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David Brooks, Report for Reeducation

March 12th, 2010 - 8:54 pm

The main linkage between colorful characters like Hoffman and the SDS founders is their emphasis on youth.  That first “S” is for “students,” after all, and the Port Huron Statement could not be more explicit:

A new left must consist of younger people who matured in the postwar world, and partially be directed to the recruitment of younger people. The university is an obvious beginning point.

I don’t believe the Tea Partiers think of themselves as a youth movement.

Insisting on a common DNA between the Tea Partiers and the New Lefties, Brooks announces that both are anti-conservative.  Well, duh, so far as the New Left was concerned. It was, you know, leftist:

A new left must include liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system. The university is a more sensible place than a political party for these two traditions to begin to discuss their differences and look for political synthesis.

The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are conservatives; they are fighting against Obama’s efforts to bring more and more human activity under centralized state control.  They’re defending Constitutional rights, which seems pretty conservative to me.

Then Brooks tries his hand at think-tank history, as per Michael Lind, who, Brooks admiringly tells us,

pointed out that the conservatives in the 1960s and 1970s built a counter-establishment — a network of think tanks, activist groups, academic associations and political leaders who would form conservative cadres, promoting conservative ideas and policies.

Except that the throbbing heart of that conservative “counter-establishment,” the American Enterprise Institute, was created in 1943, as a balance to the liberal Brookings Institution, which was launched before the First World War.  It was the Left, with much of the energy coming from the New Left, that created the real counter-establishment, in the universities, just as SDS said it intended to do.  That alliance of liberals and socialists, for which the Port Huron Statement called in 1962, now dominates American education, and one of its textbook products is now president of the United States.

So Brooks is quite wrong when he says that “the Tea Partiers are closer to the New Left. They don’t seek to form a counter-establishment because they don’t believe in establishments or in authority structures.” The New Left built a vast establishment, and the Tea Partiers are trying to hold on to some traditional American liberties, and roll back some of the state power that has been accumulated by the heirs of Port Huron.

By the way, the New Left had at least one other political victory. The Port Huron statement insisted on a clean ideological separation between left and right, and called for ideologically defined parties. Part of the Europeanization of twentieth-century American politics. Thanks a lot, guys.

David, report to reeducation camp Monday promptly at 6.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Instapundit, one of this generation’s most valuable resources (and fun, too), for linking to this.

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