The Presidential Election of 1972
1. Restoring Faith in Democracy
What is the significance of the victory of McGovern at the Democratic convention? The McGovern movement and campaign represents a strong resurgence of liberalism, or as I would prefer to say, the restoration of the whole bag of liberal myths. The McGovern-Nixon fight is the same struggle in the electoral arena that the battle between the Administration and the New York Times over the Pentagon papers represented in the courts. It is a struggle between the liberal and conservative wings, the left and right wings of the ruling class, for control of the government. The election is merely the continuation of this battle, which has been going on for some time now, and of which the Pentagon Papers battle was just one episode.
McGovern is a living incarnation of the liberal illusion. He thinks the problem is to return to the great ideals that have always inspired this country. In other words he thinks the present crisis has been caused because the United States has abandoned or drifted away from its original nature or constitution. Just as the war in Vietnam was seen as a ``mistake,'' so also the domestic problems are because of corruption, or deceit in high places. For McGovern, the problem does not lie with the system itself, but only with those who presently occupy the leadership positions in the system. (What a convenient belief for politicians to hold, whose careers are precisely to put themselves in those positions of power to replace those there now. Naturally, the attempt must be made to discredit the incumbent leadership but not the system itself. That would pull the rug out from under the politicians themselves.) Hence the call to ``Come Home America.'' Come home to the ideals that nourished us from the very beginning.
I find this very disheartening. After all the struggles of the sixties, after all the confrontations, which should have taught people that this liberal analysis, that these liberal solutions are myths, mere pipe dreams, here we see the whole monstrous myth reemerge in a renewed and refurbished form ready to go again. The capacity of liberalism to constantly regenerate itself is truly amazing. Every generation we get a new version, another neo-liberalism.
McGovern's liberalism is an attempt to reestablish bourgeois democracy in its classic form. He wants to turn back the clock against monopoly, bureaucratization, and the internationalization of the economy. He seeks to restore power to Congress, and government to the people.
But there are some interesting shifts in this liberal outlook. That's why it is a neo-liberalism. What Rawls, Reich, and Galbraith have done for theory, McGovern is now doing for politics. Perhaps the most striking shift is his backing away from Pax Americana. McGovern's pledge that never again will the young blood of this country be sent to ``prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad'' is a remarkable statement coming from a possible U.S. President. Throughout the twentieth century the U.S. has attempted to make the world ``safe for democracy.'' Now liberals are saying that the United States won't prop up any more military dictatorships. This is clearly an impossible pledge. (But I suppose McGovern could bring a lot of pressure to bear on `Free World Allies' to adopt a form of representative democracy or else. Greece? Brazil? South Africa? Spain? Saudi Arabia? Indonesia? Pakistan? Ethiopia?) So this is going to be interesting to watch. Obviously, with the backing of people like Kennedy, you know it doesn't mean that the United States is abandoning its empire. It can't do that. So McGovern must think that he can preserve the empire in better ways, ways that don't cause so much unrest at home.
What makes McGovern so ridiculous is that his liberalism is so obviously incompatible with the realities of bourgeois society. Nixon's views are much closer to the realities of the power and economics of the U.S. ruling class. Nixon's views, in a sense, are less mythological and illusory than McGovern's are. For that very reason however Nixon's politics (quasi-fascism) is a less secure form of ruling class rule. Liberalism is further from the reality and hence a stronger, more secure form of bourgeois hegemony. It is not based on raw power but on faith. It is based on faith in democracy. People obey because they believe in the system, in the President and the government, not because they are forced to obey with brute power. Liberals are right that the best way to protect the present social order and preserve bourgeois hegemony is to ``restore faith in democracy.'' That's what McGovern is trying to do, aided of course by the entire liberal wing of the establishment.
Can they do it? I suppose they can. Incorporate all the dissident groups (women, blacks, chicanos, gays, youth), and establish `participatory democracy', or at least the illusion of it (or rather, the bourgeois version of it, i.e., quotas for the various categories of people). And then once the whole thing is well established and well oiled it can deteriorate once again in the face of neo- or quasi-fascism so that the whole liberal myth can then once again be reestablished and renewed vis-à-vis this quasi-fascism. The real left is nowhere to be seen.
