LBJ, hands down I think. Given the massive flood of domestic legislation following his assumption of the Presidency (civil rights, federal money for education, expansion of federal health care, etc.), not to mention, I think, a deep appreciation of how important legislation is for enacting long-term, durable policy change, I don't think he's given nearly enough credit. Vietnam honestly has something to do with that (as does the man's obnoxious personality), but a prolific and impactful a-hole can still have a broad and wide-ranging impact. Full disclosure, I am NOT Robert Caro.
I'd agree that LBJ is the highest profile liberal hero not getting his due. People dote on Kennedy without tying him to any specific accomplishments and neglect to remember that the Great Society, Fair Housing, Civil Rights Act, and Voting Rights Act did not pass under Kennedy's stewardship, but rather Johnson's. Lyndon Johnson was a much better successor at being liberal and pushing liberal legislation than the other Johnson, who also succeeded a popular assassinated president.
Arthur Goldberg.A man who is absolutely forgotten.* Did key work with the OSS in organizing anti-Nazi activity in Europe* Instrumental in merging the AFL and CIO and frankly helped save industrial unions and put the organizations on a truly liberal (non-radical) footing* Wrote Griswold v. Connecticut* Instrumental in the long process of scaling back the death penalty* UN ambassador at a key time for the cold war clash, defended the liberal West vigorously, and wrote UN 242I am not trying to paint him as a great hero of the left as such; most of this is a mixed bag for progressivism or the left. But these are all intensely liberal causes.
Well, not quite ABSOLUTELY forgotten. From this day forward, know that at least there will be two who remembered Arthur Goldberg, for a time. Now, I'd offer T Woodrow Wilson: Though he's still "highly rated" by mainstream historians, and though his name adorns (or, if you prefer, disfigures) schools and streets and discussions of American foreign policy, he receives immediate and unambiguous condemnation as a racist, warmonger, prig, you name it, across the political spectrum. It's among the handful of things that Dr. Plain (a practitioner of the American "science" Wilson founded) and the likes of Glenn Beck have in common. Even if Wilson's not quite Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot to them, it's close. Though the main beef of "constitutional conservatives" with Wilson is their view of him as a statist, he awakens the knee-jerking bleeding heart in them, too. They get to pose as anti-racist crusaders, while happily ignoring the same fact that liberals, in singling him out, also set aside: He was a two-term president at a time of a fairly broad "progressive" consensus, and his other qualities were generally even more broadly representative: Our qualities, fully reflective of who and what we were and in many ways still are. There is arguably no more important author of what became, but in his time was not yet, modern American liberalism. So he's an odd kind of scapegoat, but a scapegoat nonetheless, serving the self-images of critics who excuse themselves from any actual confrontation with what he stood for and for his abiding influence. They think it's him they hate. Maybe it's better that way.
Modern day liberals want to write Wilson out of the tradition but he's the key reason Democrats became the party of government activism. Not sure that's a good thing though, it might have been better if Roosevelt and LaFollette had taken over the Republicans and business conservatives had migrated into the Democratic party--preventing the need for an unholy alliance between the labor left and the Jim Crow South.
I'd have to go with Hubert Horatio Humphrey. I think he was shunned by liberal boomers because of his association with LBJ and thus Vietnam, and subsequent generations have seemed to forgotten about him in entirety. But was an incredibly important American in a lot of ways and a heroic figure of liberal ideals. There of course is the the 1948 speech that would be part of a momentous change is American history and how millions upon millions of Americans live there daily lives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nwIdIUVFm4 . Normally speeches in American politics are with out any real power, they can touch our emotional cords or inspire us but they don't result in substantive changes in policy or governance. But this speech did, it provoked an open fight inside the Democratic party and quite literally caused scores of delegates to storm out of the convention hall. And keep in mind he gave this speech not as Vice President, but as the Mayor of Minneapolis. A first term mayor of a city many Americans can't find on a map deciding to challenge some of the most influential and powerful people in Democratic politics, from the floor of a convention of all places. There are a whole bunch of truly amazing stories about HHH that float around, consider:-As a newly elected senator Hubert tried to go to lunch with black staffer of his in the official Senate dining room in the Capitol. This was in in the late forties and Jim Crow was quite literally the law of the land in Washington. The maitre d'-a black man in his 60s or 70s who had spent his life working his way up that position-was said to have thus been forced to very quietly and politely tell Hubert about the social error he was about to commit. Hubert responded very loudly, being overheard by the other senators would would control his influence and access as a freshman, something to the tune of "if I sit here, he sits here" and marched into the dinning room with his staffer as a matter of principle. Thus desegregating the Senate dining room.-Complaining seems to come second nature of liberals. Indeed, complaining about how terrible President Obama seems to have become something of a hobby by many online people from the left wing. During the crucial California primary in 1972 Hubert attacked McGovern quite effectively during the one and only televised debate. Afterwards McGovern complained bitterly to Hubert and accused him of all sorts of things. Imagine, attacking your opponent's record during a televised debate! Hubert responded with the simple realism of small town Dakota life. "If you think that was tough, wait tell Nixon comes at ya." Something liberals would do well to remember when treating practical politics as some sort of abstract to show off one's own righteousness and moral superiority.-Hubert was a sort of longest suffering man in American politics. Running for president four times and coming agonizingly close to wining the white house in 1968 and the nomination in 1972. He was largely used as Vice President defend Johnson's terrible war policies in public and was rewarded with LBJ secretly preferring Nixon in the 1968 race as he favored Nixon's views on Vietnam. And was pretty much made fun of by everyone, from Hunter S Thompson to Gary Hart. But even after all that I know he spent the last few weeks to his life, with terminal cancer, walking the halls of his hospital to crack jokes at the other patients. A Happy Warrior to the end. Then he called Nixon to invite him to his upcoming funeral, which must have been one of the greatest phone calls of all time.-Largely passed over in the liberal pantheon he would coin a phrase that's often called "the liberals mantra".He did have a large football/baseball stadium named after him (arguably the worst ball park in the country during its time) although it is now called "Mall of America Field" and a graduate school at the University of Minnesota.
