Forty years ago, in the summer of 1968, leftist radicals fought the police outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Four years later, these same New Left forces went into the Democratic Party, seized control of its nomination process, and put George McGovern on the presidential ticket. The result was the biggest defeat of a major party candidate in modern American history, surpassing even the Goldwater and Mondale debacles of 1964 and 1984. For decades afterward, as the cultural Left consolidated its position in the Democratic Party (and other places, like the mass media and academia), the Democrats fuctioned as an often seemingly irrelevant opposition party, achieving victory only when they put up a couple of previously obscure frying pan governors as candidates.
As Republicans continued to win elections, the cry from the Right was a persistent, “The Sixities are over!” as if the radical Left had finally been vanquished for good. The Right was saying this as recently as 2004, when a former celebrity of the anti-Vietnam War movement, John Kerry, headed up the Democratic Party ticket, obtaining forty-eight percent of the vote. The radical Left was a fringe movement in the late 1960s, comprised of politically marginalized and socially outcast racial minorites, feminists, homosexuals, environmentalists, student radicals, leftist intellectuals, counterculturalists and the antiwar movement. Now, forty years later, what was marginal in 1968 is normal, mainstream and a cultural majority at the end of 2008.
The electoral victory of Barack Obama symbolizes the culmination of the long march from the streets of Chicago to full institutionalization of the radical Left of a previous era. That Obama, the individual, is more of a centrist than a leftist and was only a child in 1968 is less significant than what he represents. The 68ers have now seized the establishment and those who insisted the establishment could never be trusted have become the establishment.
On virtually every issue, the radical Left of the 1960s has either won or is in the process of winning. Racism? Despite the claims of “anti-racist” professionals who insist that Nazis are hiding under every bed, racism is at an all-time low. Blacks are only 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, and have a lengthy history as an outgroup, yet a black man wins the presidency. If hatred of blacks was particularly common, the Obama presidency would be impossible. Sexism? The woman who is to become the next Secretary of State is a woman who personally epitomizes 70s era feminism. The class of urban professional women has grown exponentially in recent decades. Even the vice-presidential candidate of the ostensibly “conservative” party was a woman, something that would have been virtually unthinkable forty years ago. A friend of mine’s mother was told as a child that her ambition to become a doctor was inappropriate because of her gender. Today, such sentiments would be laughable. As an illustration, the daughter of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, the man who for many symbolized anti-60s social conservatism, is now a physician. Gay rights? Homosexuals are more out of the closet, more socially integrated and have more “rights” than ever before. Anti-gay marriage referendums continue to pass, but do so by a smaller margin each time they come up for vote, with the real source of the conflict being generational in nature. The gay rights movement will eventually win on that issue as well. In the 1950s, homosexual relationships were considered a serious felony, like drug use in the present era. Today, not only does gay culture thrive in American cities, but even mainsteam bookstores like Barnes & Noble feature entire sections of literature devoted to gay issues. Such materials would likely have been banned under obscentity laws prior to the late 60s or early 70s.
Environmentalism? One of the world’s leading advocates of environmental causes, who obtained a Nobel Prize for his efforts, was very nearly elected President of the United States in 2000. Student radicalism? Many of the student rebels of the 1960s are now tenured academics, and there is no place in American society where the far Left is more secure than in academia. The sexual revolution? This has proven to be every bit as enduring as the civil rights revolution. Very few Americans even remember that some states had laws prohibiting contraceptive devices in the 1960s. Pornography and adult entertainment are now almost as mainstream as rock and rap music.
What about the antiwar movement? Surely, some might think, the present war in Iraq illustrates a failure of the radical Left is this area. Well, not really. In the early days of the Vietnam War, it was physically dangerous to oppose the war. Early antiwar protests typically required police protection, and the protestors were happy to have the cops present to ward off vigilante attacks from gung ho patriots. When the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed, it did so unanimously in the House of Representatives, and with only two dissenters in the Senate.
The number of casualties on the American side has yet to be one-tenth of what they were in Vietnam, yet public opinion turned against the war at the first site of blood, and this was in spite of the fact that September 11 had occurred only a few years earlier. It is politically impossible to impose war taxes, which is why the System is financing the war with inflation, deficit spending and foreign loans. The draft is likewise politically impossible and, indeed, the fact that there has been no draft since the Vietnam era marks yet another profound victory for the radical Left of the time. The present Iraq war, the public disgust generated by the neoconservatives and the Bush crowd, the national bankruptcy produced by Bush policies and the ineptness of the U.S. at fighting modern, “fourth generation” guerrilla armies have likely rendered further major imperial expeditions like Vietnam or Iraq impossible for the forseeable future. Yes, some piss ant Clintonesque imperialisms like those in Haiti or Kosovo may continue (with the added irony of former Vietnam War protestors defending these in the name of “humanitarian” war), and these will likely end only when the present regime finally dissolves, but the empire is on its last legs and its days are likely numbered.
