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Sun May 22, 2016, 03:22 PM

Looking to Harry Truman to Understand Hillary Clinton

Source: New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait

In important ways, Truman clarified the center of American politics. Roosevelt’s Democratic Party had amassed an enormous but impossibly quarrelsome coalition, stretching from rabid-segregationist white southern reactionaries to peace activists who sympathized with the Soviet Union. Truman had to choose whether Democrats would retain the full loyalty of southern whites or attract the burgeoning support of African-Americans in northern cities. By endorsing a landmark report, “To Secure These Rights,” that called for equal treatment of African-Americans and by desegregating the military, he infuriated the party’s southern-segregationist wing, which bolted to support Senator Strom Thurmond’s “States’ Rights Democratic Party” presidential candidacy. Truman also chose to prosecute the Cold War, at the cost of alienating peace activists. His support for the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Western Europe, and his commitment to sending supplies to West Berlin, whom the Soviets hoped to starve into submission, enraged Wallace, who ran a left-wing campaign against him. And so by the time Truman ran in 1948, he was an unpopular incumbent facing a Republican opponent as well as splinter candidacies on both his left and his right. In retrospect, however, Truman created the model for a liberal, anti-communist party that had both coherence and endurance.

There is a model here for Clinton, and not just that a presidency lacking in ecstasy can still deliver the longer-term satisfaction of effective governance. Though the country is not in a 1940s-style crisis, its politics is strained. A passion for conflict and ideological purity defines the Sanders movement on the left; the right is enveloped in reactionary madness. (During Truman’s presidency, that madness took the form of the surreal ascent of pathological liar and demagogue Joseph McCarthy.) Clinton, by rejecting both impulses, has reminded us that she has always been a creature of the middle. An Über-Establishment president leading in anti-Establishment times may, over the long run, come to be seen as commanding the American center — even, perhaps, something like an American consensus.

Truman was a figure of crushing ordinariness, a quality that, over time, came to assume something close to greatness. Clinton gives off a similar sensibility (despite her extraordinary life experience). If you withdraw the presumption of calculation that is attached to her every action, one can see her character aging well through history: a woman who broke into male-dominated fields; a policymaker who is one of the few nerds who are still not cool. It is impossible to predict how Clinton will handle foreign policy, but it is not fanciful to hope that her experience (unusually deep for a president) will enable her to imaginatively face the confounding challenge of radical Islam.

And even if Republicans stymie her domestic initiatives, she might put her imprint on new policies that inspire successors. Clinton has proposed a modernization of the welfare state to include early education and child care. Though Truman’s proposal for universal health insurance failed, the power of his vision remained, and over time its association with Truman added to its grandiosity. And when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, that evening, he and his aides celebrated its passage on the Truman Balcony.

Read it at: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/harry-truman-hillary-clinton.html

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Reply Looking to Harry Truman to Understand Hillary Clinton (Original post)
yallerdawg May 2016 OP
BootinUp May 2016 #1

Response to yallerdawg (Original post)

Sun May 22, 2016, 03:35 PM

1. Looks like a great article

I tried to make the point on DU just this week about the importance of the Marshall Plan, in Democratic philosophy and DU lefties/socialists weren't havin any.

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