Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Question for Liberals

Same question as the one for conservatives: I'm looking for liberals in history, especially the second half of the twentieth century, who are overlooked, underappreciated or underrated. Politicians especially, but of course you're free to include anyone you like.

27 comments:

  1. Philip Burton is nearly forgotten now, outside the Bay Area, but in his time he was one of the most powerful liberals in Congress.

    Hubert Humphrey, obviously, isn't exactly forgotten, but the latter half of his career when he was hated by many liberals tends to overshadow the first half, when he was one of the first mainstream champions of civil rights.

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    1. Agree on HHH. Rick Perlstein did a wonderful op-ed on "America's Forgotten Liberal" on his 100th birthday anniversary:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/27/opinion/27Perlstein.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

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    2. I usually try to stay out of these questions, but I can't miss a chance to recommend a terrific biography of Burton by John Jacobs, A Rage for Justice.

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    3. As much as I respect Humphrey, I read opeds like Perlstein's and think that Humphrey was lucky not to be elected president, so that no one would ever have to have been disappointed in the inevitable compromises that come with actually governing.

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  2. Humphrey must be on such a list. I'd also note Martha Griffiths, Patsy Mink, Frank Church, and Barbara Jordan.

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  3. I don't know what counts as underappreciated, but let's go with Sen. Robert Wagner, Bayard Rustin, and Helen Mankin (I always put her on these lists).

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  4. Ed Muskie; Senator, presidential candidate, and author of the Clean Air and Water acts.

    We're at the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

    I grew up (and still live) along the same river that runs through the town where Muskie was born; my family's farm hugging it's shore for nearly a mile. It was one of the ten most-polluted rivers in the country 40 years ago. If you fell in, they took you to the emergency room. Nobody fished it, swam in it, canoed on it. Houses next to it had their pant peel. Animals who lived on it were sickly and deformed. It had frequent fish kills, was choked in brown foam, and stank of rotten eggs.

    Today, you can swim in it; at least down to the point where aging sewer systems results in CSOs (Combined Sewer Overflows) during heavy rains. It's home to one of the best bass fisheries in the northeast. Where wildlife was scarce and ill, there are otters and bald eagles and heron and turtles.

    But if you take old timers, folk my age or older down to the shore, and they won't go in for a swim; they still remember how bad it as. And while they admit to its improvement, they still don't trust it, though it's pretty easy to convince them to canoe a bit of it. Younger people and tourists who come for the Maine Wood recreation the river offers simply don't believe how bad it was; they think you're telling them wild tales.

    This breakdown in comprehending progress bothers me; too.

    The Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act can be used to regulate carbon emissions, crucial to combating climate change in the face of a political body still living in denial.

    Muskie's legacy, the Clean Air and Water acts and the EPA, altered the path we were on. If pollution doesn't seem like a big political problem today, it's because of the Muskie's success. And I hope that success isn't also the root of eventual failure, because we've forgotten, because we take clean water and air for granted.

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  5. Minnesota gave us two: Paul Wellstone and Eugene McCarthy.

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  6. ya did this one in June!

    http://plainblogaboutpolitics.blogspot.com/2012/06/sunday-question-for-liberals_10.html

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  7. Since we're not limited to politicians, I'd say Alvin Hansen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Hansen

    If we were limited to politicians, I'd say Emmanuel Celler, one of the few liberals before the 1970's to chair a major House committee for a long time.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Celler

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    1. Without taking anything away from Manny Celler, perhaps his final contribution to liberalism in particular and American public life in general was getting lazy in 1972 and taking a primary challenge from Liz Holtzman for granted.

      Holtzman upset Celler by a few hundred votes. That moved Peter Rodino into the chairman's seat of the Judiciary Committee just as the Watergate investigation was picking up steam.

      Unlike the at-times dictatorial Celler, Rodino was a soft-spoken consensus builder who played a key role in securing the votes of conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans for the Nixon impeachment resolutions.

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  8. Shirley Chisolm, perhaps? Maybe she's a bit too far left...

    "The liberals in the House strongly resemble liberals I have known through the last two decades in the civil rights conflict. When it comes time to show on which side they will be counted, they excuse themselves."

    "Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth."

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  9. George McGovern has been an object of ridicule - symbol of a soft-headed liberalism that did not exist - and certainly did not describe him. He was firmly against the Vietnam War when it was not easy. He democratized the Democratic Party - which had become possible because conservative white southern Democrats had left it. Today on the occasion of his death we should recognize that he gets much too little credit for being right.

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  10. Not forgotten in Chicago, but everywhere else- Harold Washington. 25 years later, the coalition he built looks like pretty much exactly how Democrats win.

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  11. Ron Carey, former Teamsters President.

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  12. The obvious one today is George McGovern. I am still proud he was my first vote for President, and that I carried a "Don't Blame Me, I'm From Massachusetts" sticker on my guitar case for years afterwards.

    He was a classic liberal: logical, reasonable, decent and compassionate, and certain that the government can be an instrument of justice and compassion. And on Vietnam, he simply was right.

    He was a stalwart public servant for years after his 1972 defeat, and even approaching 90 he wrote an eloquent statement in his last book about the core meanings of liberalism in the 21st as well as the 20th century.

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  13. Paul Foot, John Smith, Francois Mitterand

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  14. Paul Wellstone. No question hes on a list.

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  15. Allard Lowenstein - #7 on Nixon's enemy list. Assassinated 1980

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  16. Allard Lowenstein - #7 on Nixon's enemy list. Assassinated 1980

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