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Making Sense of American Liberalism

Jonathan Bell

Publication Year: 2012

This collection of thoughtful and timely essays offers refreshing and intelligent new perspectives on postwar American liberalism. Sophisticated yet accessible, Making Sense of American Liberalism challenges popular myths about liberalism in the United States. The volume presents the Democratic Party and liberal reform efforts such as civil rights, feminism, labor, and environmentalism as a more united, more radical force than has been depicted in scholarship and the media emphasizing the decline and disunity of the left._x000B__x000B_Distinguished contributors assess the problems liberals have confronted in the twentieth century, examine their strategies for change, and chart the successes and potential for future liberal reform._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Anthony J. Badger, Jonathan Bell, Lizabeth Cohen, Susan Hartmann, Ella Howard, Bruce Miroff, Nelson Lichtenstein, Doug Rossinow, Timothy Stanley, and Timothy Thurber.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-14

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the future of American liberalism is uncertain. Liberals and their allies in social reform have much to celebrate, but plenty of challenges ahead. The difficult choices faced by the Obama administration are representative. On the one hand, the election of an African American president on...

Part I: Liberals and the Left

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pp. 15-25

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1. Partners for Progress? Liberals and Radicals in the Long Twentieth Century

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pp. 17-37

Today’s conservatives view the Left and liberalism as identical categories, while many on the left see these categories as separate and antagonistic. But neither of these views is adequate. Historically, left-wing radicalism and liberal reform often overlapped in U.S. political life. The inhabitants of this shared political territory formed a left...

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2. From Popular Front to Liberalism: Redefining the Political in California in the Post-World War II

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pp. 38-61

In January 1952 a New Republic article argued that “one can see at least the wedge of the mixed economy, in the recent legislation in, say, California on the various trade-union and other ‘private’ insurance schemes at least the first sign of the Welfare State.” The 1950s would, the author argued, throw up new problems and challenges...

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3. Going Beyond the New Deal: Socialists and the Democratic Party in the 1970s

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pp. 62-89

The 1970s are widely regarded as a turning point in the American political evolution from Great Society liberalism to Reaganomics. As such, many political historians are dismissive of or even uninterested in the experiences of liberal and leftwing activists in this period. Often they are portrayed as excessively militant, fractured,...

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4. From Friends to Foes: George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and the Fracture in American Liberalism

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pp. 90-110

A few days after Hubert Humphrey died of cancer in January 1978, George McGovern drafted two tributes to him for publication in newspapers and magazines. In one of these tributes, McGovern took time to reflect on how much his own life was enmeshed in Humphrey’s: Sometimes I have thought that Hubert...

Part II: Liberals and Urban Policy

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pp. 111-121

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5. New York Liberalism and the Fight against Homelessness

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pp. 113-134

The modern American welfare system reflects its architects’ desires to assist the poor as well as their fear of fostering dependency on relief. Its programs, forged and expanded during periods of liberal political dominance, have shifted over time, as resource allocations and attitudes toward poverty have changed. The urban...

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6. Liberalism in the Postwar City: Public and Private Power in Urban Renewal

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pp. 135-156

When President Barack Obama announced the appointment of Adolfo Carrión Jr. as director for his newly created White House Office of Urban Affairs soon after his inauguration in 2009, the New York Times ran a story entitled, “From Bronx to Washington, after Mixed Results.”1 The article contended that Carrión, a former...

Part III: Coalitions

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pp. 157-167

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7. Albert Gore Sr., Liberalism and the South in the 1960s

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pp. 159-180

In 1970, Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr. became a prominent victim of President Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Democrat Gore was running for reelection after three terms in the Senate and looked like a good target for the White House. He was a New Dealer in economics, had backed the Voting Rights Act and had spoken out against...

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8. Forgotten Architects of the Second Reconstruction Republicans and Cvil Rights, 1945-1972

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pp. 181-201

Historians of twentieth-century liberalism have written scores of books and articles on the politics and policy of the Democratic Party and its most prominent figures. A generation of scholars coming of age soon after World War II largely credited liberalism for notable achievements to make American society more just on behalf of previously...

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9. Liberal Feminism and the Reshaping of the New Deal Order

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pp. 202-228

In 1970, Mrs. Frank Hallonquist wrote from Waco, Texas, to Michigan Congresswoman Martha Griffiths about the unfairness of her retirement situation. “My working days were during the depression,” she recalled, “5½ to 6 days working week, no coffee breaks, no additional benefits, other than a check at the end of the month....

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10. Labor, Liberalism, and the Democratic Party: A Fruitful but Vexed Alliance

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pp. 229-248

When Barack Obama was swept into office in 2008, a labor-liberal revival seemed a tangible possibility. For the first time in nearly half a century, a liberal, Democratic president, both urban and northern, occupied the White House. A new New Deal was on the agenda, a legislative and political initiative that promised a cavalcade...


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pp. 249-252


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pp. 253-260

back cover

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p. 274-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093982
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036866

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012