Chapter Sixty-one

Postwar Domestic Politics

Each generation is encouraged to believe that
its cohort will put all to right. This is as it should be,
with a proviso that it be told how the past
had really behaved, and how much toil and trouble it
would take to do better. The political history of America in the
period 1945 to 1995, about one-quarter of the nation's history,
appears in retrospect hardly to have progressed beyond
the norms of the past.

By "progress," it is by now clear, we mean "behaved so as to
further intelligently the absolute and relative shares that all
Americans received of the several values that make life worthwhile."
Politics or government or the civil order is supposed by most people
to be the means of doing so, and the Constitution more or less
exhorts the effort.

Considering the pace set by industrial growth, population increases
and the world wars in the destruction of natural and human
resources, even if the century had been marked by many Progressive
steps in technology, government and social behavior, their effects
would have been canceled by the costs of taking them. That is,
overall progress is not in details, even not in worthwhile details,
unless the sum of Progressive detail exceeds the retrogression,
whether sui generis or the backlash of progress.

Truman was succeeded by Eisenhower who was followed by
Kennedy, and he by Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Truman had been a storekeeper (who,like Lincoln, went bankrupt)
and reserve officer of artillery, then a cog in the
notorious Prendergast machine of Kansas City, Missouri, and stayed
in that character for the duration of his political career. Eisenhower
and his wife Mamie were bridge players in the Old Army and he ended
up a perpetual golfer; the special thing in his life was Kay
Somerville, an English WAC; he never made a decision that was
more than an inch in advance of the opinions around him, and
could be therefore called a man of sound opinions.
He never heard a shot fired in anger,
complained General Montgomery - but, then,
everyone knew that Monty was a praying Puritan
sourpuss, and "Ike" was a real nice guy.

The Republican party, founded in appeals to the Northern working
class, continued its twentieth century tradition of the party of
businessmen. General Eisenhower was no exception to the rule,
despite his heavy Democratic voter support. A small but significant
indication is whom you invite to dinner. From June 1953 to January
1955, President Eisenhower gave 38 dinners at the White House to
which were invited 555 guests. (That's about 15 per dinner, hardly
an intimate group.)

They included:
294 Businessmen
81 Administration Officials
51 Editors, publishers and writers
30 Educators
23 Republican Party leaders
18 Scientists, artists, sportsmen, etc.
16 Old friends from military days
10 Heads of foundations or charities
9 Farmers and farm leaders
8 Union officials
6 Church leaders
5 Eisenhower relatives
4 State and local officials

One may be unhappy about the plethora of "bottom-liners,"
but, to this analyst, the paucity of State and local officials is sadder.
These were (and are) the people who were running the engine rooms
of democracies. Ike had no knowledge whatsoever of grass roots
democracy, and, having rarely voted in his life, indicated that he
had little inclination to put such types
on the level of golfing partners.

Public perception of what the major parties stood for did not change
much over time. The New Deal froze the image of the parties in the
public mind, and even with the Democrats losing steadily toward the
end of the century, their image remained the same.
In 1955, the situation was as follows:

The Parties as the Public Saw Them in 1955

(this was an open-ended question and answers do not add up to 100%)

What Republicans stand for:
Big business, privileged few .... 19%
Avoid war .... 5%
Conservative, more to right.... 5%
Economy, pay-as-you-go .... 4%
Higher standard of living .... 3%
Honesty in government .... 2%
Average man, common people .... 2%
Higher tariffs .... 2%
All others .... 12%
Same as Democrats .... 9%
Don't know .... 43%

What Democrats Stand for
Common man, labor, all the people.... 27%
Socialism, liberal, more to left .... 6%
Better living conditions .... 4%
Big spending .... 4%
High Farm prices; farm program .... 2%
War .... 2%
All others .... 13%
Same as Republicans .... 9%
Don't know .... 39%

Several principal issues of the period of the fifties took shape
differently in the minds of Democrats and Republicans. Typically
Democratic voters thought that the attention of the government to
social welfare activities was inadequate, while Republican voters
thought that less activity was desirable. An Act to forbid unions and
managements from agreeing upon a "closed shop," the Taft-Hartley
Act, enacted by a combination of Republicans and Southern
conservative Democrats, was decidedly unpopular among
Democratic voters, but approved by Republicans, some of whom
even wished it to be strengthened. Democrats diverged from
Republicans, too, in wishing the Federal government to do more
about insuring non-discrimination on racial grounds in employment.

Democrats did not believe that the country was too involved in foreign
entanglements; Republicans on the whole did believe so.
Democrats considered that the U.S. government was not to blame
for China going communist, while the Republicans thought it was.
Democrats thought the government right in going to war in Korea to
keep the country from falling into the hands of communist North
Korea, and should now seek a peaceful settlement (February, 1955),
whereas Republicans felt that the U.S. should have stayed out of
Korea but, now that the damage was done and China had
intervened, it should take all steps necessary including bombing
Manchuria to win the war decisively.

