OK. The Boomers were supposed to change the world. We didn’t. Who fucked up?
Here’s my two-part theory.
A) The Great God Feelgood ate his children.
The counterculture was both an assertion of solidarity and an assertion of the pleasure principle. To beat a dead Marxist horse, that’s a contradiction.
So, back in the 1960s and early 70s, Baby Boomers took to the streets to fight for civil rights and fight against a dumbass war.
But Boomers also fought for the right to party. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, man! The repressive evil old fuckers who control the System don’t want us to have any fun! So we fought ‘em. If America was Faber college, the counterculture was Animal House.
But a party ain’t no revolution.
The Great God Feelgood despises solidarity.
And the pleasure principle leads inevitably to consumerism – and atomized individualism.
The revolution was lost when Sears started selling jeans.
Just to be tedious, the Weathermen and other wackos were a freak show, not a revolution. Maoist mental masturbators with suicidal tendencies. The now-forgotten Freaks led the real revolution – Steward Brand and the many children of the Whole Earth Catalog. Build your own, grow your own, do shit. That’s where it’s at. If you want a !@# counterculture, best whip out your hammer and built it. This Emersonian alternative really was a counterculture. It never died. But it never took over, either.
This was not a conspiracy. Just supply and demand.
B) The Man got his act together.
This really was a conspiracy – in the sense of long-term political strategy, not in the sense of the fucking Illuminati putting on robes and meeting in a catacomb. I’m sure that – granted infinite time and lunatic persistence – the bits and pieces are all there in black and white in the archives of the National Review.
Back in the early 70s, Nixon, Agnew or somebody took a look at the swelling tide of liberal goodness and said fuck this shit. We’ve got to cut these assholes off at the legs.
I can hear Nixon’s voice right now…
“If you want to go to war, blowing up the other guy’s tank is not the smart thing to do. You cut off his fucking gasoline. Now you’re being smart, see? His tank runs out of gas in the middle of some goddamn field somewhere. You put a bullet in his head when he finally thinks it’s safe to come out.”
The Republicans had a strategy meeting.
Forget political philosophy. What are the Democrats’ key sources of supply?
Public education and the university system.
The noblesse oblige of the Eastern Elite.
The inertial mass of government itself – all those New Deal and Great Society programs and their constituency.
Populist suspicion of fat cats.
Republicans came up with a strategy to cut off these sources of supply.
Through the magic of inference, I deduce that the strategy was this:
Fuck the press. Beginning with Spirochete Agnew, conservatives managed to “rebrand” America's press as “the liberal media.” Reporters used to be heroes. (Superman’s alter ego was a reporter, remember?) But we had real life heroes. In 1974, Woodward and Bernstein triumphed over Nixon’s machinations. America applauded these gutsy reporters. By the early 1980s, many Americans thought reporters were leftist villains. Why? America’s press had committed no obvious fuck-up, no scandal – but clever, relentless right wing bullshit had done the trick. “Liberal media, liberal media, liberal media.” Keep throwing that shit on the wall. Eventually, it sticks.
Fuck the unions. Hey, unions can be corrupt. But so can corporations. Unions, rotten as they often were, created a check on corporate power. Conservatives suggested this interfered with the average slob’s right to work. Damned if I know why, but the average slobs bought it.
Fuck teachers. Teachers, like reporters, were also heroes in the American mind. The right wing splattered them with mud then dragged them into the mud. (Phyllis Shafley, I recall, suggested that public school teachers were MOLESTING your children—at least mentally.) Teachers, when they’re not molesting children, are usually lazy bastards protected by the wing of evil TEACHERS’ UNIONS. They get three months off every year! And Christmas! If my kid can’t learn, it’s the fucking teacher’s fault!
The universities, of course, are evil egghead factories where tenured shitheads impose political correctness, speech codes and burn flags, when they’re not engaged in homosexual orgies.
America turned against its teachers.
Teachers became the enemy.
Along the way, critical thinking did too.
Fuck the Eastern Elite. As the authors “The Irony of Democracy” pointed out, the poles of our political system represent different factions of America’s elite. (Duh.) Be that as it may, conservatives managed to demonize any liberal who wasn’t a fucking dirt farmer. So, instead of being the party of the common people, the Democratic Party turned into a catered affair for limousine liberals in the public mind. They send their kid to private schools. But they want your kid to go to school with n—black kids. They think they’re smarter then you. They think they’re better then you. They want to tell you how to live your life. They don’t believe in God.
We love the South. Back in the 1960s, the Democrats bet the farm on civil rights—specifically, rights for black people. Johnson famously said his party had probably lost the South for a generation, thanks to civil rights legistation. That was probably too optimistic. Nixon and friends—as everyone knows—came up with “the Southern Strategy” to vacuum up all the disaffected Southern democrats into the Republican party. It worked. The “Solid South” turned solidly Republican.
Fuck the government. I’m not sure this started with Nixon. The conservative movement—legitimately—has battled government overreaching. But not government itself—or its legitimacy. Beginning with the New Deal, there’s been a rough consensus that some social safety net is a good idea. How big is the net was the question. Reagan changed the question. I’m from the government. I’m here to help. How fucking terrifying. Sometime in the 1980s, neo-con ideology got its foot in the door. Specifically, the “starve the beast” strategy.” Run up government debt. Bankrupt government. Force government to kill the New Deal and Great Society programs. It seems to be working.
Aside from the sheer perversity of the strategy, this cuts the legs of the power of pork. You help me, I’ll help you. You want a bridge, a road, whatever. I’ll make it happen. Thanks to “starve the beast,” Democrats can’t make it happen. If Uncle Sam ain’t the sugar daddy, Democrats ain’t got shit to offer.
Fuck populists; we love rich people. OK, Marxists have a Manichean notion of sacred workers at war with evil bosses. It’s dumbass history for fifth grade comic book minds. As may be. Simplistic Marxist fantasies aside, there are still evil rich bastards trying to give poor slobs the ungreased shaft. Poor (and middle class) American slobs have always been keenly aware of this fact. We weren’t born yesterday. Our mammas didn’t raise no fools. But, hang on, EVERYONE CAN BE RICH, if they simply visualize wealth with the godlike power of their reality-creating minds! This class warfare shit is a goddamn trick to keep you poor! America’s slobs, like Madonna, said, “Duh. I’m living in a material world. I wanna be rich. It’s morning in America. Reagan will make me rich. Duh. I will vote for Reagan.”
Evidently, by the 1980s, lots of mammas had raised lots of fools.