status of our parents.  ironically, this takes all of those educated liberals largely out of the game.  they go to law firms and end up being donors, but not activists.

that's but one example.  generally speaking, the thing that keeps powerful people in power is distraction.  bread and circus.  people often simply don't know how badly they're being screwed because there's too much other, seemingly more pressing shit to take care of.  chomsky talks a lot about this in 'understanding power'.  

one of the amazing things about the internet is that it's allowed people who have no time to agitate to participate meaningfully.  but i fear there are limits and that without the sustained opposition of the rightwing, the air could be let out of it.  the vitality of the movement is shocking as it is, but i suppose that's explained by the fact that the things motivating us, our economic situations, act as catalyst and impediment at once.  for now, it's more catalyst, and we can only hope it stays that way.  but there's no guarantee at all.

so that was a bit rambling.  but the point i want to make generally is that a mundane factor like disposable time makes a huge difference in whether or not a political movement can succeed.  it's why college kids protest and professionals tend not to...the former have time to focus on this stuff.  thankfully the internet has stepped in to mitigate this factor, but again, i worry about its limits.

by beyondo98 2006-12-28 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: nice

That's a really important point, thanks.

by Matt Stoller 2006-12-28 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: nice

and matt- you should email me, neighbor. anheduanna AT yahoo DOT com. let's do lunch ;-)

by chicago dyke 2006-12-28 09:57AM | 0 recs

"educated white collar types today" that is.

by chicago dyke 2006-12-28 09:14AM | 0 recs
Make Sense? Y and N

"...insane right-wing that impeached Clinton, stole the 2000 election, and took us to war in Iraq, the 1960s left was the product of a tired set of liberal elites that had failed to deliver on a full set of promises towards social justice.  While we saw Iraq and an out of control set of religious conservatives in our formative political experiences, the 1960s generation grew up with the New Deal rhetoric and suburbia clashing deeply with the reality of racial segregation and a McCarthyite political culture clashing with a new hypersexualized youth culture.  In other words, while we are a reaction to insane conservative elites, the 1960s left was a reaction to liberal elites that couldn't deliver..."

The insane rightwing that impeached President Clinton and stole the 2000 election is the progeny of the McCarthyite political culture as much as your generation is the progeny of the 60's new left. Its the same war, different battles; progressives versus reactionaries.

If nothing else the Jerry Ford retrospective should make this clear.

by molly bloom 2006-12-28 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Make Sense? Y and N

Not quite.  We're not a generation, per se.

by Matt Stoller 2006-12-28 09:29AM | 0 recs
We never were.

It's progressives versus reactionaries, same as it ever was.  

It crossed generations then, and it does now.  Then we had teenagers, young adults, people in their 30s, people in their 60s.  As we do today.

by Avedon 2006-12-28 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Make Sense? Y and N

Clinton makes this same point in his autobiography.  And not to mention it on every comment on these topics, but it's all in David Halberstam's "The Fifties"

by brooklynmfs 2006-12-28 05:01PM | 0 recs
Be a little more careful

. . . with your sweeping generalizations, Matt.

I appreciate any attempt to make sense of recent history, but some of your summary is leading you in wrong directions.

For one thing, you're sliding around in time.  Sometimes you're arguing that "the '60s generation" was shaped decisively by growing up in the 1950s, when they didn't have any influence on what was going on.  Other times, you're arguing that this supposed generation was shaped decisively by the upheaval and movements of the 1960s, which that generation helped to bring about.

For another, you're giving in to stereotypes about the 1950s.  It was a more progressive period than you think, and those supposed "tired set of liberal elites that had failed to deliver on a full set of promises towards social justice" delivered a lot more than you let on.

Sure, McCarthy, etc.  But also, the highest level of private sector unionization in history (thanks, FDR and HST) and some of the fastest and most widely-shared economic growth in history (thanks, liberal and conservative New Deal Dems), and the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

The problem of the old 1950s and 1960s liberals was not that they didn't deliver.  It was that they raised the expectations of their youngers and got all huffy when the kids asked for more.  

(And check out the latest Guttmacher Inst report before you buy the rumor that the Greatest Generation were all freaked out by the sexual revolution.  We Boomers did not invent extramarital sex any more than we invented homosexuality...)

Keep at it, tho.  It's worth thrashing through.  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and all that.

by DFLer 2006-12-28 09:34AM | 0 recs
Theory of Rising Expectations

"The problem of the old 1950s and 1960s liberals was not that they didn't deliver.  It was that they raised the expectations of their youngers and got all huffy when the kids asked for more." It is a theory applied to the French Revolution from the  first calling of the Estates General which eventually had to lead to Robespierre. The inability or the unwillingness of the elites to fulfill these expectations leads to revolution.

I agree that we started out thinking that we were only making a more perfect society...That we initially saw the left as a way to fulfill the promises of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.

But what matters here is chronology. And it gets tricky in terms of when what happened.  The anger at LBJ had everything to do with the war and not his vast domestic achievements...(which has taken me a long time to come to full appreciation for) The war mobilized people ... esp. as the draft heated up but one factor you have't mentioned is how the left responded to other liberation movements in other parts of the world from Vietnam to Cuba and what impact these liberation ideas and movements had on the American left. I myself wound up in Chile during the election of Allende.

It gets hard to unravel, though it may just be my mushed up sense of events, but the anger came not so much at the liberal elites during the presidiency of LBJ, but as it wound down, and the failure of real old liberal politicians like Humphrey to disentangle us from the war.  And then of course Richard Nixon, once elected, and his policies could not have been better cast as the most evil of political villains.  (Remember Nixon got elected to Congress in the 40's by being the first to red bait - Cong. Helen Gahagan Douglas -- He had enormous McCarthyite credentials)

I think the relationship to other liberation movements gave a sense of inevitability to the apocalyptic future --- which was that reform is always crushed by the forces of reaction and therefore the only viable option was revolution.

by debcoop 2006-12-28 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Be a little more careful

I agree it's a complex history - but hats off to Matt for making a start on it.

The period of liberalism I'm more interested in is that of the Truman years: the way the remnants of the New Dealers and their ideological progeny, seeing the danger to their cause of third partyism on the one hand, and a strengthening Conservative Coalition on the other, used the ADA to establish a liberal force within the Dem party.

The current they started in the party can, I think, be traced through the big liberal win in the 1958 Congressional elections, the Great Society reforms, the reforms to Congressional rules in the Watergate period to the Rainbow days of decline in 1980s.

One factor may be the differential decline of the party in presidential and Congressional races: dump the Hump helped do for HHH's prez candidacy, and the Dems haven't had much WH luck since; but the party in Congress was still enjoying a pretty Solid South at the time, and for a good while longer, so the direct effect of 1960s radicalism was never going have much effect on Dem control of the legislative branch.

I'd certainly like to see someone put all these elements together in a coherent interpretation!

by skeptic06 2006-12-28 10:48AM | 0 recs
Good run-down of the differences.

I was there and I am here. I think you are getting a very good grasp of then and your comparisons seem accurate to me.

The cynic in me wants to say that should we now win that we would be back where we started from then, Liberal power groups versus progressive grassroots opposition. But with three significant differences. One, now grassroots combine youth and age; two, the internet; and three an understanding of then's history.

by Jeff Wegerson 2006-12-28 09:39AM | 0 recs
Sorry, But the analysis is weak

There was a tremendous leftist push in the Depression years which led to the New deal and the ascendancy of organized labor. That push had it's roots in the years before WWI. Over and over through history you see the advance of progress, then reaction to it.

The "60's was a multigenerational and multiracial period of social progress. "Hippies" were a small part of that period, but one that proved useful as a political wedge by reactionaries like Nixon and Reagan.

Matt has fallen victim to old Republican talking points. They weren't true then and they aren't true now.

by FishOutofWater 2006-12-28 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

This stuff makes enormous sense. Some additional, perfectly consistent points: The sixties/early seventies progressives were very visible on campus, but were less of a youth movement than the newspapers, who were written by sex-crazed middle-aged men frantic with envy of their own kids' new freedom, tried to make out. You have to read everything written then remembering that it was the sixties' kids' parents who went nuts, and they, not the kids, owned the media. Also, then as now, the fringes got the most press time. What you say is right, but the dirty hippies were much, much less that than contemporary accounts would lead you to think.

Also -- but not to present this (or the foregoing) as equal in importance with what you're saying -- there were certain aspects of the "cultural movement" that are forgotten and that are important to remember in diagnosing current right-wingism. Sixties progressives rebelled very successfully against the old status rules. They actually succeeded in devaluing wealth as a status-maker for a while. That was a very big deal. Critics today delight in pointing out how the kids who wore torn jeans for ten years then went on to be stock brokers (like Jerry Rubin), and they are right, but it's also true that many, many did not. More importantly, when sixties progressives succeeded in making people look down on money and money-grubbing, they gave the moneyed elite a terrible, terrible shock. It is the source of a great deal of the venom on today's right: People raised to expect to be on top found themselves despised and inferior, and spent the next forty years trying to get back up there, and vilifying those who cost them their positions. But those sixties progressives were, like the current ones, quite likely to be professionals hoping for comfortable lives.To understand why this is not really hypocritical or a contradiction, you have to remind yourself what the world was like then, how hideously divided by class, education, status, race, etc. I suppose my point is that although your analysis of the different "birth positions" seems right to me, are you perhaps slightly exaggerating the differences between the current "professionals" progressives and the hippy "youth movement", which was actually quite similar in its membership and outlook?

by cmendelson 2006-12-28 09:52AM | 0 recs
Liberals not Hippies...then or now.

