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What the Class of ‘70's Old New Left Might Have Talked About at Their Cancelled Reunions

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/23/what-class-70s-old-new-left-might-have-talked-about-their-cancelled-reunions

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I think a lot of things go back to Upton Sinclair’s line in his (1935) I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” I grew up in a conservative Republican home. My sister (retired from oil & gas industry voted for Trump), my brother (works on electronics for “defense” industry is a never Trumper), and I (retired environmental scientist/engineering educator am a Bernie guy) all sort of reflect what we did for our living–perhaps because we felt called to do so? I grow more Progressive every day as I learn more about the real history of the world. Yesterday, I was reminded of the tragedy of Rosewood, FL, as I drove past it for the umpteenth time. There are scars all around us from the dark days of the past and suppressed sins of today buried in bullshit on the television. I think the best hope going forward is to facilitate critical thinking in everyone through the trivium–grammar, logic and rhetoric. Peace.


Having a low lottery draft number upon graduating high school in 1970, my only options were to 1) take a s__t job (jobs that during the past three decades are done only by immigrants) because the law required real employers to give you your job back after you served your two year draft commitment, so no real jobs were available until after I spent two years in Nam, or 2) go to college and hope to get conscientious objector or deferment status to stay outn of Nam, or 3) go to college, don’t register for the draft and hope for the best, or 3) join the military for two years via draft or a four year enlistment.

My net worth was $100 in the bank and my recently divorced parents had even less money and neither had graduated high school, let alone going to college (there were no programs for first generation college students then) so I was fortunate to live in Califoirnia where community college tuition was $60 per year, books usually cost three times that much.

Although my failure to register for the draft made me a potential felon to the extent that I moved to Europe when POTUS Ford forgave Nixon but never gave amnesty to me and the other heroes who got the US out of Nam. POTUS Carter granted amnesty during his first month in office and I returned to the US.

The adversity that many of us experienced during that era lowered out expectations to the point that there isn’t much we can’t survive. As a poster in my high school math class read: “when the going gets tough the tough get going”.


As the night went on, might someone cite the irony of their peers supporting a presidential candidate who proposed universal national health insurance in 1972, but opposing the one who promoted Medicare for All in 2020? And what did anyone make of the “Old New Left” leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society pulling together a letter urging the left to back Joe Biden, but never having had anything to say about Sanders?

And I suppose other interesting twists could be added to this fantasy: “What if the reunion got cancelled by a hurricane, instead?” Sorta whatever, you know? What if they all wore blue suits on the same day, and why should anyone care? The writer affects a spirit of “But Why?” innocence which isn’t shared by many in this forum. Not impressive: Tom Gallagher should finish the thought, if he has any idea why – which he probably does.

The most awkward aspect of Gallagher’s approach is an apparent obliviousness, shared by practically everyone, to the fact our world only started to plummet to an entirely novel condition in March of 2020. My lockdown partner was feeling hopeless about finding a pathway to social sanity: How do we get there from here? That’s the wrong question, because we’re not staying “here” very long. We’re tumbling headlong for the foreseeable, after which we’ll have to figure out how to get back up.

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Mr. Gallagher writes of Senator Sanders:

Yet he is already widely acknowledged to have permanently altered the era’s politics in his 2016 campaign, to the point where four years later he faced multiple candidates backing positions he had introduced to the political mainstream.

Hogwash! Mr. Gallagher joins the widespread efforts of the liberal media in furthering the myth that the Sanders’ presidential campaigns have materially changed politics in America.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 campaigns have accomplished one thing of meaningful consequence, that being to keep disgruntled voters in the neoliberal Democratic Party fold. All that crap about how Sanders has changed the political landscape is just talk, the cheapest and least meaningful of political commodities.

Now that Sanders has again tossed in the towel (as if his political revolution was ever a genuine commitment), the liberal media fall all over themselves in their lauding of him. And the gaslighting with regard to all of Bernie’s grand accomplishments will continue as long as progressive votes are needed to support the Biden farce. The lies about Bernie they’re so desperately serving up to progressives will have little resemblance to his legacy. Bernie will forever be the man who passed up the best opportunity in his own lifetime to create a viable and influential third political party, a party committed to a genuinely progressive agenda, having committed that sin in the service of a party that had been selling out the American people to big money for half a century.


Why does CD give a HRC neoliberal like TG a forum to disseminate his faux leftist
views? I am all for everyone’s right to free speech (including crooked Donald’s) but
I believe Tom’s views would be more acceptable on a site that addresses issues
on behalf of Democratic Courtiers like himself.


Well said. I was drafted and spent two years in Vietnam. Later I was arrested tossing what they gave me in a protest at the White House lawn. Things have not changed too much save for the diminishment of human life by people in power.


There were many at the time who predicted exactly this sellout trajectory of the SDS and reformists, but they have been written out of history, including this article. Revolutionary socialists, Maoists, Trotskyists, the Black, Native American and Puerto Rican liberation movements, Marxist feminism. They were hounded, jailed and assassinated like Fred Hampton. They continue to be dumped on by, um, “democratic socialists.” But to connect to the article, they did have a view of elections–that after decades of failed attempts to bring socialism to the U.S., the inevitable conclusion is that this is impossible through elections. In between, we’ve had four more decades of failures.


