Clintonites Need to Realize the Left Won the Debates of the 1960s





Mr. Livingston teaches history at Rutgers. He's finishing a book called The World Turned Inside Out: American Thought and Culture at the End of the 20th Century. He blogs at politicsandletters.com.

Last time out on this limb, I ended by saying that the Obama campaign performs a political sensibility—an attitude toward history—that adjourns the culture wars by assuming the Left won the struggles conducted in, or inherited from, the 1960s. This campaign assumes, in other words, that the New Left has become the mainstream of American politics. It assumes accordingly that the New Right has always been a marginal, insurgent movement destined to fail with an electorate that has increasingly insisted on—or rather just acted out—equality across lines of race, gender, sexual preference, and national origin.

As the culture at large moved rapidly left after 1965, the New Right chose political means to slow or stop the process. And once in a while, for example in 1994, it succeeded, although its intellectual purchase on the culture kept slipping, and its political toehold was always insecure at best—as witness the elections of 1998 and 2000, when Democrats won decisively.

Yes, George W. Bush was named the president by a radical junta convened at the Supreme Court. But his domestic agenda was “No Child Left Behind,” which, regardless of its bureaucratic intricacies, was, and is, a measure fully consistent with the welfare state—his Senatorial comrade in arms, remember, was Teddy Kennedy.

It was only in late 2001, after 9/11, that the zealots of the New Right were able to seize the time, in a kind of coup d’etat that featured all the hysterical symptoms of 20th-century fascist movements (and I use the adjective advisedly, based on my reading of Robert Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism). Their instant magnification of executive power was designed to destroy any balance between the branches of government, and to refit the White House as a bunker from which to launch two wars in two years, each in the name of “an end to evil.” As late as the summer of 2007, they were planning to bomb Iran and happily acknowledged their insane intentions. War was, in principle, the health of the state they imagined.

But they failed. The “war on terror” has become a joke, except when journalists or politicians equate Al Qaeda in Iraq with the real thing. The zealots of the New Right—Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Feith, Addington, Perle, Frum, et al.—and their idiot enablers in the executive branch—Bush, Yoo, Gonzalez, Libby, Rice, Powell, et al.—are now in jail or in exile or in disgrace or in denial. The American people would not legitimate their attempted coup.

The people have made it plain, by this refusal, that they want a return to the rule of law, not of men. They’ve also made it plain that they favor Democrats on issues, from health care to the economy to the Iraq war, but also on values, including a woman’s right to choose and gay rights. Don’t take my word for it, consult the National Opinion Research Center or USA Today or the Pew Center polls. Everywhere you look, the results are the same: the New Right can no longer use political means to contain the consequences of the 1960s.

In short, the American people, young and old, have made it plain that they’re increasingly liberal. That liberal trend stopped the New Right in its tracks, just when it thought it finally had a grip on power in Washington.

Now these people typically don’t call themselves liberals. They don’t call themselves feminists or socialists, either. Nonetheless, liberalism, feminism, and socialism are constituent elements of our culture, our politics, and our society. That is why, when polled, most so-called conservatives say they want more government spending on health and education. That is why, when asked, men and women who refuse the label of “feminist” always insist they favor equal opportunity for males and females, and, when pressed, usually acknowledge that gender differences are mostly matters of historically determined cultural conventions.

And that is why, when prompted, even the hapless Bush administration is pushing a fiscal stimulus package to address the subprime mortgage mess, as meanwhile the Federal Reserve frantically drives real interest rates toward zero: everyone, from Left to Right, assumes that market forces are economic means to social and political ends—they are supposed to be manipulated in the name of the general welfare—not anonymous externalities beyond the intellectual grasp and social control of human beings.

Look at it another way. The transformation of liberalism in the late-20th century made it an approximation of what we used to call social democracy. And that interesting transformation makes sense of the New Right’s fear of liberalism—that is, its ferocious, yet mostly inarticulate conflation of liberalism and socialism.

Irving Kristol, the founding father, by all accounts, of neo-conservatism, explained this political process in 1978: “To begin with, the institutions which conservatives wish to preserve are, and for two centuries were called, liberal institutions, i.e., institutions which maximize personal liberty vis a vis a state, a church, or an official ideology. On the other hand, the severest critics of these institutions—those who wish to enlarge the scope of government authority indefinitely, so as to achieve ever greater equality at the expense of liberty—are today commonly called ‘liberals.’ It would certainly help to clarify matters if they were called, with greater propriety and accuracy, ‘socialists’ or ‘neo-socialists.”

This was, once upon a time, a complaint. What if we read it as a prophecy? What if Henry Kaufman, the Wall Street guru of the 1970s, was right in 1980 when he announced that the majority of the American people was committed to “an unaffordable egalitarian sharing of production,” that is, to some kind of unspoken socialism?

One way to answer the question is to notice the dizzying range of regulatory agencies, federal statutes, and executive orders, which, then as now, limit the reach of market forces in the name of purposes that have no prices. A laundry list of such agencies, statutes, and orders would merely begin with . . . FRS, FDA, FTC, SEC, FDIC, FCC, FAA, OSHA, EPA, EEOC, NWS, FEMA, NIH, CDC, NSF, NEA, NEH. . . And so on, unto acronymical infinity.

To this incomplete laundry list we should add the post-Vietnam armed services—the “all-volunteer army” that now serves as a job-training program and a portal to higher education for working-class kids of every color. These armed services are a social program that still lives up to the egalitarian ideals of the 1960s, in part because it addresses the problem of race and the promise of diversity with the attitudes of affirmative action.

Another, more prosaic way to answer the question about an unspoken socialism passing for politics as usual is to measure the growth of transfer payments in the late-20th century, when the liberal/welfare state was supposedly collapsing.

Transfer payments represent income received by households and individuals for which no contribution to current output of goods and services has been required. By supply-side standards, they are immoral at best and criminal at worst because they represent reward without effort, income without work. But they were the fastest growing component of income in the late-20th century, amounting, by 1999, to 20% of all labor income.

From 1959 to 1999, transfer payments grew by 10% annually, more than any other source of labor income, including wages and salaries. By the end of the 20th century, one of every eight dollars earned by those who were contributing to the production of goods and service was transferred to others who were not making any such contribution.

The detachment of income from work—the essence of socialism—abides, then, just as unobtrusively, but just as steadfastly, as The Dude, who unwittingly foiled the venal designs of that outspoken neo-conservative, the Big Lebowski.

Why, then, does the academic left keep crying wolf? Why do lefties keep portraying themselves as losers in the culture wars and in the larger political battles we’re fighting today? Why do they keep bemoaning “the collapse of the liberal state” or keep defending a welfare state that shows no sign of impending expiration? Why can’t they see that we won?

Why, in sum, does the Left agree with right-wing blockheads like Ross Douthat? He’s the guy who concludes his Sunday New York Times (2/10/08) op-ed as follows: “Precisely because the right has won so many battles—on taxes, welfare, crime and the cold war—in the decades since it squared off against Gerald Ford and Jacob Javits, the greatest danger facing the contemporary Republican party is ideological sclerosis, rather than insufficient orthodoxy.”

Hello? The supply-siders themselves have admitted, over and over, that the Reagan Revolution was a bust—because he couldn’t cut federal spending, and indeed increased it significantly in the 1980s. He also raised taxes, fled Lebanon after a terrorist attack on US Marines, sold illegal arms to Iran, and negotiated with the leader of the “evil empire” then resident in the Soviet Union.

An avowed liberal ended welfare as we knew it, and in doing so he permitted greater labor force participation by women. Violent crime rates have plummeted because the proportion of young single males in the general population has fallen—not because we’ve jailed more drug users and dealers. And the Cold War was fought (and “won,” if that is the right word) by a cross-class, bipartisan coalition that included many avowed Marxists, socialists, and liberals.

But the consensus across the Left/Right intellectual divide says that Douthat is correct—that the conservatives have been winning all along, or at least since the sainted Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. Both sides believe that the electorate bought into supply-side economics, the Contract for America, the values of the religious right, and the “war on terror.” Both sides are wrong.