I was going to say Humphrey too. Strange that LBJ has been rehabilitated and he hasn't.
How about a vote for the "Belle of Ashby Street", Rep. Helen Douglas Mankin of Georgia? http://www.amazon.com/The-Belle-Ashby-Street-Politics/dp/0820332542is her bio, but there's a good profile of her at the Women in Congress thing:" The next year she won a seat in the legislature, serving for a decade as a critic of Governor Eugene Talmadge’s administration and as a supporter of constitutional, educational, electoral, labor, and prison reforms. In the process, she became an ally of liberal Governor Ellis Arnall, who had succeeded Talmadge in 1942. In 1945, Mankin and Arnall successfully steered a measure through the Georgia house of representatives to repeal the poll tax, a method southern states frequently employed to disenfranchise African-American voters too poor to pay a requisite tax in order to vote.[...]Her determination to pursue voting reforms, seen in her support for a constitutional amendment to abolish the poll tax, earned her the solid backing of African Americans [in a subsequent Congressional race] .4 This bloc of voters was barred from primaries, but not from special elections, and black voters helped Mankin prevail on February 12, 1946. Trailing Camp until the reporting of the final precinct tallies from the predominantly black Ashby Street, Mankin ended up winning the election by nearly 800 votes. Of the 1,039 registered voters in the African-American neighborhood, 963 cast their vote for Mankin.5 The African-American Atlanta Daily World newspaper noted that the election marked the first time in Atlanta history that blacks served as precinct managers and clerks in a congressional contest.[...]When Eugene Talmadge came out of political retirement that fall to run for re-election as governor of Georgia, he inveighed against “the spectacle of Atlanta Negroes sending a Congresswoman to Washington.”6 During his campaign, he mocked Mankin, nicknaming her the “Belle of Ashby Street.” Rather than retaliating, the Congresswoman adopted the title as a point of pride, as if she had invented the name herself.7[...]In the Georgia Democratic primary of July 1946, which the Supreme Court opened to African Americans for the first time, Mankin outpolled her opponent, James C. Davis, by more than 11,000 votes.10 But to offset the African-American vote, state officials, unhappy with Mankin’s liberal voting record, revived Georgia’s county unit system, which had been out of use in the district since 1932. Designed to favor rural precincts and to mitigate the urban vote by awarding the winner of the popular vote in each county a designated amount of unit votes, it was employed—as a former Georgia Representative observed—“to beat Mrs. Mankin, nothing else.”11 The strategy also gave Talmadge, a leading spokesman of white supremacy in the South, a large lead over Governor Ellis Arnall’s endorsed candidate, James Carmichael, in the gubernatorial primary—despite the fact that more than 100,000 African Americans went to the polls.12 Mankin received six unit votes for carrying Fulton County (encompassing much of Atlanta’s suburbs), while Davis received eight for carrying two less-populous counties."http://womenincongress.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=152There's more details of her positions and the subsequent events in there. She wasn't the most liberal member of the House or anything, but she was a liberal pioneer, and it's a great political story. Her bio is worth a read.