If McGovern wins there are real gains to be had for the working class, even though there is simultaneously a decreased chance that the radical perspective will gain ground. A national health insurance would be a real gain for the working class. Tax reform and the redistribution of wealth, however slight, would be a real gain. Better mass transit, better control of pollution, safer cars, and so forth, all these would be real gains. McGovern will come to power in order to institute the U.S. version of the bourgeois welfare state – guaranteed income, health insurance, public sponsored television, publicly subsidized mass transportation, closer regulation of big business. So now we have to live through this long process of discrediting the welfare state, a process that England and the European capitalist democracies are just now emerging from. Marx said once that it was within the form of bourgeois democracy that the class struggle would have to be fought out to its conclusion (as opposed to the dictatorial form of capitalism). Any attempt to establish proletarian democracy within the context of fascism (i.e., within the dictatorial form of bourgeois rule) would inevitably be confused with the task of reestablishing bourgeois democracy. It is only by preserving bourgeois democracy, by joining forces with liberals against fascism, and then by directly attacking bourgeois democracy as a sham, that proletarian democracy will ever come to the fore. It is only in contrast to bourgeois democracy and not bourgeois dictatorship that proletarian democracy can make itself perceived, heard, seen, felt, understood. That is, the left has to demonstrate that bourgeois democracy is not democracy at all but only a sophisticated form of class rule.
What is the relationship between the McGovern forces and the movement? The McGovern phenomenon is an establishment rerun of the movement of the sixties (the liberal wing of it). It is a tamed and tailored version, stripped of any radical ideas, any remotely socialist ideas. Otherwise it has taken over, lock, stock and barrel, the old radical movement – peace signs, lettuce boycotts, Newsreel style movies, the same categories (youth, blacks, chicanos, indians, gays, women), the anti-war position, and the demand for open government. McGovern picked up the movement and turned it into a powerful device for getting himself nominated and for refurbishing the liberal worldview, which was getting very tarnished and worn and had lost much of its credibility.
The McGovern phenomenon represents the complete cooptation of the radical movement. It proves both how very resilient the establishment is and how thoroughly liberal large sections of the `radical' movement always were. The liberal wing of the movement, by far its largest wing, together with reformist groups like SWP (who were responsible for getting McGovern speaking engagements at many of the anti-war rallies) simply moved into the Democratic Party and took it over, nominated George McGovern, and will now try to take the Presidency. If they win, it will prove that it was easier to stop the war from inside the system than outside it (or at least this particular war). McGovern would never have won the nomination however if it hadn't been for the disruption of the society by the movement during the late sixties. His whole campaign is based on ``healing the wounds of a divided nation.'' It is precisely the liberal fear that the war is ``dividing the nation'' that is the main motive force behind his campaign. His solution is to `'restore faith in democracy.'' (It is not established yet of course that he will, or can, end the war.)
The McGovern victory is the radical movement's defeat. It is the victory, the predominance, of liberal interpretations, not radical interpretations, of the problems which face us, all the way from the war itself, to pollution, to poverty, to health care, crime, drugs, inflation, unemployment, and ecology. Right across the board the McGovern platform is thoroughly liberal. A year or so ago we were fighting these very ideas inside the radical movement. We were fighting for the predominance of the radical wing over the liberal wing of the movement. Now the movement is dead. Radicals are inactive. Liberals have flocked in droves into the system to try to get what they want there, because what they want can be achieved from within it. What do they want? Greater participation for women and blacks. An end to the war. Tax reform. These things can be done by the system itself and are not incompatible with it. Even the socialists never mentioned socialism at any of their mass rallies to protest the war.
So the McGovern success proves how thoroughly liberal the movement really was all along, most of it anyway. Even now, at the 1972 Democratic Convention, the radicals who are supposedly outside the system at Miami are thoroughly liberal. That's why there are there in Miami. They seek to petition, to put pressure on the rulers, not take power away from them. This is the irony of it all. The system has contained both groups, both those on the inside of the convention hall and those on the outside. A real radical voice is nowhere to be heard. But this will pass. The radical consciousness will emerge again, because the liberal view is so riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies that it can't hold up for very long. It will crumble and have to be reestablished all over again. Meanwhile radical perspectives will gain ground.