The Left is more wrong, however, because its pose as a marginalized movement with no real voice in the political debates of our time reenacts and reinforces a passivity that is at the very least a mistake. This pose enables abstention, not action. It makes us mere spectators on the history of our time; it depicts us as beautiful souls who can’t bear the corrupting burdens of the world as it is rather than as we would like it to be. It promotes purity.

As a case in point that will draw us back to Obamarama, I offer in evidence the incendiary essay by the esteemed feminist Robin Morgan, who, like Paulie (“the Hitman”) Krugman, sees nothing but “celebrity,” “hero worship,” and a “cult of personality” in the unreasonable and quite possibly misogynistic attitudes of Barack’s deluded supporters (see Krugman’s column of 2/11/08 in the NYT).

Morgan is nothing if not reasonable, so she is a true believer in the false consciousness of those who disagree with her. Unqualified and uneducated voters here worship at the shrine of “celebrity-culture mania” erected by Obama supporters. Among them are “young women eager to win male approval by showing they’re not feminists”—presumably by favoring Obama. She quotes Harriet Tubman to equate such women with slaves who did not even know they were enslaved: “When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African-Americans during [sic] the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands –if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’”

I get it. If only we were able to convince Obama’s female supporters that they’re, uh, slaves to male supremacy, we could save them from their false consciousness and deliver them unto Hillary. Because of course “She’s better qualified” than Obama. It is self-evident. You can tell because this dubious statement about the candidates’ qualifications is followed by Homeric diction: “(D’uh.)”

But the pivot of the piece is the rhetorical series of questions through which Morgan announces the return of the repressed 1960s: “How dare anyone unilaterally decide to turn the page on history [that would be the 1960s], papering over real inequities and suffering constituencies [these would be the insignia of our benighted present], in the promise of a feel-good campaign? How dare anyone claim to unify while dividing, or think that to rouse U.S. youth from torpor it’s useful to triage the single largest demographic in this country’s history: the boomer generation—the majority of which is female?”

So Morgan wants us to believe that us Obama supporters are practically misogynists because we assume that the boomers of the Left won the battles begun in the 1960s and don’t want to fight them all over again. Like the New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier, who also raises the rhetorical stakes by asking “How dare he?”, Morgan wants us to believe that in making this crucial assumption—by acting as if the culture wars are over—we blind themselves to the inequities and suffering that, now as then, and always already, disfigure our country. Like Voltaire’s Pangloss, we have begun to believe that we live in the best of all possible worlds. In our happy ignorance, we forget the atrocities of the past and begin to believe, stupidly, in a better future.

To which there can be only one response: we need a usable past if we are to shape a better future. We need to know that this is our country. If our ethical principles do not reside in and flow from the historical circumstances we study—if our most cherished values do not somehow intersect with the dreary facts of our everyday lives and the disheartening facts of our country’s past—we have no choice except to retreat from the world as it is, rather than as we would like it to be, and then curse it as the obvious cause of our righteous anger.

Here is how John Dewey explained the dilemma of those who would act as if their principles can never be derived from, or embodied in, historical circumstances, including the political movements and institutions of the present: “An ‘ought’ which does not root in and flower from the ‘is,’ which is not the fuller realization of the actual state of social relationships, is a mere pious wish that things should be better.”

Yes, it is a mere pious wish, a waking dream that will keep you pure, and only pure—undefiled by compromise and engagement with the world as it exists, a world full of illiberal Democrats and surly Republicans, plus many other unruly political species at home and abroad. That wish, that dream, will let you believe that false consciousness is the affliction of all those others who have misinterpreted their own interests—you already know what is right for them, and you mean to do it, no matter what they might say. Or you know that they’ll never get it, so you congratulate yourself as you say “Goodbye.”

To shed our piety, to wake from our dream of purity, we must “turn the page” on the “boomer generation” of the 1960s without forgetting or repudiating it, just as Obama asks us to. That means we take its achievements for granted. We assume we won, and get on with the changes we can still believe in.



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Mike A Mainello - 2/27/2008

Congratulations on your son joining the military, I hope you are very proud of him.

Secondly, I believe the US government and capitalist markets mix to create a great society. I have said it repeatedly throughout our discussion.

My point is that when government interferes and tries to manipulate the market - Health care and mortgages in the US and food prices and telecommunications in foreign markets - problems occur and the law of unintended consequences comes into play.

Thirdly, I don't think my background makes me any better than anyone that posts on HNN. All of my dissent attempts to focus on your comments, not to try and score new points without addressing your points. It is obvious you are a learned individual and I read and later re-read your posts to make sure I understand your points. I on the other hand don't see where you consistently rebut anything I ask. That means either my point is trivial and not worth your effort or you don't have a response. Either way, I am sure you would find that frustrating if your students just asked you questions back instead of answering the ones you have presented. I find dissent and discussion invigorating and keeps my mind expanding.

My prayers to your family and your son in his tour in Iraq and time in the military. It has calmed down considerably throughout the country and the situation is improving everyday. Hopefully he will look back on his time as one of growth and can point to a peaceful country in the Middle East.


James Livingston - 2/27/2008

Mr. Livingston, like Mr. Rogers, likes questions. But sometimes he thinks people need day jobs.

Look, guys, I don't care who you are. Do you think your positions are more reasonable, more authentic somehow, than mine because you can cite your stalwart service to the nation? One a veteran, one a civil servant. I'm so happy for you.

My son is a United States Marine bound for Iraq in July. Should I play that card--would it increase my legibility or legitimacy with you two?

No, of course not. I say it here only because I know no one will be paying attention to the dessicated thread you want to weave into a political narrative on "privatization" and such.

You both need to understand that the public sphere and the private sector have usually intersected here--in the good old USA--in ways that are productive of the common good. As I have tried to say, businessmen and women have no less a stake in socialized markets--in socialism--than the rest of us. The either/or choice offered by Mr. Mainello is, then, merely un-American, quite apart from its utopian silliness.

I leave you two to your cordial exchanges on matters that don't.


Mike A Mainello - 2/26/2008

The hypocrisy of left is where I take issue. As I have outlined in other posts the left is trying to divide this country with the siren song of government protection. As I have experienced, they do not believe in the good of there fellow citizen. They are jealous of success and believe that anybody that succeeds did it dishonestly or was "fortunate".

Lets take Senator Obama and most democrats when it comes to school choice. They are against vouchers in any form. They believe that the public school system should be fixed, no matter the cost. Let me ask you this, why did Senator Obama send his children to private school? See the evil right wants to provide a solution where all people have equal access to a quality education. The left wants to force the people to stay in the government provided solution, but not partake in it. Both the liberals and conservatives believe in government, but conservatives believe in choice, liberals limit choice.

Lets take social security, I don't believe congress has to contribute to social security, they have their own retirement system. Is that fair? You be the judge, because you know my answer.

Last question, why does the left distrust the government to gather information on people hostile to this country, but trust the government to provide all of the health care needs to its citizens? I can't make sense of this position. Why don't we have universal college? Maybe the federal government should take over education of all the citizens through college?

Government provides a valuable role in our society, I just believe the left wants to use it to gain power and control the masses. The right is not totally pure, but at least as a conservative I support the checks and balances that try to prevent this from happening.

Have a nice day.


Mike A Mainello - 2/26/2008

Mr. Livingston, you excel at not answering questions.

I do not view capitalism as the unregulated pursuit of wealth; however, that is how I believe you see it. In America you can criticize the market, change who you buy your products and services from, change jobs if you are underpaid or exploited. In a socialist society everyone is happy, because if they are not you might not have a neighbor the next day.

If Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates are socialists, I guess they sure knew how to exploit the markets.

Villiard, I will have to do some reading up on, but Soros is nothing more than a rich bully as far as I am concerned.

