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Not Much Left: The Fate of Liberalism in America

Tom Waldman
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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    Not Much Left
    Book Description:

    Tom Waldman's lively and sweeping assessment of the state of American liberalism begins with the political turbulence of 1968 and culminates with the 2006 takeover of Congress by the Democratic Party.Not Much Left: The Fate of Liberalism in Americavividly demonstrates how the progressive and liberal wing of the Democratic Party helped end a war, won the civil rights battle, and paved the way for blacks, women, gays, and other minorities to achieve full citizenship. Through reportage, anecdotes, and analysis-particularly of the disastrous defeat of Democrat George McGovern in 1972-Waldman chronicles how the grand coalition that achieved so much in the 1960s began to self-destruct in the early 1970s. Citing the Republican recovery from Barry Goldwater's 1964 defeat, Waldman demonstrates how the two parties' very different reactions to electoral debacle account for recent Republican dominance and Democratic impotence. Assessing liberalism's fate through the Carter and Reagan presidencies, the defeat of Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election, and the on-again, off-again liberalism of the Clinton years, Waldman then brings the discussion up to date with analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93286-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Quiet Americans
    (pp. 1-17)

    April 26, 2007, should have been a great day for liberals in the United States. By a margin of 51 to 46, the U.S. Senate voted to provide about one hundred billion dollars to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while also establishing a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq by March of the following year. A day earlier, the House of Representatives had approved a similar measure. Neither the certainty of a presidential veto nor the inevitable accusations of “surrender” or “defeat” on talk radio, Fox News, and in the halls of Congress deterred the Democrats from near-unanimous...

  5. CHAPTER ONE In Locke’s Step
    (pp. 18-36)

    Disheartened liberals and disgruntled ex-liberals in the early twenty-first century should take some comfort in the fact that liberalism in America has a longer and more glorious history than the competition. It is older than socialism and conservatism—the beginnings of which are often traced to the Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke’s classic workReflections on the Revolution in France(1790)—and has outlasted fascism and communism. One could argue that liberalism’s protean qualities as much as its inherent appeal account for its longevity and significance and explain the constant fear of conservatives that at any moment liberalism will reemerge as...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Which Way Did the ’60s Go?
    (pp. 37-49)

    In 1947, when he was seven years old, Rick Tuttle, who decades later served as Los Angeles City Controller, rode on a train with his family from Memphis to Cincinnati—the first stage of a regular journey home to the East Coast. On this particular trip, the train experienced mechanical failure just outside Memphis, which caused a state of near panic among the passengers. The train’s sorry condition raised the possibility that Rick, a younger sibling, his parents, and grandmother would be stranded in a cold, dark railroad car for the night. They appealed to the conductor of the functioning...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Unhappy Together
    (pp. 50-59)

    During the period 1962–72, Marc Haefele gravitated from the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement to women’s liberation to environmentalism, and all while holding a full-time job. What may have looked to outsiders like “issue-hopping,” immaturity, or impatience were for Haefele and his colleagues practical and essential steps to remaking American society. For liberals it was like splashing bright paints on a huge canvas, and though they didn’t know what the painting would look like in the end, they were certain it would be beautiful. Liberals celebrated local victories—Tuttle and friends changing the regulations on religion at...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR 1968 in America
    (pp. 60-70)

    Zev Yaroslavsky, now a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, supported Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 California Democratic primary. Too young to vote at nineteen but old enough to fight in Vietnam, Yaroslavsky embraced McCarthy’s antiwar candidacy even before the Minnesota senator achieved his stunning second-place finish to President Johnson in the New Hampshire primary that March. Yaroslavsky grew up in a liberal family—pro-labor, pro–civil rights, and anticommunist. President Franklin Roosevelt was next to God, and President Truman was just a few rungs below. Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey came out of that same tradition:...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Curious about George
    (pp. 71-93)

    Now a Los Angeles city councilman, Bill Rosendahl joined George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1971, long before the stunning primary victories and media hype. He was present before the creation. After several months of performing a variety of roles, Rosendahl was promoted to chief fund-raiser for Illinois. “I was given a computer printout of some five hundred contributors in Illinois,” Rosendahl recalled in a 2004 interview with me. “I got off the plane with that computer printout. That was it—a one-way ticket. I was in charge of the state.”

