purposes here, it should be noted that the Statement remains within the realm of reformist politics and deliberative rhetoric. Despite the reputation later earned or foisted upon it, SDS began as other protest organizations and movements began in the 1960s, with libertarian goals and committed to established procedures. Moreover, the authors of the Statement continued C. Wright Mills's assault on the liberal establishment by naming liberals as political culprits opposed to the enactment of liberal ideas. But it was more than ideas and accusations, more than policies and positions. The Statement sounded a clarion call from the young people who wrote it to young people around the country to join in a new (young) left that would begin the long march through the 1960s, a march that would go every which way, sometimes helter-skelter, but a march that began with the first step at Port Huron, Michigan.
In the initial stage of protest dissidents turned not to ideology or to radicalism, but to using accepted procedures and conventional language for achieving change. The staff report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence emphasized this point:
The two general phases of the [student] movement--before and after 1965--may be viewed as follows: In phase one, the student movement embodied concern, dissent, and protest about various social issues, but it generally accepted the legitimacy of the existing political community . . . and especially the university. In those years, many students believed that the legitimacy of the existing political structure was compromised by the undue influence of corporate interests and the military. They made far-reaching criticisms of the university and of other social institutions, but their criticisms were usually directed at the failure of the American political system and of American institutions to live up to officially proclaimed values. Thus, despite their commitment to reform and to support for civil disobedience and direct action, the student activists in the first half of this decade generally accepted the basic values and norms of the American political community.47
So, too, feminists, civil rights activists, and the antiwar movement.
Instead of radicalism, they focused on specific policies, voiced their belief in the political system and its authorities by appealing to them, and sought to avoid violating or abusing conventional politics and rhetoric. Issues were treated as political or legal, although moral arguments were advanced with other arguments.