I feel so fortunate to have attended my 50th High School Reunion last September which enabled me to visit with many of my classmates that I had not seen in 50 years.

Beginning my college years in the fall of 1969 as the Vietnam War raged overseas, gave me the freedom to become active in the Antiwar movement on a campus not far from Washington DC.

Unfortunately, my extracurricular activities didn’t coincide with the needs my Engineering Studies required and I ended up flunking out after 3 semesters. My bad.

When that door closed for me, another one opened, which lead me to getting a BS in Business Management and less than two years later, starting a 30 year career with a Fortune 500 company that valued my contributions as much as I enjoyed the time spent helping the organization grow.

Seeing my old classmates last fall, and having my wife share in that experience, was priceless, and memorable, at least until the Alzheimers comes creeping around my door.

Now, as this pandemic continues to sicken and kill more than was necessary due to a glitch in history, where a Egotistical, Xenophobic, Narcissistic, Bigot, somehow weaseled his way into the White House, and showed the entire world how stupid Americans are to support a system of government that has not represented the masses for 40 years, I wonder if I will live to survive the next wave of sickness coming for us.

A sickness they all say came from a bat.

Not a lab where $Billions are spent each year developing deadly bugs.

A bat.

How bat shit crazy stupid are Americans that keep believing the crap this nation’s politicians keep telling us?

A bat.

Just up and spread this all over the world, toxic enough to kill hundreds of thousands of people of color and elderly with health issues.

A bat.



Through the Viet Nam era it was hard for anybody to ignore the US Government’s credibility gap, a term coined by journalists early in the Nam era. I was a reporter for my high school newspaper from 1968-70 and wrote an article in which I opined that the US Government’s credibility gap was big enough to fly a B-52 through. By the time the SCOTUS created the Dubya regime the gap was wide enough to fly the entire B-52 fleet through in V-formation.


Why don’t you go pick on someone your own size. Someone a lot smaller than Sen. Sanders or, by extension, Sen. George McGovern. I’ve had the privilege of working for both men’s campaigns.
And heroes have been are hard to find, in the span of the 5 decades, that separate these two fine gentlemen.
Your naivete about what progressives are up against, regarding the PTB, is more depressing than surprising. A lived history of always having to fight an uphill battle, with the 70-80% of white America that is as racist, classist and privileged as Old Confederacy plantation owners, isn’t easy.
BTW- If Sen. Sanders had been Sen. Bernadette Sanders in 2020 with the same platform, we would be looking at a landslide victory in this November, comparable to LBJ’s win in 1964, imo.
That an old lech, with Uncle Whitey lurking just under the the first layer of his skin cells, is the Democratic nominee, shows just how far we’ve gone into the swamp of identity politics. Now, that is way more surprising and depressing, looking back over the last 5 decades, than the uphill struggles progressives always confront. FYI- the faces of the PTB will change iin the next 5 decades, but their goals have remained the same from McGovern to Sanders. Please try to refrain from killing the messenger in your zeal to restate a cowardly, and commonplace, canard.
As they say, you " couldn’t carry George McGoverns’ or Bernie Sanders’ jockstrap ", actually. But, you make one heck of a couch potato cowboy. Something at least George McGovern would recognize immediately, being from the Great Plains. Or, maybe the have real heroes in Vermont, but just hide them well?
Who knew?


Everyone I knew from that time who supported noxious Nixon ended up in the service. Via conscription or otherwise. Everyone who opposed him did not. Moral of the story?

VERY easily done! There was no centralized data bank then. Very much more of an isolated society. As long as you didn’t take a stand like Mohamed Ali (and I commend him for his courage), you had an excellent chance of flying right through. I was 9 months late for registering. Actually shouldn’t have but my old man kept nagging me (“It’s your turn to go fight,” he kept barking). And did I ever have a loser two digit lottery number! Got an induction notice and it went straight into the trash can. And here I am today. Nothing ever happened.


Wow, I was in the class of '70. And I’ve probably never had ANY presidential candidate win? Was it Gus Hall who ran with Dr. Davis? The presumptuous smug self involvement to assume that US media’s fantasy portrayal of us boomers as affluent, WHITE suburban, substance abusing hippy-yuppie narcissists is why I only bought my first TV last year. We’ve all had to hear this smug, delusional hypocracy for HALF a century. And are only permitted, ersatz alternatives, seen as marketable TO heterogeneous HBO/Netflix narcissists, duh

I’m very proud of folks my age, but you’ve seldom SEEN us! I’m guessing, we’ll hold it online. And those able to manage downloading & installing the app will become inebriate after the second drink and our phones roll off our bloated bellies, while our classmates snore? Most of my most interesting classmates skedaddled, became addicts or commited suicide during Reagan’s Miracle?

Mark me as another member of the class of 1970 who has never voted for a POTUS winner. Had I not been living in Europe in 1976 I would have voted for Carter and broken the streak early on. Unless you were in the military, voting from abroad during the 70s was near impossible. My residence being in a right wing rural county at the time made it 100% impossible.

Yeah, that whole two digit draft number. I had the most unlucky number. Now you know my birthday. Joined the Navy to stay out of the Army. Nixon suspended the draft the day I got out of “A” school. Thanks for nothing.

I was looking forward to my class reunion. Most likely they will now roll it into the Class of 71 reunion. Many of the guys will be attending that one with their wives anyway.