WASHINGTON -- What is it in the air this spring that is so familiar? There is a war abroad, and the bien pensants are agitating feverishly for a pullout. There is a Republican in the White House, reviled by the bien pensants and under heavy siege. Former aides to the president are going over to the other side, as an energetic Democratic majority on Capitol Hill ferrets out scandals even where there is only faux pas. Demonstrations against the war are underway, and there is talk of impeachment from the agitated idealists on the left.
To those of us familiar with the 1960s generation, this is the late 1960s and early 1970s all over again. In fact, many of the same dramatis personae who howled against the war and the embattled White House in the late 1960s are leading the pack again today. They are 40 years older, wider in the midsection and grayer if not glabrous -- but they are as indignant as they were back in the good old days when they were wearing bellbottomed-pants, abstaining from deodorant and dreaming of the perfect commune -- perhaps one with a genuine Indian mystic seated in his underpants.
Ah, yes, the Yippies' Jerry Rubin is no longer with them. He perished after jaywalking across Wilshire Boulevard after becoming an "entrepreneur." And the Yippies' other co-founder, Abbie Hoffman, also has had his obituary filed. After years on the lam for a drug trafficking charge (entrepreneurship fetched him too) he committed suicide in 1989. Yet other young idealists from the Summer of Love and the campus demonstrations are among the leading personages of the "spring of 2007." The Clintons, Dr. Howard Dean, al-Gore and Jean-Francois Kerry, all played their roles in the late 1960s agitations, and here they are today.
It is surprising to me that so little today is made of the fact that the dominant figures in the Democratic Party are members of the 1960s generation. No generation in the 20th century was celebrated as extravagantly as the 1960s generation. The Clintons, Dean, Gore and Kerry were prime specimens of the left-wing of that generation. On this there is very little dispute. Just the other day the Washington Post ran a long piece chronicling Hillary Clinton's work as an intellectual acolyte of the radical left-wing agitator Saul Alinsky. Yet oddly the aforementioned Democrats' roots in the 1960s generation of pot and protest are never mentioned. Nor, for that matter, are the Bush White House's origins in the 1960s conservative youth movement mentioned. George W. Bush was no college activist in the 1960s, but Karl Rove was. I remember him. Moreover, most of the conservative ideas of the Bush administration were taking shape in the 1960s.