How a real leftist movement could create a new center in American politics
Will the worldwide “occupy” demonstrations make 2011 the new 1968?
The liberal left must hope not. The global wave of left-wing radicalism that peaked in 1968 was followed by a generation of right-wing reaction in the United States and Europe. The rise of counterculture frightened the “silent majority” in the U.S. and Europe into supporting politicians like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who, running campaigns based largely on patriotism and traditional values and “law and order,” used their power to undermine the labor market regulations and social insurance programs that had protected the socially conservative working classes who voted for them.
It is all too easy to write a script for a post-Reaganite, neo-Nixonian conservatism that emphasizes law and order. If protesters in Wall Street and other downtowns go from waving placards to smashing windows, it would be easy for the right to win over the suburban majority by accusing the center-left of coddling law-breaking downtown protesters as well as law-breaking illegal immigrants. At the moment much of the public is favorably disposed toward the occupation protests, but attitudes may change if countercultural shantytowns grow up in urban parks and confrontations with police and local governments become common.