Much to my chagrin, a relative of mine in 2017 took her young children to her local Women’s March and proudly proclaimed “This is what democracy looks like!” as legions of feminists and others protested the inauguration of Donald Trump.
After three years of similar protests, special counsel investigations, government shutdowns and impeachment she hasn’t budged from her belief that Trump represents everything wrong with America. This primary season she supported the candidate that she thought best matched up against the president. Unfortunately, that candidate turned out to be former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out the weekend before her state’s primary.
The consolidation of the Democratic field after the South Carolina primary and the resulting Super Tuesday wave for Joe Biden were rapidly, if reluctantly, accepted as the necessary move by establishment media spooked by the possibility of Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders being their candidate. It also has revealed again that the party that claims to be the heir of Thomas Jefferson doesn’t particularly resemble what “democracy looks like.”
Much of the momentum that Biden received in the Palmetto State came by virtue of the late endorsement of Representative James Clyburn, a machine politician with reliable pull among black residents as shown with his efforts in 2016. The carnage of that week, which appears to have wrecked Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination, has led to comical outbursts of anger from his supporters.
The division between the progressive and corporate wings of the Democratic Party cannot be bridged, and the deceptive primary process is likely to lead to a backlash that will not be limited to wearing pussy hats and vagina costumes on the National Mall.
America could see a reboot of an often forgotten era of urban radicalism buried in the 1970s. Time will tell whether it will be as violent. It will depend on whether the believers in armed resistance are willing to make the choice actively to pursue it, but it would not be unprecedented and the social climate is ripe for an encore.
Revolution After Clearing the Rubble
The 1950s are remembered by many as an era of economic prosperity, conservative social mores, and the zenith of the nuclear family as the “baby boom” spiked birth rates after World War II and more children than ever attended U.S. public schools. Eventually, this led to an increase in college enrollments, which had already grown after the war thanks to the G.I. Bill. In 1960, only 45 percent of high school graduates attended college or university. By 1969 that number had risen to 53 percent. For women, the number had grown from 37 percent to 47 percent.
But the world that these youths encountered in academia often clashed with the one in which they grew up as far left academics had already infiltrated their ranks. Timothy Leary, famous as the pioneer of acid culture, was a psychology professor at Harvard University. Howard Zinn, author of The People’s History of the United States that is the spiritual antecedent of the 1619 Project, started teaching at Boston University in 1964 after he had been fired from all-black Spelman College in Atlanta.
As American troops deployed to Vietnam in 1965, radical politics and counterculture gained steam, especially among those seeking to avoid the rice paddies and river deltas by having a college study exemption. Since the 1960s, the ideological monolith has grown.
A 2018 study by the National Association of Scholars found fields such as communications and anthropology possessing virtually no right-leaning “conservative” viewpoints across the country. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a socialist countercultural political organizing group headed by young leaders like Tom Hayden spread across college campuses even prior to the war as supporters of the Civil Rights Movement and as reformers of the Democratic Party.
But the Democrats were too big and too “diverse” to reform, as they included segregationist Dixiecrats like Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas, privileged eastern elites like the Kennedy clan, union organizers such as Walter Reuther, and corrupt political bosses like Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daly.
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson, a man who had built his career on balancing these competing interests, stood down after performing poorly in the New Hampshire primary against Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.). The resultant chaotic primary has been cited as a possible antecedent to what we’re seeing in 2020. While Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York represented the progressive wing of the party, the centrists supported Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. Following Kennedy’s assassination, Humphrey was selected during the chaotic convention in Chicago while antiwar protesters clashed with police both inside and outside of the International Amphitheatre.
Can You Dig It?
In the wake of ’68 convention disaster, the SDS began to splinter as student activists disagreed on how best to support their goals and indeed on which goals should be promoted. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in April also triggered massive riots across American urban areas and radicalism seeped into black communities through organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers. These different spheres of angst would coalesce and fragment as Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon in the general election. Like Donald Trump today, Nixon was always an easy person for the Left to hate as a symbol of their parents’ stodgier cultural norms.
Traditionally, this era of youth activism is remembered for the trendy symbolism of Woodstock. While different in message, this is comparable to the faux radical “craptivism” of modern pop stars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce Knowles, masking the turmoil of the time behind a benign layer of love beads and lava lamps.
