Bill Clinton and the Sixties

Ron Jacobs (
Tue, 27 Oct 1998 09:28:23 -0500

Is it a right wing conspiracy, like Hilary says? Or just a case of an
adulterer caught with his zipper down? And, more importantly for the
left, does it represent a rift in the ruling class? If so, how? These
are questions running through my mind these days as Bill Clinton's
detailing of his affair with Lewinsky plays on the television screens
across the nation. Although I personally could care less about Bill
and his sexual partners, it is obvious that there are those in the
ruling elites who believe his peccadilloes will be enough to bring
down his presidency. Furthermore, these elements not only relish their
embarassment of the man, they are also willing to stop at nothing to
destroy him.

Why does Clinton engender such hatred? After all, his
policies are not much different from those attempting to destroy
him--he's helped the rich get richer, he's left the poor out to dry,
and he's carried on the war against unruly elements in the empire--all
the while giving these anti-human policies a human face. Hell, he's
better at maintaining and expanding the empire than Reagan was. But
the right still hates him. The answer lies not in his politics as much
as it does in his style and background. In the same way that Kennedy
represented a dangerous vision to the right in 1960 despite his
fundamentally pro-business, imperial politics, Clinton represents a
similar danger to the right in the 1990s. Since day one on the
presidential trail back in 1992 in New Hampshire, Clinton's record as
a draft dodger and pot smoker has hounded him. Now, those of us who
were in the thick of the political and countercultural revolution of
the 1960s and 1970s know that Bill was like those guys we all knew who
never really got it. They didn't call the cops names when they
attacked a demonstration, they didn't inhale or take acid, and they
thought SDS was too radical. So it's interesting, to say the least,
that he is considered to represent the counterculture and all its

This is where the split in the ruling class occurs. Along
cultural lines. I am reminded of Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "The
Maypole of Merry Mount" wherein non-Puritan English settlers in the
Massachusetts colony join the Lord of May in a pagan revelry around
the maypole only to be attacked by Puritan John Endicott's
minions. After ruining the celebration by the maypole revelers,
Endicott finalizes his attack by destroying the maypole and arresting
the revelers. Just as the pagan celebrations of the Lord of May and
his group represented sexuality and the devil to Endicott, the
counterculture and its values (despite the commodification and
consequent mutation of those values) represent evil and the
destruction of the American way as proscribed by the Puritanism of Ken
Starr and his element. In the Puritan version of our history, the
others in U.S. society--blacks, women and children--either kept their
mouths shut or opened them only to say yes sir. That is what changed
in the 1960s. That, too, is what the theocratic right wants a return
to. They would like to replicate the intrusion into Bill's private
life in everybody's home. The drug war, anti-gay legislation, welfare
"reform", and the continued erosion of civil rights, especially those
of people of color and the young, are all facets of this backwards
motion. Unfortunately for Clinton, his support of this agenda (with
the possible exception of its most obvious racist, sexist and
heterosexist aspects) has backfired. Not only are his right wing
allies deserting him in his time of need, but laws he enacted allowing
further abrogation of various civil liberties have been used in the
investigation of him by Starr. Those proverbial chickens are coming
home to roost. Will he be impeached? I would like the process to go
forward, primarily because I believe it will help expose not only the
bankruptcy of the system, but also the agenda that the theocratic
fascists behind the investigation have in mind for this
country. However, I do not believe Clinton will be impeached nor will
he resign. It seems some kind of compromise censure and punishment
will be worked out, precisely for the reasons I note above. The empire
does not want its foibles and battles to be completely in the open,
despite the desires of some of its more extreme elements. More
important than the sexcapades and the battles over morality is the
necessity to keep the empire together. One example of this was the
cruise missile attack on Sudan and Afghanistan.

This attack, like the destruction of the Pequot nation by
the Puritans of the Massachusetts colony, was not only tolerated by
all of the empire's supporters (media, Congress, military, etc.), it
was blessed. It also might be enough to keep Bill in office. After
all, his so-called decisive manner in that episode was the topic of
many editorials the following day. If he can act "presidential", than
he is who the real powerbrokers in this country want in the driver's
seat. However, if he can be chastised for his transgressions at the
same time, then he (and those who come after him) will remember where
the country's real power lies. It's not what is best for us that the
power elites have in mind, it's what's best for them. As I watched
Nelson Mandela praise Bill Clinton in his comments at the White House
the other night, I was reminded how much of a friend he is considered
to be by Africans and African-Americans. While he is certainly one of
the few (if not the first) anti-racist U.S. presidents, this is not a
reason to support him. It is the system he works for which defines his
politics more than his personality or personal beliefs. His support
from the people of Africa did not stop him from attacking Khartoum,
nor would it prevent him from attacking another African country should
the empire demand such a move. His support from black Americans has
not prevented him from further militarizing the drug war--a war which
is waged primarily in communities of color. His support by poor and
working people has not prevented him from pushing through NAFTA,
welfare reform and other anti-worker, anti-poor legislation.

It is our duty on the left to point these things
out. Although Bill may have been better than the opposition to some of
us, the fact remains that in his time in office he has pretty much
done what the right would have. The only difference is that he can
sell it better. I say, let the rulers tear at each other like dogs.
Let us take advantage of the moment and organize a movement that
leaves them and their politics of sleaze, corruption and hatred of the
people in the dust.


Ron Jacobs\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\We sit here stranded,
Bailey Howe Library\\\\\\\\\\\though we all do our best
University of Vermont\\\\\\\\to deny it...-Bob Dylan
Burlington, VT\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\