The Curse of Santayana, the Revenge of Karl Marx

A flower lays on the granite marker at the location where student Allison Krause was shot and killed on May 4, 1970 on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Maybe it’s just us geezers who have seen this movie and know how it ends, but David Horowitz and I come to the same place on this issue, having started way back in the tumultuous 1960s as far apart as we could be:


The mob that came to disrupt the Trump rally in Chicago was neither spontaneous nor innocent, nor new. It was a mob that has been forming ever since the Seattle riots against the World Trade Organization in 1999, whose target was global capitalism. The Seattle rioters repeated their outrages for the next two years and then transformed itself into the so-called “anti-war” movement to save the Saddam dictatorship in Iraq. Same leaders, funders and troops. The enemy was always America and its Republican defenders. When Obama invaded countries and blew up families in Muslim countries, there was no anti-war movement because Obama was one of them, and they didn’t want to divide their support. In 2012 the so-called “anti-war” movement reformed as “Occupy Wall Street.” They went on a rampage creating cross-country riots to protesting the One Percent and provided a whipping boy for Obama’s re-election campaign. Same leaders, same funders and troops. In 2015 the same leftwing forces created and funded Black Lives Matter and lynch mobs in Ferguson and Baltimore who targeted “white supremacists” and police.

Behind all the mobs was the organized left –, the public sector unions run by Sixties leftovers,  and the cabal of anti-American billionaires led by George Soros. The mobs themselves were composed of the hate-filled foot soldiers of the political left. Now these forces have gathered in the campaign to elect the Vermont communist and are focusing their venom on Donald Trump. The obvious plan is to make Republicans toxic while driving a wedge through the Republican Party. The plan is defeat Republicans in November so that the destructive forces they have set in motion in the Democratic Party can finish the wrecking job that Obama started.


Alas, it seems that some of our friends on the right have lost sight of this long-march-through-the-institutions fact, and would prefer instead to warn the Republic about the incipient danger of a possible Donald Trump administration. But when you’re of an age — pretty much anybody under 50 — when, as a conservative, you were born into the Reagan revolution, and consider the anomalous twelve years from 1980-1992/6 as the essence of the “conservative movement, you have a problem understanding both Trump and the new political universe in which you find yourselves.

There are two aphorisms at play here, both famous, each oft-misinterpreted but worth recalling. The first is the philosopher George Santayana’s dictum that “those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” The second, of course, is Marx’s famous notion that history repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second time as farce. Those of us who came into our majority during the tumultuous late sixties and early seventies are now witnessing the truth of both dicta.

Let me say that I hold no particular brief for Donald Trump as a political candidate. Despite having watched him in action since 1981, I have no idea what sort of a leader he would be and, I suspect, neither does he.  But there’s no denying that Trump has tapped into an enormous reservoir of ill-will directed against the political class and, in his case, against the feckless and corrupt Republican establishment and its media sycophants. Had they shown even one-tenth the hostility toward Barack Obama as they do today toward Trump, the nation might have been spared such unconstitutional excrescences as Obamacare. Further, the lack of political will was catching, extending to the nominally conservative Supreme Court; when John Roberts saw which way the wind was blowing, he apparently switched his vote on the president’s “health care” bill — really, just another punitive tax on the middle class — and acquiesced to the Left’s brute-force victory. Trump is simply the vessel for this pent-up anger.


Rage, however, is only palatable and legitimate when it is expressed by the Left. Never mind that they have had nearly two full terms of the first president with a Muslim Arabic name and just seven years after 9/11; how’s that for diversity? Never mind that for a couple of years they had filibuster-proof majorities in both houses of Congress. Instead, they’ve ranted about Republican intransigence and the imaginary racial animus behind one political party’s blocking of the other’s more radical initiatives. And so they continue to rage, as if the recent past had never happened.

But the amount of churlish invective spewed his way is both remarkable and dangerous.  Already we have seen clashes at Trump rallies as the Left, emboldened by some conservative pundits and feeling protected by its own cult of lawyerism that protects it from the physical payback it so eagerly courts, has sought to disrupt, block, or otherwise prevent legitimate political functions. I well remember the events of the awful year 1968, which included the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, race riots and the violent student-police clashes at the Democratic convention in Chicago. No period is exactly analogous, of course, but 2016 is already feeling too close to 1968 for comfort. And there can be no doubt that its lessons have been totally forgotten by today’s kiddie korps on both sides, most of whom never learned them in the first place, and who (on the Right) bemoan the loss of the “principles” of a “conservative movement” they misunderstand and had absolutely nothing to do with the formulation of the first place.


So much for Santayana. As for Marx, at the moment it does appear that he was correct, and that the oft-buffoonish figure of Trump is the comic second coming of the tragedies of 1968. But as January 1968 dawned, along with it came the Tet Offensive, which set off a chain reaction of world/historical events that also included President Johnson’s decision in March (after a modest electoral rebuff in the New Hampshire primary) not to seek re-election, thus opening up the Democrat nomination to the chaos and street-fighting that ensued that summer. Johnson essentially abdicated with a call for national unity that never came:

What we got instead was the Chicago riots, the election of Richard Nixon (the most liberal Republican in modern times), the shootings at Kent State University in Ohio, the seizure of the Democrat Party by the radical left in 1972 and the defeat of McGovern (on whose campaign Bill Clinton got his start), Watergate, the accidental Ford presidency, Jimmy Carter, the Ayatollah Khomeini and the taking of the American hostages in Iran. And it was that series of unfortunate events that finally brought Ronald Reagan to the White House.

This, I think, is what younger conservatives today forget — that Reagan was not simply handed to a grateful nation as a reward for making the proper electoral choice in the election of 1980. (The Left was appalled and dismayed, and heartbroken when he crushed Mondale 49-1, in 1984.) Reagan had to work for it — hoisting the Goldwater flag in 1964, losing the 1976 nomination to Ford, and finally winning four years later.


But the nation had to work even harder, working through its generational battle (the Baby Boomers vs. their parents) and the internecine warfare, still ongoing, among the Boomers themselves. In Trump and Clinton, this fall’s election may well see two aging Boomers, each emblematic of their side in the intra-generational squabble: the capitalist vs. the Marxist (for so indisputably she is). In each case, their vision of America is either aging rapidly or outmoded entirely, but that won’t stop tempers from fraying as their supporters are, almost literally, driven toward madness.

Enough. The country called the United States of America will survive Obama, and it will survive Trump, Clinton or even Bernie Sanders. What it won’t be however, is the place in which most of the Boomers grew up, and which shaped the Manichaean world-views that still compete for cultural supremacy. “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” wrote the British novelist L. P. Hartley in The Go-Between, in a sentence that has long outlived its author. As you look around at the wreckage that has followed in our footsteps since 1968, you’d do well to research how we got here in the first place.





Trending on PJ Media Videos

Join the conversation as a VIP Member