What is the class nature of the McGovern phenomenon? I come back once again to the suspicion that liberalism is primarily a petty bourgeois outlook. McGovern is the son of a minister. The movement was also largely petty bourgeois. That's why McGovern and the movement meshed so well and so easily. The petty bourgeoisie struggles for conglomerate busting, tax relief, aid to small businesses, greater participation in government, greater power to Congress, greater power to local and state agencies as opposed to the federal government, and so forth. And these are some of the planks of McGovern's platform. But it is not a totally clear picture because McGovern in many ways will strengthen and expand the role of the federal government. So McGovern's platform is a mixture of big bourgeois and little bourgeois demands, with a few sops to the working class. The whole thing is done in the name of the people of course. Some of it will undoubtedly benefit the working class. Actually, it is hard to see liberalism in strictly class terms because liberalism includes as principles many of the more universalistic demands that would be included in any working class program, but the content is very different of course. Equality, for example, to the liberal means equality of opportunity, whereas to the radical it means equal power and wealth.
It is sad indeed to think that just three years ago, on November 15, 1969, we were struggling to interject a radical perspective into the massive anti-war rally at the Washington Memorial in D.C. with our pamphlet Vietnam is a Stake not a Mistake. And now, three years later, our failure is really crushing. The liberal theory that `Vietnam is a Mistake' has prevailed with overwhelming weight. Where are the forces to articulate, advance, and propagandize the radical interpretation of the war?
We must keep foremost in our minds at all times that McGovern's is a petty bourgeois (even bourgeois) reform movement, not a radical one. There's not a radical thread to it. We have to remember this constantly. His movement has nothing to do with a working class movement, which would look very different. If anything, the McGovern phenomenon is a ruling class movement designed to prevent a genuine working class movement from ever getting off the ground. This is McGovern's real significance. He has derailed radicalization for more years to come.
Here are some more miscellaneous points.
* The McGovern people are having to say some pretty radical things – the need for meaningful work; technology can't solve everything; people don't exist for the economy, but the economy for the people; end divisions among the people; oppose big business, big government, big labor.
* One interesting thing is that they have been forced to adopt virtually the entire fringe of the socialist program. It sounds socialist in many ways, except in the key area of the economy. In the economic area they call only for a return to small scale private enterprise and for the breakup of big corporations. There is thus this peculiar twist to the standard welfare program being combined with a petty bourgeois, small scale capitalist emphasis. It is weird. This could only happen in the U.S. They have dropped the standard mixed-economy liberal view. But since a genuinely socialist view of the means of production is so absolutely unimaginable for them – it's not a matter of its being excluded; it is simply not even conceived or imagined, not on the horizon – and since nationalization is so thoroughly discredited, they have to fall back on private enterprise, purged of course of monopoly.
* Now the liberals get another chance. Neo-liberalism. So now we will have to ride this one out. How will a radical interpretation of the society ever break through this kind of thing? How will this capacity of liberalism to renew itself ever be broken and defeated. The left is better off with liberalism, than with quasi-fascism, but it is simultaneously worse off, thoroughly out foxed, thoroughly derailed.
* The extent of the liberalism of the movement, and the stress on categories (women, blacks, youth) comes out now in the way the categories have been taken over by the Democratic Party. What the movement was calling for, for these various categories of minorities to be admitted into the system, was thoroughly liberal, as is now being proved at the convention because that's what they are doing, and then they are using this move to claim that now we have an open society, and have restored faith in democracy. Now we have a people's party, they say. Now, is the category idea an advance or a set back for the possibility of working class solidarity? Ethnicity had just about died out (and this is its rebirth?). Perhaps the country had become too homogenous for ruling class comfort. The old ethnic divisions had vanished. Is this then a way of reintroducing divisions? There is no doubt of course about the integrative function, through upward mobility, of incorporating all these groups into the system. This is the classic American way – integrate dissident groups into the mainstream. But maybe this is needed. Get all these ascribed categories into the system, so there can be no discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, or ethnicity. This would make the hierarchy itself the main cleavage. This in turn might make it possible to focus on the basic categories, on the real categories, on wage-labor and capital. What will they come up with after all the women and blacks are inside the system?
