Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Random Observations

1. Hillary making herself available to be Obama’s running mate is a pathetic end to a strange campaign. As a matter of honor he can’t pick her, given how much she’s (unnecesarily) cost him. Still, it would be a very strong ticket.

2. I was impressed by the case for Sarah Palin for Mac’s VP Peter linked below. McCain will unnecessarily cost himself votes by picking a white male. Picking a pro-life family woman (mother of five)--who’s nonetheless not associated with "the religious right" and comes from THE libertarian, gun toting state--seems pretty shrewd. I won’t say anything about her new Down Syndrome baby except that they are very cute. Is she scary smart? Eloquent? I don’t know. She is a looker.

3. All sorts of media outlets are now touting our remarkable recent successes in Iraq. A Republican talking point: We don’t want another Vietnam in the sense of giving up again when we’ve just about won.

4. I’m writing an article on THE SIXTIES. I can sort of remember them. What do the Sixties mean to you?

5. McCain’s speech last night was, to put it gently, very poorly delivered. He seemed like an old CEO who doesn’t do much public speaking. The podium, as they say, is not his friend.

Discussions - 39 Comments

"McCain will unncessarily cost himself votes by picking a white male."

Looks like "No Left Turns" is in total Turn Left Now mode. Yep, gotta keep pace the the trendsetting Politically Correct crowd now, baby!

Hey, maybe McCain could win with a Obama-dumped Hillary on the ticket, eh?

Clinton as VP would destroy Obama's message of change. Her forcing a woman onto the ticket would be her way of destroying Obama's chances yet appearing to be his ally.

No women, probably no Jindal, but some middle-aged white guy for Mac's VP.

Sixties: America drinks the Kool-aid.

Peter, Your ideas about Palin are increasingly good. While I share Mr Lamb's disdain for PC (as I'm sure you do too), political pragmatism demands diversity and a nominee like Palin doesn't seem to sacrifice substance.

There are a bunch of petty reasons for Obama to refuse Clinton and Clinton to refuse Obama. Still, there is one very big reason to merge the two on one ticket--it is unbeatable. Obama's VP selection will be very much a sign of how he views his electoral chances. If he's worried-Clinton, if buoyed by hubris, some no-name that won't load his graven image with any baggage...ie Nunn/Daschele.

I know nothing about the 60s. For all the complaining about them, I suspect America was better off then than now from a moral/cultural standpoint...but who knows?

I always thought that the most interesting historiography of the 1960s had to do with both the New Left rejection of the bureaucratic state and business while the right also rejected it with the rise of Goldwater. The Cold War consensus and the trust in those traditional institutions was shattered and left in tatters. Brian Balogh and David Farber hinted at these trends in various articles and collections.

Peter -- would you explain what you mean by success or victory in Iraq?

If he were to select her, it would be the equivalent to Luke Skywalker taking the outstretched hand of Darth Vader, when Vader invited his son to ally with him, end the war and "bring order" to the cosmos. It just can't be done; not that is without major disturbances occuring in the Democrat side of the force.

Which is why I suspect it might be a ploy.

Hillary knows that for Obama to invite her on to the ticket would be for him to embrace the dark side, which would cause vast disillusionment to set in amongst his supporters. It would be tantamount to him admitting that he's not a legitimate messiah, that he's not a real agent of "change," and that he'll throw in wiht the establishment if by doing so he gains high office. It would be for him to show, once and for all, that he's merely another grimy pol on the make.

Hardly the historical figure so many tout.

Thus Hillary dangles some bait in front of the novice, and if he is unwise enough to reach out for it, she then glides away, regaining in the process some of her shredded dignity, and demonstrating via her Parthian shot what the real Obama truly is. Thereby only increasing the buyer's remorse the Dems are already experiencing.

The Clintons, it should be recalled, are past masters of political misdirection. And the set-up.

Hmmmm ...

Why is Sarah Palin a PC choice?

Seriously. How is this PC?

Are we now saying that the VP slot shouldn't be reserved for someone who can possibly gain us a portion of the electorate we might not have? Are we saying that just because she is female, this makes it a PC choice.

