Democratic Action

The Vital Centrist

Journals: 1952-2000 By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (Penguin Press, 894 pp., $40) I. FEW HISTORIANS write personal journals that deserve publication, which is not surprising. How much interest can there be in the academic controversies and petty jealousies that dominate the lives of working historians, much less in the archives, the private libraries, and the lecture halls where they spend so much of their time?

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Both Sides

Why are MoveOn, Daily Kos, and so many other liberal activists so keen to find a primary challenger against Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman? The more you peel the onion, the stranger the answer becomes. The common explanation is that Lieberman is a conservative. Or, more specifically, he's a conservative who represents a liberal state--and, therefore, has no excuse. But, according to conventional indices, Lieberman is not a conservative.

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A Fighting Faith

On January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that "the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction." Liberals, they argued, "consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West." Unless that changed, "In the spasm of terror which will seize this country ...

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Something strange is happening to John McCain. For a long, long time, he was a pretty typical conservative. Sure, his style was eccentric--he made impolitic remarks about his own party and pointed out the hypocrisies on both sides of the aisle. And, sure, he broke with the GOP leadership on a couple of high-profile issues--campaign finance reform, tobacco taxes. McCain's truth-telling and his war against soft money made him a hero to the liberal press.

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Jesse Goes Country

THE QUESTION sounded innocent enough. During a breakfast with reporters at Washington's Sheraton Carlton Hotel on June 5, Jesse Jackson was asked: Public opinion polls show that Europeans have far more confidence in Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as a peacemaker than they do in President Reagan—does he share their view? Jackson didn't hesitate.

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The Road From Here: Liberalism and Realities in the 1980s by Paul Tsongas (Knopf, 280 pp., $12.95)  In June of 1980, Senator Paul Tsongas delivered his now-famous speech before the Americans for Democratic Action, warning that the liberal movement was in danger of being "reduced to an interesting topic for Ph.D.-writing historians," and calling for "a new liberalism." Four months later, when Tsongas’s prediction seemed to be coming true, he gave a long interview to then-Washington Post reporter Nicholas Lemann, who attempted to discover just what  the "new liberalism" might entail.

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The reports of the Democratic Party’s death, prevalent before the Philadelphia convention, appear now to have been somewhat exaggerated. A party in which the rank-and-file majority get their way on such a risky issue as civil rights against the opposition of their masters, is obviously not yet ready for embalming. The Democrats came to Philadelphia as low in their minds as the Republicans were when they assembled for the Landon convention in 1936. There was not a hopeful delegate in a carload. They were licked, most of them thought, probably for eight years.

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