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The New Left

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The beginning of the 1960’s brought a change to the world of politics, as we know it. It began an era that was full of people pushing for equality, peace, and love. This was something that had never been seen before in America. It can be traced to things such as the hippie movement. But what it truly was was the beginning of the New Left. It brought out people pushing for reform in anything from civil rights to abortion to drugs. They just wanted to see change, a change in which the government became more involved.

The New Left was not the only thing created in the 1960’s. With those New Leftists there was opposition created as well thanks to the likes of Barry Goldwater. Those who wanted to change, but they wanted it in the form of a more limited government, not one that was more involved. They wanted things such as the limitation of rights amongst gays, New Deal reforms, and most importantly liberty for the American people. This group was the New Right.

Using historian Eric Foner’s book “Voices of Freedom” readings from that focus on these two groups during this same time frame of the early 1960’s. Article number 173 stems from the 1964 Republican Presidential Nominee Barry Goldwater’s speech on “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty” (1964) at the Republican National Convention. This speech outlines the goals of Goldwater and the New Right and discusses the need for limited government and a way to bring freedom back to the American people. The second reading is article number 175, which is “The Port Huron Statement” (1962). A document released by a group referred to as Students for a Democratic Society. This group was a leader in the campus protests of the decade and eventually became synonymous with the New Left.

Senator Goldwater’s speech starts off as a run of the mill Presidential Nominee acceptance speech with the formal acceptance statement. However, it does not take long for Goldwater to jump straight into his plan for if he is elected. He begins to rally the attendees with strong statements such as “No party, can guarantee anything, but what we can do and we shall do, is to deserve victory, and victory will be ours” (Foner, 280). He states that “the tide has been running against freedom” (Foner, 281) which is a direct statement about the New Left and their goals to increase government intervention in matters and Goldwater and the supporters of the New Right take that as an attack on their freedom as citizens of the United States. He continues on to discuss the wants of the party and their needs for the change in government, like getting big businesses involved in able to maintain a stable economy. Goldwater closes with the following statement, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” (Foner, 283). This line was used as the title of the speech and takes a shot at the New Left calling them and their tactics in pursuit of their own liberty extremism and Goldwater is rallying his party around the fact that that could never hold up and support a government or ever succeed.

The Port Huron Statement was given in 1962 by the Students for a Democratic Society at Port Huron in Michigan. The document became a huge part of the embodiment of the New Left because of its major focus on social change as well as the fact that the government needed to be more involved in the every day life of the people. They point out how social change is needed with statements like “The permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism” (Foner, 289). This type of statement shows that the New Left wants change for the people by the government because it is something that could not be done at a public level. They also promote change in working class norms, proven by saying “Men still tolerate meaningless work and idleness” (Foner, 289). The New Left believed that the United States as a nation was sitting stagnant, being ruled by the higher ups and not as a democracy. To them it was not by the people for the people, but it was by the people, for some. They called the current government apathetic and manipulated, and called for change. They believed in a social system based upon love, reason and creativity. Not one based upon money, occupation, or heritage.



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