"Socialists" need markets. I agree, but it is the artificial control of the markets that hurts there economies. Venezuela is experiencing shortages of basic food items because Hugo is regulating prices. Why doesn't he sell his oil at half the market price to his fellow socialists? I am willing to bet China would buy every drop he could provide. I have a feeling you know the answer.

Cuba does not seem to be the workers paradise the media wants to portray. Just because America is boycotting the country, why cant the rest of the socialist world come to its rescue?

I enjoy having a discussion, but you ask a lot of questions, but don't answer many. I understand as a professor and an author, you don't receive a lot of feedback from people that don't agree with you. Are you tenured?

One last question, as a socialist, does it bother you to earn money in our capitalist society? I look forward to reading your new book.


James Livingston - 2/26/2008

George Soros. Oswald Garrison Villard. Andrew Carnegie. Bill Gates.

What you don't seem to understand is that socialism requires markets: in their absence, is is merely statist command of society.

Nor do you understand that capitalism--in history now, not in your fevered imagination of it--developed only insofar as workers could place limits on the scope of the commodity form.

And finally, you do not seem to understand that there is not a capitalist worth his stock options who belives that free markets are the cure for what ails us. The anarchy of the market is anathema to capitalists and proles alike. Get used to it.

Go try on Karl Polanyi and then tell me that tou're still making sense.


Guy D Courts - 2/26/2008

Dear Mr. Mainello,

With this statement:

"As a history teacher, let me leave you with another quote, this one from "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. According to the author, here is what they thought of democrats:
"... the term "democrat" originated as an epithet and referred to 'one who
panders to the crude and mindless whims of the masses.'""

You seem to be implying that the founding brothers (Adams, Franklin, Washington, jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton used the term "democrat" as an epithet. If so, I question your motive here. The partial quote you used leaves out important context provided by the author.

The quotes used below are taken from the preface of "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation" written by Jeseph Ellis. Page 10.

First the context:


Based on what we now know about the Anglo-American connection in the pre Revolution era-that is, before it was severed-the initial identification of the colonial population as "Americans" came from English writers who used the term negatively, as a way of referring to a marginal or peripheral population unworthy of equal status with full-blooded Englishmen back at the metropolitan center of the British Empire.


The full text of the quote:

"The term American, like the term democrat, began as an epithet, the former referring to an inferior, provincial creature, the latter to one who panders to the crude and mindless whims of the masses."

I believe the author is talking about the English writers not the founding brothers which is what you imply with this statement: “…this one from "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. According to the author, here is what they thought of democrats:”

Since your partial quote has neither an author's name or page reference your motive cannot be to inform the masses. Perhaps it was just another feeble attempt to marginalize "the people on the left."

Guy D. Courts


Mike A Mainello - 2/26/2008

New choices, yes, but who gets to make them? But here's the key question. If all purposes have prices--if privatization should not, in principle, be contained because the market can solve all problems-- nothing is off limits from market forces.

Is that what you want? Love, family, public policy? All for sale?

Who is peddling fear here? Choices are scary, lets not have any. Please are you serious?

Next, I do believe the market can fix a lot of the problems that face us. I do recommend government set broad standards and then get out of the way. Do you want more energy and less dependence, the market and not the government will bring it. Money is a powerful motivator. I mean if Bill Gates and Warren Buffet didnt have money, could they be trying to help the world?

Capitalism helps lift people out of poverty. Could you please list the name of one great socialist entrepreneur? None come to my mind right now.


Maarja Krusten - 2/26/2008

Mr. Livingston, I don't know the extent to which you are interested in writing about fiscal issues. I have a sense your interests lie in assessing American politics and culture. Those actually are among the issues that interest me (if they didn't, I wouldn't have bothered to read your essay.) However, fiscal matters will affect options and actions considered by any future President, regardless of party.

You refer to getting on with change. As a follow up, would you be interested in writing some day about the budget outlook for the government? The federal government spends more money than it takes in. The need to cut costs is one of the things that has led to the contracting out (outsourcing) of some functions through the A-76 process I mentioned above. If you don't support such outsourcing, I'd be interested in hearing what alternatives you would rely on to reduce the gap between revenue and spending.

As experts point out, there are a number of economic and demographic factors that will affect nondiscretionary spending in future years, such as services for a growing number of aging Baby Boomers. Whatever your political leanings (you describe yours as socialist), I'd be interested in hearing your views on how to deal in practical terms with a unified deficit of $163 billion and an on-budget deficit of $344 billion, as reported in fiscal year 2007. That is a key issue with which the new President will have to grapple. Once the election is over, perhaps you'll write a new essay for HNN about how you envision budget issues affecting what you would expect to see in practical terms from a new administration. Young, middle aged, or old, we're all going to be affected by such matters, one way or another.


Mike A Mainello - 2/26/2008

To Mr. Livingston, I find that your approach lacks creativity and is extremely simplistic. Let me provide just one example from my current field - telecommunications. When I was in the military and assigned to South Korea, I spoke with my wife and daughter once a week for about 30 minutes and it cost me about $300 per month in 1993. Now with competition that same 30 minutes costs around $3. In my business the highest costs associated with telecom are for calls to communist and socialist utopias.

A free society is chaotic, exciting, cruel, trying, etc. Remember, you as a socialist, are free to express your beliefs in a free society, would I have that same right in yours?

Ms.Krusten I do enjoy our conversations and believe we will cross paths again.


Maarja Krusten - 2/26/2008

Perhaps it would be easier for you to accept that Mr. Mainello and I have been chatting here if you looked at this spot on HNN as an open forum, which it is. In that, it differs from an individual's blog (I have wandered over and looked at yours, btw). I view this space differently than I would an academic blog. Not all comments need be addressed to the author, nor, indeed, centered on the premise of the original articles. Sometimes comments spark new threads.

This isn't the first time people have chatted amongst themselves or that threads have taken on a life of their own. No harm there, that this sometimes happens actually is not exclusionary, even if it appears to be a two way conversation.

As to privatization, the federal government has been looking in recent years at streamlining its functions. Whoever becomes President will inherit the results of that process, whatever he or she decides to do going forward. That streamlining process has included looking at functions to determine which are inherently governmental and which are not.

Some previously governmental functions are being outsourced these days. This has affected civil and military components alike. See
http://www.nellis.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123027704

See also
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/a076/a076.html
If you Google the terms A-76 process, you'll find many hits about this.

Mr. Livingston, you conclude your article by writing, "We assume we won, and get on with the changes we can still believe in." Whoever wins the election in 2008, whether the winner is Democratic or Republican, that person will be relying in part on people such as Mr. Mainello, a veteran, to defend the people in his or her care. And on people such as those with whom I have worked in the past to perform essential governmental functions.

You used the term "mystified" earlier. Well, I'm mystified as to why a discussion between a current civil servant and veteran elicited the response you posted above at 5:44 p.m. We're not the enemies of anyone writing about politics on HNN, we're the people who help make civil and military agencies function. Of course we have a sense of stewardship. I had thought that might interest you, but evidently, it does not. Well, people have varying interests and I would guess ours differ. That's fine with me, I would hope it would be fine with you, also. I'm not big on imposing my views on people, hey, life is too short.

Mr. Mainello and I don't necessarily agree on everything. (Remember, I once was a conservative and a Republican, but have been an Independent for the past 20 years.) But I find his perspective interesting and I believe I can learn from him. If two of us want to chat here, and learn about how we view issues, I just don't see the harm.


James Livingston - 2/25/2008

Ah jeez, I hate to get between you two, but i would very much like Mr. Mainello to ask himself how, where, and why "privatization"--I understand this to mean the introduction of market forces where they had been either excluded or modulated by governments--produces "multiple solutions."

In my reading and in my life, privatization always produces new chaos, new costs, in short, "creative destruction" as Schumpeter put it.

New choices, yes, but who gets to make them? But here's the key question. If all purposes have prices--if privatization should not, in principle, be contained because the market can solve all problems-- nothing is off limits from market forces.