And, am I to assume that just as long as the VP choice is male and white, it is not PC?

Come on folks, this is politics!

What about JC Watts, would he be a PC choice also?

Mr. Lamb is absolutely right. It's time for the GOP to drop all of this politically correct nonsense and just say that the USA is a country of, by, and for white men, and therefore it should only be governed by white men. White men are the natural choice, by default, and so anything else is just caving into the leftist PC crowd - like Ken Blackwell, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell, and Condi Rice. Let's face it - they were feel-good tokens for the Right. But the Right doesn't need any of that mamby-pamby crap. Enough, already with the PC madness! The GOP ought to declare itself the white man's party! That will show the leftist PC police!!!

"The GOP ought to declare itself the white man's party! That will show the leftist PC police!!!"

The PC police obviously have a keen "aversion to the vulgarities" of old-school social liberalism.

You know, the old liberalism that set forth the notion that folks ought to be "judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Listen, fellas...It's not a question of PC but of solid social science. It's nothing new or evil to say that various forms of ticket balancing make a difference.

This is the rare place where no one wants to remember the sixties.

Ah, the triumph of the SIXTIES and the promise of the ultimate liberation of humankind via IDENTITY POLITICS.

And to think, it only took forty years!

"And to think, it only took forty years!"

I suspect that someone will eventually endeavor to make the clever observation that the Big Battle in 2008 is simply between two "males": Moses (McCain) and Joshua (Obama). It would create a great question for Mr. Russert to ask during one of the coming debates: "Which one of you is best suited to lead America out of her long and winding Wilderness, Gentlemen?"

The more things change the more they stay the same, eh? History sez: Sexism rules, baby!

Peter, reread Harvey Mansfield's "The Legacy of the Late Sixties."

I was wrong.

Only I wish to forget the sixties.

Hillary making herself available to be Obama’s running mate is a pathetic end to a strange campaign


It's to make Obama look bad when he does not pick her. A shrewd move.

It's time for the GOP to drop all of this politically correct nonsense and just say that the USA is a country of, by, and for white men, and therefore it should only be governed by white men.

Why not? The Democrats have spent the last few decades positioning themselves as the "non-white male" party, while accusing white males of bigotry for not supporting them.

Self-hating white "males" like the exerable Craig Scanlon excepted, of course.

Paul, Well I did re-read HCM and found myself only half-agreeing. (Actually I agree w him completely on the effectual truth of feminism.) And I also want to say some good things about the early Sixties, if only to annoy a conservative audience.

Well, one part of the sixties stuff that conservatives might find appealing is the criticism of materialism and corporate culture not to mention the unusual way in which its unyielding focus on love and trans-political transcendence is sloppily derivitative of a Christian view they explicitly reject. I can only say so much about the sixties since I missed it entirely (and almost the 70's entirely too) but it always struck me as a project to immoderately intensify Tocqueville's insight that democracy loosens conventional ties but tightens natural ones---the sixties were about creating a natural egalitarianism based on a kind of mystical pantheism.

The first half of the sixties were about Civil Rights, though.

But weren't civil rights presented as the civil recognition of the natural from pretty early on? MLK explicitly appeals to nature (though more Thomistically than pantheistically) in defending civil rights....so maybe what you get in the sixties is the very quick transformation of the legitimate demand for more civil rights on natural grounds to egalitarian pantheism...perhaps part of what is extraordinary is how quickly that shift occurs.

Peter L. - You are exactly right, in my opinion, to think of the early '60s really as part of the 1950s. Very different from '68 or '69. There's a mediocre memoir that tracks the cultural and political changes pretty well: Sara Davidson (I think) called "Loose Change." Also, I've been rereading Bloom's "The Closing..." Every reason to believe that Bloom as a teacher flourished in the early part of the decade.

Peter, I only brought up Harvey's piece to suggest some sort of template. You (and others) are on the right track in terms of distinguishing early and late '60s, as well as to duly applaud some Civil Rights legislation. You might want to contact Flagg Taylor to learn about the "early" verus fat Elvis as some sort of emblem.

