Monday, August 6, 2012

The Rise of the McGovernites?

Ed Morrissey draws attention to an interview with Martin Peretz, former owner of The New Republic.  Peretz regrets the rise of the McGovernite faction in the Democratic party:
"I bought the New Republic to take back the Democratic Party from the McGovernites,” the legendary editor and publisher Martin Peretz says. Now, he fears, George McGovern’s ideas may be back in vogue within the party. …
“You know, I disagreed with Bill Clinton on some things and I didn’t disagree with him on others,” Mr. Peretz recalls. But Mr. Clinton’s administration “was in the deep tradition of the Roosevelt-Truman idea.” He concludes: “In any case, I think the Democratic Party was restored to a center role. Yes, it took a lot for the Clinton administration to rescue Bosnia. And it took a lot for the Democrats to admit to a mistake in Somalia.” But they eventually did both.
“We’re now in a new era,” Mr. Peretz warns. “I think that Obama is a child, or maybe let’s say a grandchild, of the New Left, with casual moral judgments made about very intricate ethical alternatives.” Later he thunders: “Leading by following—it’s really a sick phrase.”
I think in many respects Peretz is right to trace Obama's political lineage to the New Left and the McGovernite faction of the Democratic party.

However, one factor left unmentioned by both Morrissey and Peretz is that the rise of the McGovernites in many ways was the transition of the progressive left to the politics of the chic.  Many forces backing McGovern were often culturally hostile to the American middle class and the American worker.  This hostility was important for the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, as union members and other middle-class workers felt increasingly estranged from their usual Democratic allies.

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