by Charlie LeDuff —
My daughter recently asked me if I am a conservative.
She didn’t mean conservative with a little “C”: the sort who has grown older, doesn’t like company, and worries about settling his accounts with The Almighty.
Rather, she meant big “C” conservative: the sort of geezer who pines for the good old days that were never really very good. The sort who worries more about his accounts with the Banker.
Mildly surprised, I asked her if she’d ever seen footage from the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was an extraordinary year in America. The Tet Offensive was in full deadly bloom. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy brought on the simultaneous arson of more than 100 cities. Unpopular within his own party, President Lyndon Johnson declared he would not run for re-election.
Inside the Chicago International Amphitheater, Democratic party “superdelegates” decided on the pro-war Vice President Hubert Humphrey, even though Humphrey had not run in a single primary. Not one ordinary citizen had even voted for him.
Outside, on the streets of Chicago, tens of thousands of demonstrators convened in a mass protest. As the silk suits and fat cats puppeteered the course of American politics, police attacked the protestors with truncheons and tear gas, beating and arresting hippies, Chicanos, Black Panthers, priests, nuns, even the elderly.
It was, and remains, a national stain.
“See the political bosses in the convention hall?” I asked my daughter, as we stared at the grainy images. “I am against them. See the long hairs and whiskers and the afros in the streets? I’m with them.”
Back then, supporting free speech and opposing censorship was a principle of the Left. Questioning the authorities’ role in American life was considered a virtue. The spy agencies, the military industrial complex and corporate influence had no place in democracy for them. But that was another time.
Today, you can’t recognize the Left. Its skepticism toward American institutions has evaporated. There is an unambiguous lapdoggery among them for the FBI and the CIA. Today’s liberal leg humps the censorship industrial complex. He believes the First Amendment goes too far for too many.
The Left has succumbed to authoritarian impulses. The nexus between Big Government and Big Tech does not bother them.They believe in shutting down your social media accounts if you do not align with their new world views.
In 1967, more than 100,000 liberal protestors marched on the Pentagon. In 2023, the liberals don’t mind that the pentagon is spying on them.
Science and legitimate analytical dissent has been routinely deplatformed; the careers of medical experts nearly destroyed for their contrarian views over governmental COVID mandates. As it happens, they turned out to be right.
Inconvenient truths like the ineffectiveness of masks or the lack of need for toddlers to be vaccinated or the locking-down of school children continue to hold influence despite the scientific evidence.
The new Left continues to support these intrusions. Just as it supports a never-ending war in Ukraine. But few of the so-called “progressives” have the courage to walk the dark theaters of war themselves. And almost none of them are willing to commit themselves to the uniform.
The elite class among them fly private jets to oil-producing countries and hold conferences to lecture the hoi polloi about the evils of oil and jet airplanes. They demanded that we stay home during Covid while they jetted to Palm Beach or wined and dined at the French Laundry.
Speech should be free, the New Left will argue. But some people’s speech should be more free than others. Remember the odious baboons of the Far Right who marched on the campus of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville carrying tiki torches and chanting “The Jews will not replace us”? They were castigated and put on trial.
But how are they any different from the rabid mobs of radicals on the college campuses today, chanting that Jews should be run into the sea? They, on the other hand, have been excused from class.
The pampered and pompous liberals of today have moved so far left, I have to look far right to see them.
“I never abandoned the whiskers, the workers, the streets, the freaks or free speech,” I said to my daughter. “The liberals abandoned us.”
* A word of advice to them. With the Democrats divided in 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president.
And you know how that turned out.