"I hear in elite discourse seems to presuppose that liberals, especially those on the internet, live on hippy communes"

Be interesting to see who is a member of the "elite" that thinks that...don't know much about history if they do (cue in Sam Cooke 1960 here).

If you are talking 60's and 70's hippies, guys like Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog and The Well...were certainly leaders in internet communities...pretty radical characters vs. "liberal"...Brand was one of Kesey's Merry Pranksters. in "limousine" liberals...were more college kids (future Reagan voters)...civil rights white intellectuals etc.

Kind of two different breeds.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-28 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy

Unlike the 1960s left, this movement is not about experience or cultural transformation, it's about politics and institutional reform.

I think you are to intent on discussing our differences to the point of overlooking a core and key similarity. The values of todays Left, both online and off, have been shaped by that 1960s experience and the "cultural transformation" that came with it. Some questions that help illustrate this:

How many leftists are anti-gay? How many among the netroots are opposed to abortion rights? How many progressives thing that the Drug War is a "good idea"?  How many among us believe in separation of church and state as a prerequisite for freedom of religion? How many of us think its okay to call people 'macaca'?

While I'm sure there are individuals here and there who identify with us who defect on one or two of those issues, on the whole, people who are part of our current movement share or have adopted the principles and values at the core of that 1960s cultural revolution. God, guns, gays, acid and abortion. We might be a bit divided on the gun issue to some extent, but on the other four there is a generally broad liberal consensus that has developed on these issues since the 1960s. In the sense that, if we were to come to power, those values would be embodied and enacted in the laws that we would support and pass. That accomplishment would represent the political institutionalization of values and principles that first gained voice and currency in the crucible of the 60s. That is why the "liberal from San Fransisco Nancy Pelosi" is such anathema to the right: even though she herself may not be for gay marriage, her ascension to a position of power represents the ascension of that "liberal, west coast" worldview that thinks things like gay marriage is okay.  Think about it: if this congress passes immigration reform, do you think this congress will leave intact provisions that are discriminatory against gays who have foreign-born spouses/partners? I doubt it. And that's just one example, on one issue.

This is why the right and the political elite now oppose us so vociferously. Our positions on these issues have solidified at a place that is diametrically opposed to the conservative's positions. Indeed, what you think on those issues pretty well defines which side of the Liberal/Conservative line you fall. And that's not even getting into issues of war and peace and the justifiable use of force (at home and abroad), which I would submit is also another key difference in our thinking.

While you are correct that we are something entirely new, we are also built upon (and are a  product of) the old. Our organization, ideas and strategies are all new. But our values, our overall struggle for justice--those things have not changed in the slightest. Rather, our current endeavor is to prevent the gains made during the 60s from being reversed (see abortion, labor rights) and to advance the cause where and when we can (see gay marriage, separation of church and state). Our 60s forebears may have eschewed electoral politics, particularly after the 1972 defeat. It is unfortunate. But, I think the country and the larger culture eventually has made its way to coming around to our positions on many if not all of these issues in the interim, or at least have reached a point that they aren't horrified by them. The gay rights movement had only just BEGUN in 1968-69, and was itself an expression of the larger sexual revolution in progress. We've come a long LONG way since then. Its definitely not McGovern/1972 anymore as far as where the mainstream culture is at right now, despite the fact that the pundits seem to think it is 1972 indefinitely and forever, as far as the viability of lefty-political values are concerned. But the political reality has changed quite a bit since then, as has the electorate.

My point is that we are different insofar as we aren't the same exact people doing the exact same things for the exact same reasons. But we are the ideological descendants of the 60s radicals, the cultural inheritors of Enlightenment social and political thinking regarding fairness, the just use of power, and the common good. Those underlying principles are what ultimately bind us together as a cohesive cultural movement/entity. We are simply the newest generational manifestation of those old radical 60s ideas.

by AmericanJedi 2006-12-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Thank you for pointing out the similarities

and how the current internet activisim is a continuation of leftist, progressive ideology.

I think some folks like Matt here have internalized the right wing's fear of hippies and all that they stand for.

Matt's post seems to be saying "no, we're totally diffferent, we have nothing to do with those dirty freaks.  We're really really clean! And we're white, and successful professionals!"

Not everyone who is involved in the internet resistance to the bush regime fits that description.  There are many people from the '60s, non-whites, unemployed, and many who have much more radical views than those expressed on MyDD.

by shystee 2006-12-28 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you for pointing out the similarities

I agree that there are many similarities. But there are some striking differences. One is that the 60s generation was marked by a "generation gap" that is largely non-existent now.

Another is the Vietnam War and the draft, which led to large, mass demonstrations (an outgrowth of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington). We did see huge demonstrations before the invasion of Iraq, but since then the progressives have focused more on organizing with outlets like the Dean campaign and blogging. The number of deaths of American soldiers and the affect of the war on the Army (fragging, widespread drug used within the Army) was much more devastating than the current Iraq War is. The urgency young people felt at that time just does not exist to the same degree.

Another is a belief in the ability to make change through the electoral system. On this score, I feel that today's progressives, especially in the blogosphere, are more optimistic and politically active within the accepted "system" than the progressives and radicals of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The main reason I see for this is that the Democratic Party with the remnants of the New Deal coalition had political power. The Democrats were extremely divided. The party itself was ripped asunder--evident in the 1968 Chicago convention.

Now the Democratic Party "moderates" or old-fashioned "establishment types" (DLC, Lieberman, & others) have much less power than they used to. The polarization created by the right-wing hate machine/modern GOP has actually helped focus and realign the Democrats. Progressives have much more power in the party now than they have in my memory (which runs back to the late 1950s).

I agree that today's right-wing has roots in the old McCarthyite anticommunist campaign, which had its roots back in the Red Scares of the 1920s.

But because what used to be extreme positions (on gays, abortion, sexual freedom, health food--believe it or not) have become more mainstream, the progressive movement has more of a chance to lead a revived Democratic Party.

by Coral 2006-12-28 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you for pointing out the similarities

On this score, I feel that today's progressives, especially in the blogosphere, are more optimistic and politically active within the accepted "system" than the progressives and radicals of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Some are more optimistic than others.  It all depends on what the Dems actually do with their newfound control of congress.  Will we still be in Iraq in November 2008? In November 2010? Kids might start growing their hair out all over again.

The similarities between now and the 60's are in the goals as AmericanJedi was pointing out. There was probably a difference on strategy then also.

by shystee 2006-12-28 04:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

Very good and helpful, Matt. I wonder if my own children know these differences. They ring true for me and are a good beginning for an important generational conversation. Another difference you touched on: We radicals of the 60's are still here - for Dean, for Lamont, for meetups, for No Iraq War organizational meetings, for neighborhood Dem politics. What is stunning to me is seeing white-hairs and youth at every meeting. Half of my political friends are age 30-ish, just like my kids who date their political awareness to the Clinton impeachment (they loved Clinton and still do) and the fury of the recount and denying Gore the presidency.

We had contempt for war-loving liberals and love for soldiers like Kerry who protested the war, but most of my friends argued about working from the outside or the inside, or working at all for a corrupt system. Was government worth our efforts? We were not as brave or optimistic about democracy as your generation of reformers. We had been formally taught to worship democracy and informally taught by our parents who had come of age in the Depression and knew hunger - and knew fear of Hitler as young adults. Every man went to The War.

Our parents turned against us as we questioned the Vietnam war, their racial beliefs, their hypocricy about the failed ideals of democracy in America, the fact that we argued, that we liked sex with our friends and could get away with it because we had the pill, that we traveled together across country, slept together and talked wild about a better world.

My own mother, aged 89, has never forgiven me for losing my reputation and virginity, humiliating her in our town, protesting the war, being casual about sex. My dentist, on a visit home,  lectured me while working in my mouth - because I was going to school in Berkeley. All my friends had angry parents, and often we were the scapegoats, to blame as the cities burned, leaders were murdered, crowds marched, soldiers were losing and dying - all on TV every night - while parents sat mute, red-faced, highball in hand, raging inside or lashing out.

I ended up on a commune in the country building a homemade house, living sustainably and organically, transformed into mother, wife, blue-collar worker. On and on life goes when you you raise kids, are on the verge of poor, as a choice or not. One thing, I said I would never vote for a Democrat again and I didn't until Clinton - and that was because of Gore and his book, Earth in the Balance that I owned.

I re-entered politics at the grassroots, with Amnesty International letters to prisoners detained without trial or human rights in confinement. I worked every day in the neighborhood to stop the Iraq invasion. My life has been bookended with these two wars.

by mrobinsong 2006-12-28 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

"We were not as brave or optimistic about democracy as your generation of reformers."