However, the profile of the partisans was never quite the same from
one issue to another; usually a considerable number of Democrats
sided with the Republicans and vice versa; sometimes the number of
voters of both parties who were undecided or neutral on an issue
outnumbered those of either party who had an opinion. So it can be
concluded that voters of the major parties in many cases did not follow
the positions of their party leaders and often did not have any opinion
about an issue. Some would call this stupidity, but
euphemistic professors and pollsters refer to the
phenomenon as party loyalty.

This was true from the beginning of the Republic and remained the
state of affairs until the end of the twentieth century. We recall that
even in the 1860 elections where secession and slavery were issues,
the Southern vote was divided enough to bring about several parties,
and that Southern voting on the matter of seceding from the Union
many voters disagreed with their leaders and wanted to stay in the
Union. A truly free electorate rarely is perfectly
divided by party on an issue.

Notable in the collection of views of the parties is that few any
longer believed the Republican Party to be in favor of higher tariffs.
The tides were changing. Lincoln was moderately for protective
tariffs. McKinley declared foolishly that free trade would take away
half a worker's earning power. Theodore Roosevelt insanely wrote a
friend, "Thank God I am not a free-trader. In this country, pernicious
indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably
to produce fatty degeneration of the moral fibre." Woodrow Wilson
took advantage of a Republican split to lower tariffs greatly. But
Harding and Hoover raised them again. The New Deal brought them
down somewhat and then Eisenhower ushered in a new Party policy
by continuing the Democrats' lowering of rates. After that, enough
Democrats and Republicans joined together with Presidents of both
parties to seek continuously worldwide low tariffs.

The major parties were as "undisciplined" as the voters;
Congressmen often crossed party lines to vote with the opposition on
an issue, a practice unlike that prevailing in the European
democracies. A glance at the record of the Eighty-third Congress
will illustrate what happens generally, and again the same behavior
has characterized the two-party system whenever it has been
practiced - which means most of the time.

There were 407 roll-call votes in all during that Congress, which met
in 1953 and 1954. By the calculations of the Congressional Quarterly,
President Eisenhower had taken a clear position on 198 of them. Each
congressman's votes were compared with the President's stand on the
issue and the total percentage of his agreement with the President
on all issues was computed. Then the average of the percentages
for all Democratic congressmen was calculated,
as well as for the Republicans.

It was discovered that in the Senate the Republican score for
cooperating with Eisenhower was 73%; in the House, 71%; in both
chambers together, 72%. By contrast, the Democratic composite
cooperation-with-Eisenhower score on the 198 issues was 38% in
the Senate, 44% in the House, and 43% in both houses together.
The Republicans thus voted with the President in seven out of every
ten cases, the Democrats in four out of every ten. Obviously the
Republicans in Congress supported Eisenhower more than the
Democrats did.

But party cohesion was weak. It was this very fact of weak cohesion
that kept the two-party system in existence; by leaning first one way
and then the other, as the winds changed in his constituency, the
Congressman could avoid a third-party challenge or the
obliteration of his own party.

Probably the threat of a third party caused more changes in party
behavior on issues than the pressures felt from the opposing major
party; this ghost or virtual third party is one reason for not
ridiculing third parties as fruitless endeavors or being haughty over
the two-party tradition. On several occasions a third party candidate
threatened to affect the final results, and may have done so,
although there was no means of telling.

Thus a substantial threat appeared in 1948 with the States' Rights
Party running South Carolina Senator and Governor Strom
Thurmond, and the Progressive Party running former Vice President
Henry Wallace, again with an election so close that the final result,
Truman beating Dewey, might have been affected.

Alabama Governor George C. Wallace received 13.5% of the total
vote cast running as an American Independent candidate in 1968,
while Richard Nixon edged out Hubert Humphrey with 43.4%
against 42.7% to win the Presidency. Wallace was severely
wounded by an assassin before he had a chance to demonstrate his
staying power his second time around.

Senator John B. Anderson, running as an Independent in 1980,
picked up 6.6% of the vote, probably not affecting Reagan's
substantial victory.

Billionaire Ross Perot showed in the 1992 elections what could be
done with a minimum of program, a few meaningless slogans, and
millions of dollars of spending upon advertising and local club
organizations. (In this he was unobstructed by federal campaign
expenditure limitations law, that does not affect a candidate's personal
spending.) He might have influenced the outcome, the Democratic
victory of Clinton, for he obtained
19% of the total vote cast.

A virtual "Third Party of the Stay-aways" exists, such that as many
as 47% of the potential voters did not vote in one Presidential
election, lesser but substantial percentages in all others, and so that,
if one could have controlled who did and did not vote, one could
have turned many an election around at all levels of government and
in every period of U.S. history.