Here are two, both from the first half of the twentieth century:> Franz Boas, German-born anthropologist who spent most of his career in America. Responsible more than any other single individual for destroying the old "scientific" racism through careful observation and genuine science. > Walter White. Of Afro-Caribbean extraction, could pass for white, but decided early to live his life as a black man. Joined the NAACP in its early days and spent the '20s and '30s investigating lynchings and race riots, at huge personal risk, by going undercover as a white passer-by and collecting information for exposes that brought national attention to those problems. Became Executive Director of the NAACP and, in that capacity, fought segregated educated, greenlighting various key lawsuits including Brown v. Board of Education. Boas isn't truly "forgotten" inasmuch as anthropologists are well aware of him, but he's unknown to the general public as far as I can tell. But White, like most leaders of the early civil-rights movement -- James Weldon Johnson is another -- really is scarcely known, even among African-Americans, because of the shadow cast by the generation that followed him: ML King, Thurgood Marshall, etc. Actually White was Marshall's boss, in a sense, but he died eight months before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, so he's usually not credited for the modern civil-rights movement. Ironically, the guys who had it harder because the country wasn't ready for them yet get less credit than the guys who succeeded because, by the '50s and '60s, more people were willing to cooperate with them and they were no longer up against such impossible odds.
This is only a provisional vote, since I only now downloaded his book, I'm interested in learning more about the early German social democrat Eduard Bernstein.It seems that he rejected the Marxist commitment to revolutionary socialism in favor of an "evolutionary socialism" in which the working class would use their numbers to vote themselves better social welfare programs as capitalism generated more and more resources. I'm not a fan of the Marxist revolutionary idea which not only involves lots of bloodshed, but usually fails because the capitalists can afford awesome weapons and you can't. Bernstein was an early member of the SDP in Germany. He seems to have been helpful in getting European social democratic parties pointed the right way in politics. They've done a good job over there.Also, he's a Bernstein, so I thought he'd be good to mention on this blog.
The period's especially interesting in the light of recent events -- Occupy Wall Street in particular, and the internet Left -- a century-plus later the battle over whether it is correct line for M. Millerand to enter the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet or not never seems to have ended.
I nominate Miyamoto Kenji, who served in a variety of leadership positions with the Japanese Communist Party. How many people have heard of Miyamoto Kenji? I rest my case. A brave pacifist and socialist who spent five years in jail during World War II for his pro-democracy anti-war stances where he was mercilessly tortured as well as for his devoted 50+ years of effort building and modernizing the Japanese Communist Party. He spent later time in jail when he was arrested and abused by police forces during the 3-15 arrests, and later still was one of the key executive players in making the JCP's rejection of stalinism when the party received letters calling for a revolutionary uprising in Japan personally writing many of the party's letters to Stalin. In his life he was beaten, tortured, and sacrificed any social or personal life for decades to stay underground with the JCP, as even long after it was officially "legalized" post-war members where targeted by police forces. He slowly behind-the-scenes was on of the key pushers of moving the party toward being the mainstream, pacifist, pragmatic, scientific socialist, party it is today where it remains the only non-corrupt left-wing party in Japan.Thusly he quietly but surely was one of the founders and guides of a major political party, but is known by few and given proper credit by even less. He died in July of 2007, his missions unfulfilled. RIP.
John Doar, Nick Katzenbach, Burke Marshall....
Who's not honouring me now? (Brought to you by the Colbert Report)1970-1990: Tip O'Neill, whose underappreciation is probably made up for by Chris Matthews.1930-1950: Fiorello LaGuardia, who worked with FDR as a prominent liberal Republican and did a good deal of work to root out corruption within the New York Democratic machine.1925-1935: Huey Long. Victim of hippie-punching.1900-1925: Roosevelt and LaFollette. These two were doing more substantively liberal things than Wilson. Now if they only could have worked together ...1890s: William Jennings Bryan1860s: the Radical Republicans, who are overlooked as a class.
Bismarck - for creating an efficient and popular welfare state.
If the door's open to liberal Republicans, I nominate John Winant.
Late to the party, he wasn't totally a liberal, and Heaven knows he had enough other faults, but: I have the impression, and I think it's a pity, that the Moynihan Report isn't especially well-remembered, even though it was not a small step in bringing mainstream liberals towards the empirical-research-based social-sciencey approach to social problems that a lot of liberals take for granted. (You know, besides the importance of its conclusions and of the immediate controversy with which it was received.)
I think you're right about impressions of it. Less certain on whether it pushed liberals to being more empirical (not in whether liberals have become more emprical, but in whether Moynihan contributed to that).
@MJ (just on the off chance): the whole neoconservative project, originally, was to bring the social sciences to bear on contemporary politics. Their magazine, The Public Interest, a venue for people that took that kind of angle, was mostly non-partisan in the first years of its existence; it changed when Irving Kristol became THE dominant voice. Similarly, the name "neoconservative" came to refer to whatever Irving Kristol's views were at a given moment, but at first, when Moynihan and Daniel Bell &c. were as prominent in it as Kristol, it was definitely (what now looks like) a liberal project. That the neoconservatives pioneered a wonky, ideologically skeptical, empirically-informed brand of public policy that is currently associated much more with liberal than with conservative intellectuals may, in light of what the name came to mean, be ironic, but it's none the less true for that.
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At The Washington Post
At The American Prospect