Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton "Red Baits" Cuba and Obama

by Norman Markowitz

In the 18th century, Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famous British writer ("man of letters" they would say at the time) made the famous statement that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" (today that would be translated as chauvinistic nationalism) In the 20th century, red baiting was both a refuge and a form of political hate speech for a great many scoundrels – J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Dies, Joe McCarthy, and of course both pre and post World War II presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, to name
but a very few.

Now, in the 21st century, Hillary Clinton has got into the act, denouncing Barack Obama for offering to negotiate with Cuba, a "rogue state"(her crude comment) without conditions, mocking Obama for looking toward the sky and speaking about ""hope" and "unity" without knowing anything. At the same time, she seeks to separate herself from "my friend" (her words, not mine) John McCain, who still follows the Bush path of military intervention while she, representing what was once called "the vital center" looks toward negotiations.

Hillary Clinton is losing, in spite of all of her advantages, because millions of Democratic voters are concluding that one Clinton in the White House was enough just as one Bush in the White House was more than enough. In her desperation, she is reviving a version of "cold war liberal" ideology that characterized leadership groups in the Democratic Party in the 1950s and the 1960s.

The late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr was the most important advocate of that ideology, beginning in a very famous political tract, The Vital Center, written in the late 1940s. The work condemned "tenderminded" liberals who wished to end the cold war by negotiations with the Soviet Union, to recognize the legitimate security needs of the Soviet Union and the global revolutionary situation, as cockeyed (and in the subtext somewhat effeminate) idealists and praised "tough minded" liberals, "realists," who supported the containment doctrine, the military buildup, and the Korean war and nuclear arms race.

Schlesinger was around as an adviser to the Kennedy administration during the Bay of Pigs invasion (and even played a minor role in the public relations for it from the U.S. side) although he later turned against the Johnson administration's escalation of the Vietnam War, which resulted in the discrediting of cold war liberal ideology and policy and the victory of Richard Nixon (there were other reasons for Nixon's victory, of course, including a racist backlash against Great Society Civil Rights policies, but the Vietnam escalation was a central reason).

Cold war liberalism, with its "macho" ideology of "tough minded realism," was, to paraphrase Karl Marx, a tragedy, in that it set back labor and progressive forces in the U.S. enormously by committing the Democratic Party and much of the Center Left to fight an endless cold war on the side of rightwing dictatorships, conservative and reactionary forces globally, the forces that had been defeated in the Second World War. It also retarded in the early postwar period the movements for Civil Rights and Women's rights. Hillary Clinton's use of it, once more to paraphrase Karl Marx, is a historical farce, not only its portrayal of Cuba, a nation that was a U.S. "protectorate" (satellite was the term used for such states in other places) until the revolution, a nation occupied by U.S. marines over and over again until the 1930s, a nation whose economy was largely controlled by absentee U.S. companies, all until the revolution.

But it is also a farce because Hillary Clinton is recycling an ideology of warfare and conflict with a sexist subtext, out of her desperation. Hopefully, she will lose the nomination. Also, hopefully the tragedy will not replay itself, as McCain and the Republicans pick up on her attacks and use them, condemning Obama as a "tender-minded" liberal unfit to be president, the way Republicans picked up on cold war liberal charges to attack Adlai Stevenson particularly in the 1950s as a "tenderminded liberal" unfit to lead the country as against the "experienced, realistic" military man, Dwight Eisenhower.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nixon proved that there are more options open to a hawk than a dove. No Democrat would dare open diplomatic relations with China out of fear of being "Red baited" out of office. I don't think there's much difference between Hillary and Obama on the subject, except perhaps, the timing.