Yes, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. To me this is the major difference.

A lot of us felt that we had to work outside the system--a great mistake, in my opinion. Paralleled by the Black Power movement, which began to move away dramatically from the nonviolent, patient pressure of MLK and the NAACP.

Impatience was a major flaw in the progressive/radical movements of the late 1960s/early 1970s. And part of their unraveling.

by Coral 2006-12-28 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

OH THANK YOU!!! There is someone else who is "on" the internet who lived the "history" these new netroots people only read about.

I was political from the time I was carried on my dad's shoulders to civil rights marches in the 50's -- worked HARD to elect local candidates, as well as to get petitions signed to end the war, legalize abortion, lower the voting age to 18 (if you can die in Vietnam, you should be able to vote against it), and end up with a fattened FBI file. Back then, politics was what one **LIVED** not what one posted anonymously on the web.

The biggest difference, though, between now and then, is that back in the 60's (and through the 70's with the fall of King Dick) there was a belief that DOING and BEING and affecting change mattered -- more than what one owned, or who one was -- we believed we could make the whole world better, and we did it every day.

It was nice reading your post and knowing some one else remembers when....

by jess999 2006-12-29 03:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations


Very helpful post. Rings true throughout. Thanks for the perspective.

It made me ask yet again what the relationship should / will be between the netroots leftist movement and Barack Obama. At one point you write:

"We face no such pressure, and our movement's organizational principles in some ways eschew charismatic leadership as a guiding principle (consider Wikipedia versus the Yippies)."

All things being equal, I find that an accurate observation. But for Obama to emerge as a front-runner and wage the campaign many would like to see, we are going to be up to our necks in charism. He and his candidacy will be romanticized. I sometimes think of him as Julian Bond, finally sprung to life, politically. The previous leftist era, i.e., '60s youth rebellion, will seem to make a return orbit. Will that cloud the presence of 21st-century liberal activism?

by ShagBark 2006-12-28 10:20AM | 0 recs
This is going to be...

...a long response, but this subject needs it and I probably should have contributed to this discussion last week.

Some drawbacks of that movement are that it disrupted the trend of incremental liberalism that was the norm in our culture.  Conservatism was never meant to be a force all on its own, but a check on radical change.  What "hippies" did was spend decades worth of progressive progress in a couple of years.  America as a whole, was sick of them.  If it weren't for the stupid, insane violence at Chicago in 1968, Nixon would not have been President.  And we all know he set a low standard for that office that allows people like George W. Bush to be elected.

By having marches and sit-ins and shutting down colleges, they did not accomplish anything.  Civil-rights was achieved by groups that were actually oppressed (using the power of shame and media) not spoiled rich college kids.  The police and national guard that were called to supervise their tantrums on college campuses were largely blue collar and poor kids of the same age as protestors who understandably resented the ability of "hippies" who apparently went to college just so that they could shut it down.

This lead to poor decision making; this lead to murder and violence by the national guard and police.  This does not excuse their behavior, but it is important to remember that the national guard at Kent State and the police at Chicago were not mindless automatons, they were people with motivations.  "Hippies" alienated a large segment of the population, driving them into Richard Nixon's and the Republican Party's hands.

One should also not forget that as much as we disdain the "win at any cost" and idea-intolerant attitudes of modern conservatives, a lot of them are just giving back what they got from us during the sixties.  College professors routinely compelled students to participate in anti-war rallies and harrassed conservatives without any kind of penalty.  This alienated not only conservatives but also apolitical students who actually were going to college to get an education.  People like Norm Coleman who have since switched sides were literally spitting in the faces of cops and students who would later become his natural constituency.

On the subject of marches.  The March for Women's Lives, which attracted over a million people the largest in this nation's history, was a march in favor of reproductive rights and it happened several years ago.  Did it change anything?  Does this country have more or less reproductive freedoms since two years ago?  The marchers were women, but they were not direct victims of their cause.  I'm willing to bet that most of the women who marched have never had abortions or even personally know people who have had abortions.  

Now consider the march that pro-immigrant groups organized.  Those marchers were largely immigrants and illegal immigrants.  They were laying themselves on the line to march, jeopardizing their jobs to protect their livelihoods.  This affected people who were not immigrants and the it upped the ante in favor of their cause.

The "hippies" should be taken out of the context of the sixties because while a lot of good things were happening to culture it seems that these things happened despite the "hippies", not because of them.  They are a cautionary tale, not an example to modern progressives.

We have to remember to be tolerant of other ideas now that progressives are resurgent and remember not to make enemies of people who should be our natural allies (my dad, the son of a bus driver, became president of the College Republicans, he has since recovered)

by Tall Saul 2006-12-28 10:29AM | 0 recs
Re: This is going to be...

i couldn't disagree more with this post, and i was there too. Most of this strikes me as a strange fantasy from the right, though that does not seem to be the intent, but there is a lot of what appears to be class resentment here. Tantrums? Would you refer to protests as infantile if they were anywhere but on campus? Many of the demonstrating students were not white; were they having tantrums? Were they rich? A huge number of college students of course were anything but rich; that was the point of the changes in the 50s and 60s{ the expansion of higher education.

Professors did not compel people to march, in my experience or any one's I ever heard of (plus I had conservative profs too)., Conservative students were not harassed anywhere I went to school (3 places, left coast, right coast, and central Illinois) .

Nixon was elected as much for his "secret plan' as for the country's fear of choosing a  lessauthoritarian leader in perilous times. The left largely did not vote.

Chicago 68 was condemned by the media--and a government commission-- as a police riot[ journalists were angry because they got beat up too. The Days of Rage were a stupid sideshow to the main event.

The events at Kent State (a lower middle class campus) do not merit this description; people with guns fired at protesting students on their own campus (as at Jackson State)  and nothing can justify their following the orders to do so. The Guard was not even close to the demonstration; they fired from a considerable distance.

I doubt anyone at all was spitting in the faces of cops, unless they were suicidal. Cops have weapons. (And the canard about protesters spitting at troops has long been disproved; a book was published on this 'urban legend' invented and promulgated by the right.)

Not only do marches work, they are in the final analysis the ONLY thing that governments fear: it's called People Power. It brings down governments or brings them to their knees. Even Kissinger claimed (in later interviews) that the Us could not continue the war because the protesters were in the streets.

Tall Saul's remarks about women's marches are unnecessarily speculative and offensive. And it was women's marches and demonstrations in the 60s and 70s that brought about the right to an abortion and even birth control, which was illegal in many places.

The good things that happened to culture did not happen to culture, they were brought about people who fought for them in many ways, both in the streets and among the grassroots. And it was an international, not a national phenomenon.

The immigrants' marches are a contemporary phenomenon but the people who marched for all kinds of reasons in the 60s were putting their livelihoods at risk too for all they knew: a police record could prevent you from ever getting a decent job, not to mention the immediate danger of being injured by police.
Even so, it is a distortion to claim that people were favorably impressed by the immigrants' huge stake in the MayDay demonstrations; many were outraged that they dared to assemble in public and display other national flags alongside the US flag. Many of the demonstrations of the 60s and 70s were also in communities of color and had nothing to do with college campuses.

Tall Saul's comments, like others above, use the term hippie to refer to the whole 60s protest generation, but hippies of course were a very small percentage of the 60s generation--and hippies tended to be the apolitical ones who 'turned on and dropped out.'
And as many have noted before a whole lot of people being smeared here were sympathetic to workers and helped with union drives and walked picket lines (matt, you seem to have forgotten that too).

I would here strenously defend the idea that the so-called progressive movement, including the hippies (cultural rebels?) were trying to rethink a culture from the bottom up and to include everyone, even Republicans, in their rethinking.

I would suggest that Tall Saul too could stand some tolerance medicine!

by brooklyngal 2006-12-28 04:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

I'd like to see older and newer generation liberals give up on the yearning for the charismatic leader. He will not appear. He is JFK, MLK, and RFK, and he is not coming back. We are the leaders we yearn for because we are democracy. Don't yearn for the other, the savior, the adored one. Just. don't. do. it.  It's very very bad for us and prevents us from forming a more perfect union and hiring a competant, experienced, intelligent, skilled CEO of our country's government, our president.

by mrobinsong 2006-12-28 10:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

I agree...and disagree.

I think that one charismatic leader would have some very real benefits for the movement, as far as cohesiveness and mass organization goes. Dean didn't win, but his leadership did provide something to us and our movement through the prism of his primary campaign.

That said, lefty leaders who actually start making an impact have a general tendency to get shot or, more recently, die in freak plane crashes. So, maybe its a good thing not to give our enemies a particular face to aim at and cause us all to get dispirited with the loss. Not that assassination is inevitable. But, lack of a leader DOES keep the Right from having any particular point to aim its guns. Its much harder to stop us en masse. The problem, prior to the internet, anyway, was that such "en masse" organization wasn't feasible/possible without some leader.