* `Representation' is coming to mean having a black, a woman, and a chicano, which is really a queer change in the idea. It is a shift away from idea of equal power for every citizen. The whole idea of `citizen' is now being compromised by the notion of quotas for these various categories. It's really incredibly superficial.
* If any one had any doubt about what happened to the movement it is now clear. It joined the Democratic Party and nominated George McGovern for President. The McGovern nomination and the Democratic Convention are indications of just how liberal the movement really was. It is also an indication of how thoroughly the establishment co-opted the movement. This didn't have to happen of course. But the movement presented a great opportunity for a politician to come along and take the thing over, or at least many of its elements, and build a campaign around it. It was so eerie watching that convention: an establishment (respectable) rerun, appropriately tamed and purged of even the weak socialist elements that had cropped up here and there in the real movement (not to speak of complete repudiation of, through total silence on, or even explicit denunciation of, the radical elements of the movement); the lettuce boycott; anti-war sentiments; protest films; Kennedy; the stress on minorities; opposition to secrecy; the stress on honesty, life, fair-play, the American dream, idealism, anti-corporatism; a `people's party'. They didn't actually say `Power to the People', but they came close to it. (July, 1972)
2. On the Republican Convention
They now shake their fists like radicals, and I saw a youth give the militants' handshake to Nixon. It's a favorite tactic. Take all the symbols and gestures of your opponents and turn them into their opposites. Change fist shaking from a symbol of protest to a symbol of approval. Nixon has done the same thing with McGovern's theme, Come Home America.
It seems next to impossible that McGovern could win. Most people have hated the anti-war movement much more than they have hated the war. Nixon is identified with Peace even though he is the President of War, with Justice even though he has practiced Oppression. The cold war ideology and the quasi-fascist ideology on the domestic front is simply too deeply entrenched. It is too difficult to explain to people how everything is really its opposite, that the Vietnamese are fighting to preserve the right of national self-determination not the U.S., that the forces of peace which Nixon praises are really the forces of the police state, and that the criminal elements he opposes are really the forces of freedom, the real patriots. It's incredible. Both sides claim to be defending democracy and freedom and say that the other will bring disaster to the country. They have the same goals, but represent different realities, while making the same claims.
McGovern's critique of Nixon's position breaks down, as does the whole liberal argument. It is, as Agnew accurately put it, ``inconsistent and illusory.'' The only coherent critique of Nixon is the Marxian one. So McGovern is constantly getting himself boxed in, like being unable to reply when accused of adopting the communist position on settling the war, by giving them everything they want. And of course he can't really deliver economically. He can't have his welfare state because capitalism can't deliver it. All of his promises, and then his weak, and somehow out-of-place reliance on the free enterprise system. The only things I like about him are his anti-war stance, his claim that he will not support any more dictators abroad (which he can't deliver on either), the possibility that he might get us income security and a national health insurance, and the remote possibility that he might improve the workingman's share of national income. These are okay, and that's already a lot.
Why won't he win? (What ideas are too strong for him to overcome?)
* the belief that you shouldn't get anything unless you work for it (i.e., the anti-welfare sentiment is too strong)
* the belief that the U.S. is defending freedom and democracy abroad
* the belief that communism is the enemy
* national chauvinism is too strong (U.S.A. first; national unity)
* hostility to high taxes and the belief that this comes from big government (and not from capitalism)
* hatred of big government and the belief that McGovern stands for it (which he probably does)
* the national security mania (the support for defense expenditures)
* the hatred of protest, the stress on unity and love (McGovern is identified as a protest candidate)
* Americans don't want democracy. It is too turbulent. It is too much work. It involves arguments and disagreements and long meetings. What they want is an efficient ruler
* the belief (accepted by liberals) that Nixon's China and Russia trips were great achievements and steps toward peace
* the belief that demonstrators are criminal elements
* the inability of most Americans to distinguish between appearance and reality. It seems more and more that people enthusiastically endorse and prefer the appearance of things. They thrive on the artificial. (What is the class basis of this?) They prefer the image to the reality. They judge something by its package rather than by its contents.
It seems to me that McGovern faces a hopeless task. He faces the same obstacles that the anti-war movement did and does, and since his critique is essentially a moralistic one he is speaking from a very weak position. Nixon continues to ride the ``America is Great'' national obsession, to make the world safe for democracy.
