George Will Goes Hippie Punching

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Writing in the Washington Post today, George Will does the punditry equivalent of kicking open the screen door and screaming at the damn kids on his lawn:

In scale, OWS's demonstrations-cum-encampments are to Tea Party events as Pittsburg, Kan., is to Pittsburgh, Pa. So far, probably fewer people have participated in all of them combined than attended just one Tea Party rally, that of Sept. 12, 2009, on the Mall. In comportment, OWS is to the Tea Party as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield: Blocking the Brooklyn Bridge was not persuasion modeled on Tea Party tactics.

Lord Chesterfield was Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, an 18th-century essayist and quote-monger who devised many well-known aphorisms. Lady Gaga is a popular musician who wears strange clothes, has legions of fans, and is confusing to the older generations. I doubt the Occupy Wall Street protesters would view the comparison as quite the insult George Will intends it to be. And Lord Chesterfield, his gifts of insight and brevity notwithstanding, never came up so meaningful a saying as: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

But let's not get distracted -- George Will is here to punch hippies, and he even takes a fond look back at the days when people actually punched actual hippies:

Imitation is the sincerest form of progressivism because nostalgia motivates progressives, not conservatives. Tea Party Envy is leavened by Woodstock Envy -- note the drum circles at the Manhattan site -- which is a facet of Sixties Envy. Hence, conservatives should be rejoicing.

From 1965 through 1968, the left found its voice and style in consciousness-raising demonstrations and disruptions. In November 1968, the nation, its consciousness raised, elected Richard Nixon president and gave 56.9 percent of the popular vote to Nixon or George Wallace. Republicans won four of the next five presidential elections.

Seriously? I know that it's easy to overstate the influence of the counter-culture movement, but come on...

A less cynical person might point out that the period of "consciousness-raising demonstrations and disruptions" happened to coincide with the height of the Civil Rights movement, which Republicans exploited -- along with Vietnam fatigue -- to fracture the old Democratic coalitions and ride to power. (There's a reason George Wallace carried five states in 1968, and it wasn't the anti-drum circle vote.)

Also: conservatives are not motivated by "nostalgia"? There's not one time period, or one president, that gets them all misty-eyed when the memories start trickling down?

Anyway, George Will envisions the coming election as a battle between the hippies and the "real" America. "So: OWS vs. the Tea Party. Republicans generally support the latter. Do Democrats generally support the former? Let's find out. Let's vote." Great idea! Though given that the OWS protesters at the moment have a net positive approval rating, whereas the Tea Party's is very much negative, it's possible that Will and the rest of the hippie-punchers might find themselves encircled by drums.

Posted In
The Washington Post
George F. Will
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