Note: Republished from December 8, 2016
"Many college grads are merely drugged with small doses of intellectual laudanum [opium] and until such time as its influence wears off, they are unable to adjust themselves to the ordinary responsibilities of life." – Gov. Wm. D. Hoard (Wisconsin)
THE GAY NINETIES: Socialism was becoming cool on campus and after 1900, Russia swung to the left all the way. America, in 1912, rejected Teddy Roosevelt and elected Woodie Wilson, an Ivy League president. In 1916, he ran on the premise that he had kept us out of war (oops). "The war to end all wars" didn't.
We swung to the right with Harding and Coolidge, the latter being the last eastern Republican to win the White House until Donald Trump (and silent Cal was a great one).
Academia continued to swing leftward, and after the "roaring twenties" and the Depressed early 1930s, America swung to the left with Teddy's cousin Franklin D. He was a friend of Josef Stalin but circumstances led to his election four times. Academic campi supported the war following Pearl Harbor, and boys quit college to go fight axis imperialists.
Upon FDR's death, Harry S. Truman, a middle-American, took a swing to the center-left. He ended one war but botched a "police action" in Korea. We lost more American boys in that one than in Harry's final invasion of Japan, and he "did not choose to run" in 52. With Ike we swung to the center-right and we had peace-through-strength and prosperity without war.
In 1960, in a controversial election, we swung slightly to the left again, although JFK was "right" on economics (cut taxes). In 1964, a critical election, America rejected a man we were warned "might start a war over there" in favor of a Texan who dragged out a war "over there." LBJ "did not choose to run" in 68, as Nixon got his "second chance."
The Silent Majority swung the country even to the right of Nixon, but Academia went in the opposite direction. Even though one-third of humanity had fallen under godless Communism, students marched chanting "Ho ho ho, Ho Chi Minh; dare to fight and dare to win" [defeat the U.S.]! Due to the combination of Watergate and division promoted by the media, Vietnam ended even worse than the Korean "war" (despite winning the Tet offensive).
Again a President did not choose to continue; there was a Ford in our future, built Big 10 tough, but in our bicentennial year, he was beaten by a peanut farmer from Georgia who couldn't beat an actor from Hollywood (for you campus snowflakes, I'm not making this up). In ten years' time the pendulum swung from its leftward apex to its watermark rightward. Freedom got a new lease on life in the 1980s.
After the Berlin Wall got pushed over, anti-Americanism on campus wasn't cool for awhile, but another former GOP VP bit the dust. After a voter tantrum in 1994, a Democrat Administration swung slightly to the right for awhile (we even had one balanced budget).
After 9/11, the country was "United we stand." That lasted for about two weeks. The right-leaning President and left-leaning Congress shadow-boxed as war and reaction to it reared its ugly head again. And in 2008, voters swung further to the left than ever before. A right-wing woman on the ticket couldn't save a moderate Republican. Anti-Americanism on campus got so bad that red-blooded boys couldn't stand it. The average campus is now 60-40 female. And the 2012 election was a fluke because the GOP nominee was to the left of the VP candidate.
Surprise, surprise! In 2014 and 2016, America swung to the right again. As Paul Ryan says, "The people were tired of being tired." The D-party's platform was so far to the left that rank-and-file union members were turned off. Academia, which had had visions of free college tuition, turned to weeping and gnashing of teeth (there is no free launch).
However (surprise), economic optimism is evidently on the rise again. The out-going President had focused on volume of money while the in-coming Administration is focusing on velocity of money (which is organic and not static). As I believe Yogi Berra said about baseball, "Fifty percent of the game is 90 percent mental."
As for that "pendulum" though, I always say there is no pendulum on the cultural issues; there's a ratchet on it so it's always a one-way street. We shall see now what we shall see.
CONCLUSION: Desmond Tutu said, "If you want peace, don't talk to your friends; talk to your enemy." Much of the Great Divide in this country is based on semantics and emphasis. One side preaches hard work and responsibility, as Governor Hoard did, while the other side is nearly obsessed with "rights" and freebies. Can't we have both rights and responsibility? Simply put, the last word in "American" (someone said) is CAN.
P.S. The optimists say we COULD make America great again. The pessimists on the right are afraid that we've fallen too far already, meaning we are too weak spiritually. The bad news is that the left doesn't want us to succeed. The good news is that it's not how far you fall but whether you can land on your feet. I once fell out of a tree nearly 30 feet but landed on my tippy-toes without any damage. There must be a lesson in there somewhere. I enjoy my anonymity but – feel free to pass on the messages. TUSEN TACK!
PPS: I just obtained a signed copy of "Keep on Laughing; Tennessee Folk Lore" by Richard M. "Pek" Gunn, poet laureate of that state. My favorite page in the book says:I'd rather take simple words and paint pretty pictures
That will gladden the hearts of those
Who have long since ceased to smile
And die unknown as a writer
Than to have the acclaim of the literary world
With everyone trying to figure out what I had in mind
When I wrote. © Curtis Dahlgren
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