Sunday 13 September 2009

The hippies and the wingnuts

There are those who see the wingnut rallies like the one yesterday, and hearken back to the hippie rallies of 40 years ago – the antiwar protests etc. And actually there are more similarities than you think.

The hippies from the Sixties won their battles, saw the Vietnam War end, saw Nixon fall, saw the civil rights legislation enacted, saw southern towns elect black mayors, and they went on with their lives. They perked up again a decade later when Reagan came along, and threw a few no-nukes rallies out of habit, but they had grown up and had kids, so the revolutionary fire was starting to burn low. They got old.

Then the next wave of “hippies” came along – the wingnuts. They worshipped Reagan and Jesus in that order; their holy war was about abortion, guns and gays. Their record of performance wasn’t so hot: on their one big issue, abortion, they never came close to getting the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. They got DOMA but that will be overturned; they got the Second Amendment upheld but the Court also allows some controls on guns. And now the wingnuts are seeing the entire Reagan empire destroyed by a black president, so they’re marching out to fight – but now they’re a lot older. The age issue allows their wingnut leaders to try to frighten them with lies about Medicare, but there are drawbacks to an elderly army – they’re, um, going to age off the system. Like the sinning Israelites in the Sinai desert, they will be consumed after the forty years have passed.

And now the third wave of “hippies” has arisen: just as Vietnam created the original hippies and Reagan created the wingnuts, now the incredible lies, follies and abuses of the Bush gang created the Obama army, ready to march for health care and other issues.

Two lessons here. The wingnuts will age and die, and the Obama army will take over because they are much, much younger. So we’re going to win our battles: sheer demographics. What Obama needs to do is ensure that the wingnut army doesn’t add on a credible youth-auxiliary. A few groups of young crazy gun-nut militias aren’t a problem – their carryings-on will actually backfire – but Obama needs to avoid sliding all the way to the left. This, undoubtedly, is why Obama has parked in the center, rather than the left, during his first year.

The one obvious danger: you can always find young, stupid people.

Second, Obama doesn’t even have to give his army what they demand, to win: Reagan didn’t give the wingnuts the abortion ban or the balanced budgets or the smaller government he promised, but the wingnuts still name schools and highways after him. The Obama army is much more intelligent than the wingnuts, but Obama doesn’t have to give them everything, just enough. Start tapering down our commitment in Afghanistan, repeal DOMA or Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, let Holder put some Bush-era crooks in jail, and remind his army that the banks who got the bailouts are paying back the money and are facing more scrutiny. The one area where he needs to be careful and think is climate change, cap-and-trade etc. The wingnuts are actually helping Obama in this regard, by showing how hard it is to make change happen in Washington.

No comments: