As Duke Univeristy law professor Jedidiah Purdy reminds us, socialism is as American as baseball, apple-pie, and Chevrolet. “Much of today’s socialism,” he argues, “was once the bread and butter of the Democratic Party.” Here is a taste of his piece at Politico:
Recent elections are bringing the largest crop of self-described socialist candidates in nearly a century, not just in New York and on the Left Coast, but in places like Virginia and Pennsylvania. For critics, this represents a futile and dangerous radicalism; for some who welcome it, it’s nothing more than a youthful resurgence of Ted Kennedy-style liberalism.
The reality is more interesting. The new socialism is both thoroughly American and pretty damned radical. Much of today’s “socialism,” like Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, has deep roots; it’s basically the left wing of New Deal and Great Society liberalism, promising free higher education and universal health care, stronger unions and more support for affordable housing. These were once the bread and butter of the Democratic Party. But the new socialism is also genuinely radical—and not just because the country has moved so far away from the goals of widely shared wealth and leisure of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
Read the rest here.
One of the best books I read in graduate school was Nick Salvatore‘s Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist. Salvatore argued that Debs’s socialism was rooted in the republican and democratic traditions at the heart of the American experience. I highly recommend it.
Why did he do it? Kevin Townsend explains at The Atlantic:
I had to know what had compelled Johnson to start rocking those locks. And, as it so happens, a search revealed the explanation in a story from the July 1973 issue of this very magazine:
So Johnson suffered the election in silence, swallowing his nitroglycerin tablets to thwart continual chest pains, endorsing McGovern through a hill country weekly newspaper, meeting cordially with the candidate at the ranch. The newspapers showed a startling picture of Johnson, his hair almost shoulder-length. Former aide Bob Hardesty takes credit for this development. “We were working together one day,” Hardesty recalls, “and he said, in passing, ‘Robert, you need a haircut.’ I told him, ‘Mr. President, I’m letting my hair grow so no one will be able to mistake me for those SOB’s in the White House.’ He looked startled, so I explained, ‘You know, that bunch around Nixon—Haldeman, Ehrlichman—they all have very short hair.’ He nodded. The next time I saw him his hair was growing over his collar.”
Read the entire piece.
1860. 1964. 2016.
These are the only years in which The Atlantic (previously known as the Atlantic Monthly), the historic American magazine of politics and commentary, endorsed a candidate for President of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln. Lyndon B. Johnson. Hillary Clinton. The Atlantic endorsed these candidates.
The editors of The Atlantic explain their decision to endorse Clinton. Interestingly enough, the title of the article is “Against Trump” with the phrase “The Case for Hillary Clinton” in the subtitle.
But The Atlantic’s endorsement of Johnson was focused less on his positive attributes than on the flaws of his opponent, Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona. Of Goldwater, Weeks wrote, “His proposal to let field commanders have their choice of the smaller nuclear weapons would rupture a fundamental belief that has existed from Abraham Lincoln to today: the belief that in times of crisis the civilian authority must have control over the military.” And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.” Goldwater’s limited capacity for prudence and reasonableness was what particularly worried The Atlantic.
We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia. There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.
Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.
These concerns compel us, for the third time since the magazine’s founding, to endorse a candidate for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.
Read the entire piece here. Then head over to Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to our interview with Yoni Appelbaum, Washington Bureau Chief of The Atlantic.
Randall Stephens just posted this on his Facebook page. I couldn’t resist sharing.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you don’t know much about Wallace you can learn more about him here and here.
Yesterday Donald Trump said he would consider using nuclear weapons to attack ISIS.
You may recall an earlier post we did on this subject.
An 1964 LBJ political ad: