SEX AND THE SIXTIES

Richard Reeves
March 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- Odds are that Mitt Romney will still be the Republican nominee for president, but you have to feel sorry for him because he clearly has no idea what his party stands for and is running against. His principal opponent, Rick Santorum, does understand and has been able, so far, to hang in there against all of Romney's money, breeding and accomplishment.

Santorum can be called a nut, legitimately, but he knows what he and the party are running against: sex and the Sixties.

Quotes from former senator Santorum:

-- "Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. They prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that's sex. And the whole abortion culture, it's not about life. It's about sexual freedom. That's what it's about. Homosexuality. It's about sexual freedom."

-- "It comes down to sex. That's what it's all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to do with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you're dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that's the most central to me. And that's the way it's looked at."

-- "What changed was the '60s. What changed was sex. What changed was the social and cultural issues that have huge amounts of money because if you look -- I haven't seen numbers on this, but I'm sure it's true -- if you go socioeconomic scale, the higher the income, the more socially liberal you are. The more you know you can buy your way out of the problems that sexual libertinism causes you. You have an abortion, well, I have the money to take care of it. If I want to live an extravagant life and get diseases, I can. ... You can always take care of everything. If you have money, you can get away with things that if you're poor you can't."

-- "Sex is a means. Evolution is a means. And the aim is a secular world. It's a, in my opinion, a hedonistic, self-focused world that is, in my opinion, anti-American."

He is hardly alone in this view. Millions of social conservatives, religious folks and other right-wingers believe that America began to go wrong, crazy and indecently wrong, in the mid-1960s. Young people rioted rather than go to war in Vietnam to make the world safe for democracy. Birth control pills. Drugs. Rock 'n' roll -- black music. It is no accident that Rush Limbaugh thinks contraception is a big issue -- and it was in the '60s. Like Santorum, he is arguing that somehow America, and the world, should return to the 1950s of their imagination.

And Woodstock, in 1969, is shorthand for all that some folks see as decadence. I don't think Romney understands that. He grew up cloistered and rich, deep within a conservative and secretive religion. He was a Mormon missionary in France -- zealously trying to convince a people half-Catholic and half anti-religious to join in giving up wine for God.

It is no wonder Romney has trouble connecting with people; he has simply lived a different life than most of us. His 1960s and 1970s were different than the people he is courting -- the people who see themselves as the losers of the time. The tea party is part of this and part of his problem. They have been bypassed for decades, and then crushed by this great recession. They are not useful in the new economy. Sad, but true: As people live longer, life speeds up, leaving them behind.

Life is not fair. They are the losers. Santorum feels their pain. Romney, not a bad man, hasn't a clue.