Remember the last liberal. We still have people like him.

Summary: A look at the past can remind us of how we used to choose leaders. We desperately need to recover that common sense. We put ourselves on the fast track to chaos by choosing leaders like Sarah Palin, Hillary, Trump, and the current slate of Democratic Party clowns. It’s all about choice. We can do better.

Hubert Humphrey campaign poster

 

An amnesic and rootless people

We have forgotten what a competent liberal candidate for President looks like. This makes us easy to manipulate – making us enthusiastic about candidates that previous generations would consider jokes.

We could have leaders with decades of experience in the government, people who have produced solid incremental reforms. Some projects failed (inevitably), but the net effect was fantastic progress. Today America has an ample supply of such people, as is given to every generation. But we do not want them. We prefer people who talk big but have little experience. We give bonus points if they are guided only by ideology. We also like it if they are entertaining and exciting.

But we can overcome this weirdness. Let us begin by looking at a candidate in our past. Would we elect someone like this today.

Button: Hubert Humphrey, the man to make the needed changes

Hubert Humphrey, the last liberal

Humphrey was elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1947 at age 34. In 1947 he was re-elected with the largest majority in the city’s history. In 1948 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and re-elected in 1954 and 1960. He served as Democratic Majority Whip during the Kennedy-Johnson administration from 1961 through 1964. In 1964 he was elected as Vice President.

He risked his political career at the 1948 Democratic Convention by spearheading a successful fight for a plank promising strong civil rights measures. The culmination of his 16 years as the chief spokesman for human rights in the Senate came as Floor Manager for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the most important rights legislation of this century.

In his first bill as Senator in 1949, Humphrey proposed a program of health insurance for the elderly to be financed through Social Security.  Sixteen years later the substance of his pioneering ideas emerged as Medicare. He has also fought for senior citizens by other proposals which are now law: expanded Social Security coverage, a ban on age discrimination in hiring, and other measures.

In 1957 Humphrey first proposed job training for unemployed youths. Today, this idea embodied in the Job Corps is a key part of the War on poverty.

Federal aid to education has had the support of Humphrey since he entered the Senate.  In his freshman year, he introduced a bill authorizing federal help for the building on elementary and secondary schools. In 1952 the co-sponsored a bill to set up a federal scholarship program for college students.  In 1957 he proposed programs for federal scholarships, loans to students and direct grants to colleges.  These proposals later became part of the National Defense Education Act.

As Majority Whip, Humphrey led the drive for the fight against poverty. One of his last acts as a Senator was to clear the way for passage of Head Start, the program to help pre-school children.  As VP, he has been a prime overseer of the course of the War on Poverty.

As a Senator he helped shape and pass every major housing bill from 1949 to 1964.  He was the first to propose a Cabinet-level agency to deal with Urban problems, eventually becoming the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the Senate in 1963, Humphrey sponsored the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the first major breakthrough in international nuclear disarmament. He led a drive for Senate ratification of the Treaty, which has halted atmospheric testing of nuclear devices.  Over 100 nations have now signed it.

The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, created in 1961, was first proposed by Humphrey in 1960. He played a leading role in steering its passage through the Senate.

Hubert Humphrey first proposed the Peace Corps in 1960. He became chairman of the Peace Corps Advisory Council.

The Food for Peace program, adopted in 1959, was another original proposal of Hubert Humphrey. As result of this creative idea, America’s surplus food was been put to work in the cause of peace-by fighting hunger and deprivation around the world for nearly a decade.

Campaign Poster: Unite WIth Humphrey

His platform

From a brochure for his 1968 campaign.

This nation can finally break across the threshold of what no previous society has ever dared dream or achieve, the building of social order of both freedom and compassion, of both enterprise and peace. We can finally create a nation where human equality and human opportunity not only exist side by side, but nourish and reinforce each other-a nation where every citizen may participate on equal terms in every aspect of being and doing that which relates to self-respect.

We can make law and order not only compatible with justice and human progress, but as their unflinching Guardians.

We can build cities and neighborhoods where all our citizens may walk together in safety and in pride and in a spirit of true community.

We can, and I know we must, maintain the strength needed to protect our own national security and to meet our international commitments….

Free men, through the exercise of their own will, can narrow the dangerous gap between the rich nations and the poor, can end the scourge of hunger, and slow down and halt the dangerous spiraling arms race. Through our leadership, we can strengthen the United Nations and other international institutions and make them real everyday forces for peace.

That this strong rich and idealistic nation can help to create a broader world society in which human values may one day rule supreme. A world society of independent and free nation-states, where the individual – and not the institution or the party – comes first. A world society where every child’s future lies open ahead and where he can be a free man and answer ultimately to no one but to god and his conscience.

