The situation you describe is worse than it was in Colorado, which has improved quite a bit in the last five or six years. But, even here the rules and tenure traditionally favor the good-ole-boys (or gals, specifically in Denver).
It's important to keep some perspective, though.
(1) You're in it for the long haul. Don't rock the boat too much until you have some credentials, tenure and friends.
(2) You can't do it by yourself. Encourage others, meet with others.
(3) Don't let the good ones get away. When you find someone with talent, give them rewarding tasks and promote them.
(4) Remember, "they" are also human, good and bad mixed together. They are undoubtedly overworked and underappreciated, tired of doing the thankless tasks handed down by others. Offering to help gets into the soft underbelly of the beast.
The single most significant impact will be getting an insurgent candidate to run statewide. Even if they lose, someone who challenges the party powers brings in energy, passion and inspired activists.
The Colorado Democratic Party was pretty slow on its feet and built around favors-exchanged and power-brokering. But when an insurgent (i.e. not-designated-by-the-party-honchos) candidate Mike Miles beat Ken Salazar for top-listing for the Senate Primary race, it was a sign that a lot of party rank and file wanted someone more Liberal. Yeah, Salazar won the primary, but Miles supporters didn't shut up and go home, they moved into Party roles.
It wasn't just that, but the excitement of a good candidate triggered the surge that went over the dam.
Liberalism CAN play well in the West, whether of the populist or of the San Francisco personal lifestyle kind. The West has long had a get-the-government-off-my-back attitude that Reagan effectively played to. This can mean different things: hunters as pro-gun supporters, or libertarians as abortion right supporters.
I noticed something interesting when looking at some Kerry-Bush electoral results within certain districts and sub-districts in Colorado. In a way, Kerry did better in wealthier Denver suburbs, even Republican ones, when compared to more working class areas, which would normally vote a bit more Democratic. I saw a similar split when those areas vote on gay rights (marriage ammendment) as well, meaning that the issues people responded to fall along class lifestyle or cultural lines, rather than economic ones.
This says to me that Bush's marketing succeeded in painting GWB as a good-ol-boy, and Kerry as an elitist. I think this is about class values more than political values.
The Iraq war as an issue also has some class-interactions. Lower-information but "loyal 'Mericans" who might normally vote Democratic, went for Bush, but higher-information (newspaper readers in the wealthier suburbs), worried more about the war.
The political elites have always been disconnected from the public. They have different agendas, different power centers, different goals. They have always manipulated public opinion and support.
What is different these days, is the ability of independent voices to get aired, and (to a certain extent) get heard. The Traditional Media reads the blogs. Party activists and even Party elites read the blogs.
So, if the public is out on front, we now have a communications medium, even a resonant chamber that will couple the general public to the pundit dialogue.
I arrived at college in 1973, a year behind you. It is really hard for people even one year after me to understand the importance of what you said:
By the end of the 60s decade, there were many activists believing that a revolution was just around the corner. When I arrived at college in 1972, I encountered SDS people walking around in a daze wondering how Nixon could have been re-elected and the revolution had not materialized. Having come from a small city in Texas, I was not surprised, but those living in college ghettoes had lost touch with the reality of our country.
Perhaps even Nixon thought the revolution was coming when he looked out the window and called out the National Guard during the big demonstrations in Washington, DC.
But, the other half of your comment was left unsaid: The 1960s New Left may have operated within a narrow generational and cultural ghetto, but todays activists are not nearly so isolated. I liked the earlier comment about the wave subsiding back into society. Now, we are active within a much more authentic and broader base.
The famous Pew Typology study from 2005 showed a huge increase in self-identified "liberals", doubling from 9% to 18% in the previous decade. As a category within the Democratic Party, this is over 50% of the Party base in just about all the Blue States. Even in Red states, liberal Dems are strongly represented.
I actually don't blame Hillary & Bill for pulling the plug on healthcare 10 or 12 years ago. In retrospect we can all see that they were going to lose, so it was better to punt, and come back at another time. It wasn't just the power and money of the insurance industry, the Republicans were ascendant, and now we know that they would remain ascendent until 2006. The right-wing framing of anti-government, anti-tax and anti-abortion sucked away from us a whole segment of the populace that we will need to win this one. I think that pushing harder for UHC back then would have lost more than it would have won.
But, times change.
Health insurance costs have sky-rocketed. Businesses are dropping insurance benefits or jacking up the price. Businesses themselves suffer. Union contracts are cutback. The uninsured increasingly includes a lot of middle-class people. Someone should plot the costs and number of people impacted over the past 10 years; I'll bet the picture would be pretty stunning.
And, who doesn't hate the insurance industry?
Universal health care is a universal political issue because everybody needs health care, and almost everybody is feeling the pinch. I don't underestimate the insurance industry, nor the anti-government Republicans, but this time around I welcome the fight because the political terrain is so much more favorable for us. The insurance companies are viewed so negatively, that they will have no choice but to hide behind front organizations.