Is that what you want? Love, family, public policy? All for sale?

Sounds like hell to me, but then I'm a socialist.


Mike A Mainello - 2/25/2008

Thanks for the Eisenhower link. I am going through it as I get a chance.

I am a conservative first and a Republican second. I have not read a lot on President Eisenhower, but will work on it. Thanks again for the link and your insight.

Since you have read more of my posts than I have read of yours (I only glance at HNN every few days), it appears that when I start commenting on a post the number of responses skyrockets.

Still waiting on Mr. Livingston to respond back.


Maarja Krusten - 2/24/2008

See
http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu/dl/Civil_Rights_Civil_Rights_Act/CivilRightsActfiles.html
for information on the civil rights act of 1957. This site associated with the National Archives' Eisenhower Presidential Library notes that "The final act was weakened by Congress due to the lack of support among the Democrats."

A lot of these issues are very complicated and require care in crafting narratives about them. I myself like to read about them but also to talk about them with various people to see what is their take on the questions. HNN is a nice place to do that.

Thanks for chatting with me, as before, I've enjoyed it.


Maarja Krusten - 2/24/2008

During the Eisenhower administration, there was civil rights legislation introduced and passed, in 1957 and in 1960. Due to opposition among legislators, neither act was as strong as legislation passed during Johnson's presidency. Some of that opposition came from Democrats.

If you want to read a good account of Congress during the Eisenhower administration, I recommend Robert Caro's third volume of his biography of LBJ, which is entitled Master of Senate. This vividly describes the views of the conservative Southern Democrats who wielded so much power in Congress during that time period, obstructing attempts to pass stronger civil rights legislation. That's one reason I wrote in my earlier comment that progressives (regardless of party) were on the right side of history on the civil rights issue, not that Democrats were. And that Republicans were not monolithic in their actions during the civil rights era.

Remember that Martin Luther King, Sr. initially supported Richard Nixon rather than John F. Kennedy in the election of 1960.

As for affirmative action, yes, Nixon supported the so-called Philadelphia Plan, which called for hiring goals in an effort to fight against racial bias.

Historians seem divided as to how much credit to give Nixon for affirmative action. Some point to his pragmatism and the extent to which he relied on aides such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, briefly, and John Ehrlichman in areas related to domestic policy. (Nixon's strongest interests lay in foreign policy.) Others point to his support of minority hiring during the Eisenhower administration. Still others point to the Southern strategy his team developed in order to attract votes away from the Democratic party in the South.

Nixon is a very complicated figure to assess. His released tapes reveal derogatory comments about African Americans. Yet he also sometimes showed sympathy for the common man and the downtrodden.

I agree that Truman was a very interesting historical figure. Authentic is the word that comes to mind.


Mike A Mainello - 2/24/2008

Your thoughts on civil service are interesting. As a young officer in 1982, I fired a civil servant for misconduct and falsification of sick leave.

Just a short question, especially due to your background in presidential history. I have read that President Eisenhower introduced civil rights legislation to the Johnson led senate, but it went no where. It was not until President Johnson was in the office that he along with the senate republicans passed civil rights legislation.

It was also President Nixon that enacted Affirmative Action in the Executive Branch. Am I off base?

Lastly, I agree that most people hold views on both sides of the political spectrum. The heartburn I have is that the left demands there solution be the sole method, i.e. universal health care, social security. Where as the right prefers privatization because it creates multiple solutions to address a problem.

Ironically, though I am a conservative, the president I respect the most is Truman, followed closely by Reagan.


Maarja Krusten - 2/24/2008

You write, "As I asked Mr Livingston repeatedly, 'Could we be having this discussion in a socialist country and if so name that country.' To date no answer has been offered.

No form of socialist or communist government has ever been successful. People are imperfect and the quest for power corrupts even the most pure. At least democracy has the checks and balances in place to allow more people to succeed and prosper."

You eloquently point out the advantages of democracy. I appreciate your service in the military and your defense of our freedoms. As you may remember, some of my family members were stuck behind the Iron Curtain after World War II. I consider myself lucky to have been born here in the U.S., not in the occupied, captive nations, as some of my relatives were.

I think one of the mistakes that people on the left and on the right make sometimes is that they cherry pick. They point to what their side did well but shy away from where they failed. That gives some essays published here on HNN an air of insularity, and sometimes even arrogance, that the author may not have intended.

But acknowledgement of how others look at issues, and a nod to why opposing views were held, is not always a sign of weakness. Most of all, writers need to apply contextual sophistication. (I agree with you, by the way, that inflammatory or provacative language can get in the way of people considering an otherwise reasonable view offered by an author.)

Also, a tendency to divide people starkly into winners and losers overlooks the fact that some people lean right on some issues and left on others. They may be put off if a writer seems to stereotype them or attempts to pigeonhole them by firmly placing people in one camp or another. At least among the people that I talk to, things are not always so simple.

There are many areas in which progressives were on the right side of history, most notably the civil rights movement. But there also are areas in which leftists failed to recognize the severity of problems, most notably as they related to the Soviet Union. That particularly is the case in the period before the Cold War and, indeed, throughout the period in which Stalin was dictator.

Some leftists in the West handled the moral issues raised by the Great Famine and the Gulags and the repressive measures used by Stalin better than did others. Just as not all Republicans handled issues relating to civil rights in the United States the same way. That said, both the left and the right trail baggage which, if left unacknowledged, in my mind makes it difficult for either side to make arguments based on purity.

I appreciate your explaining to me why you hold the views on privitization that you do. I see where you're coming from.

You mentioned the difficulty of firing people in the civil service. From talking to friends within the executive branch, I know of cases where government supervisors did place underperforming employees on "performance improvement plans." In some cases the employees ended up quitting, in other cases their performance improved. In one case that I know of, the employee was fired for reasons related to conduct. But from the people that I have talked to within the executive branch, it takes a lot of nerve to go through the process, for a number of reasons.

On the other hand, I'm sure you agree that it would be a mistake for the civil service to become more politicized. Civil servants never should lose their jobs because of their personal political views. Or, as President Nixon did when he tried to remove an employee at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, because of their ethnicity.

It takes a lot of careful study to reform the way government operates. I think the Brownlow Committee and the Hoover Commission and the Clinton era National Performance Review all were well intended. But in some cases, the people involved recommended moves that harmed performance.

During the Clinton administraiton, I remember hearing about one executive branch agency which suffered because of the forced flattening of hierarchies. It sounds attractive to say "remove the number of middle managers by x percent" and things will work better. But in the agency I'm thinking of, it turned out that middle managers performed essential duties in assisting working level staff. Once they were removed arbitrarily as a result of NPR, lower level staff floundered. Chaos resulted in some functional units because the upper level managers did not have the time to pick up the duties once performed by middle managers. So reforms have to be thought out very carefully, with a lot of input from inside and outside and from below as well as above.

Thanks again for your thoughtful answer, much appreciated.

Take care,

Maarja


Mike A Mainello - 2/24/2008

After giving quite a bit of thought on your questions and observations, I will try to respond as best I can.

In the military I worked closely with a lot of young people and came away very impressed with their ability and commitment. As evidenced by their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe we are in very capable hands.
In the early 1990's I spent 3 1/2 years working with DOD civilians. I was very impressed with their professionalism and dedication. One of the downsides I found with Civil Service was its inability to correct or fire poor performance. This is not exclusive to civil service, unions have provided protection to its members to the point of embarrassment.

Now that I have retired, I have worked for one corporation and now own my own business. My corporate experience was similar to my military experience. A good boss makes going to work a pleasure and a bad boss the opposite.

I look at privatization as the key because it allows the government to do what it does best - set and enforce standards. Take sports for example, imagine a basketball game where the refs are also the players for one of the teams. It would appear that team would have an unfair advantage.

