The key element here, repeated in piece after piece, is that Romney was "untouched by the '60s." Liberals tend to take this "touch" carried out by a decade -- a strange concept in and of itself -- in much the way in which fundamentalists take adult baptism: as a rite necessary to achieve salvation. Those who have not been "touched" are fringe figures, not at all part of the mainstream as defined in Ann Arbor, San Francisco, and the Upper East Side.
This thesis contains a number of assumptions, chief among them the idea that the '60s were a universal phenomenon, a decade that altered everyone who lived through it (except for the Mormons, presumably, protected by the desert on one side and the Great Salt Lake on the other), and all of them in the same way. That one-sided transformation involves a sharp shift to the left politically and to the flamboyant morally. Films telling of stiff, uptight, and uncool types who suddenly loosen up when exposed to "alternative lifestyles" (and become better persons for it!) have been a staple of Hollywood almost as far back as the decade itself. Despite the fact that nobody actually knows anyone who went through this process, it has become one of the chief myths of millennial America.
But in fact the '60s, like any other period, were far from monolithic, and did not hit everyone with the same impact, or shove them all in the same direction. Considering the variety of the human species, it would awfully strange if they had. What experience ever has the same effect on any random group? Why the '60s would be different is one of those things that is not so much left unexplained as deliberately ignored.
The '60s were a late-arriving decade. They began in 1964 with the appearance of the Beatles, followed the next year by the Watts riots. The early '60s were a different animal, extending trends begun in the '50s on a greater level of sophistication. The '59 to '63 period involved the internationalization of certain American tendencies. Those were the years of the New Frontier, the Italian-cut suit, bubble hairdos for women, the Jet Set, James Bond, Sam Cooke, and Dobie Gray. The aura was cool, controlled, suave, and debonair -- everything the rest of the decade was not.
The JFK assassination cut the cool years short and set the stage for the '60s of rock, riot, and rebellion. There's no need to go over all of it again. "New" documentaries appear at the rate of at least one a year featuring all the clichéd imagery -- Haight-Ashbury, flower kids, Sergeant Pepper, Woodstock, the Yippies, Charlie Manson -- and even more clichéd conclusions. There's no purpose in repeating them here.
But that wasn't all of it, by any means. Apart from Top 40 radio, most American had no contact with the wild-eyed aspects of the decade. How many attended Woodstock? Probably around a quarter-million. Not bad, but in no way comparable to the typical World Series or Super Bowl audience, either. The '60s were the decade of the freakout for only a small minority.
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