Is 2016 the New 1968?

Do you remember, your President Nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay?
Or even yesterday?

-David Bowie, “Young Americans”

Every day is Throwback Thursday. I remember 1968. The struggle. Fighting in the streets. Bricks and bottles, billy clubs and tear gas. Victory! Lyndon Johnson wouldn’t run for a second term. We wanted another Kennedy. We got Richard Nixon.

You have to hand it to the Republicans. They’re like a virus that mutates into an antibiotic resistant strain. They’re a mold infestation that won’t stop until it blooms out from under whatever wash and paint job you put over it. They never give up.

And you have to hand it to the Democrats. When the GOP releases a mouse of intimidation – a fake scandal here, a candidate with human flaws there, a doctored video that purports to catch progressives being as evil as Republicans –  they jump onto the nearest chair, covering their eyes and screaming. And they promise they’ll never do it again if the mean old elephant will just chase the mouse away. (Don’t they know that the elephant breeds mice?)

Haven’t the Dems noticed that the only people left under the big tent are those who are too tired or too comfortable to leave? It’s not that the Democratic coalition has broken up. The career politicians are still inside the tent pretending that any one is listening to them. But the ordinary folks have begun to wander around the countryside, trying to find out “where’s mine?” They’ve figured out that the only payoffs have been to the billionaire banksters. The other groups patronized in the Second Inaugural have little to show except the right to marry (but no protection against employment and housing discrimination), a stay of deportations (except that the courts put a hold on it), and continued disproportionately high Black unemployment and social isolation, and pious words but little action in the face of the slaughter of Black people by White police officers and Black gang members.

And the young adults who worked their hearts out – twice – to elect the “transformational” president only to receive a pat on the head and “we’ll call you when we need you” have flocked to the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

I remember 1968. We took it to the streets and brought down Babylon. Inside our bubble we had killed the king and railed at all his servants. In our fantasy we had brought down a president and we were going to end a war, destroy racism, and smash capitalism like a piñata, out of which endless bounty would tumble. Instead we got Nixon. And war. And tough on crime. And Attica. And Pinochet. And Watergate. And four Supreme Court justices.

Now we have Hillary Clinton, stumbling on the way to her coronation. The substance of her campaign has been overshadowed by her blundering efforts to play cute with technology. Benghazi? We don’t need no stinkin’ Benghazi. We got emails! She had a server in the upstairs bathroom? Wait…we’ve got the last of the emails…no! – wait…

And while the Congressional Black Caucus is snoozing inside the tent, #BlackLivesMatter is telling the Democratic National Committee to kiss their ass. You don’t get our votes and our support and give us nothing. We don’t need you to tell us how to organize; you need to listen to us for once.   When I was their age we told the Democratic Party to kiss our ass, too. But we voted. And we still got Nixon.

We had McGovern. Now we have Bernie. The Republican lie machine turned decorated veteran John Kerry into a duty-shirking braggart. And Max Cleland, who gave his body for his government in Viet Nam, was painted as something less than a true patriot. What will they do to Bernie?

But I’m not scared. Yet. Hillary can still recover and rally those Americans who are still in their right minds. Maybe Bernie Sanders can ignite a nation-wide fervor in those who are tired of being on the losing end and understand who put them there. I’m just not counting on it.

Maybe it’s what happens when you get old. But if I have to choose between 1968 and 1992, I’ll choose the latter, Sister Souljah, NAFTA, welfare “reform,” Telecommunications Act of 1996, and all. To paraphrase the first President Clinton, “It’s the Supreme Court, stupid!”


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