In many areas of the government, it is the same way. Why should the government deliver health care? I have no problem with them establishing levels of care, quality of service, access requirement, etc. But I do have a problem with them running hospitals or doctors. Now when a mistake is made, who fixes the mistakes. When our child was born and my wife contracted a serious infection I was reminded by my chain of command and the military hospital that I had no legal recourse against the hospital or doctor should she not recover. Is this fair - I don't think so.

My sister owns a medical lab. Medicare tells her what she can charge for a test. It doesn't matter that she loses money on each test, Medicare sets the price. Why doesn't she refuse to service Medicare patients, she cant, so she charges a little more for non-medicare patients. This drives up the cost of insurance, but it covers the costs.

The private sector has a lot more flexibility to meet the current and future demands. Good employees are retained usually paid quite well. If they weren't they would go somewhere else.

I am not sure if this answers your questions. As you have read many of my writings I am proud to have served and to give people like Mr. Livingston the opportunity to express his thoughts. I have yet to find one liberal that can support there arguments. They attack the messenger and then refuse to respond claiming some phantom boogie man. As I asked Mr Livingston repeatedly, "Could we be having this discussion in a socialist country and if so name that country." To date no answer has been offered.

No form of socialist or communist government has ever been successful. People are imperfect and the quest for power corrupts even the most pure. At least democracy has the checks and balances in place to allow more people to succeed and prosper.


g w k - 2/23/2008

Hello? Facism is a Left idealogy not a "Right" one.

Any intellectually honest analysis of of the two obverse philosophies would produce the same answer.

Disarm the proletariat's right to dissent (as Mussolinni, Stalin and Hitler did), disarm them (literally) as all three examples did), nationalize the economies (as all three did), and "go for the robes" as Marx said and you have liberalism in it's current guise.

Goldberg's book is not a "caricture" but, rather, a cogent observation of the reality of the current state of affairs as we live them.

Post modern H.G. Wells, G.B. Shaw, Fabians Descartes, nonetheless, who forgot that "I doubt, therfore I think."


Maarja Krusten - 2/23/2008

Many thanks, Mr. Mainello, much appreciated. At least this is an area that I can discuss!

The Hatch Act does allow federal employees to express opinions on certain political matters. (See
http://www.osc.gov/ha_fed.htm
for what is and is not permitted.) But for a number of reasons that I am not willing to spell out here, I prefer not to discuss certain aspects of politics or to talk about the candidates running for office. That doesn't mean I can't discuss how government operates.

Keep in mind, however, that some of what I discuss above reflects a governmental culture that seems to be fading. People in my age group (57) are among the last of the people under the old Civil Service Retirement System. People in that group are very much vested in government service, in more than one way. I've worked at just three agencies throughout my 35 year career: what then was the U.S. Customs Service for 3 years; the National Archives and Records Administration for 14 years; and at my current employing agency for 18 years and counting.

Younger employees are less likely to stick around in federal service than people of my generation. Some of that is due to changes in civil service benefits packages instituted during the 1980s. Some of it reflects differing goals and outlooks. There appears to be less incentive to do as my generation did. I understand that, it's one of the reasons I'm so interested in what will happen with public service.

Books such as _When Generations Collide_ offer interesting insights into how successive generations of workers approach their jobs. As yo can tell, I'm very interested in workplace issues. A lot of that goes back to my joining the National Archives at the age of 25 and then spending 14 years working with Nixon's unreleased tapes and documents.

As you recall from our earlier exchanges, I voted for Nixon, who resigned in the face of pending impeachment. Because of my work, I've spent a lot of time thinking about leadership; executive actions; what qualities a good manager has; lines of communication; what builds or destroys trust among staff; the challenges of speaking truth to power, etc.

Leading or managing people can be very challenging. Yet it is critical for leaders to get subordinates to tell them what they need to hear. A shoot the messenger approach places them at the risk of being blindsided. I think I've previously mentioned on HNN an excellent book about the practical aspects of leading and managing people: _Driving Fear Out of the Workplace_. Speeches by Gen. Anthony Zinni also offer good insights on leadership, I think I once posted for you a link to a presentation he did at Villanova.

Thanks again, looking forward to seeing what you write in response.


Mike A Mainello - 2/23/2008

Ms. Krusten

I want to give you a proper response to your question. I will work on getting back to you this weekend.


Maarja Krusten - 2/23/2008

Some of the areas that I mentioned in the posting above are affected by longevity. The longer you work with the same cohort, the more you learn about the people who are members of it. If the people work well with you, the time you spend together increases the chances that you will bond with them. You help them, they help you. You build up mutual trust.

It's been my experience that federal employees often go beyond the call of duty to work extra hours or to volunteer to help on projects not assigned to them. I've worked on projects on the weekend for which I received no compensation. I've done that both for projects that involved the agency head and for projects that involved low graded clerks within my organization. Many of us bureaucrats quietly help out colleagues behind the scenes to "add value" to their work projects. There are no "billable hours" involved.

As a permanent member of the civil service, you do that because you don't want to let down your boss or your fellow employees. You want the team, the functional unit, the agency to succeed. And your colleagues do the same for you. That type of bond reinforces and personalizes the employee-employer contract that binds you to the agency. The beneficiary client obviously is the American public.

That is the main advantage of being a permanent civil service employee as opposed to a contractor.

Contractors obviously can be as patriotic or have as much personal and professional integrity and the same skills as permanent federal employees. But the fact that they often rotate around deprives them of the chance to bond deeply with colleagues within a cohort. And they do not have a chance to build up institutional memory. They miss out on some of the intangible intellectual and psychological benefits that accrue to permanent staff.

Also, contract employees are hired under a contract to do specific tasks. They may run into problems if they try to move beyond what the contract spells out as their duties.

In a well run office, permanent staff have the advantage of being able to act as needed. Over the course of my career, I've jumped in and worked on projects that were outside my position description as historian.

I'm a GS-14 in the civil service. I once volunteered to help a GS-7 in a functional unit other than my own complete a project that involved simply moving records boxes all day during an emergency clean up project. I did it because she would have been left in the lurch otherwise. There was no one else to help her and the job needed to be done.

Was that the best use of my academic degrees? Of course not. Was it worth doing? Of course. I've seen other colleagues do the same. A contractor would not have been able to step in that way, he or she could only do what the previously agreed upon contracts permitted.

But when you're permanent staff, you do what's needed, not only what the task order specifies. In that sense, civil service employees have much more flexibility in what they are able to do.

There are a number of commissions that have looked at how to get more people to join the government. And how to make things work better. There are many challenges in no small part because you have to be sensitive to many intangibles, not just issues of pay and total compensation packages. Paul Volcker has done a great deal of work in this area with the National Commission on Public Service. Commissions have been trying to fix various problems related to governmental functions for a long time. In the 1930s there was the Brownlow Commission. In 1949 it was the Hoover Commission.

Unfortunately, surveys show that fewer young people think of public service as a career option these days. They are more attracted to jobs in the private sector or in the not-for-profit sector. Perhaps some of that is due to the denigration of "Washington bureaucrats" that became so popular in some circles starting in the 1980s.

Thanks for listening.


Maarja Krusten - 2/22/2008

Mr. Mainello, do you mind if I ask you a question about privatization? You mentioned that you would like to see many governmental functions privatized (which may mean outsourcing or otherwise turning over to the private sector). I've heard others make that argument, also.

I started my federal career in May of 1973. So I am at 35 years and counting. As I once noted here on HNN, my generation of government employees still had John F. Kennedy's words ringing in their ears: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Based on my experiences, there are many intangibles that affect public service that might be hard to sustain in a private sector environment. Many of those relate to pride, commitment, trust, and integrity.

As a former member of the armed forces, you actually are more likely to get what I'm thinking about than people who haven't served in the military or civil service. I have a sense that some of the people who post on HNN have not worked in jobs where there is an enormous sense of community or solidarity with others. So I'm particularly interested in hearing your views on this.

I'm thinking of the impact of privitization on factors such as patriotism, unit cohesion, teamwork, reliance on and respect for others within the group, a sense of acting with honor and integrity because the American public is relying on you to do the right thing. I know, I know, those things can sound corny. I dare say some of the people who read the question I am posing to you will just laugh at me. That's ok, I accept that.

