Personally I like hippies. They were before my time but they were harmless. They just became the scapegoats for a generation’s political activism, the bogeymen (and women) people learned to run from. Even today, when a Republican really gets rolling, you may hear some reference to hippies, although most ex-hippies now are 65 or older.
The people who respond best to this call are Populists, direct descendants of William Jennings Bryan
(left). He began as an economic populist, then became a foreign
policy populist, and left this world as a religious populist. It is the rejection of Populism, and Populists, by Republicans which is the great political story of our time. Only one Republican candidate, Ron Paul, approaches that label and his supporters are so obnoxious to the rest they’re banned.
Today, as The New York Times reports, Populists are popping off the back of the Republican bandwagon. Most will remain Republican, for now. Others are becoming independent, a few Democratic, and still others just won’t vote this time. This month’s "Values Voters Forum" may eventually be seen in this light, a party squawking at people, most of whom have already left the room.
What’s the matter with Kansas? Evangelicals have stopped drinking the Kool-Aid. They see themselves as having been drawn down a dark road of hate, and many are seeing it as a dead end street. Just as, 40 years ago, hippies like Timothy Leary turned off a generation of
Middle America, so it is today with Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Just as the great union leaders faded then, so right-wing preachers are fading now.
People of faith have OD’ed on hate and are slowly rejecting it, just as 40 years ago middle America overdosed on the drug culture and slowly rejected it. Keeping the hate-mongers on the tube is actually a blessing.
All this gives the Democrats a daunting coalition and, potentially, dominance of the next generation. On 9 in 10 issues, Rasmussen Reports says, Democrats have the upper hand. And this is a pretty conservative polling outfit.
This has happened despite an embarrassing performance by Democrats
in Congress, and by a tepid performance by their Presidential
candidates. This is precisely where Republicans were 40 years ago, with
Romney’s star having faded
over a stupid remark, the party stuck with the previous Republican
Administration’s #2, its Congressional party completely ineffectual
under leader Gerald Ford. Yet they won the next year and came to
Some elections are about personalities. Some elections are about
validating assumptions. Some elections are a temporary rejection of
what has just passed, owing to disgust with a particular person.
Then there are the Generational Elections, where new coalitions are
formed, and new assumptions are forged. The old coalition breaks up,
peoples’ beliefs become hardened in a new direction, and very slowly
the politicians catch up. It’s painful to watch, because
politicians by their nature may say they want to lead, but what they
really want is to be at the front of a parade holding a baton.
Journalists, caught in the moment, almost never catch on to this,
until well after the fact. The new Republican Coalition was barely
understood in 1970 to be a majority, and in 1971 it was assumed
Democrats would stand a strong chance. This is what made Nixon crack-up
and endorse the horrors of his time — the fear of a Great Liberal
Conspiracy which had stolen the prize from him in 1960. Yesterday’s liberal conspiracy is today’s conservative one.
For our era Nixon’s choices remain in the future.
Democrats still must choose their path, and that’s the only race that
really matters. The problem is that, as with Republicans 40 years ago,
they don’t know this. People like Rahm Emanuel are still trying to edge right toward 51 when by standing tall 60 comes right to them. Nixon was a liberal President, Hilary Clinton will be a conservative one.
It won’t be a repeat of past history. Not exactly. Things never
repeat exactly. But patterns repeat, because every Thesis contains the
seeds of its own destruction. The Nixon Thesis of Conflict required the
constant creation of enemies, constant war both within and without, and
growing numbers of people have become exhausted with both wars made necessary by the
Thesis, the cultural and the foreign.
We still need a new Thesis to unite our people, and I continue to
insist it’s based on the myths and values of this new medium, the Internet.
Transparency, connectivity, consensus, openness — these are the
engineering values which drive business progress in our time.
It’s past time we put them to good political use.