Skip to comments.Book takes look at past to get picture of liberals' future (THE UPCOMING LEFTY CIVIL WAR)
Posted on 05/20/2006 8:09:53 AM PDT by Chi-townChief
Peter Beinart is an advocate of liberal -- not ''progressive'' -- nostalgia. He wants to turn the clock back to 1947 at Washington's Willard Hotel.
Beinart, who was born in 1971, is editor at large of the liberal New Republic magazine and disdains the label ''progressive'' as a rejection of liberalism's useable past of anti-totalitarianism. An intellectual archaeologist, he excavates that vanished intellectual tradition and sends it into battle in his new book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again. It expresses Beinart's understanding of liberalism in 1948, 1968 and, he hopes, 2008.
His project of curing liberalism's amnesia begins by revisiting Jan. 4, 1947, when liberal anti-totalitarians convened at the Willard to found Americans for Democratic Action. It became their instrument for rescuing the Democratic Party from Henry Wallace and his fellow-traveling followers who, locating the cause of the Cold War in American faults, were precursors of Michael Moore and his ilk among today's ''progressives.''
Among the heroes of liberalism's civil war of 60 years ago was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who today is 88. He stigmatized their anti-communism as ''doughface-ism.'' Beinart explains: ''The original doughfaces were 'Northern men with Southern principles' -- Northerners who opposed slavery, but who could not bring themselves to support the Civil War.'' Today's doughfaces are ''progressives'' who flinch from the fact that, as Beinart says, ''America could not have built schools for Afghan girls had it not bombed the Taliban first.''
Liberalism's civil war seemed won after Henry Wallace's Progressive Party candidacy failed to prevent President Truman's 1948 election. But the war broke out again in the Democratic Party's crack-up over Vietnam in 1968. Then, Beinart says, a ''new liberalism'' emerged that ''questioned whether America had much to offer the world.'' Four years later the party nominated George McGovern, who had been a delegate to the 1948 Progressive Party convention that nominated Wallace. McGovern's trumpet sounded retreat: ''Come home, America.''
Since then, Beinart argues, liberals have lacked a narrative of national greatness that links America's missions at home and abroad. It has been said that whereas the right-wing isolationists in the 1930s believed that America was too good for the world, left-wing isolationists in the 1960s believed that the world was too good for America. After Vietnam, Beinart says, liberal foreign policy was ''defined more by fear of American imperialism than fear of totalitarianism.''
Beinart briskly says ''I was wrong'' in supporting the invasion of Iraq. Wrong about Saddam's nuclear program. Wrong in being ''too quick to give up on containment.'' Wrong about the administration's competence to cope with the war's aftermath. (''Staffers tasked with postwar reconstruction were told to bring two suits. They would be home by the end of summer.'')
But while excoriating the Bush administration for perhaps ''creating exactly the condition the conservatives have long feared: An America without the will to fight,'' Beinart's most important contribution is to confront the doughface liberals who rejoice about the weakening of that will. Reading liberals who seem to think they ''have no enemies more threatening, or more illiberal, than George W. Bush,'' Beinart worries that Deaniac liberals are taking over the Democratic Party much as McGovernite liberals did after 1968.
Beinart worries that ''the elections of 2006 and 2008 could resemble the elections of 1974 and 1976, when foreign policy exhaustion, and Republican scandal, propelled Democrats to big gains.'' If so, those gains will be ''a false dawn.''
The country will eventually turn right because, ''whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought.''
Ronald Reagan said he did not want to return to the past but to the past's way of facing the future. As does Beinart, who locates the pertinent past in 1947.
America is Great now. Only an idiot Liberal would think that Socialism and PR would result in anything other than woe and misery.
Sort of like being against abortion but supporting 'choice'.
Since then, Beinart argues, liberals have lacked a narrative of national greatness that links America's missions at home and abroad. It has been said that whereas the right-wing isolationists in the 1930s believed that America was too good for the world, left-wing isolationists in the 1960s believed that the world was too good for America.
Yes, with the likes of Pol Pot, Castro, Kruschev and Mao running things, you can't have the US out there ruining it for everyone.
What this country really needs is a declared war on Liberalism.
Your tag says it all...
This guy is on MSNBC a lot and FNC some. He has a space between his teeth you could drive a truck through.
The word liberal being applied to todays Democrat Party is actually incorrect. I for one would really like to see the day when they are called exactly what they are...SOCIALISTS. It would clear alot of things up for many people who don't really understand where they belong. Alot of people, such as my parents, still think the Democrat Party is the party of the little guy. BULL
That's the HUGE problem for Beinart: an "anti-totalitarian liberal" is already pretty right-wing or, at the very least, (if I may use the n-word) a Neo-Con.