A dream, yes. A hope, yes, because America is both a dream and a hope for ourselves and for others. All of this is what I believe our America can achieve if we will only remember who and what we are, and why this country came into being, and what it is we really set out to do.

Conclusions

Compare this bio and platform with those of the 23 candidates for the Democratic Party presidential ticket. How would this white man of the establishment do in the 2020 primaries, if his platform was updated to our current needs? Why would we reject him?

Humphrey and LBJ were defeated by the penultimate phase of the Cold War, much as 9/11 destabilized America’s leaders – and people. We have to recover our common sense, and soon. The clock is running.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see all posts about the Democratic Party, about the left wing of US politics, about ways to reform America’s politics, and especially these …

  1. Part 1: An anthropologist announces the death of liberalism.
  2. Part 2: An anthropologist explains the causes of liberalism’s death.
  3. Visions of America if the Left wins.
  4. The Left can win in 2020 and dominate US politics.
  5. The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.
  6. Election 2020 will be about open borders & America’s future – Fascinating quotes from the first debate.
  7. Campaign 2020 shows who will mold America’s future.
  8. Two levers to bring the Democrats victory in 2020.
  9. The Left becomes revolutionary. Few realize it yet.

Useful books explaining what happened to the Left

I have not found a good book explaining what happened to the Left, causing its hatred of America. These are the best I have found, looking at our politics.

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank.

The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted by Mike Lofgren.

"Listen, Liberal" by Thomas Frank
Available at Amazon.
"The Party is Over" by Mike Lofgren
Available at Amazon.

 

11 thoughts on “Remember the last liberal. We still have people like him.”

  1. “Remember the last liberal. We still have people like him.”

    We do? Could you name some for us? It would be nice to know some people like him.

  2. Gaius Gracchus

    A long list of good intentions ideas that proved mostly bad in practice, greatly expanding the federal government in the process. And we know what the road to hell is paved with, don’t we?

    Let’s just single out one, federal student aid. It has enslaved a generation and led to massive price inflation for academia.

    Anyway, the main problem with all these is that they led the way to today’s “equity”, the push for equality of outcome. We have spent trillions ignoring reality based upon flawed principles. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was appalled about what he found while working for LBJ and it is far worse today.

    One could say it was bad implementation, which would be true in part, but the fundamental flaws doomed many of these programs to failure, with worse outcomes and cultures for a huge portion of contemporary society.

    1. Gaius,

      “A long list of good intentions ideas that proved mostly bad in practice, ”

      Bizarrely false. Right-wing racist claptrap.

      “Let’s just single out one, federal student aid. It has enslaved a generation and led to massive price inflation for academia.”

      That did not just happen, despite the propaganda you’ve been given. Boomers (like me) received aid packages of merit scholarships (eg, New York State Reagents Scholarships) at heavily subsidized public universities, university work-study programs (jobs at the college – I worked in the kitchen, then as a security guard), and low-interest loans. The resulting burden was easy to pay off.

      Conservatives were unhappy with the social mobility produced by this system, and in the late 1970s began both defunding public universities (hence their skyrocketing tuition) AND slashing scholarship funds. Leaving loans as the primary way of funding college.

      “he main problem with all these is that they led the way to today’s “equity”,”

      Got to love modern Americans shifting of responsibility from us to those before us. Hunphrey’s actions and speeches show that he would be horrified at today’s American politics – both those of the Left and Right. Why not put “NOT OUR FAULT” on the dollar bill as the new national motto.

      1. Gaius Gracchus

        Ad hominin attacks are beneath you. “Racist” is an odd attack, given that race was not mentioned in the least.

        The student loan crisis is real. A possibly useful program transformed into locking students, only looking for the credentials to be middle class, into debt bondage for life. Nondischarageabilty of student loans started in the 70s, increasing over time to be permanent chains.

        The universities have essentially the same number of full time professors as 50 years ago, but twice as many students. There has a massive administrative bloat, as well as careless spending on luxury apartments and exotic non academic things. The schools did this because students could access unlimited student loans without regards to future earnings.

        Again, good intentions usually lead to horrible outcomes. We know from research that children in single parent homes have worse outcomes. Yet these programs led to a massive increase in fatherless homes.

        Larry, you are better than that reply.

      2. Gaius,

        ““Racist” is an odd attack, given that race was not mentioned in the least.”

        False. You said the following: “A long list of good intentions ideas that proved mostly bad in practice …” His greatest achievements were about civil rights. As was stated in the first item on the list.

        “He risked his political career at the 1948 Democratic Convention by spearheading a successful fight for a plank promising strong civil rights measures. The culmination of his 16 years as the chief spokesman for human rights in the Senate came as Floor Manager for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the most important rights legislation of this century.”

