“Conservatism is dead” was a popular phrase that circulated in the American lexicon in the 1960s. All indications pointed toward that lofty announcement. John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960; the Civil Rights movement was at the height of its power in the mid-decade; sweeping reforms were passed; the anti-Vietnam draft protests followed shortly there after; hundreds of thousands were in the streets daily demanding government accountability; art and music were becoming more expressive and defying social norms. In essence everything that one thought that they knew in 1959, was completely turned on its head by 1969.
American conservatism in all of its stagnant essence was very much, and undeniably dead in the 1960s.
The question that should be asked now, is “What happened to the American Left?” The Republicans and the conservative pundits will say “President Clinton and President Obama have dragged this country toward socialism and depression;” or, ” they are weak on national defense;” or, “the liberal democrats who voted for them, will blindly defend everything that they have done and will ignore any criticism.” Again, , what happened to the American-Left?
The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party and all their pundits are full of liars when it comes to accurately charging the faults of two (allegedly) liberal Presidential administrations. At the same time, the liberals are misguided in their newly found, undying loyalty toward the power-establishment. Presidents, William J. (Bill) Clinton and Barack Obama were never “socialist”, they were never “left-wing”, and the claim that they were “weak on national defense” is hideously erroneous.
Here’s some of the notable “accomplishments” of the Clinton and Obama administrations
- Passing the North American Free Trade Act, outsourcing the entire American industrial capacity overseas.
- The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), giving the government the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus if one is suspected of terrorism.
- HR-347, criminalizing protest in areas where there are elected officials present.
- Overseeing the republican led “Contract for America” come into play, cutting social programs for millions of Americans feeling the brunt of NAFTA.
- Overseeing the abuse of power committed by the National Security Administration.
- Collectively authorizing the bombings of Kosovo, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
- Passing an omnibus bailout of a faulty financial sector.
- Overseeing the end of the Glass-Stegal Act, legislation that separated commercial banks from firms that dealt primarily with securities.
- Expanding the powers of the Transportation Security Administration.
- Overseeing a multitude of state governments pass the cruelest of austerity measures, and not saying a word about the implementations of such.
Back to the 1960s. As we all know, President Kennedy was assassinated before he completed his first term and was succeeded by Lyndon B Johnson. Now, here is a question that should make every Obama and Clinton defender think: Who provided more opposition to the Kennedy-Johnson administration, the left-wing or the right wing? When the Kennedy-Johnson administration failed to act, when they refused to end the war in Vietnam, or when they passed regressive legislation in conjunction with Congress, the images of hundreds of thousands taking to the streets engaging in civil disobedience, burning American flags, burning draft cards, were not productions of conservatives. “The Freedom Ride”, The 1963 March on Washington, the 1967 “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, The People’s Park protests in Berkeley, and Woodstock were not productions of American conservatism.
Now let’s ask ourselves this question. What would the 1960s “American Left” do in the face of the NDAA, the Patriot Act, school budget cuts, the NSA scandal, the rising college tuition rates, the war in Iraq, the expansion of the TSA, and the financial bailouts of Wall Street?
In 2011, there was the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy began as a legitimate, anti-establishment, left-wing protest, that faced state repression and police brutality not seen since the 1960s. However, Occupy was eventually co-opted by the “modern left” and figuratively neutered. Instead of growing as a social movement it was used as a vehicle to re-elect Barack Obama to a second term. The “modern left” argued that if Obama lost the election to Mitt Romney, it would have put the United States in a real bad situation politically. Well, excuse me for asking, but Was that same fear and paranoia expressed by the left, not present during the 1968 election when Nixon was in the running for the Presidency?
Granted when Robert Kennedy was assassinated during the Democratic party primary it changed the whole dynamic of the 1968 American presidential election. However, by the lame brained logic of the American-Left of today, everyone should have rolled over and lent their support to Hubert H. Humphrey to prevent Richard Nixon from becoming the president. And, certainly no one would have dared to protest the (now infamous) 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, because the left of today does not possess the courage to call out their own politicians and make them look like the repressive automatons they really are. A Republican would be unbearably worse! Oh by the way, hate on Nixon all you want, but it was under the Nixon administration that the Environmental Protection Agency was established, conscription was ended (for the time being), the voting age was lowered to 18, and the Vietnam War eventually ended after the heinous and insidious firebombings and the hundreds of thousands of innocent casualties that were lost in Southeast Asia. At least Nixon had the military completely withdraw from Southeast Asia, and ended the war. Unlike some Democratic President who oversees combat operations in Afghanistan, twelve years after said combat operations were originally implemented.
Just 40+ years later, we have income inequality, unconstitutional wars, environmental neglect, an expanding police and surveillance state, and neoliberal austerity policies. Again, What happened to the American Left?” What happened to the youthful, creative, anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian, angry, and passionate spirit that dominated the 1960s? I’ll tell you what happened, it is moribund. It’s on its deathbed. There is no “American Left”. The romantic overtones of the droves of 18-25 year olds coming out of the woodwork in 2008 to elect Barack Obama, that generation has not the slightest concept of what it means to rebel against the establishment. Oh of course they were opposed to the policies of George W. Bush and felt need to vote to ensure that his “third term” (in John McCain) did not become President. But this generation of the mainstream American Left (and their parents) have refused to call a spade, “a spade” and have defended the neoliberal and imperialistic policies of this President and President Clinton. To this generation, only Republicans are responsible for such heinous and insidious crimes against the American People, and not the entirety of the American power establishment. What is worse is when an anti-establishment voice does emerge from the shadows to criticize the establishment, that voice is ignored, co-opted, discredited, silenced or ostracized. Has American liberalism become so demonized by the Reagan-Bush era that liberals actually fear what they really are, and have to become apologists for what they deeply and truly know goes against the very essence of their own principles?
If this country is to see a change of paradigm from the fear, paranoia, and corporate rule that has been strangling it’s life away since 1980 (and more so post-9/11), the first step is for the American Left to wake up, and look at its self in the mirror and see that it has a problem. The American Left needs to stop asking the Democratic Party for concessions, and needs to tell the Democratic Party “we are going to make change whether you allow us to or not”. The American Left needs to embrace the youthful, creative, anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian, angry, and passionate spirit that it has abandoned. The standard bearers of American liberalism need to stop silencing and ostracizing the individuals who question the establishment, and quite frankly the American Left needs to needs to muster up the courage it once had, even if that means exposing the nasty under belly of their so-called “political champions”.
This is a very grave and serious time in the United States of America. If the American Left cannot dig deep down, and cannot re-embrace its determination and ethics from the 1960s, then the descent of the United States of America into a future of totalitarianism is all but certain. If the founding morals of this country, free speech, free expression, and equality for all, are to exist tomorrow, the American Left needs to WAKE UP today.