I often wonder if people outside the government find some of what I discuss here on HNN about my career at the National Archives and our battles with Richard Nixon's lawyers to be quaint. You didn't -- you may recall our past exchanges about how I stood up for my boss at the National Archives when he came under fire from Richard Nixon's lawyers. So I think you have a sense of some of what I am describing when I say it means something to know that colleagues "have your back."

Unlike federal employees, who can have an enormous sense of commitment to the agency for which they work, and a great sense of longterm institutional memory, contractors usually work under task orders. Many contractor personnel move from job to job and from task to task. Isn't there a danger that some of what motivates civil servants (and members of the military) will be lost with contracting out some functions? That's not to say some functions can't be performed by private sector employees, but the motivators might be different. How that would affect the quality of the work, I don't know.

Thanks in advance for giving that aspect some thought, I look forward to seeing your response.

Posted on personal time


Mike A Mainello - 2/22/2008

Mr. Livingston, whenever I respond to a post it is dictated by the author's tone. As Ms Krusten knows by reading many of my replies they reflect back on the how the author responds. Your post, as you admit, was full of verbal bombs, I just responded back in kind.

To date you have answered few of my questions back to you and this is your right. But my anger over liberalism is genuine and let me quickly say why. It is because in my opinion your philosophy is hurting this country. Before your take further offense, let me explain. Lets take social security reform. President Bush wanted to discuss adding more options to the plan to help fix it, he didn't want to force everyone to change, just add some options. The liberals said we wont talk with you unless you take out privatization. Medical reform is the same way. Liberals look at it as either government solution or they won't discuss it. Conservatism is about creating choice and increasing supply.

I keep asking "Why are Liberals afraid of choice?" While I would like to totally privatize a lot of government functions, I know this is not possible, but liberals won't even discuss it. Now you see why I said what I did.

I am still waiting on you to identify a successful socialist country. Also, answer me this, could this type of discussion be conducted in a socialist country?

I understand you may not want to waste your time on a response, but either way I do enjoy reading your posts.


Maarja Krusten - 2/22/2008

If you want to keep focusing on a sympton rather than a cause (Mr. Mainello's anger), that's fine. I merely sought to trigger your interest in looking at the exchange another way than you have. If you read between the lines, there is a lot more in Mr. Mainello's posts than meets the eye. If you don't want to analyze them beyond the perceived anger, that's fine, you don't have to.

Perhaps someone else will stumble across the exchange between you and Mr. Mainello someday and look at it differently than you and your student do. What caught my eye was the fact that Mr. Mainello identified himself as a veteran who fought for your right to express your views.

I happen to be interested in how the public views people who work where I do (within the government.) You don't have to be equally interested in how readers such as Mr. Mainello view academics or people who hold political views different from his onw. There obviously are many ways to look at HNN.

Telling readers to be less earnest is pointless, however. Once a writer posts an essay here, the presumption is that anyone can respond from whatever angle comes to mind, within reason. And, as communications experts such as Deborah Tanen have pointed out in books that have sold well among the general public, people have very differing styles of communication. I find Dr. Tanen's especially good in explaining ritual opposition and the one up, one down dynamics that crop up sometimes.

I've also found Myers Briggs Type Indicators very helpful in explaining how differently people process information. And what sometimes leads different personality types to conflict. (Slate has a piece up this week on Myers Briggs typing of the Presidential candidates. See
http://www.slate.com/id/2184696/pagenum/all/#page_start

Again, I happen to be very interested in how people interact in public forums, why they sometimes talk past each other, what are the metamessages behind the directly stated messages, and so forth. If others are not, that certainly doesn't bother me. My comments were not intended to mystify or upset anyone.

Posted on personal time


James Livingston - 2/22/2008

HNN gets more mystifying every day.

I thought I was playing Mr. Nice Guy by responding to Mr. Mainello, and then he gets even more indignant.

So then I tried to get funny, and one of my current students (that would be Jonathan) cracks wise about it. He would object as strenuously as I would if a teacher or a student behaved in the classroom as angrily Mr. Mainello has in this space. And believe me, he (that would be Jonathan) has considerable experience objecting to what I have said in the classroom.

Can we all try to be a little less earnest? Our authenticity is not at issue here--only our ideas.


Maarja Krusten - 2/22/2008

I disagree with the premise that HNN is like a classroom. Nor do I believe that tearing into someone who disagrees with you always is funny. Indeed, responding in such a manner can be a sign of weakness, not strength. The best way to signal confidence is not to react with anger. I believe it takes a lot more courage to step back and think about why someone reacted as he or she did to something one said or wrote than to yell at them.

There is no single authority figure here on HNN whose interpretation everyone must accept. Rather, it is a forum where people offer their interpretation of facts. Those interpretations are going to vary, depending on how people weight issues, what influenced the formation of their values, where they live, and whether or not they served in the military (as Mr. Mainello did.)

Yes, professional historians have much to offer. But there is as much to be learned from readers as from the people who post essays. Several years ago, I learned a lot from reading comments posted on HNN by Dave Livingston, a Vietnam veteran who lived out West. Dave often wrote with disdain about the federal government and Washington. Although there was underlying anger in many of his comments, what he wrote also was illuminating. Although I have worked my entire 35 career as an employee of the federal government in Washington (currently as a federal historian), I didn't take what Dave Livingston wrote personally.

I wasn't offended even when Dave Livingston wrote here on HNN that he didn't care if all the bureaucrats in Washington were wiped out in an attack. Rather, I viewed his comments as a useful lens through which to gain insights into the thinking of a particular conservative who had served in the military. (Some of veterans who posted on HNN tended to agree with Dave Livingston while others did not. No group is monolithic.) I also gained useful insights into what values and experiences he brought to bear in looking at issues.

Dave Livingston often railed against the urban areas on the East and West coasts. That led me to think about geography and how where one lives can affect how one views issues such as gun control. And how geography can influence how one votes (in his case, Republican). Many of the forces that shaped Dave Livingston's life seemed very different from those that have affected mine. That didn't make me come to a conclusion that I was right and he was wrong. Or that I was good or he was bad. We just looked at some issues differently, that's all. That appears to be the case with James Livingston and Mike Mainello, as well.


Mike A Mainello - 2/21/2008

Thanks for the response, I do appreciate your insight as well as your time.

One bit of contradiction in your response that I don't understand.

"you forgot that you live in the 21st century, not the 18th century? It was perfectly rational to worry about the implications of democracy--an "elective despotism," as Thos. Jefferson called it--in the 1780s, but for god's sake, do you rerally want to forsake it now? "

Based upon what you said why can't you acknowledge that wrongs occurred in that century, but now that we are in the 21st Century, that all people can be treated equal and we should not place artificial barriers to help groups, but encourage and help them succeed. If someone is truly wronged due to their race, color, creed, etc, then punish the person or organization. Lets stop the quota's and diversity selections. It just makes people mad and cheapens the selection.


Jonathan Lackey - 2/21/2008

You should tear your students like this in class. Not only would be be funny, it would be fun to watch.


James Livingston - 2/21/2008

I should have known this was a mistake. But now that you have enthusiastically exceeded the boundaries of intellectual exchange as sanctioned by this site, let me work backward in your list of indictments, statement, questions, and so forth. You're costing me another 15 minutes, so try to appreciate it, you might learn something.

Yes, I grade my students in a subjective manner. Their efforts have nothing to do with their grades. I make it up as I go along.

Yes, conservatives espouse belief in equality, but typically cannot acknowledge that the history of systematic discrimination against women disables them in their contemporary search for equality of opportunity. Conservatives typically embrace the formal equality once defended by liberals; they cannot seem to understand that women are, in theory, the equals of men, but know that they must organize as women to make effective their claims to equality. Try out the same historical exercise on the question of civil rights for African Americans, see where it gets you.

