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PM Carpenter, your host. Email: pmcarp at mchsi dot com.
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May 27, 2011



I'm a Hunter Thompson admirer, but I agree that his characterization of Humphrey in "On The Campaign Trail '72" was terribly unfair, and that Thompson's treatment of Humphrey really is reminiscent of the way progressive activists have always treated all "authentically progressive pols" as you call them, at least while those pols are still in office. In fact you could argue that, in a way reminiscent of the fate of many great artists and writers, pragmatic progressive politicians do not receive acclaim for their work until after they are gone from office or from the world of the living.

It's not just FDR or Humphrey of course. It's guys like Truman, who is often treated as a saint by leftie activists today because "he was a fighter." Yet in 1948 many on Truman's left flank defected and vote for Henry Wallace, who got nearly as many popular votes as Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond did, probably cost Truman New York's electoral votes, and very nearly cost Truman Ohio and California (which had that been the case would've thrown the election to the House of Representatives).

Basically, the words of yet another progressive politician who is a hero of activists today but was not appreciated (and was in fact despised) by the true progressives of his day really tells it all.

As Lyndon Johnson once said about "emotional liberals outside Congress," they

"were held together only by a desire to create trouble. They believed in controversy and could never reconcile themselves with anyone who believed in achievement. To such men, the words ‘compromise’ and ‘betrayal’ are exactly the same. They cared less about delivering results than they did about the purity of their route to a nonexistent accomplishment.” (from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream).

Ain't that the truth.


Whatever Humphrey had done in the past, by 1968 he WAS a hack. The progressives he was with were labor supporters -- fine, except that the establishment labor movement supported the war. The "New Left" may look stupid in a lot of ways today, but there's a reason a NEW left was needed. The fact that Humphrey was the party establishment's replacement for the just-assassinated RFK didn't help endear him to the youth who had looked to RFK as someone with fresh ideas. Your argument has no context. Lyndon Johnson was a progressive too, he gave us the Great Society programs, but in 1968 the young left had good reason to hate his guts. Sure, there is a real tragedy in all this. Johnson knew he was in a no-win situation. But I'm tired of this "blame the DFHs" that's so popular today.
I think the problem is that you and others with this view are equating the DFHs of 1968 with the whining purists of today. Except you're forgetting the draft, the ghetto riots, the assassinations, the general youth rebellion, etc.



"..Your argument has no context.."

Funny -- I'm struggling to grasp the context of your comment.

P M Carpenter's post was inspired by Rick Perlstein's New York Times post (see the link Carpenter provided) about Humphrey, which touched on the complex conditions of the time and how the various factions within the Democratic Party regarded Humphrey. Mostly, Perlstein's piece -- and Carpenter's comments -- are about how hindsight allows us to more fairly evaluate the positions and accomplishments of progressive politicians.

I really don't see Carpenter attempting to equate "DFHs" with "whining purists;" I think he's just pointing out that when we have the distance and clarity provided by hindsight, we see that our most effective progressive politicians have always drawn plenty of criticism --even vilification -- from their left flank.

That said, regardless of its relevance to Carpenter's comments, your position is reasonable: the conditions that motivate and animate left-flank critics will obviously vary greatly in each unique historical period. Your examples provide a dramatic demonstration of that.


And Taibbi sounds just like HST - except a lot dumber. What I remember from HST was his veneration for Gary Hart, Pat Caddel, and even jimmy carter. What a fail - and I nodded along with the rest of the suckers.


"Kill the bill!"- so said moral egotist Howard Dean.

Yet our president was able to accomplish something that had eluded many a president for several decades.

Dorothy Rissman

Oh my goodness. A couple of my favorites voices have commented here.
Beulahmo and rootless hello. It is great to hear you.

Thanks to all of you. I find it difficult to respond as you have already said what needed to be said.

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