In Response to: Never Going Back

By the spring of 1968 I had already gotten my Ph.D. in history from Princeton and was one year into tenure at a campus of the University of California. I lived through the antiwar movement and the elections of 1968 and 1972 as a faculty member on a campus much quieter than Columbia or even Princeton but still affected by the Zeitgeist more than I like to recall. Most faculty members were not heavily involved in the antiwar movement or in politics. Most of the faculty in political science were quite sure the U.S. government knew what it was doing in SE Asia and were not much into rebellion. Rebels were mostly people in the humanities, both students and faculty. I was not; I did toward the end of the struggle wear a black band to protest the war we started in Cambodia. But I cannot claim to have been much different from most of my colleagues.

I now wonder what this accomplished. Our situation politically, ethically, and socially today is worse than it was in 1968. We have for the first time a president who makes decent people ashamed of being American and a Republican party which has thrown over all that made it good and patriotic in favor of electoral victories won by catering to the lowest common denominator among us. H.L. Mencken would have been proud. It was he after all who wrote, "You can never lose by underestimating the intelligence of the American voter." His critique of the bouboisie is as insightful today as it was some 90 years ago. We have not advanced. We have gone backward in our political practice, not our political theory; we are back to the election of 1800 when patriots (also called atheists) fought Federalists (also called stooges of the British monarchy). We had a Civil War when most advanced countries by then had given up having civil wars -- in this respect we resemble the Russians and not the British or other civilized European peoples, even the French who only played at civil wars after their Revolution. Let's try to go forward for a change!

Norman Ravitch *62
Savannah, Ga.