Indeed, even the “conservatism” of the present time is “liberal” compared to the pre-1960s period. Ronald Reagan did not govern appreciably to the right of John F. Kennedy. Reagan’s wars in Central America were simply a repeat of Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs and early involvement in Vietnam. George W. Bush has not governed to the right of Lyndon Johnson, presiding over the same kind of failed combination of joint extension of the warfare and welfare states as LBJ. The present day leadership of the Republican Party are the neoconservatives, who were on the far left end of the Democratic Party in the 1960s, the so-called “state department socialists.” What about the Religious Right? There is no group around more consistently demonized by the Left, and the literature of the Left is full of wild claims concerning an imminent theocratic coup by the Religious Right. The reality is that the Religious Right are simply convenient scapegoats for the Left and useful idiots for the Right. In the thirty years that the Religious Right has been an organized political movement, it has achieved nothing concerning any of its major issues. Putting prayer back into public schools? There are arguably more restrictions on religious practice and expression in state institutions than ever before. Banning abortion? A comprehensive anti-abortion referendum could not pass popular vote even in conservative South Dakota, and with Obama likely appointing the next members of the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade is probably secure. Tuition tax credits or vouchers for private religious schools? It ain’t happening.
Jews are another traditional American outgroup, who were at times excluded from some social organizations and institutions until the civil rights era. Today, ethnic Jews own the majority of the major media companies, and the Israel Lobby is by far among the most powerful in the U.S government, essentially controlling U.S. policy in the Middle East. Yet, merely pointing out these facts invite sshrill accusations of the new “Scarlet A” of anti-Semitism. Prior to 1965, the U.S. maintained a racially restrictive immigration policy, which has since been liberalized remarkably. America was ninety percent white in 1960. Today, the U.S. is only sixty-eight percent white, and proposed policies to so much as deny welfare state benefits to illegal immigrants are denounced as racist and xenophobic.
Indeed, the only area where the radical Left is losing is in the area of so-called “criminal justice.” The U.S. police state has expanded dramatically in recent decades, and the “War on Drugs” and enforcement of other “consensual crime” laws have largely been the foundation of this, and has produced a corresponding prison-industrial complex. The execution rate in the U.S. is also unusually high for a modern, democratic, industrialized nation.
Though the Left has achieved complete or nearly complete victory on just about every issue, the Left will never admit as much. Sixties radicalism has become what any other movement becomes once it is institutionalized. The purpose of the Left today is to simply perpetuate its own existence and its own vested interests. For this reason, invisible armies of racists, sexists, homophobes and theocrats must constantly be said to be hiding behind every rock or tree. Heretics who dissent from left-wing orthodoxy on any number of matters must be constantly sought out for denunciation, repression or persecution.
This brings us to the question of what it really means to be a radical in 21st century North America. How “radical” is it to simply espouse anti-racism, feminism, gay rights, environmentalism and other run of the mill “progressive” causes? Are such things “radical” or are they mainstream, status quo and now establishmentarian in nature?
Is attacking the supposed “racism” of a Don Imus or a James Watson really the act of a dissident? Or would it be the “radical” thing to do to champion the rights of freedom of speech, religion or association for those with beliefs and opinions that dissent from liberal orthodoxy? Is it “radical” to persistently denounce groups like the Klan or Neo-Nazis that everyone hates anyway, or would it be more “radical” to expose supposed humanitarian do-gooders like the SPLC or the ADL for the frauds they are? What would be more cutting edge or “going against the flow,” to denounce “sexism” in the manner of an establishment liberal like Gloria Steinem or to defend academic and intellectual liberty for the likes of Walter Block? As far as defending outgroups goes, are groups like homosexuals, immigrants, minorities or women really “outgroups” in contemporary society? Would it not be far more radical and far more shocking to the establishment to defend gun-toting rural rednecks, drug-dealing inner-city ghetto dwellers, home schoolers and truants, practicioners of alternative medicine, strange religious sects, drug users, prostitutes and convicts, or avowedly separatist indigenous people like the Lakota Republic? What would be a greater outrage, a protest demonstration led by commie cults like the Workers World Party, or the formation of citizen militias, common law courts and secessionist movements? What would be more rebellious in nature, a recycling program or civil disobedience demanding the right to smoke in private bars and clubs, thereby giving the finger to the therapeutic state? What is more truly radical, agitating for gay marriage or a riot against the police state and prison-industrial complex similar to that which recently transpired in Greece?
The anwers to these questions are clear enough.