The 1960s brought about some good, as Obama mentions -- most prominently, racial tolerance. And as a country, we have accepted the gains of the 1960s. We have continued to battle, however, over the idea that racial tolerance must come as part of a philosophical package that has more in common with the ideals of the French Revolution than the American Revolution.
Traditionalists maintain that desegregation need not entail smashing to shards a value system that has elevated Western civilization without perverting its moral sense. Radicals believe that racial segregation was but a symptom of an underlying disease inherent in traditional values. They believe that the disease can only be eradicated by attacking the foundational institutions of traditionalism -- the institutions of marriage and private property first and foremost.
In this culture war there can be no compromise. Either traditional values are vindicated, or they are eroded. There is no in-between. The quality of "trust and fellow feeling" of which Obama speaks cannot be regained as long as the culture war continues; our common ground has been lost. It will be regained only when one side emerges victorious. Obama's promises to move beyond the politics of the 1960s are, by definition, empty promises.
What is more, Obama knows they are empty promises. In the war between traditionalism and radicalism, Obama stands solidly with radicalism. Though he has a gift for obscuring his positions, Obama is an advocate of gay rights, a strong believer in the concept of private property as social property, an abortion-on-demand fanatic. His pledge to move beyond the politics of the 1960s is a pledge to achieve unity in the fully triumphant program of the 1960s. If Obama is a Messiah, he is a secular Messiah, preaching the word of Tom Hayden.
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