    “I raised money from wealthy people who could give as...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Modern Times
    (pp. 94-112)

    When she was five years old and living in Montgomery, Alabama, Donzaleigh Abernathy believed that “death was imminent.” As the daughter of the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s who succeeded Martin Luther King as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after King’s assassination, Donzaleigh grew up with an acute awareness of violence and hate, even as her father and the man she still calls “Uncle Martin” practiced and preached precisely the opposite. A year before Donzaleigh’s birth, the Abernathy family home was bombed. “There was a photograph...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN I Am Woman, Say It Loud
    (pp. 113-117)

    In 1970, the hard rock–funk group Funkadelic released an album with the memorable titleFree Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow. Led by George Clinton, whose outrageous hair, insane clothes, and bonafide wit set him apart from other rock and funk stars, Funkadelic symbolized the ideals and promise of the 1960s as much as or more than any band playing in any style. At a time when popular music was divided along rigid racial lines—“black radio” and “funk” versus “FM rock” and “pop”—Clinton appealed to a universal audience. He did not just talk about freedom; he...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Sexual Positions
    (pp. 118-134)

    Lillian T. grew up in the 1950s in Philadelphia, where her mother taught dance at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. When she was a little girl, Lillian’s parents went through a bitter divorce. In a vengeful merging of the personal with the political, Lillian’s father contacted the institutions that employed his ex-wife and asserted that she was a member of the Communist Party. Lillian recalls that Temple dropped her mother immediately, without hearing the other side of the story, but Penn refused to cave. Both her parents had been involved in various left-wing activities since the 1930s and...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Out of Time
    (pp. 135-158)

    Though he had voted in the Democratic presidential primary election for California governor Jerry Brown, in 1976 Stephen Vittoria decided to volunteer for the party’s nominee, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, in the fall campaign against President Gerald Ford. In the aftermath of McGovern’s depressing defeat four years earlier, Vittoria had made a personal choice to get out of politics and gravitate toward theater and film, where unhappy endings are only temporary. But Jerry Brown seemed to offer a new, if rather quixotic, brand of liberalism, and Carter had a real shot at reclaiming the White House for the Democrats after...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Yesterday’s Gone
    (pp. 159-176)

    Its common name is the “malaise” speech. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivered a nationwide address officially titled: “Energy and the National Goals—A Crisis of Confidence.” The first half of the speech did not focus on the energy situation in the United Sates per se—due in part to the Iranian revolution, gas prices had been rising precipitously and long lines to purchase gas were not uncommon around the country—but on what the president perceived to be a depressed spirit and feelings of hopelessness permeating the American psyche. As proof, he offered both his own opinions...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Pulling to the Right
    (pp. 177-194)

    On April 29, 1992, as my wife and I were getting ready to leave for an NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trailblazers, a television set in our apartment reported a disturbance taking place at a liquor store in South Central Los Angeles. The live pictures showed black males running in and out of the establishment, grabbing whatever they could carry. The presence of the media in real time was no coincidence: an hour or so earlier, not-guilty verdicts had been handed down in the case of four white Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Blue Culture, Red Politics
    (pp. 195-209)

    On a cool, clear Los Angeles evening in June 2005 several hundred people attended the U.S. premiere ofStuff Happens,a play about Anglo-American diplomacy and the run-up to the war in Iraq by the English playwright David Hare. The ironic title of the play—taken from an offensive remark by then–defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld describing the looting of art treasures in Baghdad—created the expectation of both an antiwar premise and a skewering of the Bush administration in a manner unique to angry left-leaning British writers. The left in America might despise Bush, but the left in Britain...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Coming Home?
    (pp. 210-231)

    In an article published in the fall of 2006, the notable historian of early America Edmund S. Morgan wrote: “The word ‘liberalism’ has undergone many changes of meaning and implication over the years. The political philosophers who invented the word identified it as a belief in the sanctity of individual human beings and the desirability of freeing them from needless governmental controls. In the course of the twentieth century liberalism has been associated less with limiting government than with directing it to the service of social justice and democracy.”¹ Morgan’s synopsis is accurate as far as it goes; one could...

  18. Epilogue: Who Are You?
    (pp. 232-238)

    In the late summer of 2006, the Democratic nominee for U.S. senate from Ohio, Congressman Sherrod Brown, met with a small group of confirmed and possible supporters at a law office in downtown Los Angeles. Over a lunch of Subway sandwiches, chips, bottled water, and four different kinds of cookies, Brown outlined his strategy for defeating the incumbent, Republican Mike DeWine. Accompanied by his wife, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist for theCleveland Plain-Dealer(and on leave for eight months to write a book about the campaign), Brown talked about raising the minimum wage, the friendly reception oil...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 239-246)
    (pp. 247-250)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 251-273)