The Decade of our Country's Decline, 1963 - 1973, has been written about on this website by an SRQPATS member. The below now focuses in its apogee, 2018, and also being its 50th anniversary. No mention of the ignition point or the ACLU's roll in it all. For that you will have to look here.
Members of the Hog Farm commune celebrate the Fourth of July, 1968, aboard their bus, the Road Hog.
© Lisa Law/The Image Works (Scanned photo)
1968 - The Year Politics Collapsed
The class of 1968 included Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump.
By Daniel Henninger
The modern era of American politics—defined by polarization and nonstop intensity—began with the cataclysmic events of 1968, now celebrating, if that’s the right word, its 50th anniversary.
Everyone says the pace of events in the Trump presidency is overwhelming. Compared with 1968, the past year has been a walk in the park.
Nineteen sixty-eight was one of the greatest anni horribiles ever to happen inside the U.S., producing war, assassinations and riots.
During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Sen. Barack Obama, who turned 7 in 1968, took a generational shot at Sen. Hillary Clinton, who turned 21 at Wellesley: “Senator Clinton and others, they have been fighting some of the same fights since the ’60s.”
Well yes, it’s the fight that will never end.
It is impossible to understand the relevance of that year without a timeline.
Jan. 23: The USS Pueblo and its 82 survivors are captured and taken hostage by North Korea. On Jan. 30, North Vietnam launches the notorious Tet Offensive, including an invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. March 12, Minnesota’s Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy comes within a few hundred votes in the New Hampshire primary of upsetting President Lyndon B. Johnson. Within three weeks, Johnson announces he will not seek his party’s presidential nomination.
Four days later, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis. Urban riots break out across the U.S. April 23: Students occupy offices at Columbia University until police storm the building a week later. June 3: Andy Warhol is shot in New York by Valerie Solanas, author of the SCUM Manifesto, or “Society for Cutting Up Men.”
Then, on June 5, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated at a Los Angeles hotel.
Aug. 8, Republicans nominate Richard Nixon. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia.
In late summer during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, police fight a pitched battle with antiwar protesters in Grant Park. In October, at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise gloved fists as a black-power salute during a medal ceremony.
On Nov. 5, Nixon defeats Hubert Humphrey and a third-party populist, former and future Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who in the spirit of the times told a group of antiwar protesters: “I was killing fascists when you punks were in diapers.”
Also there is this: The graduations of 1968 included Bill Clinton (Georgetown), George W. Bush (Yale) and Donald J. Trump (Penn).
Historians have tried to decipher this one year’s volcanic eruptions. For some, it was the emerging political power of televised images; Vietnam was called “the living-room war.” There was also pot, and the pill.
Generally underemphasized by historians is that 1968’s politics had one other fuel source: rock ’n’ roll music.
The songs ran constantly in the background, producing a manic energy. But the sounds also smoothed and softened the reality of these events. A 1968 would not have happened if driven by the music of 1948, 1958 or 1978.
The Rolling Stones recorded “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” James Brown released, “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and Steppenwolf raved through “Born to Be Wild.”
It wasn’t all a rush. People could bliss out on musical pillows like “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” or Simon and Garfunkel’s dreamy “Scarborough Fair.”
The music, mayhem and merriment were inseparable. It was a year in which the idea of inhibition died. It hasn’t returned and likely never will.
Nineteen sixty-eight marked the start of political polarization. Contrary to current myth, the civil-rights legislation of a few years before was bipartisan. With the Vietnam War, unity began to unravel.
The late 1960s saw the beginning of left-liberal moral triumphalism. The opposition was no longer just wrong. It was morally suspect. For a new generation of Democrats, which increasingly included the theretofore politically neutral press, the Vietnam War was opposed as, simply, "a bright shining lie."
A kind of political religiosity infused matters of sex, race and even foreign policy, and pushed the parties apart. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report on the urban riots in 1965-67 announced that America was "moving toward two societies."
Some 10 years later, inevitably, the religious right emerged. And here we are today, fractured by politics and technology into myriad cultural subsets of separations that began in 1968. The Trump divide was a long time coming.
Nearly every chronicle of 1968 omits the last thing that happened that year. On Dec. 21, Apollo 8 lifted off. On Christmas Day, as it orbited the moon, its commander, Col. Frank Borman, read from the Book of Genesis and said: “From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck and merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”
It was, until it ended, a more innocent time.