"I also want to say some good things about the early Sixties, if only to annoy a conservative audience."


Oh, this Lawler guy is just soooo Beat, man.

Fat Elvis wasn't part of the summer of love. And I think the early 60s sort of stand on their own. The beats, I think, are connected to the late 60s.

You know what ...

Forget the sixties!

Seriously. Forget that time frame.

We are not in a Vietnam style war. Music can not change the world as one aging rocker finally realized. And sex has more pitfalls than the Amazon jungle.

So, we can celebrate the good things from the sixties, civil rights (initially lead by the Republicans in 50s) for example, but ultimately, a lot of people are putting too much stock in that decade, which I suppose is because the boomers are now finally going to die off!-+

Dale, one would indeed think that a decade that occurred 40 years ago would be "over" by now. But it's not. We live very much in its shadow. It is still working itself out. Obama, if elected, represents (more than the Clintons) a coming to power of the leftist Sixties generation even though he's much younger. It has been well said that he's "running for McGovern's first term."

David Frisk, it's not over because we remain living under the patterns of thought and behavior first established at that time. They've all become very moderated patterns of thought and lifestyle, but their essence remains the same. We live in 1960s times. And maybe even after the passing of the boomers we will still do so. And for that very reason, almost no subject is harder to understand.

Here's what you have to have a grasp upon, just to get the more cultural side of things: Rousseau's Second Discourse, the P-I-L-L, "Break on through to the Other Side," the morale blow that was the Cuban Missle Crisis, why David Bowie was able to become a star, the intellectuals' changed response to the French war to retain Algeria, the Twist as harbinger of couple-less dancing, Plato's Republic , books V and VIII especially, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, what the Byrds had in mind when they sang, and I saw the great blunder my teachers had made, scientific delirium madness, all of Percy's novels, I'm sure, but especially the first three, Marcuse's shift away from Freud, why the view of American adulthood presented in The Graduate and "The Swimmer" was convincing, the poetry AND EXAMPLE of Robert Lowell, Gary Snyder, and especially and of course Walt Whitman, how the utter cynicism towards modern life exhibited, say, in the "critique" parts of Walden 2 could be combined with the sense of angelic Baez-like innocence one can hear in recordings of the folkies and their folk-rock offspring, the penumbrad invention of the right to privacy, free jazz, Todd Gitlin's fine book, Hugh Heclo's fine essays, Heidegger, why the IDEA of taking acid is pretty attractive, Berkley in the 60s, Tolkien's elves, Jesus Freaks, "Goin' to the Country," why Phillipe Beneton thinks liberalism planted a "time bomb" that went off in the 60s, suburbia and the female, suburbia and the male, why Bob Moses was a more important representative of the spirituality behind Civil Rights activism than was King, Geoffrey O'Brien's Sonata for Jukebox, Malcolm Cowley's Exile's Return, the lingering stench of the Holocaust and why it got stronger over time, Tolstoy's Christianity, Gandhi's Tolstoyism, why the Stonewall riots could not have occurred earlier, the secret desire to be like Mao, the Second Vatican, everything in English by Chantal Delsol, and of course, Alexis de Tocqueville.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10


That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.


Is there a thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been long ago, in the ages which were before us.


Carl Scott, your post is wonderful and we may not be sick of some of those things, but are sick or sickening over too much of what has become emblematic of an era. I say emblematic because what everyone touts now as "The Sixties" was not so much of the daily life of the era as the young might think.

Much of America has never swallowed what "The Sixties" represents, which is why Obama will not be president. Some kids laud that old mess today, but won't they get sick of it as they grow up? Don't we all gag at the portion of the population who lived through the sixties and cling to the tattered remnants of it as grimly as they cling to the tattered remnants of their youth? I know some of you relish your days of disco that followed and would not have been possible without that aspect of the sixties that remained IN SOME PEOPLE AND IN SOME PLACES. But that was not everywhere and not for all. I moved, in the late 70s to where it was not and changed my life, thank God.