McGovern is rightly taking a beating on the quote issue. What this whole episode shows is the disaster of not basing the struggle on class. The quota business in McGovern's campaign is a direct result of the anti-class bias in the movement, and the refusal to come around to a class analysis. Now we are reaping the results of this, in a most unexpected way, inside the system in the Presidential race, in the form of the focus on the quota system, and the attacks that focus is provoking. (I took issue with the category business already in my account of the split at the LG.)
In general, the tone of the republican convention was neo-fascist).
* extreme patriotism and national chauvinism
* love it or leave it
* draft resisters stay where you are, in jail (i.e., anti-amnesty)
* great stress on control and manipulation
* police state mentality; law and order
* rejection of dissent; focus on harmony and unity
* outright praise of the free enterprise system
* stress on individualism
* the belief that people who are poor are lazy; individual woes are self-inflicted
* to protest, to dissent is criminal
* great stress on show, the act, performance (theatrical), like a huge TV program
But is this really fascist? Wasn't it like this during the Second World War under Roosevelt, with the hatred of Germans and Japanese, the call for super patriotism, the institution of police state security?
How should we characterize these two outlooks? Is it sufficient to say conservative and liberal? Aren't they both the same ultimately? Aren't they both petty bourgeois? What is the difference between them? Both are ruling class, that's for sure. McGovern supports capitalism too, even though he wants to tax the fat cats. McGovern's position on this is inconsistent of course. He claims to speak on behalf of the people and to favor the workingman, and he speaks in derogatory terms about the rich, but yet he praises the free enterprise system, and claims not to be anti-business. So what is the crucial difference, other than that Nixon's view is more realistic? (But it is also shrouded in thicker ideology, e.g., that the U.S. is seeking to preserve peace and freedom, and is defending the right of self-determination abroad.) Compared with Nixon, McGovern's liberalism is honesty itself. McGovern's consciousness is somehow less false than Nixon's. He is at least willing to admit that supporting corrupt military dictators abroad has nothing to do with protecting the right of self-determination. But McGovern can't attack Nixon on this idea of self-determination without getting himself into an impossible situation that he can't get out of as a liberal. Once you admit that the U.S. is supporting dictators abroad and not defending democracy and freedom then you have opened the door to a radical perspective.
If Nixon wins, then it is clear as never before that we live in a country with a quasi-fascist majority. They believe the image and do not perceive the reality behind it. By the time they do perceive the reality of the police state behind Nixon's words it will be too late. By then the laws will have been changed, the courts will have been packed, the police state will have been erected, and it will be impossible to resist. If Nixon is reelected that is the direction the country will go in. Liberals will be weakened even further. Liberalism is primarily the world outlook of professors and the educated petty bourgeoisie. Nixon's brand of fascism is the only coherent ruling class philosophy for the twentieth century. He endorses all the same ideals as do the liberals but then acts differently. Nixon's position is outright hypocrisy, based on deception, manipulation, dishonesty, and brainwashing. McGovern's attempt to be honest and yet still support capitalism is futile. He will not be able to deliver and will hang himself on all kinds of contradictions. Nixon's policy is one of calculated mendacity. Even if unconscious it is still calculated and deliberate, based on the absolutely depraved capitalist morality whereby it is felt to be honorable to murder, imprison, oppress, and rob, and then claim to be defending freedom and democracy, a feat which is possible because these people see things so completely from the bourgeois perspective. They identify so closely with the capitalist system, as the only good and just and workable system, that they do feel that they are preserving freedom and democracy, their own bourgeois freedom.
An analysis of who votes for Nixon in this election will give us a clear picture of those elements in the society most resistant to radicalization. The voting will clearly identify the fascist-oriented sectors of the population. We would do well to study the election returns very carefully.
Could it be that liberalism, such as it is in the U.S., is on the wane and that it will never become a widespread ideology? (What was the ideology of the democratic majority under Roosevelt?) If this is true, if Nixon's brand of neo-fascism is the majority view, what does this mean for the left? I have so far felt that McGovern's brand of ruling class ideology should be the focus of attack for the left because the fight against Nixon would be compromised and confused by liberal participation, that is, by the McGovernites, who are simply trying to get the country back to bourgeois democracy and away from fascism. I guess I still believe this. But if the fascists are in the majority, what then? Is it possible to go directly from fascism to socialism. Surely it is if you know what you are doing.
