The Vanguard of Fashion, Then and Now
In 1969, Time magazine's Man of the Year was the American Middle Class:
The American dream that they were living was no longer the dream as advertised. They feared that they were beginning to lose their grip on the country. Others seemed to be taking over—the liberals, the radicals, the defiant young, a communications industry that they often believed was lying to them. The Saturday Evening Post folded, but the older world of Norman Rockwell icons was long gone anyway. No one celebrated them: intellectuals dismissed their lore as banality. Pornography, dissent and drugs seemed to wash over them in waves, bearing some of their children away.
* * *
The gaps between Middle America and the vanguard of fashion are deep. The daughters of Middle America learn baton twirling, not Hermann Hesse. Middle Americans line up in the cold each Christmas season at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall; the Rockettes, not Oh! Calcutta! are their entertainment. While the rest of the nation's youth has been watching Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, Middle American teen-agers have been taking in John Wayne for the second or third time in The Green Berets. Middle Americans have been largely responsible for more than 10,000 Christmas cards sent to General Creighton Abrams in Saigon. They sing the national anthem at football games—and mean it.
The culture no longer seems to supply many heroes, but Middle Americans admire men like Neil Armstrong and to some extent, Spiro Agnew. California Governor Ronald Reagan and San Francisco State College President S.I. Hayakawa have won approval for their hard line on dissent. Before his death last year, Dwight Eisenhower was listed as the most admired man in the nation—and Middle America cast much of the vote. In death, John Kennedy is also a hero. Ironically, Robert Kennedy had the allegiance of much of Middle America along with his constituency of blacks and the young. Whatever their politics, both Kennedys had an idealism about America, a pride about it to which Middle Americans responded because they shared it.
Flash-forward to 2011, and the gap between Middle America and the vanguard of fashion remains deep:
This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can’t let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain. And, as Greg Sargent makes clear, Mitt Romney has wandered a long way from courage. There are those who say, cynically, if this is the dim-witted freak show the Republicans want to present in 2012, so be it. I disagree. One of them could get elected. You never know. Mick Huckabee, the front-runner if you can believe it, might have to negotiate a trade agreement, or a defense treaty, with the Indonesian President some day. Newt might have to discuss very delicate matters of national security with the President of Pakistan. And so I plead, as an unflinching American patriot–please Mitch Daniels, please Jeb Bush, please run. I may not agree with you on most things, but I respect you. And you seem to respect yourselves enough not to behave like public clowns.