It's like FDR and the great depression. If they were smart, they would propose a 50% solution to coopt the opposition, because otherwise they're gonna lose the whole banana.
What do you bet that McCain calls for some kind of health-care reform lite?
WRT the Democratic primaries.
I don't know about the Dems in your part of the woods, but here in Colorado, the Party activists are strongly in favor of Universal Health Care. The politicos and more establishment voices in the Party may try to moderate or ignore the issue, but I don't think they can hold back the dam this time around. Or else they support it verbally, but don't actually do anything.
Watch for insurgent candidates to do well running on anti-Iraq and UHC.
Lieberman/DLC and Marshall/SDUSA represent ideologically conservative viewpoints that have long been in favor of an imperlialist US foreign policy. The term "moderate" is just a marketing device to try to discredit the left side of the Democratic Party.
These issues go way back to the same old 1960s New Left vs Establishment fights we've been talking about the past few days. SDUSA promoted the George Meany anti-communist wing of the Democratic Party, as opposed to the left-liberal DSOC/Michael Harrington wing (ignoring the smaller NAM - New American Movement of the New Left). I mention these groups together because an important focus for all of them was Labor and the Labor wing of the Democratic Party. The big fight was over Vietnam, foreign policy, and which ideas would be endorsed by the Party.
The use of the term ideological is intentional. SDUSA was (is?) an organization of strategic political planners who came out of the anti-Soviet (marxist-trotskyite) circle around Max Shachtman (see link above). In other words, they aren't just a Dem interest group or supporters of this or that candidate. They have think tanks, funding, strategies, goals and unity of purpose. Establishment Labor gave a lot of funding to SDUSA, which shows us that things go back even further to anti-communist purges in US Labor Unions in the 50s and earlier.
Allthough considerably diminished in influence (I guess?), these groups have long been very active in the internal workings of the Dem Party establishment. When the 1960s new left abandoned working within the Party, it was because the Party establishment was too firmly in the hands of these right-wing anti-communist groups.
I wouldn't necessarily paint the DLC into the same ideological corner, but they are the present day representation of the same practical strategy:
- Actively working against the left-wing of the Party
- Actively pushing for Corporate interests over populist ones
- Actively promoting US Intervention abroad.
We're a big tent, but as someone said above, the DLC is pushing a lot of Republican values, not Democratic ones. You can work for moderate, centrist positions, without going right-wing on us and trying to purge the left.
In comparison, the liberal-left-wing, the so-called "Democratic Wing of the Deomcratic Party" doesn't consist of starry-eyed socialist-radicals. We are pushing issues with strong popular support like Universal Health Care, Fair Trade, and withdrawal from Iraq.
It also seems to me that the left-liberal wing of the Party dominates the actual Party activists (those who go to caucuses and conventions), even if the party establishment and politicians remain more moderate.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
And, of course "excuse me sir, would you like to take a personality test?" (Scientology)
After the political splinters, you had the various spiritual and new age splinters. And don't get me started on the Tibetan Buddhists and other gurus (charlatans or not) who were imported in the late sixties.
The big unions were strong supporters of US Imperialism and did a lot of training of Third World Unions. The ideological front of the Cold War included a huge effort to coopt labor around the world.
And, Big Labor was very pro-Vietnam.
The cultural differences between the New Left and Labor were very successfully nurtured. Perhaps 90% of Reagan's appeal was his ability to convince god-fearin' working guys of the threat from those long-haired, drug-smoking hippies, who hated 'Merica.
Your analysis is too superficial, which would be fine if you captured the right summary information, and had a better idea of how connected things were. Check in with Barbara O'Brian over at Mahablog.
They Should have Served that Cup of Coffee Edited by Dick Cluster. From the description at South End Press: This anthology collects engaging essays and interviews by activists in the civil rights, women's, anti-war, and GI movements; the Black Panther Party; and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers."
But, the book is mainly about the motivation and foundation of the New Left. I came of age much later (early 70s), and even by then it was easy to forget that the roots of the movement(s) dated back to the late 50s.
The other point is that the movement didn't really end, even if energies went in other directions, academia, specific issue organizing, family, career. Perhaps the New Left never went very far beyond the over-educated white middle class, but it is a slander that the radicals flipped to conservative. Almost everyone I know from those days continue to have very strong radical opinions, and continue to be involved... I'm sure right here in River City.
Markos criticizes the politics of single-issue groups, (with good arguments). But, at the time the Democratic Party and Big Labor were extraordinarily hostile to radical ideas. Issue organizing was one way to make a difference and to attempt some small steps forward.
The internicine theoretical battles aren't so interesting, but then you discover a really interesting detail like the influence of the Quakers or Friends and other peace churches at the beginning of almost everything. Also, the old left was surprisingly inluential. Not the CP itself, but I knew a ton of Red Diaper babies who were instrumental in the movement work.