“We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee /
We don’t take our trips on LSD /
We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street /
We like livin’ right, and bein’ free.”
—“Okie from Muskogee,” Merle Haggard, 1969
These days, The Hag likes to suggest that he and Willie Nelson fired up a jumbo with Hillary Clinton, but back in 1969 they were on opposite ends. Right-thinking Oklahomans — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren would have been a teenager in the mid '60s and a waitress in Oklahoma City — did not do these things “like the hippies out in San Francisco do.” But today, I’m not sure the distinction holds up.
The perceptive Ross Douthat, conservative columnist for the New York Times, has written recently of the end of “a Catholic Moment” in public life. “At the time of John Paul’s death, the Republican Party’s agenda was still stamped by George W. Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism,’ which offered a right-of-center approach to Catholic ideas about social justice.” But that was a “long eight years ago.”
Douthat could well be correct in thinking that that moment of politicized Catholicism has passed. But it might be considered that the Catholic “moment” was a reflection of the rising Southern force of Christian politics and the evangelical movement, which historian Dan T. Carter writes of in The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics.
There was to it all a sense of “I’m a Christian and you’re not.” Or as one Texas bard mischievously put it in song, “Jesus loves me, but you’re gonna fry.”
Carter wrote that the entire Wallace rise and fall was a reaction to the new initiatives of the culture of the 1960s, of the Freedom Riders in the South, the integration decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the hippies and so on.
“Journalists might greet this growing counterculture with curiosity, even approval. But Wallace knew — instinctively, intuitively — that tens of millions Americans despised the civil rights agitators, the antiwar demonstrators, the sexual exhibitionists as symbols of a fundamental decline in the traditional cultural compass of God, family, and country.”
The hippie movement itself may have been only a cultural reaction to the rising events in Vietnam and the threat of the draft to the post-war generation. By 1969, I and a half dozen of my friends had already returned from the war in Asia and the draft was still on.
But that was almost 50 years ago. I can barely remember it. And anyone, hippie or anti-hippie alike, who still does is stuck in a time warp. Possibly the immortal words of Captain Kirk to Trekies can help: “Get a life.”
Rand Paul: “The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered — I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”
Conservatives today have the great advantage because they have, with Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, made the quantum leap to the next generation first. This time liberals will be playing catch-up and playing defensive. The MSM advancement of Hillary Clinton today only increases the historic burden of going forth again with a generation whose time has passed. They become, to use a '60s word, “irrelevant.”
Bernie Quigley writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.