In 1947, Americans for Democratic Action was founded by anticommunist liberals who, galvanized by the onset of the Cold War, were contesting with anti-anticommunists for control of the Democratic Party. The ADA, said one of its founders, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., believed that liberalism had been “fundamentally reshaped” by a “historical re-education” about the threat of Soviet totalitarianism.
Speaking of Schlesinger, his The Age of Roosevelt was the inspiration for Steven Hayward’s brilliant first volume of The Age of Reagan, which is less a biography of Reagan than a conservative history of the 1960s and ’70s. (It ends with Reagan beating Carter in 1980, which is where Volume II will begin.)
I’ve been rereading what Hayward wrote about the 1972 election, which is where the wheels really came off the Democratic Party: radical chic and punitive liberalism became the norm, to the point where McGovern compared Ho Chi Minh to George Washington in a Playboy interview, and his aides took to wearing upside down flag pins on their lapels.
This was a very different Democratic party from the New Frontier of JFK and LBJ’s Great Society which, while was a little too big government for me (particularly as it ballooned under LBJ), had lots of redeeming qualities: they were patriotic; believed in strong defense at home; trying to spread democracy abroad; had a vigorous space program; and at least with JFK, willing to cut taxes.
It’s an attitude that got Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK and LBJ elected in the 20th century. But since 1972, it’s been completely discarded by the Democratic party, even as they simultaneously wonder why the GOP keeps winning.
Another Update: Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff writes, “the Democratic party’s real problem may be that it’s the captive of its baby-boomer wing, of which Michael Moore is only an over-sized manifestation”.