        Unrelated, your dismissal of his support for other measures – such as Medicare and the Nuclear Test Ban treaty – are imo nutty.

    2. My remark is similar in content to Mr. Kummer’s. The post mentioned a National Defense Education Act. I had National Defense Student Loan support in the 70s as an undergrad, then grad school stipends in the 80s. The system worked for me, in that I could get all the (excellent quality) education I wanted at a price I could afford, with help from my single parent, a schoolteacher. The problems in inflation of college costs are from a later era,

      Regarding the push for equality of outcomes, consider top tier income tax rates, and the distribution of incomes. We are not trying to legislate equality of outcomes with tax policy.

  3. I thought about this post when I read this paragraph:

    ‘There is a wonderfully sad anecdote about Kingman Brewster, the man who as president of Yale did more than any other individual to create the modern meritocracy. In his first portentous strike at the WASP elite that reared him, he turned down his Skull and Bones tap on anti-elitist grounds. He then hopped on his bicycle and rushed to boast of his principled stand to A. Whitney Griswold, his ultra-WASPy but reform-minded mentor, whom he would succeed as Yale president two decades later. Far from being impressed, Griswold was not even home to receive him—he was across town at his own secret society, Wolf’s Head, for its Tap Night ceremonies. 45 The poignancy of this story lies in the realization that, for all his Mayflower pedigree, Brewster really did not understand at all the class he would destroy. In retrospect, it seems likely that Brewster could have achieved all he desired—a more diverse student body, a more rigorous academic curriculum, a more liberal general atmosphere—by building upon the existing virtues of Old Yale, its sense of public duty and fair play. Unfortunately, he was blind to these virtues. So he did the only thing contempt can do: He destroyed.’

    It’s from this link: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-new-ruling-class?utm_source=pocket-newtab

    1. Brian,

      Wow. That’s quite a vignette from history. Equal to any of the similar stories in Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind.

      Looking thru the brief euphorically-spun bio at Wikipedia, I don’t understand how he “did more than any other individual to create the modern meritocracy.” He introduced the race-based admissions policy, putting large numbers of minority students in a system in which they would flunk out if not given special grades. He began construction of the liberal orthodoxy that might have terminally destroyed American universities ability to conduct their core mission (e.g., preventing conservatives from speaking, allowing Leftist violence).

  4. Humphrey was clearly a decent man who combined idealism with practical action.

    However, he was a man of his times. I wonder what a truly liberal platform would consist of today? A more constructive approach to global arms control, certainly; but what about domestic policy?

    We can build cities and neighborhoods where all our citizens may walk together in safety and in pride and in a spirit of true community.

    Does anyone today believe that Humphrey’s dream of safe neighborhoods for all citizens can be achieved, other than by a large increase in incarceration?

    With a huge budget deficit already, there is little scope for expensive new programs. Perhaps the biggest change in the last 50 years is that the US economy is no longer so far ahead of the rest of the world’s, and the strongest economic growth is happening elsewhere. Politics no longer provides a way to either articulate or plan great dreams that will be financed by economic growth; but has become more of a “zero-sum game”.

    1. James,

      “However, he was a man of his times. I wonder what a truly liberal platform would consist of today?”

      I agree. That is the big question.

      “Does anyone today believe that Humphrey’s dream of safe neighborhoods for all citizens can be achieved, other than by a large increase in incarceration?”

      We already jail more people than anything but the most brutal totalitarian nations, yet have high crime rates. As they say at AA: “Insanity is repeating the same action, yet expecting a different outcome. There are many books by experts with alternative solutions. Here are my reviews of two. with links to other posts about this problem.

      “With a huge budget deficit already, there is little scope for expensive new programs.”

      First, much of those deficits come from repeated tax cuts for the rich by Reagan, Bush Jr. and Trump. Second, there is more than ample room for redistribution of spending from useless to useful spending.

      “the US economy is no longer so far ahead of the rest of the world’s”

      See tomorrow’s post for a corrective to that. Also, the US was “far ahead” only for a few decades after WWII. It means nothing in terms of our ability to solve our domestic problems.

      “the strongest economic growth is happening elsewhere.”

      Yes, poorer nations grow faster. They should. That means nothing for our ability to solve our domestic problems. No, the other developed nations are not growing faster than we are.

      “Politics no longer provides a way to either articulate or plan great dreams that will be financed by economic growth;”

      Every single post about domestic reform brings forth a horde of comments by people pre-emptively surrendering. As I have written scores of times (as have others), our apathy and passivity – no matter how intellectual the excuses – is our primary problem.

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