Nixon's outlook is false but internally consistent. McGovern's is partially honest but internally inconsistent and contradictory. Nixon says one thing consistently and just as consistently does another. McGovern speaks and acts inconsistently.
The Republican convention was a sham. But the Democratic convention was every bit as much a sham, perhaps even more so because the democrats were more intensely sincere about instituting freedom and justice while keeping capitalism. Their enthusiasm for reform was more convincing. Yet their capacity to make the system more just is no greater than that of the Republicans, because both are committed to capitalism. (Democrats might do a little more, I guess, e.g., more equal distribution of income, national health insurance, less interference abroad). (August, 1972)
3. Significance of the Election
The standard analysis of McGovern's failure (e.g., Tom Wicker's in the New York Times Magazine on the Sunday preceding the election) completely ignores what is perhaps the most important point – that most people in this country are conservative in outlook and tend to see the world pretty much in the same terms that Nixon does. Most liberals tend to fall into the trap (in seeking to explain the McGovern defeat) of either (a) pointing out all the mistakes McGovern made, implying that if he had followed a different course he would have won, or (b) complaining that the Nixon forces were very clever in manipulating public opinion, so that the U.S. public was duped, thus implying that if only the news hadn't been so biased the public would have seen the truth of the liberal position and would have agreed with and voted for McGovern.
These are very superficial arguments. It seems to me that most people did understand and vote the issues. Neither candidate was a personality, and thus the election reflected real differences in world outlook to a very large degree, certainly more so than would have been the case if Ted Kennedy had run on the liberal ticket. What the `he flubbed it' and the `they were duped' theories ignore is nothing less than the prevailing ideology of the majority of the American people. Thus rather than seeking to explore the social origins and structural roots of this ideology, these journalistic accounts stop at moralistic outrages against manipulation and complaints against McGovern's mistakes.
There can be no doubt that people have been duped. But this is no temporary or superficial mis-education that could have been reversed with simply a more honest news reporting. Rather this `being duped' is more in the nature of a false consciousness. That is, it is tantamount to a world outlook that is of long standing duration and which has solid roots in the social structure of the country. This is what needs to be analyzed. The real question is: what are the mechanisms through which this false mentality is brought into being, maintained, and perpetually renewed. Not the least of these mechanisms is the electoral process itself. Add to that the school system, upward mobility, the separation of powers, the U.S. constitution, ruling class control of mass media, and so forth, and you begin to get at it a little bit. (I wrote recently about the mechanisms for the perpetuation of the petty bourgeois mentality, which is also relevant here.)
It goes without saying that there is never any mention of class in these analyses, even though class is obviously a key factor. Ninety percent of top businessmen, it is reported, voted for Nixon. The petty bourgeoisie probably supported Nixon only slightly less overwhelmingly. But this doesn't tell us much. That capitalists support Nixon is not too surprising. That is not a question of false consciousness at all, but a question of supporting clear interests. But most of the 80 million people who voted (61% for Nixon) were not bourgeois or petty bourgeois, but were proletarian. The important question is why proletarians voted for Nixon.
I am getting into trouble here. McGovern's liberalism is no less petty bourgeois than Nixon's conservatism, although it is less viable as a ruling class ideology, but it is still petty bourgeois (or bourgeois?). What is the difference? What is the difference between Nixon's petty bourgeois mentality and McGovern's petty bourgeois mentality? Maybe the proletariat did vote its interests, given the alternatives. Maybe, given the system, Nixon's policies are better for the average person than McGovern's. That is, his policies make capitalism work better, make it deliver the goods as far as possible. Nixon is willing to pay the price of maintaining the system – genocide, corruption, dishonesty, degradation, imperialism, war. McGovern's views of the system are, as Agnew correctly put it, ``inconsistent, contradictory, and illusory.'' Maybe everyone saw it this way. Most people would have picked Nixon even if they had had a genuine alternative (i.e., a left alternative).