Tchu!...socialists? Why not call them what they _really_ are- neo-primitive pagan leninist-trotskyite hedonist endorphin clogged brahminic hyper-empathico anarcho-nihilists. I think I might have left something out about justificatory murdering Pol Pot swine.
walter alter artist - wiseguy - savant
You're right--Beinart is the very definition of neocon. The problem is that the left has defined every conservative as a neocon because the prefix "neo" conjures up "neonazi" in the mind.
That's a pretty tortuous article to follow. Basically, a group of "liberals" want to Conservative Democrats to be in the van against the Republican Party while jettisoning their "progressive" loony elements but holding on to he word "liberal."
Was that clear?
''whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought.''
Says it all.
Not with my syntax...
When words such as "liberal" get redefined, it does make things difficult to understand.
I always thought that the progressive tag came into vogue as the democrats were trying to run from the mess they left on the word liberal.
That or when it became apparent what the liberals really stood for, the people began hating liberals so they had to resort to a new word that wasn't "dirty".
liberal -- not ''progressive'' = moderate democrat, RINO, or BIG givernment republican, like Bush.. All those terms are on a sliding scale, depends on the day..
Anti-Totalitarianism is the great Liberal Canard:
Socialism; Communism, GOOD. Capitalism;capitalists, BAD. North Vietnam, GOOD. South Vietnam, BAD. UN, GOOD. America, BAD.
That's why this dirty little fink rejects "Progressivism, it's too American. Fighting Bob LaFollette would have kicked his butt.
I think his point is that liberals in the past were willing to stand up to totalitarians whatever their form: JFK was a cold warrior through and through.
Liberals, on the whole, never said an unkind word about "Uncle Joe" Stalin, or 'Agrarian Reformer' Mao. As far as JFK being a Cold Warrior, his actions in Cuba, or for that matter, in Vietnam, wipe out any public utterances he may have made.
I'll grant you this, JFK spun himself, and he and his Dad were mighty spinners, as a Cold Warrior.
All baloney. He stands up in Berlin and proclaims himself "Ein Berliner," which fittlingly enough means he's a jelly donut, and the Soviets respond by building the Wall, which he lets go unchallenged.
But then his Dad's Hollywood-style PR operation spun JFK as a War Hero, when the Navy had originally scheduled him for a court martial. They spun him as devoted father and family man. They spun him as the picture of health. They spun him as an author, hiring their own people to write his book. Dad single-handedly turned it into an instant best seller by buying 50 thousand copies. They spin the Kennedys as Civil Rights crusaders, when JFK voted against civil rights bills for 20 years in Congress and the Senate.
All we know publicly about JFK is pure 'Myth of Camelot' spin. Ted, Patrick, Bobby,JFK, and Dad, in short the lot of them, were all cut from the same crooked cloth.
The Democratic party fought the war within, and the marxists won. There are only a handful of social welfare/pro-Americans left--Lieberman, Ed Koch, and Zell Miller are the only ones that come to mind. The rest have gone the way of the dinosaur. There is no Sam Nunn wing of the party anymore, nor could one be resurrected, because the core beliefs of the party would not permit it. A Democrat that spouted the belief in American power to effect pro-American policies in the War on Terror would just be lying to the nation. The party would bring the boys home pronto, and it would be another Vietnam 1975 moment.
Now, if you can find a group of anti-Muslim christians to bomb from above until they submit to UN peacekeepers, the Dems would be all over it. Maybe the Poles this time.
Or to look at things more positively, one generation's winners may actually fix some real problems, so the next generation is more confident to try new things, even if they aren't likely to work out. It's all part of the duality of the universe.
Beinart has a point about the value of "Cold War" liberalism. If you have two parties that alternate in power, it won't do to have one of them so pacifist or opposed to the national interest that they're a danger to the rest of the country.
Cold war liberals came up with some good ideas -- even some essential ones -- and they gave an attractive shine abroad to American policies. Truman pretty much set down the policies that we'd follow for the next forty years (with deviations and waverings along the way. And say what you will about JFK, he did make the US more popular abroad.
So there certainly was something to Cold War liberalism, but it looks a lot like they were the B-team. They weren't usually the ones who did the heavy lifting, carried through, and cleaned up the messes along the way. Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan followed through on the policies that Truman outlined, without falling into the traps that Johnson and Carter did.
One real problem is the arrogance of Schlesinger and his kind. Whether they were New Dealers or One Worlders in the 40s or Stevensonians in the 50s or enthusiasts for Kennedy and the New Frontier in the 60s, supporters and architects of Vietnam or increasingly radicalized opponents of that war, hawks in youth, or doves as time went on, there was a real snobbery and condecension among that class or caste or set.
And they didn't always show the kind of consistency and dedication necessary to get things done. That is a fault of intellectuals -- they get carried away by an idea and lose interest a little later. Sometimes they even develop an enthusiasm for the opposite notion, if it looks new and sexy enough.
