Forgetting the past condemns us to repeating it. Denying also works.
Republicans refuse to remember George W. Bush, and I am haunted by memories of 1968. Both are lessons which are central to Election 2012. Even if you "weren't born yet" in 1968, you'll recognize it: Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy both murdered, worldwide student uprisings against profiteers and complacent apparatchiks, Chicago Mayor Daly's police riot outside the Democrats' National Convention, the Soviet Union invading Czechoslovakia....
Here's what you may have missed. Leading up to the election in November 1968, too many people we'd now call progressives gave up. They didn't register. They didn't vote, And they didn't help get voters to the polls to stand against Republican reactionaries. In that void, Richard Nixon won the presidency.
In our soundbite culture, here's the big picture: Republican plundercrats break things and make rich people richer doing so. Remember him or not, George W. Bush's despoiling legacy is all around us.
Democrats have repeatedly had to clean up after Republicans' kleptocratic follies. Yet again they have had to reorient the nation's agenda back toward justice and fairness for the American people while big corporations count their take and plot their next takeover. Small wonder that Republicans recognize class warfare because it inevitably begins with the rich legalizing theft from their perceived lessers. The performance of the American stock market is a surprising proxy for the recidivist damage inflicted on modern America by Republicans' self-serving ideology.
Despite malicious Republican obstructionists in Congress, President Obama has gotten us back on track. He now faces twinned icons of reaction who want to replace him. Mitt Romney is a rich Wall Street opportunist who thinks he's entitled to be elevated to America's most important political post. As his etch-a-sketch campaign has repeatedly demonstrated, he'll do and say absolutely anything to be elected. Paul Ryan is a vitriolic believer in his own righteousness who eagerly serves the Koch, Rove, Norquist and Tea Party extremists. They make Nixon look appealing, in a perverse sort of way.
You didn't have to be there in 1968, as I was, to understand what happened and to see the importance of taking a stand against the reactionaries who have had it their way with us for more than 40 years. (Yes, sad to say, even during Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton's collective three terms in office.) Returning Barack Obama to the presidency -- and making sure he has a Congress which actually represents real people's interests rather than the interests of big corporations -- is how we do it. It's as simple as that ... and as difficult.
With the clarity of hindsight and building on Obama's significant successes, Americans finally have a chance to recover our fundamental values as well as to make an economic recovery that applies to us all instead of cycling again through the Republican agenda of enriching the richest and impoverishing the rest. The promise of 1968 was crushed, but its spirit wasn't. It is our government ... of, by and for US. It does not belong to the plundercrats and plutocrats. Big corporations do not own US or our government, though in the latter case, they're getting dangerously close.
Make sure November 6th is a day to celebrate America coming back to its senses. That's our future only if we claim it. Getting -- and counting -- every single legitimate vote cast that day is the surest path to rekindling the spirit not only of '68. It's also true to the Spirit of '76. That would be 1776: principles and lessons of the past helping US to guide and create our future.
*--the ineffable Yogi Berra