The supreme court, thank heaven, finally adjourned on Thursday, after a week of decisions that blew up much of the framework of American policy and politics. And a key thing to notice about that assault on American norms was how many of their targets were adopted in a few short years in the 1960s and 1970s.
Roe v Wade, もちろん, 日付 1973, the fruit of many year’s work by committed feminists. Thursday’s attack on the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases guts the Clean Air Act, which in its strong form dates from 1970 – indeed, both that law and the EPA itself were the result of the first Earth Day protests in April of that year, which drew 20 百万人のアメリカ人 (10% of the country’s population in those days) into the streets demanding action. Even firearms sanity, badly weakened once more in last week’s decision on concealed carry permits, reached its zenith in 1968 with the passage of the Gun Control Act in response to the assassinations of that turbulent year.
It’s pretty clear that some on the high court have other gains from that era in their sights: Justice Clarence Thomas singled out the 1960s protections for contraception, and the drive for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people that broke into the open at the Stonewall protests in 1969. And the court and conservative legislatures have worked steadily to undermine the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, restricting the franchise that the civil rights movement had once worked so powerfully to extend.
This is an attack, 言い換えると, on the epic social, political and cultural transformations of that remarkable period (a stretch of years that should remind us that with committed effort change really can come fast). We pay particular attention to those dates because, at Third Act, we organize the people who helped create that era. Our colleagues include heroes like Heather Booth, who went south in 1964’s Freedom Summer and then went on to form Citizen Action for local organizing across America, or Sam Brown, who coordinated 1969’s massive anti-war moratorium before a career in public service that included working with John Lewis to run Vista and the Peace Corps. Many others of our supporters – who are in their 60s, 70NS, 80s and 90s – played less prominent roles, but all of them bore witness to these transformations. And now they watch with some combination of sorrow, anger and incredulity as they are washed away.
The incredulity stems from the fact that they are universally popular. Big majorities favor much more government action to protect the environment; by margins of 2-1 Americans want Roe’s abortion protections left intact, and even more lopsided margins want more gun control, not less. We won the hearts and minds of public opinion, but we’re now decisively losing in the arena of public policy.
This happened in part because too many older people have been absent from these struggles. The first act of our lives was remarkable; the second, 「ひどく幻想的」, was focused more on our individual lives and consumerism than citizenship. Part of it may have been that we took these wins for granted; our job was done, and we could get on with enjoying the world we’d helped build. It never seemed quite possible that the right could figure out how to tear apart those gains. But they did – exploiting the arcane parts of the constitution that gave outsized power to small red states, building the thinktanks and institutions like the Federalist Society that slowly ate away at the jurisprudence of that era, concentrating the power of immoral corporate and private wealth through decisions like Citizens United.
For the moment, those forces have prevailed. Now it’s time to rise again. At Third Act we are gathering people over the age of 60 who refuse to slide back in time – who want the same protections for their kids and grandkids that we’ve had all our lives. For most of us these aren’t precisely personal battles; we’re past the age where access to abortion will determine the course of our lives, and we’re going to be dead before climate change is at its absolute worst. But that frees us to fight for the future with a particular fearlessness. We don’t need to be leading the work: younger people are doing most of the great organizing on these issues. But we do need to fiercely support them, working in tandem to pass on the world we helped build. Fridays for the Future, the Sunrise Movement, Black Lives Matter – these are remarkable creations of a new generation of organizers. But twenty and thirtysomethings lack the structural power to do this work by themselves, even if they supply most of the earnestness, energy and engagement.
Older Americans bring particular strengths of our own – we’ve learned a few things over the years. がある 70 million Americans over the age of 60 (そして 10,000 more every day). We vote in huge numbers, そして (fairly or not) we have most of the wealth – about 70% of the country’s financial assets, compared with about 5% for millennials. So both Washington and Wall Street would need to worry if we re-emerged as a force for progress. We’ve been pushing banks hard to stop funding big oil (“Fossils Against Fossil Fuels” is our rallying cry) and registering new voters with letters from senior citizens to high school seniors. We’ve lately had some early wins, like convincing Joe Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to build heat pumps and solar panels.
But we can and must do far more. Older people, conventional wisdom holds, become increasingly conservative as we age – presumably we have more to hold on to. But our generation has something more important than money to protect: we have the gains for human liberation that we helped create in our youth. Time for us to march again, perhaps a little more slowly, but with no less hope and determination.