Although the neocons were fierce enemies of Schlesinger's sort in the 1970s and 1980s they are also heirs to Cold War liberalism and to its elitism and indifference to the the concerns of those outside the ruling circles. In general, the "workhorses" of diplomacy are to be prefered to Kennedyesque "showhorses" who don't have the resolve or stamina to see their policies through to a successful conclusion.
So, sure, one cheer for Cold War liberalism and maybe even for Peter Beinart now, but not the full three cheers. That would encourage people who are already too hungry for power too much.
I hope he helps diminish the worst leftist/collectivists from the Democrat party.
The old republican party, was all about big govt. But during the progressive era, the Rockefeller/Morgan interests backed ALL the canidates. IE, of three Warburg brothers, one backed Wilson, one backed TR, and one backed Taft. Paul Warburg of the Morgan interests is who wrote the Fed'l Reserve Act in total secrecy at Jekyll Island.
Today Morgan/Chase supports leftist whack-org ACORN, one of the worst, right up there with La Raza, Moveon and Codepink. Of course they coerced many banks to grant them support via the egregious Community Reinvestment Act as their lever.
Bottomline is that progressives from BOTH parties sold America out to special interests, primarily the largest NE banking concerns, substantial co-ownerships & controls of which rested in the Int'l Banking House of Rothschild of which the Warburgs were married into and also controlled by.
By the century's turn, progressives had already been trading with all the largest European and especially German corps like IG Farben, taking stock interests in each other, partnerships etc. even thru the 30's.
Std Oil sold Hitler oil before and during the war. America's wealthiest elites cared not for ideology except to the extent with which it could gird and enhance their power and wealth, as they envied the euro-dictors for acheiving.
And thus these interests put in politicians sympathetic to their gaining from Govt subsidies, barriers to competitive entry via regulations, tarrifs and price controls - all to the detriment of taxpayers.
The map of Europe would have looked much different had Wallace been in charge at the end of the war. We came within a whisker of disaster and yet many Amercians scarcely know who Wallace was. It is surprising that the liberals now like to be called Progressives, because the Progressive Party was riddled with Communists. In fact the Communist Party endorsed Wallace when he ran for President as the nominee of the Progressive Party.
The CPUSA also endorsed Kucinich in the Rat primary, and ipso facto any Rat as opposed to W.
If the Rats had NOT traded in Jefferson for Marx I'd be one.
And as far as I can tell now, the GOP has quit on it's promises to follow the RWR & Gingrich drive to relimit the beast. Spector, Collins, Graham, DeWine - I mean WTF is the GOP shooting itself in the foot for?
The GOP was supposed to take this across the board majority win for the first time in FORTY years and roll back ALL the progressive era slings and arrows that wounded our constitution and brought us fully into the welfare-warfare state that transfers more wealth to political, banking and industrial elites than the poor their guise promised.
George Will produced an excellent body of work, and some of the most delightful wordsmithing, for decades. But lately, I agree, he just seems to be mailing it in.
What was called a liberal then is not the same as now. Back then, thirty to forty years ago, everyone shared the same social culture and Dems were as big of anti-communists as Republicans. Truman sent troops to Korea to contain the communist invasion of the south. It was Kennedy and Johnson who set up Vietnam. Kennedy was responsible for the Bay of Pigs. Most pols on either side of the political border supported them. Now the ultra left has taken over the Donkey Party. Now Dems and lefties seriously think that Bush is a bigger evil than Castro or Islamo-fascists. Unbelievable.
Ever hear of the Progressive Caucus? Know what "progressive" means in todays political terminology? There are fifty plus members of the Progressive Caucus in the house. Every one is a Dem save for Bernie Sanders of Vermont who admits to being a socialist. What conclusions can we draw from that?
Seriously no pol, save Sanders and he's from Vermont, will admit to being a socialist. But where do you think the words "redistribution" and "wealth or income gap" come from? They do it on the sly.
Always post facts and tear away the veil of mythography from the eyes of the ill informed.
I agree with you that Will has produced great material and analysis over the years. For the past 5 years or so, he has gotten increasingly mainstream in his analysis, sounding like all the other beltway pundits, only snootier. I guess what got me about this piece is his failure to opine that Beinart is an idiot and flat wrong. I've seen Beinart on the cable shout shows; he IS an idiot. It is fine to produce a piece on what the so called intellectuals on the left are thinking, but don't leave it sitting out there like a hanging curve without swatting it over the fence. Will's tone in this op-ed is like he kinda agrees.
(Denny Crane: "Every one should carry a gun strapped to their waist. We need more - not less guns.")
My point (and that of the author under discussion) isn't so much focused on JFK as on the fact that modern "progressives" are far less willing to see the USA as a force for good in the world than many earlier "liberals."