Another of those political-historical things. Move along, oh lovers of tech stuff. (That's the 1966
Buick Chevy Impala to the left.)
It disturbs me when people ignore history, even the history they themselves have seen. Like Brit Hume today saying "let's move on" about the Cheney shooting and having no one respond "but Monica Lewinsky wasn't even shot."
I guess I expect this kind of willful ignorance out of the Stalinists who profane themselves "conservatives." It upsets me when liberals, who should know better, do it.
So let's set the wayback to 1966, an equivalent time for the conservative movement to 2006.
There were, in fact, three political parties at that time:
- The ruling Democrats, having (they thought) put Civil Rights behind them, were running the military-industrial complex in Vietnam and the War on Poverty in America's cities. Despite growing opposition to the War, despite rising urban anger, their hold on power seemed secure.
- The Washington Republicans were trying to accommodate the majority while keeping some distance, triangulating as they'd done under Eisenhower, led by Everett Dirksen and Gerald Ford. Their strategy was to seem a reasonable alternative, with candidates like Chuck Percy and Edmund Brooke to run alongside the Rockefeller brothers.
- Then there were the Goldwater Republicans, the true conservatives. They weren't heard in Washington, they didn't appear on TV chat shows, and their views were totally unrepresented in the media. What they most wanted was for the party to fight for their principles.
The Goldwaterites hated the establishment party. In New York they had formed their own splinter group, the Conservative Party, to challenge Rockefeller, and would run a no-hoper named Dr. Paul Adams for Governor. Ronald Reagan was still known as an actor, planning a quixotic campaign against popular Democrat Edmund Brown. The vaunted "southern strategy" would get its first test in Georgia, and fail, with Bo Calloway losing to an avowed racist, Lester Maddox. Only on the fringes of the south - Virginia, Kentucky, Florida - were Republicans achieving any real success, and even in the Mountain West powerful Democrats like Frank Church were the norm, Goldwater, it seemed, was an anomoly.
In early 1966, all this was conventional wisdom. Conservatives were busy recruiting millionaires on which to center their movement, creating their own alternative universe of interest groups. They were, for the most part, out of sight and out of mind. Real conservatives were considered unelectable.
Look at the photo again, a Time Magazine cover showing the "victorious Republicans" of 1966. Only one in the six is a conservative, Reagan. The others are Brooke, Percy, Rockefeller, George Romney, and Mark Hatfield. Unfair? Maybe. But typical.
I mention all this after reading literally dozens of posts at liberal blogs discussing the "failure of the netroots" to win elections, and the crowing of Washington Democrats (along with their press correspondents) that the only way to win is by not seeming "too radical," not disagreeing too forcefully with the ruling party, not asking too many questions.
So here’s a fact to chew on.
Political revolutions don't happen in Washington. They don't happen in the media. They're not televised. They are always built from the ground-up, emerging seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly, out of pain that they seize as opportunity.
Even the 1966 revolution was not seen, at first, for what it was. The cover of Time after that election showed Reagan victorious, yes. But it also showed Brooke, and Percy, and George Romney. The debate between Washington Republicans and Movement Republicans would go on for some time, would be compromised in the Nixon nomination of 1968, and Nixon's own record in office would be marked by real liberal achievements - the EPA, Roe vs. Wade, Title IX.
In 1966 the media was still saying we could "not afford to lose" in Vietnam, and nearly everyone had to bow before that reality before being given air-time. Liberalism was treated as a state religion, and those who called themselves conservatives were apostate. Yet, in millions of American living rooms, the men and women of the Greatest Generation were undergoing their own sea change. Challeged by their children, feeling threatened by liberal demands, they were shifting their political allegiances. And once their children put down their bong pipes, these new political assumptions would become theirs, too. Despite Jimmy Carter, despite Bill Clinton, the change that overtook members of the Sinatra "rat pack" in the 1960s are still the political assumptions we live by, 40 years later.
There are no guarantees in any of this. Fears of stolen elections, a creeping police state, may prove true. American democracy is, and always was, terribly fragile. The power of fear to cause knees to jerk should not be underestimated. Nor should the power of media.
But history shows generations end, that people change, that crises lead to new coalitions, and that America is always capable of renewing itself. So it has been, and so long as this is really America so I think will it ever be.