Emmett Tyrrell

John Francois Kerry, the Clintons, Dr. Howard Dean and other leading Democrats were Coat and Tie Radicals in 1968, radicals adhering to a leftist agenda while favoring the ambiguity of a coat and tie to preserve what Bill Clinton famously called "political viability." In 1968, George W. Bush and many of his Cabinet members were Penny-Loafer Conservatives. They wanted nothing to do with protests and communes.

Immediately after the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, during which 1960s themes resonated, the contemporary wisdom held that 1960s youth culture was radical. Actually, it was split. In 1972, the youth vote went against the radical George McGovern and for President Nixon. Support for the Vietnam War endured almost to the end. While protesting youth such as Kerry and the Clintons were smiled upon by the media despite the social pathologies that attended their lifestyle, for instance drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, the young conservatives developed their own distinctive point of view.

Today's enthusiasm for free markets, globalism, strong defense and some semblance of traditional values is championed by those of us who opposed the radicals of the 1960s. In the 1960s and 1970s, while we were reading Milton Friedman and the Founding Fathers, many members of today's leadership in the Democratic Party were reading Saul Alinsky, Paul Goodman, and condensations of Marx and Engels. The mentors of their radical youth are all passe, but there is no evidence that the Clintons and Kerrys have learned that in their youth they were wrong and we were right.

Thus, Kerry has brought up Vietnam all over again, glossing over the truly brutal protest he engaged in as a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He even has the chutzpah to remonstrate against the FBI's surveillance of him in those days, ignoring his group's many acts of civil disobedience (occasionally criminal disobedience) in time of war. Hillary Clinton, in what she termed a "major policy" speech at the Mayflower Hotel, unveiled a vision of the Nanny State that was vintage 1968. The battle lines of the 1960s are still in place.

The issues, for the most part, remain. Kerry and the Clintons are the critics of American power and proponents of social engineering and radical reforms. Bush is the defender of American national interests and traditional values. The 2004 election will be fought by two branches of a historic generation hoping to claim the identity of that generation for themselves and the federal government for their own very different public policies.

My candidate is the old Penny Loafer Conservative, George W. Bush, and frankly I find it amusing that when I was reading Friedman back in the late 1960s, he apparently was reading Esquire's "Handbook for Hosts." We conservatives have always been a very diverse group.


Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
 
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