The purposeful spitting (I am being nice) on innocence (and was that a response to the civil rights movement or to the war or the Cold War, or what excuse have we got?) that began, really, right after the war, yes, with the Beats, (my dad was one of those,) has continued with an intensity and resentment to today. Aren't you revolted by it? I am.

That the Boomers will be the longest lived generation in history is such a shame. We used to speak of killing off the elders and I turned from that, but sometimes, sometimes, that idea has an ironic wisdom.

It seems to me that the sixties made politics real. In other words the sixties woke everyone up to the idea that ideas matter. Of course the idea that ideas matter is really just Toqueville's discussion on mores. If I had to characterise Carl Scott's deep thinking I would say Hegel. Of course at this point I am just really caught up in the sociology of ideas or mores. The 60's is simply a chapter called Actualization of Self-Consciousness in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit which I am reading while listening to David Bowie's the man who sold the world. I prefer it to the Nirvana remake.

Carl, What about Walt Whitman, exactly?
In general, thanks. And esp. for the reminder on Beneton.

John, That might be a tricky point to defend in a short essay. My own view is the politics of the Sixties didn't matter much--really have legs--after 1965. And the intent of the sixties was pro-love and anti-bourgeois. The effectual truth was bad for love and good for the increasing bourgeoisification of America (as Marx himself would have predicted)

Kate's post reminds me that there is probably no group of people who get or deserve more scorn than "aging hippies." Even kids who, themselves, ape aspects of the cultural mores of the 60s--the dress and often the attitudes--snicker behind the backs of these aging hippies. No one really respects them. There is a sense in which all understand that these are people who have not been able to put away the foolish things of their youth. We can see this even in our social satire (South Park, The Simpsons, etc.) where the aging hippie is usually the butt of all jokes. He is taken for a naive fool . . . his students or his children take advantage of his ridiculously silly and gentle nature. He is demonstrated to be weak. Alex Keaton was an exaggeration of this reaction against that generation--but the first generation of rebellion is always too earnest. Today's youth are more sophisticated in their rebellion. They want to indulge themselves in the aspects they appreciate about the 60s (particularly sexual liberation--whereas the Alex Keatons of this world were happy to coexist with their hypocrisy, secretly giving in to temptation while giving loud lip-service to "the proper," today's youth are back on track with the typical scorn of the young for hypocrisy . . .) but they fully expect to "out grow" this sort of thing. They admire their grandparents' generation because they figure those guys actually did some stuff--they grew up and didn't get a lot of credit for it. I think sometimes we forget how many younger folks have been the victims of the self-indulgence and immaturity of the mores created in the 60s. I think a lot of young people look at these 60s mores and think they can use them for a time (like a girl you date but don't marry) and then move on. They don't understand yet the power of habit and the importance of lasting consequences.

Already in the 50s youth began to ask, "is that all there is"? (James Dean begging his father, Mr. MaGoo: You gotta give me something here, something to stand up for. ... What are you rebelling against? Brando: What have you got?) The Kennedy administration seemed to consolidate the victory of technocratic expertise and the "end of ideology." Youth were thirsty for some cause, a vacuum filled first by civil rights, then by anti-war; but beneath it all was the question: what is worth living and dying for? Activists challenged the university establishment: You have no moral substance. The establishment responded: oh, you know, I guess you're right! So there were no grown ups to give content to the question of the good, and all the energy was channeled into "liberation" from the existing technocracy and consumerism. But without content the "liberation" could only be appropriated by the establishment, or drift towards simple nihilism. And isn't this still where we are.
But you knew all that.
The (late) sixties are manifestly pivotal, but somehow the secret, the real turning of the worm, lies in the fifties. The radicals weren't wrong: some deal with the devil had been made, in the name of power, prosperity, efficiency.
Those are my dark thoughts for the day.

Ralph is right about the source. Actually, the first place I got a niggle of that "liberation" from the existing technocracy and consumerism was reading The Education of Henry Adams while in a course at the Ashbrook Center. How I cried! Adams took me right back to the emptiness of my youth, but no one ever denied that H. Adams was an anachronism.

