September 18th, 2020


The Sixties . . . In 2016?

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published July 8, 2015

 The Sixties . . . In 2016?

Some have suggested that the 1960s all but died on May 4, 1970, and the shootings at Kent State. But if the news cycle of the past few days has taught us anything, it's that the '60?s still resonates.

That begins with the reported death of Burt Shavitz, whose first name you might recognize if you use any of Burt's Bees' personal care products (lip balm, soap, etc.). As the company posted on its website"We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land. Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature."

About Mr. Shavitz: he was a freelance photojournalist in New York City in the 1960?s. As recounted in this 2013 Daily Beast piece:  "In 1970, Burt threw his mattress in his Volkswagen van and, along with a few buddies, drove upstate to the High Falls, New York, area. After a series of heavy rainstorms, Burt decided to drive around and survey the damage. He stumbled upon a swarm of bees on a fencepost.

"'The year before, a guy that I'd been buying honey from, who was a beekeeper, had given me everything I needed to be a beekeeper except the bees - a hive, a mask, gloves, a smoker, a hive tool, everything,' Burt recalls. 'So, there was this fencepost, and I said, "My lord, this is an act of God! I can't turn this down." ' "

Burt's Bees came along in 1984. Shavitz partnered with an artist named Roxanne Quimby: she made candles with the unused was from his beehives; they peddled their goods at local fairs. Eventually, the two would part ways, reaching a settlement after Quimby found out that Burt had an affair with a college-age girl at one of their stores. Quimby bought out Burt;  years later, she'd do what her generation was told not to do in the 60?s and that was to surrender to "
the man" -  in this case, Clorox, which bought the company for a cool $925 million.

Which is pretty much the amount of money that another product of the 1960?s - the Grateful Dead - might have earned had it stayed on tour. Instead, The Dead turned in its last live performance of its 50-year run with three shows this past weekend in Chicago.

As The Chicago Sun-Times duly noted: "A whiff of sadness mingled with the odors of marijuana, patchouli and sweat Friday, as thousands of "Deadheads" - many without tickets - gathered for the "Fare Thee Well" tour."

One way to sum up the half-century journey from the San Francisco circuit band in the 1960?s to international favorite: "what s long strange trip it's been."

Any stranger than Bernie Sanders' journey from presidential afterthought to media flavor of the moment?

The Vermont senator was in Portland, Maine, for a Monday night townhall meeting, his presence (and 3,000 RSVP's) prompting a move to the city's Cross Insurance Arena, which holds up to 9,500, including floor seating.
It's not the first episode of Bernie-mania. He drew a crowd of 10,000 in Madison, Wisconsin, last week. Over the weekend, the self-proclaimed "Democrat-Socialist" attracted a standing-room crowd of 2,500 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

And so we have a sitting  senator snd candidate for the Democratic nomination lashing out against authority - and a government he accuses of having misplaced priorities. Are we looking at 1968 redux, with Sanders playing the role of Eugene McCarthy?

Not exactly.

Yes, Hillary Clinton occupies the same establishment position as did both Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, who didn't enter the race until late April of that year, weeks after LBJ had announced his surprise withdrawal from the presidential race.

However, Humphrey didn't bother to compete in the limited slate of primaries, instead focusing his attention on delegates available in non-primary states (only 14 states held Democratic primaries that year). That's the opposite of Mrs. Clinton slogging her way through Iowa and New Hampshire.

As for McCarthy, he didn't spend his time bashing Humphrey. Instead, he competed with Robert F. Kennedy in the party's anti-Vietnam space. The 2016 equivalent would be Sanders wasting his voice on Martin O'Malley, not Mrs. Clinton (as he's started to do).

But the key difference: while Sanders is a novelty on the campaign trail, we've yet to see if he can convert the curious watchers into actual muscle.

In 1968, McCarthy didn't merely attract throngs of college-age voters. His candidacy inspired that demographic to the point where it gave up its long tresses and facial hair ("Clean For Gene") and worked to get out the vote in New Hampshire.

In the final analysis, the smart money suggests that Sanders might pick off a primary or two and there might be an impact on the Democratic Party (feel free to debate whether it's a good thing (mobilizes progressives) or bad thing (pulls her too far to the left for Mrs. Clinton).

And we'll see if Bernie Sanders, if not the Eugene McCarthy of 1968, is McCarthy-like in two others ways:

1) McCarthy wasn't a one-time wonder. He kept running for president - as a Democrat in 1972, an independent in 1980 and as a left-wing gadfly in 1988 before returning to the Democratic fold in 1992.

2) Many years later, McCathy didn't have fond things to say about his sparring partner in 1968 (he thought RFK was a political destroyer and not as pleasant to deal with as his older brother). Is Bernie here to stay? What does he really think about Mrs. Clinton.

07/03/15: Four 4th Observations
07/02/15: Should Jeb Play A Trump Card?
07/01/15: Christie Almighty?
06/15/15: Did Hillary Flunk A History Lesson?
06/11/15: Thursday Candidates Quiz
06/10/15: First Best Second Choice
06/08/15: Game of Inches
06/03/15: The Power Of Narrative Politics
06/01/15: Sorting The Republicans' 2016 Kingdom
05/28/15: To Command Without Having Served
05/21/15: 2016: Do Looks Matter?
05/15/15: John Bolton's Swan Song

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: “The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain.” During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.

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