...and Why the Left Can't Return to Old Tactics
Generally speaking, cultural and political movements succeed one another based on which has the more potent form of symbolic sexual power. "Symbolic sexual power" is any kind of vital force or energy that might improve or advance one's population. It need not imply sex per se; promiscuity, etc. -- even conservative religious movements are a kind of sexual power, because they can represent order, solidarity, strength in numbers -- all ways to advance one's population. To summarize:
- Id represents our unconscious drives; our irrational "gut feelings" rooted in ancient primal instincts. We often tend to be directed or motivated by what our gut feelings tell us.
- Remove the Id force, and your side will fall out of favor.
- Rebellion against a repressive power is sexy.
- Whatever reminds you of your parent's generation isn't as sexy as the newer generation.
The success of the Left in the 60's, as a cultural force, succeeded in its day because of the climate that preceded it.
The cultural zeitgeist of the prior era was to repress the sexuality of both men and women -- but especially women. The "American Dream" of moving into a box-like house in a bland suburb created a homogenous, overly-domesticated atmosphere devoid of sensuality or individual expression. The "ideal role" promoted for women at the time was to be a wife and mother, and media imagery everywhere portraying women as little more than cheerful, brainless housemaids.
At the time, the Republican Party was represented by fogeys and neurotics, whereas JFK represented a fresh, youthful direction for the Democrats and the country.
Baby Boomers rebelled against what they perceived as a stultifying conformity and embraced a culture that celebrated sexuality and rebellion. Feminism became a political force to be reckoned with after books such as Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" and Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch" -- which described women's frustration with being confined to narrow social roles -- became best-sellers. The Left became the dominant political force from the late 60's onward.
However, one of the many mistakes the Left made in the 1970s was to embrace the philosophy of certain feminists that there were no differences between men and women; that traditional roles should be downplayed. The effect of trying to make everything more "equal" resulted in a desexualization of both men and women. This time around, it was the feminists who tried to repress men's sexuality, and so men predictably ended up rebelling.
After the failure of the Carter Administration to secure the hostages in Iran, the right wing shifted back into power by identifying with the masculine Id. The United States, as represented by the Democratic Party, as represented by Carter this time was seen as ineffectual and impotent, unable to stand up against a much smaller country. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was suggestive of the "cowboy" archetype -- in American mythos, an image symbolizing a rugged, potent masculinity.
Because the Democrats/left wing have been more concerned with "civil rights" and other protectionist policies, the Democrats have been defined as the "Mommy Party" while the Republicans are the "Daddy Party". Metaphorically speaking, a "Daddy" is always going to be viewed as more potent than a "Mommy", and a masculine Id is always going to be viewed as a more potent force than a feminine Id. Because of this, the Left cannot return to old slogans and strategies that might have worked in a previous era. The right-wingers have even tried to caricature left-wingers as little more than children, further symbolically emasculating them.
The cultural climate of the GWB era identifies with a very primitive, alpha-male type Id: "Might makes right, and we will stomp on you in order to secure resources and be King of the Hill." Not surprisingly, this is also the reason the ultra right's favorite targets are those which symbolically undermine the country's metaphorical virility (e.g. gays and abortion). The female cheerleaders of the Ultra Right have tapped into a similarly primitive female Id. These "new" right-wing women aren't passive June Cleaver-like housemaids happily pushing the vacuum around. These women have embraced their inner She-Wolf: "we will attack and kill anything that dares trespass onto our territories, threatens our security or attempts to harm our children." It's a primitive Truth that strikes a primal cord in many.
A tribe at war will return to its more primal behaviors because it can't afford not to. When an enemy doesn't want to follow more civilized rules, then there is often no other recourse but to fall back on the "Might is Right" principle. The New Right almost gets the formula right, were it not for their often transparent and ham-handed approach (see: Bill O'Reilly, etc.)
I digress on the idea that the current crop of right-wingers have been the "Daddy Party" -- more like the "school bully party" with their dishonest tactics, bullying, blame-shifting and inability to owe up to accountability. A man of real maturity and character would be more concerned with solving problems along a far more rational and objective course.