The day after the 1964 election, I was another undergraduate at The University of Texas attending a Government class in the American Presidency. The professor, along with a lot of us, was basking in the afterglow of the most sweeping Democratic victory since 1936. Lyndon Johnson had carried all but the "deep" south and Goldwater's home state of Arizona. Ralph Yarborough had soundly trounced his opponent, George H. W. Bush and was poised to begin his second full term in the U. S. Senate. Democrats had commanding majorities in the House and Senate. The feeling that morning was that we had seen a tidal shift in American politics; that Goldwater had led his party right over a cliff, and that liberal, Democratic control of government stretched into the future as far as the eye could see.
Two years later, already mired in Vietnam, Johnson saw his Congressional majorities dwindle dramatically. His liberal base was deserting him in droves. The Republicans had purged their party of right wing extremists (or so Republicans thought) and were back to being a significant force in American politics. Nixon was elected in 1968 and in spite of Watergate, Democrats controlled the White House for only twelve more years in the 20th Century. They lost their Senate majority in 1980; regained it briefly in 1986, and then lost control of Congress for the remainder of the 20th Century and 6 years into the 21st in 1994. Meanwhile, RW extremists systematically purged the Republican Party of the moderates who, it was thought, had regained control following 1964, so that today, even Barry Goldwater would be considered a "RINO". Indeed, I wonder how many of them even believe their own mantras about Ronald Reagan.
The history of the years since 1964 underscores a vital difference between liberals and conservatives. Whereas liberals tend to look on arguments over policy as being settled once the liberal view seems to have prevailed, RWers tend to play the longer game. Nothing is ever settled for them. They may lose battles, but they're in the war for the long slog. Matters other liberals and I believed, perhaps foolishly, were settled once-and-for-all include, among other things:
*Social Security and most of the rest of the legislative legacy of the New Deal;
*the First Amendment guarantee of separation of state and Christianity;
*the right to privacy;
*a woman's right to choose her own healthcare treatments;
*the end of racial segregation;
*Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, and most of western science since the middle ages;
*the right of minorities to vote;
*the outcome of the Civil War, and
*the outcome of the Scopes trial.
And that is by no means an all-inclusive list.
We liberals thought we had won those fights and others fairly and squarely and that we and the nation could move on. But the RW never accepted those results - any of them. They simply changed the subject for a while; waited for us to move on, and then started the fights all over again. They're worse than a forest fire, the RW.
So, while I'm glad that our modest attempt at laying the foundation of a decent healthcare system in this country survived by a single vote on the Supreme Court, this time, I'm not going to believe the fight is over. Just as we must constantly fight to defend every inch of ground we have ever gained, so we must work to ensure that the arc of history really does bend toward justice. This is a process and it will end only with the utter destruction and elimination of the RW. We win no wars; we may not even win battles, we win only skirmishes. This story may be apocryphal, but it has it that someone asked Benjamin Franklin what the Constitutional Convention had given the country and he replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it." We won a small victory yesterday, but can we keep it?