On this day in 1970, the Hard Hat Riot took place. It was a clash between students who were protesting the Kent State shooting and construction workers who were supporting the Vietnam War. Once the student protest was announced, Peter Brennan, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, decided to call a counter protest. Just to be clear: it was not the students who rioted; it was the All American construction workers. The power elite must have loved seeing it.
The two sides of this protest were in agreement on the one thing that mattered: economics. By 1970, the Vietnam War was lost and Nixon was just looking for a way to break the news to the American people. But if you want to set the date for the end of the New Deal, it was this day 45 years ago. This was when liberalism became the domain of the pointy headed intellectuals and the scum of society. It was when those unionized workers started voting in a way that assured that their children and grandchildren would not have union protections.
On good days, I imagine that all the workers of the nation will put aside their other disagreements and work together for some small amount of economic justice. But it was only a couple of years ago that I almost came to blows with a family friend over Occupy Wall Street. This particular guy has a great union job. But I know that in 20 years, that job will be non-union. He didn’t like the Occupy protesters because they inconvenienced him. It didn’t matter that they were protesting for him. If he lost his job, he wouldn’t be able to find one that paid half what he makes now. But he’s got his, so screw everyone else. That’s the Hard Hat Riot.
Forty-five years ago, economic liberalism came apart.