How the Young Entered Politics in 1968 — And Transformed It

How the Young Entered Politics in 1968 — And Transformed It

Almost half of the population of the United States is now under twenty-five years of age. This unprecedented demographic fact is well on the way toward changing completely the texture of American politics, as the McCarthy campaign has shown in recent months. These political events confound those cynics and professional pessimists who for so long have tried to make us believe that the world of politics remains forever frozen into the pattern of two competing but similarly structured major parties that present no real choices for liberals or radicals. These crackpot realists, to use C. Wright Mills’s telling characterization, forgot the young; no small matter.

When it comes to political organization and activity, the most precious commodity is time. Only those who have some free time on their hands can hope effectively to participate in the political game. In ideologically-oriented European parties, agitation and propaganda was largely carried out by militants who were willing to sacrifice leisure time in order to devote themselves to the furtherance of their parties’ ideological goals. The major American parties, given their largely non-ideological character, have hardly ever been able to appeal to engaged political partisans.


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