I’m surprised that no one, to my knowledge, has pointed this out: As each week goes by, the Obama administration’s tone looks and sounds more and more like a replay of the 1960s. We have seen a return to the constant use of “racist” to describe opponents. We have seen a return to the “non-judgmentalism” that allowed the 60s generation to peddle the absurd concept that all cultures have their own “validity.” We have seen a return to the notion that the United States is a dangerous nation, no better than any other, and probably worse. We have seen selective concerns about women and minorities, concerns expressed only when they don’t interfere with the larger leftist agenda. (If they do, the female and minority victims are treated with silence.) We have seen the growth of a new isolationism, similar to the isolationism that grew on the left in the 60s.
Why is this? Is President Obama, who was a kid in the 60s, committed to the tone of an era he probably doesn’t even remember? Does he have a simplistic, glamorized view of that time?
I don’t think either of those is true.
What we are seeing, I believe, is the triumph of seniority and nostalgia.
When we speak of the 60s, we’re really referring to the late 60s. There is, after all, almost no connection between 1961 and 1969. The year 1961, with the inauguration of Jack Kennedy, was a time of heady optimism, and good feeling about America. A new generation had arrived. To many, it was refreshing and yet reassuring. This new generation accepted the basic premise of American greatness and exceptionalism.
The year 1969, however, marked the end of a decade that had begun well and finished in darkness. The nation was torn apart. Our cities were turbulent and our colleges seething with constant temper tantrums. Troops returning from Vietnam were regularly insulted and abused.
If you were in college in 1969, you’d be in your early 60s today. Maybe a senior executive. An influential member of Congress. The leader of a think tank. The 60s generation is, right now, at the pinnacle of its power. Most of our leaders are members of that generation. They may not have gone along with the indulgence and the excess, but they were part of a generation that, almost automatically, had rejected the past.
So the return to a 60s rhetoric and style reflects, at base, the fact that the 60s generation is running the show. It took them a while to get there, but they’re there. Most senior executives in the media came of age in the late 60s or thereabouts, and that clearly affects their perception of the world.
Add to that the notion of nostalgia. When we think of nostalgia, for some reason we think of people recalling the golden age of Hollywood, the age of radio, World War II, or, what some call “a simpler time.” We rarely think that people today can be nostalgic about the late 60s, with its violence, anger, assassinations and chaos. Ah, but on the left they definitely are nostalgic, and many are determined to relive their youth, and fulfil their vague idea of some “promise.”
I recall, during the 2004 presidential campaign a woman, a friend, announcing to me that the election was really about abortion. I was just stunned. We were fighting in Iraq, fighting the war on terror, and trying to preserve the safety of the country. I challenged this woman’s remark, wondering out loud how she could think that abortion was the major issue in 2004. “But we fought for it,” she replied. I got it immediately. She was living her youth, trying to return to the old days, her time of protest in the late 60s. That was her world. She didn’t want anything new entering it.
So, I’m afraid Obama has unleashed, in the liberal element of today’s ruling generation, a kind of nostalgia for the social causes, language and emotions that came to the fore in the late 60s. To me, many of these movements had about them a large element of fraud. But, to many, the frauds of the 60s were their heroes. They believed in them the way kids of an earlier era believed that movie stars were pristine, heroic and eternally young.
I think it’s dangerous, and I think Obama is dangerous. While not a child of the 60s, he’s certainly a grandchild of that era, his knowledge of the time filtered through the prism of the leftist academics who guided him. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong on everything. The president, like many on the left, can make some intelligent, cogent criticisms of American society. But his premise is a 60s premise, that America is a pretty bad place with some good features, rather than a great place with some things that need cleaning up.
A great comedian taught me, “You buy the premise, you buy the bit.” I don’t buy Obama’s premise, but he does, which is why he must be defeated in two years.
FROM URGENT AGENDA (WWW.URGENTAGENDA.COM)
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here