For the last forty years, political commentators have hurled us back in time to the year that shook the world, 1968. John McCain's campaign, a beaten up 1968 Chevy Bel Air of an operation so far, has given us a quick drive-by of the "Summer of Love," burning $4 a gallon gas at 10mpg.
Just when the weight of 1968 cliches is about to crush the body politic, political analyst Kenneth Baer offers a compelling alternative. In an excellent piece in the WaPo, Baer (full disclosure: an old student of mine) stands astride tired, hackneyed 1968 history, shouts stop, and offers us a compelling alternative (pace WFB). The roots of modern American politics, he argues, can be found in 1978, not in that troubled year a decade earlier.
Why? The tax rebellion, the first judicial blow to affirmative action, the energy crisis, the anti-gay assassination of Harvey Milk, the creation of FISA, the Camp David accords, China's new openness, the introduction of cellular telephones. I might add a few more telling developments: Resorts, Atlantic City's first legal casino, opened that year; President Carter declared a state of emergency at Love Canal in upstate New York; Cleveland, Ohio went into default (under Dennis Kuchinich); Karol Woytyla became Pope John Paul II. And all of it happened to the sound of Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town, whose song "Factory" is one of the best anthems to the Rustbelt ever sung.
I remember 1978, and fortunately, because my Ford Pinto didn't blow up, I'm here to tell about it.