Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The New Who?

I read myself to sleep last night with the new edition of the letters of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  Somehow the politics of an earlier and (seemingly?) simpler time offered consolation among our present miseries--especially in the company of perhaps the brightest, most engaging, most constructive politician of in my memory.    Today I'm remember the letter of June 26, 1960, to an old professor whom Moynihan obviously admires, trying to make clear why he is abandoning Adlai Stevenson for the young John F. Kennedy.  Moynihan recalls his graduate years in Europe, during the Korean war, at the high tide of McCarthyism: "It aws, you know, a troubling sight," he says.

"Then Adlai Stevenson emerged from all the mess," recalls Moynihan, and  "I was stirred by his vision, his understanding, aand the great courage tht underlay his high spirits." 

Moynihan goes on to recall his own years working for Averill  Harriman, and to describe an epiphany about Democratic politics:
I found to my shock that it was not the Republicans who had rejected Adlai Stevenson, but the Democrats.  The working class and the lower middle class in New York State ... had profoundly lost confidence in the principles of foreign policy, even of public and social policy which most liberals regard as essentially self-evident and substantially and unquestioned.  Stevenson had in fact attracted a significant vote from the professional and upper elements that normally vote Republican.  But he lost Brooklyn and the Bronx in droves.  The hard truth is that much of this resulted not from the attractions of Eisenhower but from plain hostility toward Stevenson and the Democratic national leadership.
 You can see where this is going.  Moynihan is laying the groundwork to justify his decision to abandon Stevenson for his younger, more energetic, more magnetic, competitor.  Kennedy, Moynihan argues, stands for almost everything Stevenson stood for.  But Kennedy can (and, of course, did) win.

History, they say, does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.  We've said that Obama is Kennedy--well, no more of that.  Or Carter.  Or Hoover.  Maybe he's just Adlai Stevenson.  And who will be Obama's JFK?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

if hilary "retires" as sec of state she will be obama's jfk. i'm not recommending it.