All that to say, a leader would probably be a good thing, if he can survive.  Short of that, we've adjusted our organizations to be able to function without the charismatic leader to keep us together. That's a good advancement.  Still, I don't think progressives will ultimately gain the whitehouse or triumph culturally without such a leader to pull in the rest of the country.

by AmericanJedi 2006-12-28 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations
The people in power in the media and in the two political parties do not want to hear criticism-- despite, of course, all of their failures.
You (all) have announced that you see the problems and the need to "crash the gates".
I agree with you.  But people, as you see all of the time, are entrenched, and they don't want to change.  You (all) are trying to break through and show them that the reality on the ground has been radically altered by the reactionaries in charge and they HAVE to react to that differently.
People have been living with illusions that do not match reality.  They are still reacting to their misconceptions about who America is.
The right-wing will attack anybody for anything.  The smear is the thing they do best.  We were still busy thinking it was unfair in the last election -- the Swiftboaters would not succeed, we thought, in attacking a real war hero, because it was wrong ...  
But they succeeded.  This muddying identities, and fogging up the issues, which someone in the previous post attributed to Troskyites (is that right?) is their metier.
One of our biggest challenges is learning how to overcome these assaults.  I thought that this would be the biggest challenge for Kerry, overcoming the smear, and he and his advisors were not able to do it.
The technique, I think, is beginning to diminish on its own because of overuse.  With all of the power of the right wing in the media, there are huge majorities of US that hold opinions contrary to their meme on about every subject there is.
You are challenging the order and well, you're not "commies" -- that's what they called us.  You're hippies, that's what we were.  The sword has been passed to a new generation.  Overcoming the smear tactique is going to continue to be a big part of your job.
by syolles 2006-12-28 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

Yes, I agree, overcoming the smear tactic is the biggest obstacle.

by Coral 2006-12-28 12:30PM | 0 recs
Strong conceptual framework

Like the previous poster, Jeff Wegerson, I was there and I am here. And like Jeff, I think you are substantially correct.


1. The years 1952-1960 were damned conservative. Republicans were everywhere, esp. the White House, and the Dem majorities in Congress illusory because the Dixiecrats who later became Republican essentially were already Republicans. They ain't makin' blue dogs like Bilbo any more. Notwithstanding misty-eyed memories, Ike was kind of a prick.

2. The years 1968-1992 were also damned conservative.

Marines hit the beaches in Da Nang in 1965, and everything LBJ did after that was drenched in warmongery. The police riot at the Democratic Convention in 1968 was his doing.

Carter was a conservative. Reagan was a conservative. BushSr. was a conservative.

3. That's 1952 to 1992 with basically one five-year break in conservative rule. In 1980, the nation moved from the right-center to the far right, dragging the center along with it. After the complete destruction of the radical left, the radical right began becoming respectable

The cartoon version of the dirty hippie was never accurate. Please look at this black and white photo and tell me if these kids look any dirtier than you do. At least half a million people were at this peaceful DC demonstration, which helped turn a majority of Americans against the war. John Gage, later Calif. Students for McGovern leader, later chief scientist at Sun, was a key organizer.

The people who lied about Vietnam are the same ones who lie about Iraq.

The same people who smeared us are smearing you.

A sincere plea: Don't triangulate us; you're standing on our shoulders.

by stevehigh 2006-12-28 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Strong conceptual framework

1963-68. Well, it wasn't actually a break. JFK was assassinated, LBJ got us deeper into Vietnam, then MLK and RKF were assassinated. Boys were burning draft cards, going to Canada, being drafted and going to Vietnam.

Guys with long hair took their life in their hands traveling to some places.

On the other hand, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts were passed, and some politicians began speaking out against the war.

I agree that Carter was a conservative. I'll never forgive him for deregulating the airlines. That was the beginning of the end of decent service on planes.

by Coral 2006-12-28 12:37PM | 0 recs
1960-1965 was what I meant the break

The Civil Right and Voting Rights acts had passed, and most of the New Frontier/Great Society initiatives were either in place or moving toward completion.

On March 8, elements of the 3rd Marine Division landed near Da Nang. Two years later, a classmate died.

Jerry would have been 60. He had no children,--he didn't quite make it to voting age-- but you can read what his nieces and nephews say.

For many in our school at least, the five good years ended that Spring of 1965 when Johnson sent the marines to die for no reason.

by stevehigh 2006-12-28 02:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Strong conceptual framework

well, a little over the top. The 50s were not only conservative, they were terrifying. But because of the legacy of the NEW DEAL, even Ike and republicans up to Nixon had to embrace some liberal poliices, in order to continue to placate the working masses.  The gain in unionization was part of the Historic Compromise in which labor was allowed to organize if its leaders would prevent wildcat strikes and rein in demands from below (and throw out and keep the commies out of the unions). The bit, from the previous round of posts, about Meany (?) claiming never to have walked a picket line was true. Business unionism was king.
Ike, a war hero, was a president led by his cabinet and advisers, esp. the evil Dulles. Foreign poicy trumped everything.

Kennedy was a war monger.
And I took very personally that he almost killed me, and everyone else,  with the Missile Crisis brinksmanship.

Carter was a conservative who did a number of good and humane things.
Clinton was a charismatic centrist who alas did a lot of bad things. Lke NAFTA and ending welfare without a decent backup system, and bad policies toward post-Soviet Russia, including supporting Yeltsin while the country went down the toilet....and BOMBING IRAQ and supporting genocidal sanctions against it. His economic policies were Republican lite. We all know this. He seems like a shining prince and a very sane man compared to the wingnuts before and after him, and he'd win in an instant if he ran again today. Heck, I'd vote for him.

I respectfully suggest we retire the dirty hippie characterization: it is a smear from the Ralph Reeds and Jack Abramoffs and Tom Delays and Newt Gingriches and Rush Limbaughs and other losers who couldn't get anywhere in high school.
Dirty does not mean unwashed (though real hippies often were, on principle), it means LIBERATED.
Except for my quibbles, though, I thoroughly agree with this post. The same people.... literally! (And their evil spawn.)

by brooklyngal 2006-12-28 04:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Strong conceptual framework

Carter was not a conservative other than being for conserving energy.  He was the most environmentally progressive President ever, buy a long shot. Moderate perhaps, conservative, no way -- and I was there too.

by howardpark 2006-12-28 05:35PM | 0 recs
The Online Marketplace of Ideas changed everything

This does make a lot of sense.  I would also add that the tools we have available to us are themselves what is allowing us to work within the system rather than being forced to rail against a system that refused to open its doors to them.  How different might the 60's have been had they been able to use the Internet then as we do almost without thinking now?

No longer must liberals or others be content to scream into the wilderness, but they now have a dynamic engine not only primed to allow their voices to be heard, but which organizes them into a politically viable group.  When our candidate (Dean) lost the nomination, we didn't stop, we made him chair of the party.  That was impossible forty years ago.

As the reach of the Internet expands and empowers more people in minority and/or impoverished communities, we may well see a fundamental change in American politics.  That is a paradigm shift I for one will welcome with open arms.

by Sean Robertson 2006-12-28 11:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

As a long time dirty hippy, let me assure you, we are still the worst nightmare of the authoritarian right.

Since Tricky Dick resigned, for example, I finished college, earned a Ph.D., and worked in my profession for 30 years. I'm liberal, educated, and able to fight back. Most of us survivors of the 70s are.

About the nicest thing you could call me would be a dirty hippy. Or hippie.

As posted elsewhere, the Movement today has been a bit more intellegent, aware, and less distracted by the main$tream disinformation machine. Mostly, we have not succumbed to the vices that decapitated the Movement in the 70s.


by kelley b 2006-12-28 11:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

Mostly, we have not succumbed to the vices that decapitated the Movement in the 70s.


And those 'vices' would be what, in your opinion? I ask out of interest regarding how you think the previous movement failed?  When you say "decapitated" it makes me think of killing JFK, RFK, and MLK. But, those were all 60s, not 70s, and weren't what I'd call self-inflicted 'vices'. So, to what, exactly, do you refer?  Sex, drugs, and rock and roll??  ;-)

by AmericanJedi 2006-12-28 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

Vices? Drugs. Yes. Impatience. Hubris. Political factionalism. Detours into theories of violent revolution. Romanticization and glorification of revolutionaries like Che, Mao, etc. (The Weathermen, Black Panthers, etc.). Infiltration by the FBI and Red Squads.

by Coral 2006-12-28 01:22PM | 0 recs
At the time, some of this seemed reasonable

Third world revolutionaries were in fact marching around and succeeding (or not), in countries from Asia to Africa to Latin America. Colonies everywhere were throwing off the imperial powers who were weakened by WWII (Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Vietnam, Rhodesia). This is moderately recent history: the Portuguese empire didn't collapse until the 1970s, when the (radicalized) portuguese army (with support from their officers) threw down their arms and joined the revolutionaries.

Throughout the 1960s, the Democratic Party completely toed the imperialism line. It was Kennedy who set us on the path to Vietnam, starting with advisors and planning, and Johnson who implemented it. The opposition voice on Vietnam was almost completely purged from the Democratic Party.

