Saturday, August 09, 2014

The “Tipping Point” Years: 1863, 1914, 1964, 20??

1968: "The Year That.   .   . "
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

--Douglas Adams (1952-2001), author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

1863 is an obvious--and well-marked--”tipping point” year. Slavery ended with 1863‘s Emancipation Proclamation, with the new America defined in Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address, but most importantly with Gettysburg itself, the battle from which the forces defending slavery never recovered. 1863.

As for the latest “tipping point,” Peggy Noonan talks about a country heading for a crack-up, the very morning after I watched the CNN “Sixties” show on 1968. Now 1968 was America going through a crack-up.  So far, 2014 is no 1968.

Nor does it seem to be even a 1964.

1968 ended post-war America’s muscular Democratic administrations, but 1964 was the New Deal/Fair Deal/New Frontier/Great Society’s “tipping point” year. 1964 was the year of civil rights triumph: Lyndon Johnson orchestrating passage of the law that at last, a century after the Civil War ended, gave blacks their hard-earned place in the sun. It was also a year of Johnson personal triumph; he slaughtered Barry Goldwater in the Fall presidential election, carrying two-thirds of Congress with him.

But 1964 actually turned on what didn’t happen: Kennedy’s “best and brightest” team failed to steer Johnson away from Vietnam, the war that ruined his presidency, transformed his party, and divided the nation. 1964 unfolded in the immediate aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, which devastated American optimism, of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination that guaranteed deepening involvement in Vietnam, and of publication of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, the book that launched women’s liberation.

Every year after 1964 was worse than the year before: 1965, sustained bombing campaign of North Vietnam, U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam; 1966, as escalation continued and combat deaths rose--in color on the evening news--Defense Secretary McNamara privately soured on the war (he would secretly launch the “Pentagon Papers” project a year later); 1967, anti-war protests reached a boil with an October march on the Pentagon as Martin Luther King, Johnson’s close civil rights ally, came out publicly against Johnson's war. Then 1968, the year the country gave up on Vietnam--the year of the Vietcong Tet offensive, of the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, of the Chicago Democratic Convention and police riot, and of the election of “I’m not a crook” Richard Nixon--the year our cultural revolution overturned the old order.

Now fifty years on, we are asking, “When will the forces that triumphed in the 1960s ‘triple revolution’ of civil rights, sexual freedom, and women’s rights finally exit the stage?” They won, they rule, things are going badly, but they go on, even if they don’t seem happy.

As conservative writer Heather Wilhelm notes, the
depressing logical endpoint of the “free-spirited” ’60s counterculture [is] government-guaranteed “fairness” paired with forced, humorless conformity[. While] it is important to “know thyself[,” m]any modern progressives. . . lack a basic understanding of what they’ve become.  “Man, when you lose your laugh,” as ’60s icon and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey once noted, “you lose your footing.” Despite their enthusiasm for a growing, invasive state and a community-based thought police, many leftists seem to believe they’re . . . hippies of yore, or community activists fighting the power.
Lawlessness is on the rise, as the “new” establishment, the children of the 1960s, fight to hang on to the top-down, inefficient, big government state they control through Democrats’ money and power. Progressives tell themselves they are the future, ruling growing numbers of minorities and unmarried women (not to mention poor), representing an increasingly dominant popular culture freed from conventional moral constraints. So it seems.

Peggy Noonan, who as we saw watches today’s “crack up,” is intrigued (as are we) by how people missed the biggest “tipping point” of all one hundred years ago, 1914:
As you read of the [Great War] and its aftermath, you are always stopped by this fact: There is no recorded instance of masses of people gathering together to weep the day it was declared. They should have. The beautiful world they were day by day constructing was in jeopardy and ultimately would be consumed. Yet when people heard the news they threw their hats in the air, parading and waving flags in every capital. In Berlin "crowds thronged the streets shouting, cheering, singing patriotic songs." In London the same. In St. Petersburg thousands waved banners and icons. In Paris, as the city's regiments pushed off, "an immense clamour arose as the Marseillaise burst from a thousand throats."
Once again, it's about avoiding a disinclination to, as Douglas Adams suggests, “learn from the experience of others.” Let me suggest three lessons for those who would “tip” America away from its current progressive rule:
  • expose the corruption of Democratic crony capitalism at the top;
  • fight for control of American popular culture while retaining one’s values, and; 
  • run female and minority candidates for higher office, including president.

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