Why do working class people share Nixon's world outlook? Aside from all the big factors mentioned earlier, one additional factor looms larger and larger for me, one that has been missed even in radical discussions – suburbia. (See my other essay mentioned above for a more detailed discussion.) Who voted for McGovern? The university crowd, i.e., university liberals and their student protégés (witness Massachusetts). Who else? (Very shaky information here.) Apparently two groups mainly : (1) low income and (2) blacks. Low income people tend to live still mostly in urban centers, not suburbia. What about blacks? Where do they live? Mostly in urban downtown ghettoes. So maybe its not so much race as it is the urban/suburban factor. Did suburban blacks vote for Nixon or McGovern?
The demise of the Rooseveltian coalition parallels the decay of the city center and the rise of the vast suburban pattern with shopping centers and individual private homes. There are a host of ways that suburbia functions to reinforce the petty bourgeois outlook. Each family has a piece of land and a house (i.e., they are property owners, even if it is only consumable property, not productive). They have gardens and yards to work. They have a car. They have tools and workshops in the garages and basements. (I can't explain how all of these things work here; I did that elsewhere anyway.)
What does all this portend? Perhaps it points to the at least temporary consolidation of a proto-fascist, petty bourgeois mentality (there are pressures to split it up too, but in the direction of radicalism, not liberalism). Nixon's policies represent the same return to ``ruling class sanity'' (sanity in terms of preserving their system) that Robin Blackburn claims Heath represented in Britain, a return to the cold war ideology, the hard line, and to the much more blatant playing out of capitalist power politics. In other words, in today's world, the ruling classes of capitalist nations can no longer afford the luxury of the liberal myths, which are ``inconsistent, naive, and illusory.''
The Nixon landslide shows just what a minority view liberalism really is. It is true that liberalism is the ideology of the Eastern Seaboard Establishment (but only of a small part of it, namely (a) a few rich families, like the Kennedys, (b) formerly, but not now, rich Jewish families in New York City, plus (c) the university crowd, including its spill over into the liberal mass media based in Manhattan.
This raises interesting questions for the left. I have always tacitly assumed that if people are liberal they are closer to radicalization than if they were conservative, and that there is a progression, moving usually from conservatism to liberalism to radicalism. Maybe this is incorrect. I hope it is. It has to be. If the vast majority are Nixonian then the left must be able to win them over directly from that position. The left certainly is not going to take them through liberalism on purpose. That would be asinine, and in fact impossible since radicals don't believe liberalism and hence could not present it convincingly, besides it being pointless to do so. This makes it clearer than ever before that radicalism is the only answer to Nixon's petty bourgeois proto-fascist conservatism. Liberalism is as much an enemy of the Left as conservatism is, perhaps more so, because it is such a muddled, contradictory, unintelligible outlook that it thoroughly confuses everything. Moreover, liberals mess up the left something terrible. Half the people who think they are radicals are in fact liberals (at least in terms of theoretical understanding and practice). To the extent that liberals succeed the left is prevented from presenting the real alternatives, i.e., the proletarian alternative to the petty bourgeois mentality. The liberal version of petty bourgeois ideology must be fought as strongly as the conservative version. The lesson of the Nixon landslide has been to reveal what a minority position liberalism really is. A battle against it is therefore secondary to the battle against the conservative, Nixonian version of false consciousness. Two different sets of intellectual weapons are needed for these two different fights.
The trouble begins with creeping fascism and the withering away of `bourgeois freedoms'. This hurts the left and pushes it into an alliance with liberals in the fight against fascism. I have never seen a good analysis of how such an alliance could work without the left losing both fights in the process, losing both the fight against liberalism and the fight against fascism.
Stanley pointed out that the majority of Americans are authoritarian and want someone tough. This jives with my belief also, that people don't want democracy. They want an efficient ruler. They want to live their own private lives undisturbed, want to leave politics to others, want to let others manage the system, as long as the managers make it work. This whole idea about authoritarianism actually fits in very well with my petty bourgeois hypothesis (and suburbia). Authoritarianism is petty bourgeois not proletarian, especially in this instance, where what is wanted is an efficient manager, i.e., a good businessman, a strong, competent boss. This is the petty bourgeois ideal. Stanley insisted though that in the next election people may vote liberal. I disagreed. I feel people are conservative. But this raises the important question of what is the difference between Nixon and McGovern. What is distinctive about liberalism, since both outlooks are bourgeois/petty bourgeois? Try to figure this out. (November, 1972)