So, it wasn't completely unreasonable to believe that a revolution was not only possible, but the only way we would actually get things to change. I do think most of the actual bombings in the US were the result of agents provacateurs.

In retrospect you are right, but at the time the political "powers that be" (both Democratic and Republican) completely deserved the utter anger and contempt we felt. I also agree that the similar opposition to Bush and Cheney should not be dissipated in arguments about Marxist political theory. I'm a little curious why the anger about Iraq hasn't created a stronger backlash from the opposition. It is perhaps a measure that the Liberal (but not radical) Democratic Party is not yet prepared to lead on the issue.

Of course, the threat of being drafted made the Vietnam war of utmost personal importance.

by MetaData 2006-12-28 02:08PM | 0 recs
There is more to this story

Just a few observations. Lots of truth in what you say but I think you overlook the obvious.

Then: Military-industrial complex was in its infancy and we hippies were having our eyes opened to the truth behind all the lies. We learned to look behind the curtain and to question everything, including ourselves.

Now: Mega-corporations control every level of the political process and much of the media. Example: Professional sports and corporate induced consumerism is the new opiate of the masses.

I agree with your synopsis but there is more depth to the story. Read a few Noam Chomsky articles and the pieces of the puzzle will start to fall in place

by Bruce in Alta California 2006-12-28 11:30AM | 0 recs
Wedge issues and Cultural Clashes

This time your analysis captures much better the essence of the 1960s, and nicely contrasts todays activists.

The Generation Gap was a real culture clash.

Although I could talk with my parents (college professor) about most things, politics and music for example, most of my friends couldn't tell their parents anything about what they did or thought. In comparison, Gen Xers and Gen Yers are culturally much more similar to their parents, which has essentially eliminated the generation gap as a fundamental issue.

The Dirty-Hippy was a wedge issue.

The Dirty-Hippy meme was about a very visible demonstration of style and political values, but also about class and culture. Americans, especially in the 60s, expected your style to literally or honestly depict who you actually were, as opposed to some costume for the moment or situation. Wearing a suit didn't just mean a well-dressed guy, rather it meant a businessman or salesman on the corporate ladder both career-wise and intrinsic to their being. Long-hair and jeans meant you believed in the political and cultural aspects of the 1960s movement. I remember the first time I met a capitalist hippy, and how disillusioned I was that he could bitch about minimum wage earners that he was supervising. He smoked pot and listened to cool music, but his personal style didn't meet my (internalized) expectation of his politics.

I grew up and went to college in a Western ag-school town with lots of cowboys (literally). When I was in high school in 70-73, the fraternity guys and cowboys would sometimes grab long-haired kids off the street and shave their heads. I once hitch-hiked to California and stopped to see my Grandmother who fed me for a day. Of course I wasn't one of those dirty hippies she pointed out as she dropped me off to hitchike home. Even by the late 70s wearing long-hair to mean something political had become a quaint cultural back-story, what with red-neck rockers (ZZ Top) or Long-haired country musicians, but in those days long-hair vs clean-cut was not just a cultural image, but a statement of political belief.

But in 1968 the dirty-hippy image his was an extremely powerful tool when it came to splitting the working class from the anti-war movement.

Immigration or Class are the Modern equivalent of the 1960s struggle for Racial Equality

The 12 million undocumented is a political crisis for the country, but of course is a personal struggle for the immigrants themselves. To achieve legal IDs, drivers licenses, assurance of health care & education, freedom from harassment, will require a political movement from above and below.

Class divisions or Poverty could be the other issue. The past 20 years have led to unprecedented wealth for the very top, real suffering at the very bottom, and cutbacks in health care, social security and educational opportunities in the middle. Again, the powers that be will fight to keep their priviledges.

by MetaData 2006-12-28 12:53PM | 0 recs
Comparison to today

The "older generation" in the sixties, the parents of the hippies, consisted of people who had lived through WWII. That experience gave them a tremendous faith in "our" goodness, unlimited US power & wealth, and a belief that the government knew what was right and could be trusted. This extended to protecting "our" way of life from those communists who were going to topple governments like dominoes across South East Asia.

So, in the 60s, perhaps the most fundamental ideological clash was the split between those who believed in the system and trusted the government, and those who were anti-establishment.

This is a great example of a similarity between the ideological struggle of then and now. The Vietnam war completely shattered the paradigm of "trust the government to know what they are doing", which is exactly what we are (re) learning today as Iraq drags into disaster. One difference: back then the believers vs critics was perhaps 50/50, and today disbelievers are more like 66%.

by MetaData 2006-12-28 01:41PM | 0 recs
You forgot the Depression

It was much more formative than WWII for the parents of the "'60's" generation. The Depression was the result of the utterly complete failure of conservative ideas. It showed the necessity of government protections against unbounded market forces, corruption and greed.

by FishOutofWater 2006-12-28 04:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Comparison to today

You've under-estimated how much trust there was. The shift has been a lot greater.

National Election Survey:

                       1958  1964 1966 ... 1996 1998 2000
None of the Time (vol)   .0    .1  2.6 ...   .6  1.5  1.0
Some of the Time       24.3  22.2 29.5 ... 67.1 58.6 55.0
Most of the Time       59.2  63.2 50.3 ... 30.1 36.7 39.8
Just About Always      16.5  14.5 17.6 ...  2.3  3.2  4.1

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-28 04:06PM | 0 recs
Cool Numbers!

Now, I'll bet it has shifted again in the past 5 years.

The shift is so dramatic, it has to be described as a paradigm shift, not just a slow simmering disatisfaction. The Vietnam war was catalytic in creating widespread distrust in the government, or at least spreading the distrust and politicization to the middle classes. The eventual withdrawal and failure traumatized the conservative class.

The US invasion of Iraq is reminding us again of the same issues.

But in some ways, it is the right-wing more than us progressives who are re-fighting the demons of the Vietnam war. Bush thought it would be an easy walk, and would banish the anti-war ghosts once and for all. Instead he finds his legacy going down the drain, and the Republican Party being flushed at the same time.

It occurs to me that GWB didn't really want such glory thrust upon him. I think he just wanted to be the front man while Cheney and his advisors made all the decisions. It's such a hassle when you have to face the press each day. 9/11 was a godsend because otherwise they wouldn't have had the distraction to hide the corruption, and it got George out of his vacation mode.

by MetaData 2006-12-28 08:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

"The crucible of the New Left, before Vietnam, was the civil rights struggle and the McCarthy era anti-Communist crusade."  I think you neglect the ban the bomb movement which acted as an early model for a lot of the anti-war demonstrations. They quickly went beyond the marches and demonstrations but the ban-the-bomb movement was critical.

by msobel 2006-12-28 01:01PM | 0 recs
Yes and No...

It was an important precursor, but for the most part, it was your parent's protest movement. Major shakers were SANE:

SANE was founded in 1957 by Coretta Scott King, Albert Schweitzer, Dr. Benjamin Spock and others in response to the nuclear arms race and the Eisenhower administration's policies on the production and testing of nuclear weapons, with the aim of alerting Americans to the threat of nuclear weapons. A full-page advertisement placed in The New York Times in November 1957 prompted a nationwide response, and by 1958, the membership of the organization had grown to 25,000. SANE was formally incorporated in July of that year. The name "SANE" came from the concepts put forth by Erich Fromm in his book The Sane Society (ISBN 1-199-36561-0)
The bridge to the New Left--in terms of organizing tactics, at least--came from Women's Strike for Peace but it's membership centered on women with children:
Women Strike for Peace (WSP, also known as Women for Peace) is a United States women's peace activist group. It was founded by Bella Abzug and Dagmar Wilson,[1] and was initially part of the movement for a ban on nuclear testing[2]

They played a crucial role, perhaps the crucial role (according to Eric Bentley), in bringing down the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), were acknowledged by both U Thant and John F. Kennedy as a factor in the adoption of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (signed August 5, 1963), and (in early 1964), were among the first Americans to oppose the Vietnam War.[3][4]

The organization grew out of a November 1, 1961 day of protest by women against nuclear testing by the United States and the USSR, under the slogan "End the Arms Race-Not the Human Race".[4] The demonstration that day in Washington, D.C. drew 1,500 people;[1] demonstrations across the U.S. drew tens of thousands.[3] The group consisted mainly of married-with-children middle-class white women. Its early tactics--including marches and street demonstrations of a sort very uncommon in the U.S. at that time--in many ways prefigured those of the anti-Vietnam War movement and of Second-wave feminism, but its rhetoric in those years drew heavily on traditional images of motherhood. In particular, in protesting atmospheric nuclear testing, they emphasized that Strontium 90 from nuclear fallout was being found in mother's milk and commercially sold cow's milk, presenting their opposition to testing as a motherhood issue,[3] what Katha Pollitt has called "a maternity-based logic for organizing against nuclear testing."[5]

In contrast, the Civil Rights Movement drew college students directly into the heart of the struggle in the South.  Berkeley's Free Speech Movement was a direct outgrowth, exemplifying the spread of activism, which readily turned to anti-war activism as colleges and universities were large collections of draft-age kids.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-28 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes and No...

not sure what the NO means... because it was led by women with children? I was a HS student and got into serious trouble with my family (and was rousted by the police) because I refused to "take cover" during a NYC air raid drill. Those women and SANE, and the Aldermarston people really inspired me. Of course I was a 'woman-to- be, ' that is, a girl.
I was too young to be a Freedom Rider, but I did go down to Washington with some friends for the 1963 march--which was co-organized by black labor (Rustin) and civil rights leaders (King).
 The Berkely FSM was complex and had as one of its slogans DO NOT BEND FOLD SPINDLE OR MUTILATE, like a keypunch card. it was a protest against the multiversity and the grooming of students at first -tier schools for a life of privilege and conformity to the corporate state. This spread to many places round the world. The war was not the first consideration but the "machine" (the 'establishment') that produced the promise of privilege for the fortunate few and war for the rest.

