The Sixties and the Tea Party
By Arnold Kling
The similarity between today and the 1960’s is that our country seems highly polarized. On the other hand, I think there is one enormous difference between the 1960’s and today. In the 1960’s, the progressive establishment suffered a loss of confidence. Today the progressive establishment suffers from overconfidence.
In the 1960’s, the significant issue was the Vietnam War. The progressive establishment looked at the demonstrators and thought, “Those are our children! And they’re right! This is a lousy war.” Lyndon Johnson, the erstwhile hero of the progressive establishment, the champion who had won in a landslide in 1964, withdrew from the race in 1968. The Progressive establishment went through a period of self-criticism and self-doubt.
Today, the significant issue is Washington’s response to the financial crisis. The progressive establishment looks at the demonstrators and thinks, “Those are ignorant, irrational bumpkins! We passed the TARP and the stimulus to help them! Health care reform is our gift to them! Cap and trade will save the planet for them!”
The Progressive narrative is that the financial crisis demonstrated conclusively that markets do not work and we need technocratic management instead. The Tea Party does not buy that narrative. The Progressive narrative is pro-Washington. The Tea Party narrative is anti-Washington.
If there is a way to resolve the conflict, I am not seeing it.