Anti-police brutality protestors demonstrate outside of a burning fast food restaurant in Minneapolis, on May 29. In the early years of the Trump era, I was often asked if American politics had been this bad before. I always said the same thing. It has been so much worse. Think of the 1960s. John F. Kennedy Jr. and Malcolm X were assassinated within two years of each other. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were murdered within two months of each other. Riots set cities aflame. Domestic terrorists detonated bombs across the country. Freedom Riders were beaten and killed. White police officers turned dogs and hoses on black children. The Vietnam draft forced the nation’s young to war. The Democratic Party’s 1968 convention collapsed in violence. America was coming apart, with disagreements measured in bullets and blood.
But there was one thing the 1960s had, that we, today, do not: a political system designed to absorb conflict and find consensus, or at least stability. I do not seek to smother the age in nostalgia. That calm was often purchased at terrible moral cost, as in the union of Dixiecrats and New Deal Democrats that upheld segregation for decade after […]
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