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Wrong for All the Right Reasons

How White Liberals Have Been Undone by Race

Gordon Macinnes

Publication Year: 1996

There was a time, in this century, when liberals championed the working class, when Democrats were indisputably the party of those who worked rather than invested for a living. Today, however, most Americans have come to see liberals as drifting and aimless, somehow lacking in backbone and moral fiber, beholden to radical ideologies that have little to do with the average American's life. Few incidents cast this phenomenon into greater relief than George Bush's successful tarring of Michael Dukakis as a liberal in 1988--and, tellingly, Dukakis's subsequent flight from the liberal tradition.

How has it come to this? Why have liberals allowed themselves to be so portrayed? In this book, Gordon MacInnes--state senator, fiscal conservative, frustrated Democrat, and a man who believes deeply in America's civic culture--reveals how progressive forces have retreated from the battle of ideas, at great cost. Squarely at the nexus of race, poverty, and politics, Wrong for All the Right Reasons charts the sources of liberal decline and the high costs of conservative rule.

Tracing the origins of the liberal retreat to the fall-out over Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report on the black family in the 1960s, MacInnes claims that white liberals have somewhere along the way stopped taking black people seriously enough to argue with them. Continuously put on the desfensive, liberals have been unable to forge an aggressive, proactive agenda of that addresses the needs of working-class and poor Americans. This has led to a breakdown of honest dialogue which to this day continues to plague liberal Democrats, as evidenced by Bill Bradley's withdrawal from active party politics last fall.

Finding room for optimism in the groundswell of grass-roots progressivism, Wrong for All the Right Reasons is a timely, necessary call to arms for liberal, progressive Democrats, outlining ways in which they can reverse their party's dangerous decline.

Published by: NYU Press

Cover

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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

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FOREWORD

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pp. vii-x

The interaction of race, poverty, and public policy has been tangled in disgraceful partisan jockeying and muddled by competing versions of reality for much of American history. Indeed, in the broadest sense, that history itself is incomprehensible without an appreciation of the deep and abiding influence of the politics of race on issues, debates, and elections....

CONTENTS

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pp. xi-xii

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PREFACE

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pp. xiii-xvi

The ideas in this book first began to take shape as a result of my work with the Mondale-for-President campaign in 1984. I went to Washington to help run the advertising, polling, speech-writing, research, and debate preparation section of the campaign (and, also, to be able to tell my grandchildren that I did everything possible to prevent...

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xvii-xviii

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-12

Bill Clinton's presidency began at a confusing, transitional period in American history. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he could not do what Ronald Reagan did: borrow enough money in the name of national security to purchase temporary prosperity. President Clinton took office with the opportunity to build a new progressive coalition of...

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1 THE POLITICS OF RACE: CONSERVATIVE INDIFFERENCE MEETS LIBERAL TIMIDITY

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pp. 13-22

In June 1992, Bill Clinton's presidential candidacy was in deep trouble. True, he had just scored big primary victories in New Jersey and California on June 2. The nomination was beginning to look more like a sentence than a prize, however. The mid-June Gallup presidential preference poll showed Clinton a distant third, with only 24 percent support...

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2 RACE AND POLITICS IN THE JOHNSON YEARS: FROM MORAL MONOPOLY TO POLITICAL SIDESHOW

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pp. 23-48

President Lyndon Baines Johnson made the nation whole, at least for a short period of time. He stood on the shoulders of ten generations of black Americans to liberate their descendants in the eleventh generation from enslavement and segregation. At the time, Johnson was as powerful as an American president could get. The 1964 elections installed the 89th...

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3 THE SOURCES OF LIBERAL DECLINE: FAILURES OF MIND

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pp. 49-72

Lyndon Johnson anticipated that his dream of a great society could become a reality if his administration were able to transform the black ghettos that had been created in inner city areas across the United States. In overseeing the transformation, Johnson wanted to see numbers: how many laws were passed, programs started, dollars delivered, and people...

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4 THE LIBERAL ABANDONMENT OF POLITICS

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pp. 73-96

As Lyndon Johnson's presidency drew to a close, the Democrats' moral leverage on the nation was slipping. The violent clashes at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 symbolized growing divisions over Vietnam, the emerging cultural wars between traditional and new values, and the liberals' efforts to reform the Democratic...

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5 THE COSTS OF BLACK UNITY: POLITICAL ISOLATION

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pp. 97-116

Black political unity is a relatively new concept in American politics. Although the Fifteenth Amendment gave blacks the right to vote in 1870, generations of black citizens found themselves disenfranchised by poll taxes, phony tests, intimidation, and violence; that is, until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Seen by many as the crowning...

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6 THE HIGH COSTS OF CONSERVATIVE RULE

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pp. 117-144

Conservative Republicans were, for most of this century, a quaint group in American politics. They were tagged as the fathers of the Great Depression with telling effect by Democrats; they whined about big government and deficit spending, and terrorized the nation with tall tales about a domestic communist conspiracy. Conservatives were mostly...

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7 REBUILDING A PROGRESSIVE VISION

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pp. 145-166

Liberal was a proud label in the middle third of the twentieth century, when it described those who fought to expand opportunity to poor and working-class Americans by guaranteeing any qualified student the chance to attend college and graduate into the middle class....

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8 SOLVING PROBLEMS IN POOR CITY NEIGHBORHOODS

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pp. 167-184

No serious discussion of American society can avoid the tangle of pathology found in poor city neighborhoods. Places such as East St. Louis, North Philadelphia, Camden, and Chicago's South Side suffer from a dangerous concentration of violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, and dependency. This array of afflictions, combined with an absence of...

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9 PROGRESSIVE RESTORATION: WITH OR WITHOUT CLINTON

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pp. 185-204

The American Dream is threatened for most Americans. Since 1973, nearly one-half of American families have seen their standard of living decline! The fortunes of about 60 percent of the remainder have stagnated. Only the top 20 percent of households have seen any improvement in income and wealth. These sobering facts animate the idea of building a...

NOTES

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pp. 205-222

INDEX

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pp. 223-235

Back Cover

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pp. 236-bc


E-ISBN-13: 9780814759677
E-ISBN-10: 081475967X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814755433
Print-ISBN-10: 0814755437

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 1996

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Liberalism -- United States
  • Conservatism -- United States.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1993-2001.
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