SDS splintered into multiple movements, one of which was the Revolutionary Youth Movement. In October 1969, only two months after Woodstock, the RYM convened in Chicago for the Days of Rage, seeking to “bring the war home” and cause a genuine violent uprising against participation in Vietnam. But after only 800 fellow radicals showed up, the chaotic riot devolved into smashing store windows and parked cars. The Days of Rage caused a rupture with the Chicago-area Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who would later be murdered by the police.
The failed uprising created another division in RYM leading to the formation of the revolutionary Weather Underground. Led by bitter SDS organizers like Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, this faction began a string of bombings, robberies and other violent actions that stretched through the 1970s using a network of former classmates, sympathizer lawyers, and even contacts in Cuba and North Vietnam. During its December 1969 “war council,” Dohrn hailed the gory Tate-LaBianca murders committed by acolytes of Charles Manson, saying: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs. Then they ate dinner in the same room with them. Then they even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”
At the same time, West Germany was contending with the Marxist-Leninist Red Army Faction. In 1977, their operatives perpetrated several acts of terror, including the murder of industrialist Hans Martin Schleyer and the hijacking of a Lufthansa flight to Somalia later rescued by German commandos. It would come to be known as the German Autumn thanks to a documentary produced about it by independent filmmakers.
The Weather Underground’s bombing campaign would continue through most of the 1970s. They were joined by other radical terror groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army. Eventually, the Left’s dreams of revolution unraveled due to the decentralized and amoeba-like structure of its leaders. Ayers and Dohrn both left the Weather Underground by 1980. Neither spent a single day in prison due to the disqualification of unconstitutional FBI wiretap evidence.
From #Demexit to Demolition?
While mainstream culture champions their values, the far-Left is frustrated by their lack of actual power in comparison to the affluent liberal establishment that controls corporations like Comcast and Disney. Many of them are graduates of the Occupy Wall Street movement that sought to shut down the system and end an economy that they see as being dedicated to the greed of the few.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders offered an attractive antidote: “democratic socialism.” But what is the difference between this and other types of socialism and what does that mean now that Bernie is basically toast?
As with previous generations of radicals—think of Eugene V. Debs and Vice President Henry Wallace—Sanders’ tendency is to see electoral politics as a way to equalize society without a violent revolution. Similarly, “democratic socialists” have taken power in other countries, such as Salvador Allende in Chile (1971) and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (1998).
But the theme of democratic socialism remains the same as all of the other types; rather than emphasize the goal of the struggle against wealth and inequality, the struggle comes to supersede its own goals.
While most remember the Russian Revolution of 1917, often unmentioned is the February Revolution of that year that ousted Czar Nikolai II and installed the republican government of Aleksandr Kerensky. This government of the Socialist Revolutionary movement had the cooperation of the Mensheviks, the larger faction of the Social Democratic and Labor Party. Kerensky’s government could not turn around Russia’s fortunes in World War I, leading to the other more famous Bolshevik faction of the SDLP overthrowing him in October 1917. Consequently, almost no one remembers that the Russian Revolution was originally led by “democratic socialists,” and then replaced by the more ruthless Marxist-Leninists or socialists with teeth.
Those despairing of the Democratic nomination process in 2020 delivering a progressive alternative may react as mildly as forming a new third party or coalition to challenge the two-party system.
In 2016, former Sanders staffer Nick Brana did so by creating the Movement for a People’s Party. Perhaps if Sanders himself and his voters had heeded Brana’s advice they wouldn’t be in for so much grief now. As Project Veritas revealed in January, however, some of Bernie’s supporters would be fully willing to trade the ballot box for the Armalite, as the IRA used to say.
When asked what would happen at the Milwaukee convention if the DNC tried to block Sanders yet again, Iowa staffer Kyle Jurek exclaimed, “f–king cities burn!” Jurek expressed to an undercover Project Veritas operative his sympathy for the oppressive gulags of the Soviet Union and admitted to participating in the violent activities of Antifa. He also intimated that the campaign was likely staffed by many other Antifa activists like him.
Still, it is unlikely that the majority of Sanders’s voters will take the route to violent revolution as the Weather Underground did after 1968 and as Jurek predicts today. Many more are likely to try Brana’s peaceful #Demexit strategy. But as with any terror campaign, it would not take a large group of people to cause disruptive and lamentable bloodshed.