Friday, December 23, 2005

Forgetting Where They Come From

I know two blogs operated by ex-patriate Minnesotans. The Pie-Eyed Picayune and The House of Wonks.

On December 10, one of Minnesota's most recognizable politicians, Eugene McCarthy, died. As an aside, there are a surprising number of recognizable Minnesota politicians from McCarthy's era- Humphrey and Mondale each held the vice-presidency. Neither has a peep to say about McCarthy's death.

I preemptively reply- for shame. Particularly given the timing of his death. McCarthy was a symbol- of resistance to an increasingly unpopular war, of the ethos of postwar liberalism- worth remembering, considering, and learning from as we face our own increasingly unpopular war and drift on the part of modern day liberalism.

Of course I can understand Minnesotans not standing up to take notice. He was, ultimately, a failure. Not as a man (as a man, he was probably too iconoclastic to be either a success or failure). But as a leader, as a standard bearer. A friend/ acquaintance of mine, Dominic Sandbrook, authored a political biography of McCarthy/ postwar liberalism last year- Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism (see reviews here and here)- which argues McCarthy, and by extension the Democratic Party/ The Left/ Liberalism, "wasted his talent" for reasons both personal and structural.

The end result- of the promise of the early 1960s, the tumult at the end of that decade, the ensuing scandal and disarray of the 1970s, and the 1980s embrace of comfort- is the modern political moment. McCarthy and company are not solely responsible- the Moralistic Movement has its own role to play.

Let's learn this history and avoid another quarter century of disarray.


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