With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

This was the most gutting month for liberals in half a century

The left has known demoralizing, mind-bending, gut-wrenching times more than once in my lifetime. Within the space of two months in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were murdered, and with them the wild hope, or the impossible dream, that equality could, without much interruption, continue its onward march through the institutions of American life. Within two weeks in the spring of 1970, President Richard M. Nixon announced an invasion of Cambodia; then, when millions took to the streets, National Guardsmen killed four protesters at Kent State University. Ten days later, police opened fire on a dormitory at Jackson State College, killing two students.

History didn’t end, though in 1969, Attorney General John Mitchell did tell a reporter: “This country is going so far to the right you won’t recognize it.” Watergate postponed that agenda. The left could count the postponement as a victory.

Anyone looking for comfort today can note with satisfaction that those grievous days passed. Mitchell’s prophecy was deferred. Backlashes against civil rights, feminism and gay rights did not set us back to square one. But they were crushing — an emotional fact, if nothing else. If you were paying attention, you felt that all bets were off. Anything horrible was possible. Living in such a time takes a toll. Despair was my demon then, and I was not alone in the feeling.

Still, one has to go back almost half a century to find a month like the past one, so devastating to the left and its values. Consider that immigrant children taken from their parents at the border are still penned up. (On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions joked that many critics of this policy live in gated communities and would want intruders arrested and “separated” from their children.) Consider the Supreme Court’s ruling that guts public sector unions. Consider the court’s decisions to uphold gerrymandering and voting rights restrictions , to permit “crisis pregnancy centers” to stand mute about the option of abortion, and to allow whole populations to be banned from our shores. Consider the White House trial balloon that suggested the government could consolidate safety net programs to make them easier to slash.

Then consider the coming replacement of Justice Anthony Kennedy with a more reliably right-wing justice, possibly putting the legal right to an abortion in jeopardy, among other things. Perhaps now the aspiring autocrat in the White House will have a Supreme Court majority to help insulate him from Robert Mueller’s investigation. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post