I’m still musing on Hunter S. Thompson’s landmark Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. One thing that’s stuck with me is Thompson’s take on one of George McGovern’s closest advisors, a fellow named Fred Dutton, who’d written a book entitled Changing Sources of Power: American Politics in the 1970s.
The book, Thompson writes, posits “that the 1970s will produce a ‘cornerstone generation’ that will bring about a major historical watershed in American politics.”
Now, both Dutton and Thomspon were envisioning a kumbaya, acoustic guitar-strumming, legalized pot-indulging, peace for all humankind-advocating, clean air- and water-loving, all races-, creeds-, and nationalities-embracing, Age of Aquarius-guided populace installing in public office freaks, geeks, and saintly civil servants.
From the get-go, both were so wrong as, at this remove, to appear at the very least delusional and likely acid-flashback addled. Richard Nixon a mere three months after Thompson wrote his Dutton rave was re-elected in one of the greatest landslides in American history. He was followed just eight years later by the then-bete noire of the Left, Ronald Reagan. The Democratic Party itself inched ever rightward over the succeeding decades.
Yep. As Dutton himself wrote, “The politics of the Seventies offer one of those rare chances to rally a new following.” See, this was in the immediate aftermath of the 26th Amendment allowing 18-year-olds to vote. The young, Dutton and Thompson reasoned, would flip the American body politic on its head.
They did. And when they became old bastards, they elected the most ludicrous, embarrassing, carnival barker clown they could find to become the leader of the western world and Commander-in-Chief of the planet’s remaining superpower, your incoming capo, President Gag.
“A New Following”
Hey, I’m excited that Big Talk is back after WFHB‘s annual three-week break to recap all the top stories of the past year. Truth be told, I didn’t pay much att’n to the look-back because, frankly, I didn’t have all that much desire to revisit a year that brought me — and the nation — so much agony. In any case, I know News Director Joe Crawford, Ass’t News Director Sarah Vaughn, and whoever else all helped put the retrospective together did a bang up job.
Now then, Big Talk. Yesterday’s first guest of the new year was Anne Hedin, who’s one of the driving forces behind a neat little bash this coming Sunday, “The Fierce Urgency of Now”: Time to Choose, an orgy of local environmentalists and supporters ganging up at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. The festivities begin at 5:00pm and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who, the organizers say, succeeded against all odds. That impossible dream theme, they figure, describes the challenge facing those hoping to see solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources replace to some degree or another coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
Next weeks’ Big Talk guest: Jack Dopp, Bloomington’s old school newspaper guy who’s responsible for bringing the world — in the form of the New York Times, the USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Indy Star — to our bustling megalopolis. Oh, he’s got stories from back in the day, describing, for instance, the afternoon when Bloomingtonians lined up around the block from the old Book Nook on Kirkwood Avenue just to get their hands on the New York Times carrying news of the JFK assassination.
Tune in Thursday, January 19th, for the next installment of Big Talk.
Talk to you then.