Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin brings on a Progressive heartbreak

Tom Hayden--a founder of the the 60's New Left,a member of the "Chicago Eight," a longtime Progressive activist, and the former Mr. Jane Fonda--has a new piece at The Nation (where he sits on the editorial board). Entitled "After the Heartbreak in Wisconsin," it's well worth reading.

But before one dives into it, it's important to understand who Tom Hayden really is. He's no politician, despite a few terms in California elected offices. And he's no simple pundit, mindlessly regurgitating talking points from this or that political party. He was on the front lines of both the Free Speech Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. And he was an active opponent of the Vietnam War. He's also a prolific author, having penned well over a dozen books, most recently The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama. He remains an idealist, committed to his visions of society and government.

He is, for lack of a better way to say it, a true believer.

In this piece, largely a lament for the failure of the Wisconsin recall movement, he relates a point of view that is critically important to understand, with respect to understanding the current course of politics and the nation, and the hope--by those in favor of having a limited government--of having some sort of promising future for our children and our children's children:
Given these toxic trends, it is entirely possible that by November, Tea Party–driven Republicans will control the White House, Supreme Court and both houses of Congress, pushing the States towards a 1929-style crisis. Or Obama will be re-elected to govern alone in a sea of conservative followers of Ayn Rand and Democratic lifers too timid to fight.
That's Hayden's conclusion. And the toxic trends he speaks of are both parties seeking money from Wall Street (and greater and greater monies pouring into elections), the steady erosion of the strength of organized labor, and the unhappiness and distrust "lots of white people" (his words) have with regard to government, in general.

And frankly he's right, with regard to the existence of those trends, though the last is not race-based at all. It's class-based.

But here's the thing Hayden--like most Progressives--doesn't seem to understand, doesn't seem capable of processing (despite his smarts): these trends are reactionary. They are response to a profound overreach of government, one that began after 1929, but truly picked up steam in the 1960's, partly because of people like Hayden. Indeed, the former speechwriter of Kennedy and LBJ--Richard Goodwin--said he (Hayden) "without even knowing it, inspired the Great Society."

There is little doubt the nation had problems that needed to be corrected, little doubt that the Civil Rights Movement was needed, but in fixing some of these problems the government necessarily assumed additional authority. And it has never relinquished it, only continued to use it in oft-misguided efforts to solve more and more "problems" perceived by the metaphorical descendants of the 60's.

The pushback began slowly, then was notched up by Reagan. But the economic prosperity that followed Reagan served to quell it somewhat. Still it was there, though dormant for the most part, until--following economic crises--it became apparent that the bloated leviathan that is the Federal Government was no longer sustainable.

And the last occurred not on computers in the Ivory Towers of Academia, not in hushed meeting rooms of the Federal Reserve, not in the halls of Congress, but across the kitchen table, over coffee at work, over a beer at the local watering hole.

The Tea Party Movement, which creates so much angst and fear in the mind of Hayden--is his true progeny, not the top-heavy and corrupt Big Labor, not the politicians invoking class warfare for personal gain, and certainly not a federal government intent on assuming unlimited powers.

And there's irony here: Hayden fought back against the status quo, against his elders who "knew better." Now, it's Hayden pushing for the status quo, assuming the role of the elder, wrongly believing he knows better.

Wake up, Tom.

Cheers, all.


  1. Sometimes I think I'm the only sixties radical left. Most, like Hayden, have fallen for the siren song of government.

  2. Well, there's that tax cheat on Democracy Now! What's her name?