This is the place to remind people that the college students protesting the war were often protesting against THEIR OWN PRIVILEGE. That was why the draft system became a lottery. They criticized the educational system for its "tracking": tracking working-class kids into vocational tracks and the military and middle-class kids into professional and managerial positions--and draft deferments. Not enough people understand or remember this.

by brooklyngal 2006-12-28 05:09PM | 0 recs
A Few Years Were Like Decades Then

This is no slap at SANE or WSP.  I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of posting those excerpts if I was trying to denigrate them.  It's simply a matter of sociological accuracy.  WSP overlapped with my mother's generation.  SNCC overlapped with mine.  Plus, of course, the Civil Rights Movement as a whole was much larger and continuously ongoing than the "Ban the Bomb" movement.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-28 06:00PM | 0 recs
a big part you skipped....

So, I'm 28 years old.  Me and most of my friends in college in the late 90s became politically activated by the emerging anti-globalization movement, not by the Bill "Yay NAFTA" Clinton impeachment or the Gore recount.  Possibly that is due to the lack of Democratic Party infrastructure.  I was at a deep blue college in a deep blue state, and our college dem group was moribound and not exactly thrilling.

A lot of us have moved over towards the Democratic party as we get into our mid twenties and thirties, partially because of the "netroots" pull and Dean, and partially because 9/11 really stripped the anti-globalization movement of it's momentum.

I'd be interested to see how many current netroots folks followed my path as opposed to the anti-right wing overreach path.

by dansomone 2006-12-28 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: a big part you skipped....

I'm 26 and was politically activated in some sense by the anti-globalization movement too (I was member of Students Against Sweatshops and Free Burma Coalition at UVA, a very non-political campus).  But I didn't jump into electoral politics until the war started.  I think you'll find a similar situation for many our age, and the war being the primary motivator for folks slightly younger than us (23 or younger).

by brooklynmfs 2006-12-28 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

I don't think we're in a position to do the history of the 60's at the moment, although the testimonies above contain some interesting observations.

I'm going to relate this, since Matt called it a "meme", to Atrios' use of it. It also reminds me of something Kos said about a conference he went to in Chicago about 20 months ago, in 2005.

I think Atrios could be said to be using the term in a sense close to "idealist". The DFH were ridiculed as hopeless utopians back in the day when they tried to get influence over policy, and people who spoke out against war were ridiculed in the run-up to the Iraq War in a similar fashion. So it's sort of a metaphor for Atrios. If you like, the metaphor does have a 60's tilt because calling someone a hippie (= sneering disdainfully at their mere attempt to weigh in) in this sense was a way of saying that because of their lifestyles they were unqualified to be political leaders. In this sense Clinton, Kerry, Dean, and many other progressive Democrats were "called hippies" - Clinton for the obvious reason, Kerry the windsurfer, Dean the screaming radical.

On this wise then, it's just a Republican meme, and when Atrios uses it, he is saying that now that the Iraq policy has proved to be completely upside down, isn't it time to listen to the ideas of the people who were ridiculed as upside down at the time?

20 months ago, Kos was not what he is today. But back then he said that the old guys at that liberal conference had a lot of things to say, but that they needed to listen, too, to the young insurgents of the Left. Back then, the phrase "single issue" was used to refer to those who, if you like, were some of the lineal descendants of the Old Left, now entrenched in liberal lobbying groups, and as such blinkered, since they stayed in their offices, content to "be right" on some issue like global warming, while the left bloggers had made the decision to attack, to challenge everything right bloggers said, everything MSM figures influenced by the VRWNM said, and everything Republicans said.

To this extent, Matt seems to be wondering where young left bloggers' props are - again. Left bloggers provided enthusiasm, energy, money, and a lot of electoral smarts, and saying that this made a difference in the election is only fair.

But there really isn't time for this argument over historical props. If the left bloggers really wanted to flip the DFH meme - that is, if they're not embarrassed by it (as Matt seems to be, a little) - then they would go on and admit that politics as usual is a recipe for more disaster, Democratic control or not. They would take a break from campaigning (which is an addiction and a trap), and think about what American world leadership means in Democratic hands. It won't be enough simply to not be Bush, simply to stop doing the bad things Bush did.

A DFH thinks about the world. There are countries we are nice to that we should criticize, and countries we stiff that we should apologize to. Only in the context of a global rebuilding of the brand can we expect to ride out economic dislocations coming soon worldwide, as consumerism and laissez-faire growth stumble.

Put it this way: if we put a DFH in the White House and announce our support for DFH policies, the world will understand immediately, and start to think about maybe trusting us again. And if these policies are put forward by the right President, the wedge issues the Republicans have whipped to death will shrivel.

The hagiography of blogging can wait.

by frenchman 2006-12-28 02:46PM | 0 recs
Excellent Analysis

The distinction between DFH ala Atrios and DFH ala Matt is crucial.  But I want to comment on this:

If the left bloggers really wanted to flip the DFH meme - that is, if they're not embarrassed by it (as Matt seems to be, a little) - then they would go on and admit that politics as usual is a recipe for more disaster, Democratic control or not. They would take a break from campaigning (which is an addiction and a trap), and think about what American world leadership means in Democratic hands. It won't be enough simply to not be Bush, simply to stop doing the bad things Bush did.
I find it ludicrous how much attention people are paying to jostling for position in the 2008 race, when there is little for us to do at this point but react.  Big yawn.  We could do this in front of our TVs.

A far more sensible thing for the left blogosphere to be doing is precisely what you suggest--figuring out what our ideal candidate should stand for, so that we have some standard to judge by.  In 2004, it was simple, clear, and "negative"--Not Bush, and more specifically, Not Iraq, was quite enough.

But this time around we need more... much more.  Not just about getting out of Iraq, but about rethinking the "war on terror," aka "putting out the fire with gasoline," and how that fits together with other major challenges, such as global warming, worldwide resource depletion, food and water shortages, etc.  Above all, what we need is not a series of proposals about how to deal with these problems, but a unified vision from such proposals flow.  That's what a DFH would talk about.

Right now, it seems to me, left bloggers have hit a sort of plateau--collectively, not individually.  What you're talking about here--taking a step back and looking at the big picture, not just for a quick glance, but for a good, long, hard look--is about reaching for another peak.  A very necessary peak, I would say.

But, then, I'm just a DFH from the old days.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-29 03:29AM | 0 recs
Re: the Dirty Hippy Meme

I was a Vietnam veteran who returned to the University of Washington in 1969 as an anti-war activist.  The Dirty Hippy Meme is very confused.  The hippies I knew then, and Seattle was full of them at the time, were all apolitical with no interest in political activity.  They held general views that were in favor of civil rights and in opposition to the war.  But the men were chauvinists who treated women badly (the "free love" contingent).  And they really didn't much care for political activists like me.

by Ronsch 2006-12-28 03:01PM | 0 recs
Re: the Dirty Hippy Meme

   I sometimes get the feeling the babyboom media feels that they invented progressivism in the 60's, so it's their prerogative to compromise it now. But I'm not sure why Matt would want to echo that logic here.
   From the get-go, this country has always had  strains of idealists that fought for equality and social justice. The abolitionists, the Quakers, and activists like Jane Hull, Abigail Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, etc, etc.- those types have always been around.
         Events instigate a larger public to coalesce around the progressive strain. But I think it's patently absurd to suggest that those events created the progressive impulse. Once you start equating JFK, MLK, and Janis Joplin- yeesh, you're in a Time-Life, dentist's office book kind of place.


by sb 2006-12-28 06:29PM | 0 recs
This Was Largely True, But...

I lived in the Bay Area then.  We'd go to Berkeley (or, next door, to Oakland) for demonstrations, and San Francisco for music.  I and my friends weren't the only ones who did this--not by a long shot.  It's what the Yippies were all about--combining the cultural and the political.

There was resistence on both sides, of course.  The political types didn't want to lose credibility and the hippie types thought that all politics (even political protest) was a sham.

The deeper irony of this is that the hippies' precursors, the beatniks, were ostensibly even more removed from the world, but leading beat figures like Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder were outspokenly political.

What happened in the media-created public imagination was that the media-created hippie image was used to tar and dismiss the anti-war movement at the very time (1967-69) that movement was booming by leaps and bounds, growing increasingly mainstream.  And we've lived with that false imagery ever since.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-29 03:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

Excellent, thoughtful start, Matt. Thanks extravagantly for your fascinating post. But you've only superficially glossed over something crucial: race.