Yes, as a professor, I am not used to dissent. Right. You may be interested to learn tht I was the original faculty sponsor for the conservative student organization on campus here at Rutgers--because no one else would do it.

Yes, I understand the historical context of attacks on democracy--but are you so obtuse that you forgot that you live in the 21st century, not the 18th century? It was perfectly rational to worry about the implications of democracy--an "elective despotism," as Thos. Jefferson called it--in the 1780s, but for god's sake, do you rerally want to forsake it now?

And yes, verbal bombs are fun, as you clearly understand.

Are we through now? Not a question: I am.


Mike A Mainello - 2/21/2008

Thank you for responding.

I truly find it comical that you throw out a lot of verbal bombs criticizing conservatives, claim victory for the actions of the 60's and then have the gall to stand there like an innocent child that did nothing wrong.

I apologize if I have given you more credit for your intellect if you don't understand the context of the writings defining democracy versus a republic.

Why do you believe socialism is a superior form of governing? Name a prospering country that has adopted this form of government. Support your statement or as a professor are you not used to dissent without the threat of a bad grade to temper a response to your teachings.

I know of no conservative that does not believe all people should be are created and should be treated equal, but I have witnessed feminists want preferential treatment based upon their gender. That does not seem fair and equitable, does it to you? I have seen feminists turn their backs and abandon their integrity to gain power with the democrat party. That is not feminism that is a naked love of power.

Lastly, do you grade your students in such a subjective manner? Do you look at their abilities and say to yourself "Based upon this students background he does not have to work as hard to achieve a passing grade"? I would hope not, because that is pandering at its best and does not help a student achieve.

So I ask again, support some of your statements, prove me wrong, debate and don't duck. I expect more from an academic.

Just as an aside do you support this teacher? Does socialism support this?
"Professor in Noose Case Is Cited for Plagiarism"
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/victim-of-noose-crime-is-cited-for-plagiarism/?hp


James Livingston - 2/21/2008

My dear Mr. Mainello,

I don't understand your indignation. The moral implications of socialism are indeed troubling, as are the moral implications of capitalism--but they are not intractable, especially when the early Christian criterion of need ("from each according to his abilities," etc.) can be met because increases of productivity and output have become functions of declining net investment.

I also don't understand why you think you should ascribe a "victory" to me. I am of course a socialist and a feminist--and a democrat--but whom have I persuaded? I thought I was just reporting on the increasingly liberal trends of our time, and urging us to acknowledge them as the premise of our political thinking.

But hey, Joe Ellis doesn't hate democracy, he was just explaining that back in the day the word carried the connotation of levelling. It sounds like you do you hate democracy. You should try to explain why.

I know, that explanation would be a hard sell in the good old USA.


Mike A Mainello - 2/21/2008

Congratulations on your victory.

You and the people on the left have begun to create a society of envious people. People that don't think critically. People that put more faith in the government than in the value of achievement and success.

You are creating people that take no personal responsibility for their actions. People that are afraid to take risks to improve.

You are creating a group of people that look to the government for comfort and absolve them of their failures. You are advocating a government that provides a person just enough to survive, but punishes that very person when they try to succeed.

As evidenced by your lack of concrete response to your critics, you re-enforce your arrogance. Why is the left afraid to defend their positions?

As a history teacher, let me leave you with another quote, this one from "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. According to the author, here is what they thought of democrats:
"... the term "democrat" originated as an epithet and referred to 'one who
panders to the crude and mindless whims of the masses.'"


Congratulations on your victory.


Jonathan Lackey - 2/21/2008

The Market! Private charities! Dead babies being born to UNWED MOTHERS! SLIPPERY SLOPES TO COMMUNISM? THE INVISIBLE HAND????????

WELFARE STATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


James Livingston - 2/20/2008

Agreed.

Morgan is right, misogyny runs deeper in the history of human civilization, even deeper than racism in the history of the United States. As you suggest, that is why her reference to the "Iron my shirt!" episode resonates.

I still think Morgan is wrong in saying "goodbye" to Barack Obama's constituency on the grounds that it, unlike Hillary Clinton's constituency, must be contaminated by adherence to male supremacy.

I also believe, just incidentally, that Morgan should rethink her comparison of the doll now sold in airports and the doll she imagines as its equivalent--to my mind, they are completely incommensurable objects, or rather images.

I meant "incendiary" as a compliment. She lights us up in every sense, and that is a good thing.


Heather Munro Prescott - 2/20/2008

I don't think you represent Morgan's essay accurately. What about the following excerpts, meant to illustrate the ways in which sexism is tolerated in a way that racism would never be:

"When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor."

"Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged—and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame."

Sure this is incendiary -- it's meant to be. This doesn't mean a feminist must support Hilary Clinton, but we should not ignore or tolerate misogyny either.


Mike A Mainello - 2/19/2008

I went back and read the article you linked. I agree that only time will clarify the actions that happened.

I have not read his book, but I believe that government can't provide compassion. If medical assistance for the elderly is important, then the government should work to make it easier for companies to provide insurance. I believe Senator DeMint from South Carolina has introduced a bill for insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. This will encourage more companies to compete. Right now congress has not brought the bill up for discussion. Also CVS Pharmacy, Walmart and others have worked to introduce in-store medical clinics so people can get routine checkups and service. This is being fought by the AMA. These are examples of compassion, but using conservative principles.

People turn to the government because they know they will give them something - look at emergency room care. Review my quote from H.L. Menken.


Maarja Krusten - 2/19/2008

Within an administration, people may disagree on how to handle issues. To date, according to Shrinkster no one has looked at the Gerson link I posted. Perhaps it doesn't work. Here is what Baker writes about Katrina and how people within the administration differed on the issue:

"[Gerson] recounts meetings in which Cheney's office tried to kill proposals to increase training of death-row defense lawyers, transition assistance for prisoners and aid for Hurricane Katrina victims.

'The storm had also revealed a political and moral chasm in the Republican Party,' he writes. 'The president and I saw Katrina as an opportunity to open a debate on race and poverty. Anti-government Republicans saw Katrina as an opportunity to cut off medicine to old people. It confirmed the worst image of Republicans as the party of shriveled hearts.'"

As a former Presidential records archivist, I'm interested to see what historical records may reveal in the future about the debates Gerson mentions. Will they support his account or not? It's natural for people to claim unity of purpose and to impose message discipline while they are in office. The challenge for historians is to figure out what lay beneath. That's one reason I'm so interested in the creation, management and preservation of electronic records.


William Mandel - 2/19/2008

The articles says that the detachment of income from work is the essence of socialism.
If there is any socialism that is clearly defined, it is Marx'. His view was that socialism meant "from each according to his ability, to each according to his work", while communism, to him the higher stage that would follows, means "from each according to his ability, to each according tgo his needs."


Mike A Mainello - 2/19/2008

Nice to hear from you again.

I am a conservative first and a republican second. I believe that the government taking over charity has hurt this country.

I believe in a hand up versus a hand out and that the government is not flexible enough to fix the problem.

The government should set standards for all to operate under and encourage non-profit and private enterprise to help fix the problems.

The inner city of Washington DC is a prime example of the government relieving people of personal responsibility and replacing it with government handouts.

Katrina was an example of people ignoring the warnings of impending doom and deciding to stay put. It was the local and state government that did not keep care of its people and get them out of a dangerous situation. It was decades of corrupt local and state government policies that shifted money from public works projects to politicians pockets.

DC and New Orleans have been run for decades by Democratic politicians with liberal philosophies. The African American family has been ripped apart and single mother births have skyrocketed. I don't call this compassionate, I call this criminal.

I read where the Irish had a very similar problem in the early 1800's in NYC. Instead of accepting government handouts, they reached within and fixed the problem.

The safety net is in place for the truly needy, unfortunately it also traps the able bodied.