I would not argue with Peter Lawler, either.

John Lewis, the sixties politics you think woke up ideas actually put them to sleep. You "felt" your politics, if you were authentic, and it was very self-conscious. Horrible. If facts were uncomfortable things, you merely suppressed them, as you would never suppress your libido. If someone confronted you with an uncontrovertible fact you denied it in the name of "questioning authority." If there are no facts, there is no truth, and therefore you can own truth as surely as you own your VW bus. (Probably paid for by your parents.)

Conservatives were those who knew that truth and ideas mattered. But who was listening to them in the sixties? Eventually, some of us did. I was so grateful for the solid land of facts and there, maybe there, you could say that someone was awake to the mattering of ideas. Yet there was a whole mess of people telling them to shut up and popular culture came to be full of that. I didn't get there, to the conservative movement, till the mid 70s. I think of it like crawling to shore and kissing the ground. What would Hegel make of that?

Ralph's statement is plausible, Carl's is mighty telling and quite a trip down memory lane (and reads like Borges); since no one's mentioned them (I don't believe) I'd add The Port Huron Statement, then the Warren Court: articulate emancipatory youth and powerful emancipatory age; the former fit into Ralph's paradigm, the latter ensconsed civil libertarianism into our constitutional order (Read Herman Belz and Bob Faulkner on the Burger & Warren Courts). It seems that a common thread or theme should be, the liberalization of democracy. Hence Beneton. (This should be corrected or supplemented by "community" and "fraternity" (The Idea of Fraternity came out in 1973)>Finally: Peter, you're quite right about the anti-bourgeois thrust; Irving Kristol wrote well about that (and much else). So too did Joseph Cropsey ("Radicalism" in Political Philosophy and the Issues of Politics).

There's obviously a inner beatnik, if not quite a hippie, lurking in Ralph. The point is something like the promiscuous democracy of the 60s was a natural to the oligarchy of the 50s. To which I respond sort of, weren't the 50s ruled by the Greatest Generation. Nihilists don't have any courage, as the movie says. And nihilism doesn't have any legs.

See? I told you. I really need to forget the sixties.

Good posts all, but Ralph's is especially right. A good thumbnail sketch, with the proper emphasis on the revolt against the technocratic and the 50s roots. Wilson Carey McWilliams was among those at Berkley denouncing the "machine" the flagship UC University was striving to become under Kerr. And it is hilarious how the liberal technocratic elites (not that there weren't other kinds of elites!) usually did do a "oh, you know, I guess you're right" when the radical shaggy countercultural Sherwood Forest People came figuratively shambling into their shiny International Style Cube-Buildings. A symbiotic relationship there. Peter shifts the focus with this oligarchy to democracy talk, which only sort of works. The 60s as we're speaking of them here would probably have happened in the 30s or 40s or 50s had not the Great Depression and WWII interfered. Coolidge may have been at the political rudder, but culturally the 20s were pretty revolutionary. That is, sheer adversity was a great deal of what made the Greatest Generation greater than the last few have been.

Peter, my thoughts on Whitman are very undeveloped and ignorant, but his openly variety-and-contradiction-embracing persona, a la Plato's democratic man, combined with an interest in homosexual and perhaps polymorphous sexuality, in an echo of Bowie and perhaps of the Athenians of yore, seems signficant and telling to me. Contemporary theorists like Kateb and Morton Schoolman love him for the first in particular...Schoolman's book Reason and Horror articulates this straight-up: Whitman's a key figure because he first established the pattern of The All-embracing "aesthetic individuality" proper to democratic life. Whitman intuited, in the early days of American democracy, that something like the Benetonian time-bomb was on his side. Or could be made to be. By 1973 a man like McWilliams knew Whitman was an enemy of genuine American fraternity...and I would bet he had caught a distinct scent of him in that late 60s air.

In return, Peter, could you spell out why Marx would have predicted what you said he would have?

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