The Origins of the American New Left

Where did they come from?                         

2016 Rally – Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Hillary Clinton

By Dr. Larry Fedewa (September 23, 2018)  America’s academic institutions today are dominated by the heirs of people who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A look at the anti-establishment movements of those days helps us to understand the themes that have survived and evolved into today’s New Left.

The overarching issues of those days were opposition to the Vietnam War, which started in the universities of the time, and the civil rights movement whose champion was

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Almost unnoticed in the confusion was President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, which introduced the most radically socialistic legislation in American history, extending the role of the federal government to responsibility for care of the poor.

Civil rights and the anti-war causes were directly anti-establishment, and both were based on a sense of moral superiority. It did not take long for the believers in the two causes to join forces. They filled mutual needs: the anti-Vietnam movement was based initially on the objections of college students (mostly white) to being required to fight in a war which was neither understood nor supported by most Americans.

The issue quickly became whether the federal government even had the right to draft youngsters at all. Middle America stood firmly with the government on that issue, thus spawning widespread opposition to the anti-war movement and solidifying support for the War beyond what is had been in the beginning.  The champion of the Middle American view was Alabama Governor George Wallace, who also had come to prominence as a segregationist (a position he later repudiated).

What the anti-war movement needed was a cause larger than the discomfort of some white college boys. They needed a transcendent cause and they found it in the civil rights movement. That cause was social justice. Specifically, social justice as interpreted to mean equality of all Americans — legally, socially, economically and morally. The civil rights movement needed white support; the leaders were aware that without it, they would never achieve their goals.

It was a marriage made in heaven.     

The common theme of both causes was opposition to the same government which had gotten us into the War in Vietnam, and which was also allowing discrimination against African Americans, but which was generally supported by the American public. The joint cause, then, was the fundamental reform of the American federal government – federal because 50 separate state governments were too many to be used as practical targets. The champion of this synthesis of the two rebel causes was Bobby Kennedy.

The Roosevelt Democrats (the “Old Left”) meanwhile were enacting Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation, which was aimed especially at using federal tax money to assist the poor. However, Johnson also supported the Vietnam War, and thus became personally the target of the anti-war movement, although the Democrat party supported his Great Society. But his support for the War spelled his doom as president. He took himself out of the presidential race in March 1968,

In April 1968, Dr. King was assassinated. The combined support of the advocates of the Great Society, the civil rights movement, and the anti-war movement then fell to Democrat Senator Robert Francis Kennedy, who embodied the melding of the three strands of anti-establishment support. He was a charismatic anti-war, pro-civil rights, pro-Great Society Democrat.

Then, in June 1968,  Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Thus, was born the New Left, the heirs of Bobby Kennedy. Had he not been killed, he may well have been elected president instead of Richard Nixon. His election would have changed the history of the next fifty years. But it was not to be. In forty years, the New Left had only one candidate for President before Barack Obama, Democrat George McGovern, who lost to Richard Nixon in a landslide in 1972.

But many of those hippies and disillusioned youngsters went to graduate school and became the professors of the next generation. They did not give up their beliefs in social equality, the primary responsibility of the federal government for social justice, their disdain for American institutions including religion, business, nationalism, and the traditional family. The New Left ideology began to penetrate American society more the older and more powerful yesterday’s hippies became. In the protected enclaves of the universities, their orthodoxy became more extreme and more absolute as other strands were added from feminism, atheism, socialism, environmentalism, and terrorism.

This ideology benefited through the years from the tacit approval of many cohorts who grew up to positions of power in other fields and who allowed their children to be taught this new orthodoxy. As the years passed, more and more of these children were persuaded by this new view of American society.

In 2008, forty years after the fateful summer of 1968, they finally won their long battle for control of the American government. They elected Barack Hussein Obama as president and a Democrat Congress to back him up. It took the Great Recession to do it. But the New Left — spawned by the crisis of 1968, hardened by 40 years in the wilderness, and preaching an expanded view of human equality, anti-war idealism, anti-business bias, an anti-family and anti-religion world-view – the New Left now finally controlled the federal government of the United States of America.

Last week, we looked at the reactions of the New Left to the election of Donald Trump as President. To put it mildly, they were not happy with the resurgence of the “silent majority”. The resistance to his leadership has several sources, several groups, and varying motivations.

For example, it is not likely that all the Democrat members of Congress share the anti-family and anti-religion bias of the far New Left, not to mention the approval of violence toward the opposition or the promotion of socialism as America’s economic system. However, in their passionate quest to defeat Mr. Trump, they are increasingly allying themselves with the extreme elements of the New Left in order to attract their votes.

The center of American politics – where compromises used to make bipartisan legislation possible – is becoming a wasteland, deserted by all but the mainstream of American voters. The effect of this phenomenon will be either a revolt of the voters and a flight to the Republican party or a mass rejection of the entire tangle of politics as irrelevant and unworthy of their participation. That outcome would leave politics to the zealots of both parties. There is evidence that this self-disenfranchisement  is already underway.

So, what can we do about all this? The first thing is to vote ourselves —  and carefully. Secondly, it is becoming clearer every day that we cannot trust the political education of our children to the teachers and professors who populate our colleges and universities to properly inform our children of what America is really all about. Parents and extended families are the first line of defense of the Republic. It has always been up to parents to socialize their children, but now this duty has the added weight of the fate and future of the nation tied to it.

© 2018 Richfield Press. All rights reserved.


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