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April 19, 2018

3/28/2018 4:56:00 PM
Musing -- on the editor's mind

If this week’s column had a title, it would be “This Generation’s Children Crusade.” How many remember, even if they are old enough, that it was 50 years ago, March 1968, when Eugene McCarthy, the very Irish and very Minnesotan United States Senator, a former sociology professor, lost to President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary?
I had forgotten he lost, and didn’t remember that the election was March 12. I did remember March 31: that was the day that Johnson shocked the nation with an evening TV announcement that he was dropping out of the presidential race. Lyndon Johnson, who in 1964 won the presidency by the largest margin since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Lynden Johnson, who took many courageous steps for civil rights, bringing African Americans into full citizenship, finally. Lynden Johnson, whose decisions about Vietnam brought into the popular lexicon the word “quagmire,” as in “we are in a quagmire in Afghanistan, stuck there for 17 years with no hope or path for getting out.”
In the winter of 1968 Eugene McCarthy did not even register a laugh line on the Tonight Show. If our society had a sense of history, in the summer of 2015, and even January 2016, we would have said “Bernie Sanders is running a quixotic campaign. A strong showing against Clinton would be an upset on the scale of Eugene McCarthy’s in New Hampshire.”
Eugene McCarthy deserves this nation’s everlasting thanks, as more than a hero. He was a moral giant.
From his obituary in the Washington Post: “Backed by a ‘children’s crusade’ of young peace activists and college students who shaved off their beards, cut their hair and went ‘Clean for Gene,’ McCarthy stunned the political establishment by taking 42 percent of the Democratic vote in the New Hampshire primary.”
I have not digressed. My point is the potential our nation’s teenagers and youth have to “stun the political establishment” with their “Enough is Enough” movement. In the seven weeks since the Parkland, Florida school shootings, they have done more than take the nation by storm. Millions of people turned out worldwide March 24 to voice their opposition to gun violence. While the first cry is for schools that are safe, folks participating know that the end game is getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. These kids are facing up to and going nose to nose with the NRA, the National Rifle Association. They are serious. They are intent. They are sincere. They also smile as well as cry. The question is: Do they have staying power?
One blog reflects that McCarthy’s New Hampshire budget was $400. He started in mid-January. Yet, in six weeks Johnson was gone.
As in 1968, this is not about money. This is about the tenor of the times. And our kids just might scream long and loud enough to break glass. For what is brittle will not bend but break. And whether we name it or not, our political system is very old, very stuck and very unable to change.

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