Maarja Krusten - 2/19/2008

Hello, Mr. Mainello,

As you may remember from some of our past discussions, I once was a Republican but decided 20 years ago that I belonged to neither party and became an Independent. As a result, I read columns by pundits from the right and from the left. I've found there are creative thinkers and open minded people in both parties, just as there are rigid thinkers in both.

One of the more interesting newer columnists at the Washington Post is Michael Gerson, a former aide to George W. Bush. Gerson believes that "The two intellectually vital movements within the Republican Party today are libertarianism and Roman Catholic social thought -- a teaching that has influenced many non-Catholics" [among whom he names himself.]

In a column on October 31, 2007, Gerson asked, "What does a narrow, anti-government conservatism have to offer to urban neighborhoods where violence is common and intact families are rare? Very little. What hope does it provide to children in foreign lands dying of diseases that can be treated or prevented for the cost of American small change? No hope. What achievement would it contribute to the racial healing and unity of our country? No achievement at all."

I grew up around Washington, DC, and have absorbed many lessons from local news reports about the hardships that people endure in the inner cities. In writing about Gerson's recent book _Heroic Conservatism_, Peter Baker described some interesting conflicts within the administration about issues such as aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Take a look at
http://shrinkster.com/v0m
to see what he wrote.

You mention that you "believe anybody that lives in America should be a responsible member of society and not a ward of the state." When I read that, I thought back on what Gerson wrote about two of the strains in the Republican party. Gerson wrote last October that "Catholic social thought takes a large step beyond that [anti-government] view. While it affirms the principle of limited government -- asserting the existence of a world of families, congregations and community institutions where government should rarely tread -- it also asserts that the justice of society is measured by its treatment of the helpless and poor. And this creates a positive obligation to order society in a way that protects and benefits the powerless and suffering."

What do you see as the best way to bring relief and hope to the inner cities? Since I live in the Washington, DC area, I've long been troubled by the cycles of poverty and hopelessness that trap so many people, from the moment they are born, into what some call the permanent underclass. So many of the problems seem intractable.

I have a sense that most people who post on HNN are middle class. Do you feel those of us who are the lucky ones among Americans -- people born into intact families, raised by loving parents, educated in decent schools, attaining the scholastic or vocational tools readily to make our own way in the working world -- have responsibilities to the people trapped in poverty? What do you see as the best way to help innocent children born into chaos and poverty here in our own country?

I remember to this day the image of an African-American woman pleading for help while she was trapped among the waters of New Orleans during Katrina. She asked, "why hasn't help arrived yet," then told the camera man who filmed her, "We're Americans, too." And of course, she was right, she may have been poor and disadvantaged, but she was as American as I, much luckier in my circumstances, am.



James Livingston - 2/18/2008

Hello? Fascism and liberalism are antithetical political sensibilities. Why would you associate or equate them?

The origins of liberalism reside in the 18th-century debates about the possibilities determined by the financial revolution. Liberalism evolves, however, from its roots in the works of Locke, Smith, Ferguson, et al.

Liberalism of the 20th century does not resemble liberalism of the 19th century. I thought that was my point in those few paragraphs.

Please do not disfigure the genealogy to the point of caricature as per the Goldberg specification.


Linda Margaret Broughton - 2/18/2008

There's a new book out by Goldberg that discusses the roots of modern liberalism. The book reads a bit like a rant, as though the author is responding to an argument that I heard about rather than listened to first-person, and I'm not sure that I quite like what he has to say, but it is interesting and good to hear something that makes one want to respond. He has some ideas that parallel what you have to say. Liberalism, according to Goldberg, has roots in facism, the idea of subverting the individual to the masses for the sake of an idea.


Mike A Mainello - 2/18/2008

I chalk up your lack of a response to a couple of reasons.

1. Academia does not like to be questioned because they feel they are superior.

2. The medication you took or are taking keeps you in denial.

Either way, let me leave you with this quote from "The Bad Boy of Baltimore" a biography of H.L. Mencken by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. On page 409 of that book the following"
"By the mid-1930's, thanks to the New Deal, all that self-reliance had changed, prompting Mencken to declare: 'There is no genuine justice in any scheme of feeding and coddling the loafer whose only ponderable energies are devoted wholly to reproduction. Nine-tenths of the rights he bellows for are really privileges and he does nothing to deserve them.' Despite the billions spent on an individual, 'he can be lifted transiently but always slips back again.' Thus, the New Deal had been 'the most stupendous digenetic enterprise ever undertaken by man.... We not only acquired a vast population of morons, we have inculcated all morons, old or young, with the doctrine that the decent and industrious people of the country are bound to support them for all time. The effects of that doctrine are bound to be disastrous soon or late.'

When someone asked, "And what, Mr. Mencken, would you do about the unemployed?" He looked up with a bland expression. "We could start by taking away their vote," he said, deadpan. Mencken was not surprised when the majority disagreed. "There can be nothing even remotely approaching a rational solution of the fundamental national problems until we face them in a realistic spirit," he later reflected, and that was impossible so long as educated Americans remained responsive "to the Roosevelt buncombe."

This is what the 60's is doing to America and what the un-qualified, Senator Obama will do to the US if elected.


James Livingston - 2/18/2008

I'm glad that I'm confusing y'all. More confusion to come.


Carl Dyke - 2/18/2008

Insight.


Mike A Mainello - 2/18/2008

After re-reading your comments, I believe you are referring to the author of the article and not to my comment.

If so I agree with you that the author is a bit confusing.


Mike A Mainello - 2/18/2008

I think you mean I am an awful man, though I do have 2 arms.

I do not think Pol Pot or Leon Trotsky believed that All Men Are Created Equal, I know David Duke does not.

I appreciate your incite though your spelling is armful. Please let me know if you have any other observations.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 2/18/2008

A guy who could write that should never be allowed close to a nuclear trigger! You are an armful, man, who obviously could argue for the positions of Pol Pot, Leon Trotsky or David Duke. You seek to carry a guidon for Barrak Obama this time, but the effect you produced only sows confusion.


Mike A Mainello - 2/17/2008

I am willing to bet that your class is not boring.

As I read this long, disjointed screed I believe what I got out of it was that conservatives are idiots and the liberals from the 60's are the saviors of America. If you don't like Obama, then your misguided at a minimum. Am I close?

As a conservative (sorry about using the foul language)and someone approaching 50, all I see the 60's accomplished was creating a huge number of hypocrites. They preached free love, freedom of expression, throwing away the shackles of government and corporations, and wanting equality for all people.

What we have now are liberal leaders that stifle freedom - don't smoke here, don't eat this food, demand free health care from cradle to grave, provide preferences based upon skin color, gender or sexual preference and whine and moan like petulant children when a policy does not go the way they want.

Now that they have spent their lives without thinking about the future, they want the government to step in and shower compassion on their unprepared hides, but should the government want to protect itself or bring freedom to another part of the world, they scream bloody murder. They distrust the government to protect its citizen, but expect the same government to care for them at no cost. The thought of sacrificing for anyone but themselves brings fear to their two-faced bodies.

Personal responsibility and accomplishment should be applauded and not scorned. As more and more people are removed from the tax roles, they don't have a stake in the government. I believe anybody that lives in America should be a responsible member of society and not a ward of the state.

Most conservatives want freedom for all people without reservation. You can argue about gay marriage, but most conservatives support civil unions because this is a government term where as marriage is a religious term. Not one democratic candidate supported gay marriage. The government should not dictate actions to a religion.

Most conservatives (and the majority of African Americans) support school choice because it is color blind and rewards accomplishment regardless of skin color.

Most conservatives support free market health care because it creates choice and freedom, where as Universal Health Care limits supply and reduces quality (remember Iraqi War vet health care?).

The United States has brought freedom to many parts of this world. It has been accomplished through peaceful means and forced conflict. It has been accomplished by both Democrat and Republican presidents. Most Americans prefer the two party system and the balance it has preserved. Your "screed" about conservatives is just as damaging to our society as the thugs you rail against; however, as a retired military member I am proud to say I spent 22 years protecting your right to express such tripe.

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