Death of liberalism is near, and its harbinger is not a conservative onslaught, nor a new Contract With America. Its demise is being signaled by activities in a small town in Oregon, noteworthy only for a rambunctious annual Shakespearean Festival.
Ashland, Oregon, as all things west of the Cascade Range in Oregon, is a refuge for all things liberal, but Ashland finds itself in a liberal conundrum that portends bad things for left leaning granola crunchers.
More on Ashland later.
American liberalism initially manifested itself with the emergence of suffrage drives, with Wilson’s pandering for the League of Nations, and with the relaxing of mores during the twenties. Morals were plied with the consumption of prohibited beverages and further trod upon by the liberating sense of rebellion that came with doing so.
Such exuberance was quickly snuffed out by the harsh realities of the Great Depression, Nazism, the bleak existence most families found themselves in, and the eventual national commitment to a two front war. There was scant time available for dalliances with anything that wasn’t practical and immediate. Concepts and ideas outside of the very real and necessary were left to those in the colleges of America and Europe or to professional philosophers and theorists.
The esoteric took a backseat to the real.
Then, after a relatively brief period of peace, America elected a young Senator from the uber-liberal state of Massachusetts, and liberalism was once again uncorked. Fermented by years of being bottled up by the necessities imposed by the outside world, liberalism was unleashed full tilt into a generation excited by the charisma of a core of liberal politicos who enthralled them. Eager to escape their depression educated parents and their parents’ puritanical concepts in child rearing; this generation accelerated past the standard bearers and never looked back. Chicago 1968.
Based on the reasonable concepts of equal civil rights (although it took Republicans to actually get civil rights legislation passed in the sixties; over objections of many Democrats), women’s rights, taking care of the poor and protecting the weak, liberal thought was embraceable by many who felt blessed in those heady times. The original concepts of egalitarianism were soon consumed by an unstoppable tornado that evolved from the anti-war movement and its associated rebellion against all restraints; parental, moral, and governmental.