by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Carolina Journal’s Ray Nothstine writes for Law and Liberty about the David Paul Kuhn book, The Hardhat Riot.
Pat Buchanan is largely credited with coining the term “silent majority,” but he made another prescient observation regarding the antics of the student radicals of the late 1960s and early 70s, calling it “the revolt of the overprivileged.” That’s how the hardhats working in Manhattan saw them too, resulting in a melee where hundreds of construction workers violently attacked anti-Vietnam War student protestors on May 8, 1970. …
… David Paul Kuhn’s The Hardhat Riot: Nixon, New York City, and the Dawn of the White Working – Class Revolution is mostly a play by play of the actual riot and clashes that turned New York City into a symbol of national division. The book shines in delving into the new bond between union workers and a Republican president, as well as reinforcing just how unpopular and loathed the protestors were by so many Americans. Radical students were seen as being steeped in privilege, so much so, that hundreds of workers from Wall Street and Manhattan office buildings filed out of their workspaces and joined the ranks of the Hardhats to literally break through a police gauntlet and barricades to assault the profanity spewing students waving communist flags. Kuhn himself notes the truth of how the anti-war students were always less popular than the Vietnam War itself.
Nothstine offers thoughts about the 1970 riot’s implications for the present day.
There aren’t vast differences between the alienation of hard hats who attacked student-protestors and those so disconnected from their government that they swarmed the Capitol building. One reading Hard Had Riot may wonder why somebody could ever feel that the working class is voting against their own economic interests by supporting a conservative agenda or candidates, arguments once put forward in books like What’s the Matter with Kansas? The author, Thomas Frank, followed up that book with Listen Liberal, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? Frank now bemoans that Democrats have intentionally abandoned the working class for the wealthy elite and professional class. He now blames many of the party’s policies for directly expanding inequality. Those actions have helped to magnify not just America’s economic divisions, but deeper cultural divisions as well, particularly given that Democrats have almost fully exorcised the white working class in favor of the more socially preferred and educated aggrieved persons and groups allied with the left’s political leaders. The political strife our nation has experienced from that type of politics is far from over. The biggest mistake of all would be to think the conflict will subside in the absence of Trump.