Ed Driscoll

Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating

As I noted on Friday, I’m not sure if Jennifer Rubin’s description of Joe Biden, whom she described as “old school as they come and as familiar as a worn-out shoe”, was an intentional reference to Adlai Stevenson–a similarly follicle-challenged Democratic senator who 50 years ago would have thought his IQ even bigger than Joe’s–even if he couldn’t remember to have a campaign aide pick him up a new pair of Florsheims.

Likely it isn’t, if only because it’s an unfair comparison to Stevenson. Peter Seller’s President Muffley, clearly a Stevensonian parody, was, after all, the nominal adult voice of reason in the midst of the chaos of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. But this description from Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism of the late 1950s, complete with its own Stevenson cameo is a reminder that while Obama was originally packaged as some sort of new and novel politician, while conservatives are thought to be old-fashioned, very little actually changes amongst so-called “progressives” and their political goals:

Kennedy’s political fortune also stemmed from the fact that he seemed to be riding the waves of history. Once again, the forces of progressivism had been returned to power after a period of peace and prosperity. And despite the unprecedented wealth and leisure of the postwar years–indeed largely because of them–there was a palpable desire among the ambitious, the upwardly mobile, the intellectuals, and, above all, the activists of the progressive-liberal establishment to get “America moving again.” “More than anything else”, the conservative publisher Henry Luce wrote in 1960, “the people of America are asking for a clear sense of National Purpose.”

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Perhaps the best expression of this bipartisan-elite clamor for “social change” came in a series of essays on “the national purpose” co-published by the New York Times and Life magazine. Adlai Stevenson wrote that Americans needed to transcend the “mystique of privacy” and turn away from the “supermarket temple.” Charles F. Darlington, a leading corporate executive and former State Department official, explained that America needed to recapture the collective spirit of national purpose it had enjoyed “during parts of the Administrations of Woodrow Wilson and the two Roosevelts” (you can guess which parts). Above all, a reborn America needed to stop seeing itself as a nation of individuals. Once again, “collective action” was the cure. Darlington’s call for a “decreased emphasis on private enterprise” amounted to a revival of the corporatism and war socialism of the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations.

“We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do–don’t go into corporate America.”