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Making Sense of American Liberalism

Making Sense of American Liberalism

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Making Sense of American Liberalism
    Book Description:

    This collection of thoughtful and timely essays offers refreshing and intelligent new perspectives on postwar American liberalism. Sophisticated yet accessible, Making Sense of American Liberalism challenges popular myths about liberalism in the United States. The volume presents the Democratic Party and liberal reform efforts such as civil rights, feminism, labor, and environmentalism as a more united, more radical force than has been depicted in scholarship and the media emphasizing the decline and disunity of the left._x000B__x000B_Distinguished contributors assess the problems liberals have confronted in the twentieth century, examine their strategies for change, and chart the successes and potential for future liberal reform. Each chapter tackles a different example of the challenges and achievements of liberal politics, from organized labor to the links between liberalism and social democracy in U.S. political life._x000B__x000B_An excellent compendium of recent political history and a timely resource for those seeking to assess the place of liberalism in contemporary political arenas, Making Sense of American Liberalism emphasizes the powerful liberal reform impulse in making modern American politics--something that few works have done convincingly in recent years--while remaining cognizant of the importance of the right in shaping policy and ideology._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Anthony J. Badger, Jonathan Bell, Lizabeth Cohen, Susan Hartmann, Ella Howard, Bruce Miroff, Nelson Lichtenstein, Doug Rossinow, Timothy Stanley, and Timothy Thurber.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09398-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the future of American liberalism is uncertain. Liberals and their allies in social reform have much to celebrate, but plenty of challenges ahead. The difficult choices faced by the Obama administration are representative. On the one hand, the election of an African American president on a platform of activist government and health care reform was a stunning achievement. It fulfilled the promise of the civil rights revolution, while putting together an alliance of ethnic minorities, liberals, youth, labor, women, and the urban poor that promised a revival of the New Deal coalition. On...

  4. Part I: Liberals and the Left

    • 1 Partners for Progress? Liberals and Radicals in the Long Twentieth Century
      (pp. 17-37)

      Today’s conservatives view the Left and liberalism as identical categories, while many on the left see these categories as separate and antagonistic. But neither of these views is adequate. Historically, left-wing radicalism and liberal reform often overlapped in U.S. political life. The inhabitants of this shared political territory formed a left-liberal tradition in U.S. politics, one that had its heyday in the years stretching from the 1880s to the 1940s and that withered in the years after 1950.

      The kinship between many liberals and those on the left during the era between the 1880s and the 1940s was based in...

    • 2 From Popular Front to Liberalism: Redefining the Political in California in the Post–World War II Era
      (pp. 38-61)

      In January 1952 a New Republic article argued that “one can see at least the wedge of the mixed economy, in the recent legislation in, say, California on the various trade-union and other ‘private’ insurance schemes at least the first sign of the Welfare State.” The 1950s would, the author argued, throw up new problems and challenges that would conceivably herald a major step toward social democracy configured for a prosperous world: “In the vast American scene, the approach toward the Welfare State will probably not come through any dramatic political shift, but in a variety of ways: by the...

    • 3 Going Beyond the New Deal: Socialists and the Democratic Party in the 1970s
      (pp. 62-89)

      The 1970s are widely regarded as a turning point in the American political evolution from Great Society liberalism to Reaganomics. As such, many political historians are dismissive of or even uninterested in the experiences of liberal and leftwing activists in this period. Often they are portrayed as excessively militant, fractured, and injurious to good, popular Democratic government.¹ At best they were naive and incidental. At worst they contributed to the defeat of a moderate but well-intentioned Democratic president.² To be sure, this consensus is not wholly inaccurate. However it is sweeping and, by confirming a rigid orthodox story of Democratic...

    • 4 From Friends to Foes: George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and the Fracture in American Liberalism
      (pp. 90-110)

      A few days after Hubert Humphrey died of cancer in January 1978, George McGovern drafted two tributes to him for publication in newspapers and magazines. In one of these tributes, McGovern took time to reflect on how much his own life was enmeshed in Humphrey’s:

      Sometimes I have thought that Hubert Humphrey’s life has been a testing ground for mine. Our lives have frequently moved along similar lines. We were both born and reared in depression and drought-scarred South Dakota. We both educated ourselves to become college professors. We both felt the lure of prairie politics and eventually emerged as...

