Power to The People?


Those of us with a preponderance of gray (or in my case, sparse) hair will vividly recall the angry chant of “POWER TO THE PEOPLE” from Yippies and other radicals on the Left. The phrase was even memorialized in a song by John Lennon, and came to symbolize the vehemence felt by liberals and pseudo-liberals about the Vietnam War, a war prolonged and expanded by the Nixon Administration in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

But the anger did not begin with Nixon. Though Lyndon Johnson was considered to be every bit a liberal as John Kennedy, his decision to allow the military to pursue an unpopular war, which it knew it could not win turned the Left against him. LBJ wisely chose not to run for re-election in 1968 but that did not stop the raucous ugly protests and rage by the anti-war crowd. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a decent man with impeccable liberal credentials, inherited that anger and distrust from his own base. The Democrat landslide of 1964 would not be repeated and the resulting Republican victory spawned an even angrier and demoralized Left. In retrospect, the shift of power was inevitable but in the heat of the times, few liberals could see it coming.

It is my contention that angry people never see clearly and seldom act responsibly. I state this now, having participated in the outrageous protests of the Sixties and Seventies, and having since devoted the intervening years to studying history and gaining some perspective on the political tactics in the context of traditional American values. When I hear Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh venting against their political adversaries, I relive the hate I felt for LBJ and Nixon. I understand why they are so upset with people who are in power, people who do not share their political, economic or religious views. I understand the anger and I also understand how that anger is self-defeating. It is apparent that, because they are so angry, they cannot see clearly and will not act responsibly. Eventually, their influence will wane.

Fringe groups like to say, “most Americans want…” but to anyone outside that fringe, it is clear that they have no idea what “most Americans” want. They extrapolate what THEY want to a fictitious majority to try to make a case for their ideology and policies. Anyone who has ever participated in formal debate knows that the Achilles’ heel to any argument is overstating one’s case. The fringe’s hyperbolic assertions may get the attention of the masses but when the facts are examined more carefully, reason will usually prevail over emotion. We have seen this with the Far Right’s alarmist terms such as “Death Panels.” What they contrived to be a cogent argument backfired to be an embarrassing joke. The same can be said of the term, “Socialist.” I have found that most people on the Right who invoke that hot-button term have no understanding of its definition.

The petulance shown by Republican leaders and the fringe Right at the passage of health care reform is a sad commentary on how we have abandoned our most sacred of American values. It reminds me of professional wrestling, where the match isn’t over until someone is knocked unconscious with a metal folding chair. Contrast that with boxing, where the losing prizefighter congratulates the winner with a handshake or embrace. Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle need to become more like Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano and less like The Undertaker. After all these years, I still support “Power to The People” as long as “the people” believe in democracy, civility and human decency.

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

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This post was submitted by David Rood.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Jay Bender:

    I also believe in democracy, civility and human decency and I think that it is also important to believe in the oneness of humanity, that there is one race, the human race!

  2. Margot:

    I, too, was one of the angry protesters during the Vietnam war. I remember cramming into a VW bus with a bunch of college chums and marching on the mall in D.C. I remember being angry that my friends were being sent to possible death while the leaders in Washington were safe in their offices. I understand raw anger and I understand youthful emotions.

    What I don’t understand is middle-aged poseurs like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh pretending to be incensed about…what? Being taxed? More government control? Doesn’t seem like a fair comparison to youthful energy or possibly facing your own death.

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