Race is huge.

I think Lani Guinier observed that, like the canary in the coal mine, what's coming for white poor and blue collar workers is visible years earlier in black communities now.

The threat of actual effective white/black progressive political collaboration drove the 60s ruling class berserk. Inventing plausibly deniable racial coded messages saved their bacon.

Well, that, and the COINTELPRO and police war on the Left, which was directed far more heavily and with far more deadly results on African Americans.  

by KenInPortsmouth 2006-12-28 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

You should work this up a bit more and make it into a speech you can give at political gatherings, colleges, etc

Would need to perhaps lead into a section describing in a concise way the current orienting goals, themes, stories of the netroots, so it becomes, as a speech, a way to shine a light forward for this next phase

Maybe you could do some comparison with the various phases the 60's movements themselves went through, as they moved past 2 or 3 main turning points and then eventually were assimilated into the larger political context after Watergate or in the later 70's

by jimpol 2006-12-28 04:34PM | 0 recs
Two Nit Piks on a Very Sensical Post

"In other words, while we are a reaction to insane conservative elites, the 1960s left was a reaction to liberal elites that couldn't deliver."

First, the insane conservative elites WERE a force to be reckoned with even in the early 1960's -- they nominated Goldwater -- winning a nomination of a major party is a significant accomplishment.

Second, it's not that the liberal elites could not deliver.  The problem is they did deliver a war in Vietnam, which in many ways was worse than the current war.  They also DID deliver on real progress on civil rights, a historic accomplishment.  Still, a failed war trumps everything.

by howardpark 2006-12-28 05:29PM | 0 recs
Taft-Hartley Act in 48

Republicans always were a force.  The thing that united the youth was Vietnam.  It wasn't liberal or conservative thing.  

Try waking up to this on a cold winter's day.

by ThosJoseph 2006-12-28 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Taft-Hartley Act in 48

Forgot the link

by ThosJoseph 2006-12-28 06:37PM | 0 recs
Same shit, different day
One striking similarity  between the sixties left and the progressive blogosphere has been missed. The 60s left withdrew from electoral politics, and the progressive blogosphere today has withdrawn from the mainstream media. Both electoral politics and the MSM remain influential centers of power in the US--so much so that we see power-loving politicians moving back and forth between political and media careers.
The 60s left felt rage and disdain for electoral politics, and eventually gave up and withdrew after 1972, or as Matt put it," One result was the disillusionment of the left activist class towards the electoral process, and a withdrawal into good government groups like Common Cause, Public Citizen, as well as single issue groups like NARAL and the initial media reform movement."
What if MYDD, Kos, Atrios, etc. are all just our latter day versions of Common Cause and Public Citizen to which we are withdrawing (good media groups) from the place where the American community still gathers to find some kind of common understanding?
Yes, I know media trend watchers claim the demise of the MSM is imminent, but what if we're being suckered again by "faux revolution and instability." Maybe beyond a certain point, people will still continue to turn to Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, WaPo, NPR, etc.
I'd like to see Matt work this piece up into an op-ed/guest editorial and submit it to the above mentioned pubs. How about reworking it into a radio essay for NPR? And I'd like to see Chris, Matt, Jerome and Jonathan continue to submit their best work in the MSM so as not to cede that ground entirely.
by johnalive 2006-12-28 07:17PM | 0 recs
are we white collar?

i'd say yes.  i am young, just a few years out of college, but i  was first turned on to this world when i had a dull office job.  the same is true for all of my real-world peers that frequent liberal blogs.  we found ourselves in the typical professional situation where a young intern/ entry level person has no task to do but must try to look busy at his or her computer (can't go for a walk or read a book, for instance.)  so we went looking for something interesting to be involved in online.  that's very different from the "dirty hippie" model of discovering politics in an environment of music, drugs, even sex.  almost diametrically opposite.

not that drugs, music, and sex didn't play a part in my political formation.  but i definitely didn't discover blogs in that context.

by onemike 2006-12-28 08:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

I, for one, am proud to be known as a dirty, effing hippie.

I also agree with those who say it is the same battle now as it was then.  The rich and powerful trying to control the rest of us.

Rock on.

by OzBill 2006-12-28 09:48PM | 0 recs
key clarification

The first difference is the energy animating our origins.  While we are products of an insane right-wing that impeached Clinton, stole the 2000 election, and took us to war in Iraq, the 1960s left was the product of a tired set of liberal elites that had failed to deliver on a full set of promises towards social justice.  While we saw Iraq and an out of control set of religious conservatives in our formative political experiences, the 1960s generation grew up with the New Deal rhetoric and suburbia clashing deeply with the reality of racial segregation and a McCarthyite political culture clashing with a new hypersexualized youth culture.  In other words, while we are a reaction to insane conservative elites, the 1960s left was a reaction to liberal elites that couldn't deliver.

I don't think it's most revealing to say that the 60s left was a reaction primarily to liberal elites that couldn't deliver.  The liberal elites of the 50s and 60s were sitting on top of a VERY VERY conservative society.  The animating energy of the 60s left seems to have been against that conservatism: brutal segregation, sexual suffocation, intellectual conformity, strict class divisions.  Yes, on top of that conservative society there was also a liberal elite that wasn't helping matters all that much or all that quickly, and that also committed the colossal and unforgiveable mistake of Vietnam.  But the resentment was mostly and correctly pointed at the stifling conservative culture.  Conservative politics may have been very weak at the time (though the Dixiecrats are not to be underestimated), but the conservative culture was very strong.

Oddly enough, our current culture is not all that painfully conservative, at least not compared to our current politics.   We are now facing a center-right culture and a far far right political elite, and I think that is why our energies are now so focused on the political process specifically.  That's where the problems are coming from these days.  That's a big difference between now and the 60s, and it explains very cleanly why we're obsessed with electoral politics and folks back then were not.  Our problem is a hijacked political system; their problem was a deeply conservative culture that actually had a halfway decent political system riding on top of it (judicial and executive branch cooperating with civil rights movement; economically liberal presidents from FDR to LBJ).

That also explains why deeply personal and often intergenerational protest was such a big feature back then; the longhair/shorthair division and the rebellion against the parents were shots in a real culture war, rather than in a mostly political war.

I think this is an important distinction.

by texas dem 2006-12-29 03:08AM | 0 recs
Much More Accurate!

Matt's formulation:

while we are a reaction to insane conservative elites, the 1960s left was a reaction to liberal elites that couldn't deliver.
was technically accurate, but failed to grasp the underlying dynamic, which you have captured perfectly.  The liberal elites couldn't deliver because, as you say, "The liberal elites of the 50s and 60s were sitting on top of a VERY VERY conservative society."

But those elites compounded the problem by narrowing their vision.  A very good book that illustrates this is Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement by Carol Polsgrove.  Here's a taste of the book description:

No other movement in the twentieth century posed a starker challenge to American democracy than that of civil rights. Its premise was simple; its purpose clear. And yet, as Carol Polsgrove shows in this revelatory history of the movement for racial equality during its climactic years, some of America's best-known intellectuals proved curiously reluctant to face up to its demands. Based upon unpublished archival material and new interviews, Divided Minds unveils startling new portraits of leading writers and scholars who responded to the Supreme Court's call for equality in Brown v. Board of Education with peculiar ambivalence.

This part of your anaylis is particularly noteworthy:

Oddly enough, our current culture is not all that painfully conservative, at least not compared to our current politics.   We are now facing a center-right culture and a far far right political elite, and I think that is why our energies are now so focused on the political process specifically.
This also explains why lies figure so prominently in our politics, and why it is so important to challenge them.  There is a huge disconnect between our political system and where the American people are at.

Of course, merely exposing lies is not sufficient. Promoting accurate counter-narratives is as important as discrediting deceitful narratives. But--unlike the 1950s and 60s--we have far less need to change people's hearts than to change their perceptions.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-29 04:41AM | 0 recs
Having been there

I find myself feeling resentful to how you frame the times and people.

One thing that was vastly different was there was not internet to enable communication, bottom up grassroots coordination, democratic decision making. Back then, like some commenters have observed, it was a lot about leaders, because, the technology of the times dictated, it was about who got hold of the microphone.

Since there was no internet, another primary means of communication was through music and musicians. That's why Woodstock was important. It wasn't just a musical event. It was a convening of the counterculture.

The counterculture was a reaction to the old rules-- the dessicated, stale customs, ceremonies, ways of doing things that needed to be challenged and questioned. You can wear jeans to work today because that was one cultural taboo that was challenged and broken. Premarital sex is not something that bans a young women to be sent off with out of state relatives because of the counterculture and the confrontation it produced with the "old" ways.

When it comes to politics, the people of the sixties really blew it. Most of those who protested against Viet Nam-- on campus or in DC-- didn't follow through. The war ended, Disco, Donna Summer and the Bee Gees replaced love-ins, Dylan, Hendrix and Crosby Stills and Richie Havens. And now, too many of those boomers are among the remaining idiots who still support Bush.