  5. Part II: Liberals and Urban Policy

    • 5 New York Liberalism and the Fight against Homelessness
      (pp. 113-134)

      The modern American welfare system reflects its architects’ desires to assist the poor as well as their fear of fostering dependency on relief. Its programs, forged and expanded during periods of liberal political dominance, have shifted over time, as resource allocations and attitudes toward poverty have changed. The urban homeless have long slipped through the cracks of this system, struggling to navigate the complex terrain of overlapping and sometimes conflicting policies.¹

      Although charitable impulses are not confined to liberal politics, the expansion of the scope of the government in order to provide such charitable programs, whether at the municipal, state,...

    • 6 Liberalism in the Postwar City: Public and Private Power in Urban Renewal
      (pp. 135-156)

      When President Barack Obama announced the appointment of Adolfo Carrión Jr. as director for his newly created White House Office of Urban Affairs soon after his inauguration in 2009, the New York Times ran a story entitled, “From Bronx to Washington, after Mixed Results.”¹ The article contended that Carrión, a former teacher, city planner, community activist, New York City councilman, and two-term Bronx Borough president would be bringing a mixed reputation to his new job coordinating national urban policy, particularly federal investment in jobs, housing, and urban infrastructure. According to the article, his defenders praised his ability to channel private...

  6. Part III: Coalitions

    • 7 Albert Gore Sr., Liberalism and the South in the 1960s
      (pp. 159-180)

      In 1970, Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr. became a prominent victim of President Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Democrat Gore was running for reelection after three terms in the Senate and looked like a good target for the White House. He was a New Dealer in economics, had backed the Voting Rights Act and had spoken out against the Vietnam War. The White House sensed that he was out of touch with his Tennessee constituents. In September, Vice President Spiro Agnew visited Memphis and called Gore “the Southern regional chairman of the Eastern Liberal Establishment.”¹ The Republican candidate, William E. Brock III,...

    • 8 Forgotten Architects of the Second Reconstruction: Republicans and Civil Rights, 1945–1972
      (pp. 181-201)

      Historians of twentieth-century liberalism have written scores of books and articles on the politics and policy of the Democratic Party and its most prominent figures. A generation of scholars coming of age soon after World War II largely credited liberalism for notable achievements to make American society more just on behalf of previously marginalized groups. New Left scholars writing during and soon after the 1960s, (as well as some historians writing since then) tended to write off liberalism as little more than token reforms that upheld the existing social, political, and economic order. Wondering why America never adopted a social...

    • 9 Liberal Feminism and the Reshaping of the New Deal Order
      (pp. 202-228)

      In 1970, Mrs. Frank Hallonquist wrote from Waco, Texas, to Michigan Congresswoman Martha Griffiths about the unfairness of her retirement situation. “My working days were during the depression,” she recalled, “5½ to 6 days working week, no coffee breaks, no additional benefits, other than a check at the end of the month. I worked hard and have EARNED every penny of my SS [Social Security] retirement.” Yet, as a married woman she would not receive the full value of her payments to a system that she had been required to contribute to. Hallonquist noted that she had no company pension...

    • 10 Labor, Liberalism, and the Democratic Party: A Fruitful but Vexed Alliance
      (pp. 229-248)

      When Barack Obama was swept into office in 2008, a labor-liberal revival seemed a tangible possibility. For the first time in nearly half a century, a liberal, Democratic president, both urban and northern, occupied the White House. A new New Deal was on the agenda, a legislative and political initiative that promised a cavalcade of long-sought social legislation, an invigorated liberal movement and a revitalization of American labor, whose organizations now represented a smaller proportion of the workforce than at any time since Calvin Coolidge took the oath of presidential office.¹

      American trade union leaders were pleased and hopeful. They...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 249-252)
  8. Index
    (pp. 253-261)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 262-265)