Of course, there were always plenty of rednecks, even in the sixties, and all those shirt pocket protector wearing business majors who were jealous of the longhairs who seemed to be having all that fun with sex and drugs. They went on to become yuppies.

But there are still plenty of people in their fifties and sixties who are now tapping the power of the internet and engaging in the new progressive politics. There are some not quite old, but older dogs that are learning the new tricks.

Bottom line-- don't be too quick to write off what we did in the sixties. Your lives would be far more restricted, with many less freedoms if we hadn't done our cultural revolution. Now, let's figure out how we can do all we can to take America to a new level of progressive awareness and policy.

by robkall 2006-12-29 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations

Good, interesting discussion. But when considering the '60s, let's also remember that the race riots in many cities across the country terrified white America. The Wallaces, Nixons, Agnews, etc. capitalized on this fear.  No doubt, the young Karl Rove learned the lesson completely.  Nobody was afraid of hippies, SDS or even the Weathermen.  White America might have been angry, appalled and disgusted by the "radicalism' of their sons and daughters, and by sex, drugs and rock and roll.  But what really scared them was what they saw happening in Watts, Newark and all the other riot torn areas.  This fear undermined Democratic liberalism and for that matter, Republican liberalism.  That's why whites bought guns and moved to the suburbs.  

by Audrey06 2006-12-29 10:25AM | 0 recs
Recommendations on New Left Books

I'm late to this topic, but I have some recommendations on books about the New Left:

Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching
James Miller, Democracy Is in the Streets
Rebecca Klatch, A Generation Divided
Sara Evans, Personal Politics
Doug McAdam, Freedom Summer
Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975
David Allyn, Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution, An Unfettered History
Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity
Kenneth J. Heineman, Campus Wars

Rossinow and Heineman's books are especially interesting because they depict what the campus New Left was like in the "heartland" of the country, whereas many standard New Left histories only discuss Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, Univ of Michigan, and the Ivy League.  For example, Heineman shows that Kent State was at the cutting edge of the antiwar movement in the Midwest (some members of the Weathermen were Kent Staters), not a sleepy little backwater that was ignorant of the antiwar movement.

In addition, I also recommend A Decade of Nightmares by Philip Jenkins.  It has an interesting argument about how the Seventies are extremely important to understanding our current political culture.  (For example, terrorism against commercial airlines hit its peak in the Seventies, but the response to it was much less driven by fear and hysteria than what the response would be today.) Jenkins associates the Seventies with the mainstreaming of the Sixties counterculture, along with the rise of the hysterical, apocalyptic, "won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-chil dren" style of politics that animates both the Christian Right and Joe Lieberman/Hillary Clinton's bloviations about violent video games.

by jonp72 2006-12-29 11:21AM | 0 recs
Love this thread

One issue that hasn't been mentioned is the fall of the Soviet Union. This blew the wind out of many on the far left who intellectualized political revolution. Capitalism seemed to be the clear cut winner for many and fighting it was pointless. Even the lefty blogs charge for ads. Who even calls themselves a socialist these days? Forget Communist. The 60's radicals leaned far further to the left and saw the American system as corrupt, inferior and not worthy of participating in. The intellectual side of the Black Panthers rejected capitalism as well.

Today's lefties are iPod wearing, entrepreneurial and completely disassociate themselves from "hippies" because they had completely different values. There is no more free sex, drugs don't make you cool, capitalism rules and being rich doesn't exclude you from the club. Once the 21st century lefties accepted capitalism as the standard, everything changed and revolution was no longer cool.

Also, education. Very few political/social leaders are uneducated beyond high school. The eighties saw the creation of the Young Republican Club at every college. Cuts in public education and attacks on affirmative action were/are attempts at keeping minorities out of leadership roles. With the rise of a black middle class, the rise of black leaders was scary to Republicans. In the 60's, if you grew up in the suburbs you could be a rebel by dropping out Timothy Leary style. Many of the SNCC members had parents supporting them financially. Few working class kids could get away with blowing their parents money. Today, dropping out is a loser move. This is a big difference. Priorities have changed greatly.

The sixties were successful socially. Abortion, the pill, civil rights, etc. But politically it failed. Reagan was born out of the 60's. The "hippies" grew up and now had 401Ks. Revolution tends to diminish ones 401K earnings. I don't buy into the line that we grow more conservative as we age. But the big difference today is that we no longer have 401Ks. We don't have health insurance, basic education. To fix these ills means to fix the system. The system is remembered to have at least worked. Today it is broken and breaking it further will not help. Dean being elected head is the DNC is the moment that will be remembered as a turning point. Few people saw anybody being elected in the 60's as a great accomplishment of the people. 2008 will bring victory to today's left. And if the Dems have the guts, it will be considered a great victory 40 years from now.

My parents always said that MLK was killed out of fear that he would run for president. Now that would have been a political victory to set back conservatism in the 60's.

by Slappy 2006-12-29 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Initial Observations on the Dirty Hippy M

I have been an activist leftist since I was 17, in 1965, and have lived in GA the whole time.  I am as politically active now as I have ever been, and have been a legislative lobbyist for over 25 years.  I wrote earlier in this very interesting string of thoughts, about things that I thought were left out.  Anti Communism was extremely important in shaping the 1960s, and as I grew older I learned that a lot of the things that happened then happened because of the work of old Popular Front folks from the 40s and 50s who just never stopped working at making progressive change, inspiring the likes of me.  I think that is the reason I never stopped myself, and while there have been some periods of pretty miserable politics and activity was focused on narrow, "single issue" activity like fighting nuclear plants or trying to end military activity in Central America, there has always been some leftist political activism continuously since the 60s.

A parallel to the internet from the 60s that has not been mentioned as I recall is the underground papers.  They were all over, from 67 on up into the mid 70s in some places.  They paved the way for today's alternative weeklies, but they were mostly all lefty, cooperative instead of profit making, and they printed stuff that was not found in the dailies, or was being said by Uncle Walter or Huntley and Brinkley.  These papers were open to anyone who showed up and started working on them, and they were also the result of a new technology, called "cold type," that used photoengraving to make cheap printing possible.  Even then we had to get the Great Speckled Bird printed at a union shop in Alabama--the cops had told the Atlanta printshops to stop printing the paper.

The cops, as I said before, were an immense influence on activities in the 60s.  This was not something that was in any way what this Tall Saul thinks it was.  This was police oppression, and it was widespread and historic.  It was inflicted on unions, on civil rights groups and on the antiwar movement.  It was highly organized, it was top down and coordinated from D.C. To suppose that aspects of it do not continue today seems pretty childlike if you ask me.      

by neillherring 2006-12-29 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Recollections

Matt -- I appreciate your essay, and let me add a few comments. I am in the midst of trying to explain that time to my 16 year old son, so the topic is very much on my mind.

I was in college in Boston in the late '60s, helped publish the "underground" paper there (the Avatar), and was deeply involved in the anti-war movement.

The Viet Nam War is absolutely key to the late '60s and early '70s. It was much larger than Iraq, and there was a draft. We could get 200,000 people at demonstrations because every college aged person was a candidate for the army.  There is nothing comparable now to make the normally uncommited young person feel like politics matters in his life.

There were probably the same number of activists then as now, but we could draw on the life-and-death concerns of most of our contemporaries. My college tried in 1968 to expel me and some of my radical friends, but we were able to get the support of most of the students, which managed to get us only probation.

At the same time, there was much less concern for a (white) middle class youth as to finding a good job, whether or not we had "misbehaved" or even dropped out of college. I believe that the keep-your-nose-clean pressure lies much more heavily on your generation.

And the violence of the time was also critical. JFK (for all his later-discovered faults) was an inspiration to us, and he was killed -- and most of us believed that it was not just because of a single deranged individual. And while we were all at home that Thanksgiving vacation, glued to the TV (in the days of few channel options), there we saw Jack Ruby killed live.

Then RFK and MLK were killed, two men who embodied the best of political leadership. For many of us, these three murders (as well as Kent State) convinced us that political action within the system was pointless.  This "dropping out" of the system took at least three forms:

  1. Forget politics and focus on getting on with our own lives, a '70s hedonism that evolved into making money and thinking romantically of the past.  Politics were easier to forget after Nixon ended the draft, thus ending large political demonstrations and protests (the reason he ended the draft). This represents the majority of our generation.
  2. Drop out of the system and try to create alternate communities that embodied our beliefs.  Most of these fell apart, but some (such as the one in which I still live) have lasted to the present.
  3. Radical political action -- several of my close friends became Weathermen, some of whom died in the process. This is what was seen at the Chicago convention.  This also represents much of the "dirty hippie" meme, but was only a small percentage of my contemporaries.

I was deeply nvolved in the Dean campaign (Howard was an old friend of mine from high school), and in that campaign I saw -- for the first time in 30 years -- the kind of political committment in youth as in the sixties.  However, your generation is much less romantic than mine was, much more serious and disciplined.

I think our generations need to continue to learn from each other.

by Randy Foote 2006-12-29 01:52PM | 0 recs


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