Ross Perot was a major but typical phenomenon of the recent past, a
one-man party. Increasingly candidates at all levels have loosened their
bonds to their party apparatus, or discovered that there was little help
in the party affiliation besides the highly important party label. It's like
a brand name that has value independent of the existence of an
underlying company; an exclusive haberdashery,
Abercrombie and Fitch, for instance, sold its name for a million dollars
after the company operation had disappeared.

So, aspirants to office at any level of government would have to
prepare their own petitions of candidacy, set up their own
organization, provide their own publicity and services, and pay their
expenses and that of any staff members (exclusive of one's spouse);
if unopposed or appearing to run strongly, they would usually obtain
a major party's endorsement, the major party maintaining all the
while some semblance of structure and information processing and
an official liaison with the national party headquarters.

The endorsement would be worthwhile proportionate to the reliable
basic vote of the major party in the constituency; thus, perhaps a
15% basic vote for a Democrat running in a strong Republican
district, but an 80% guarantee for a Democratic candidate in a
solidly Democratic jurisdiction.

Far from reducing the costs of running for office, this changing system
has increased the burden of running for office. In turn, legislative
bodies have spent all the more time debating and passing laws to
diminish allowable spending. The media, whose income depends in
part upon political advertisement, oppose some
restrictions. Most restraints are hard to police.
And an exchange of gifts between two candidates can evade the limits,
as can a number of gifts from a large family,
down to an infant who, his attorney assures us,
"knows in his heart that Goldwater is right."

There appeared to be no way of preventing a poor candidate from
sleeping under the bridge, while the rich man's chariot rumbles over it.
As for the degree of public enlightenment emanating from enhanced
expenditures, this relationship has been negatively correlated.
Moreover, in some cases, the more strident the TV and press
appeals, the fewer voters appeared on election day
- retiring out of disgust.

A counter-culture movement waxed and waned in the last half of the
twentieth century, climaxing in the late sixties and early seventies. It
was a mild version of the Cultural Revolution that Mao exhorted the
young to in China at about the same time, and did far less damage
because it lacked all support from police, politicians, military
and business. It was largely confined to the young and
to college students or drop-outs.

Motorcycle gangs sprang up everywhere,
went roaring through towns, sheathed in leather,
with gleaming buckles and badges,
often girls coupling with boys on the bikes,
a phenomenon that spread to Europe, and had Edith Piaf
singing "Man on the Motorcycle," who sows
terror over the whole region:
"il semait la terreur dans toute la région."

The rebels could assemble large crowds on occasion, as
at the Columbia and University of California campuses,
hundreds actually, especially when attuned to resist
the Vietnam War, claim civil rights for
minorities, and call in the entertainment world.
Throngs turned out in a march on the Capitol in Washington,
half a million for a musical picnic at Woodstock,
New York, and thousands in riotous demonstrations
against the Democratic National Convention at Chicago
in 1968.

Politicians generally, and the major parties, had almost
no rapport with the movement, and were pleased
to see it wither away as the eighties approached.
Blue collar workers regarded the various manifestations of
"beatniks" as unpatriotic, and the youth over-privileged.
African-Americans remained suspicious of their motives,
and had their own bag to carry. In a way it was like one of
the threatening third party movements that soon expired.

That "counter-culture" was a neologism granted anti-War
and anti-establishment movements and life styles of the young
was illogical, and perhaps mistakenly accepted by the rebellious ones.
Tactically it should have been reserved for the
extreme right and anti-radical movements of America.
For teachers and historians and editors have usually regarded
movements such as Senator Joseph McCarthy's onslaught against the
Washington establishment and liberals generally, and George Wallace's
following, and the "Moral Majority" of Bible-thumpers and "True
Believers" as counter-culture, without using this same word,
preferring to see America's mainstream culture as the proper
upper-middle-class college-attending Northern
pro-science and pro-establishment aggregate -
from which, to conclude this normal nonsense, came
typically the new counter-culturalists.

This editorial behavior would seem to be a confession that the right is
mainstream, not counter-culture, just as the rightists would have
Americans generally believe. Their success in wrapping themselves in
the American flag was continuous over the whole century:
a person of eighty years looking back would have witnessed
a major red scare in and after World War I,
another during the Depression,
a third after World War II -
there would seem to be one in every political generation.

Senator Joe McCarthy's particular expression of hatred of the liberal
and proper-mannered upper middle classes (never the plutocracy),
and of the complacent State Department establishment, and of the
traitors whose numbers around the country were grossly exaggerated
from something like zero (so far as he proved) to thousands (as he
would assert), was incredible and absurd to the point that one
wonders how respectable can be a culture that
pays such conduct deep attention.

Three of the largest, best-produced, and richest newspapers in the
country, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune and the
Los Angeles Times (owned and directed by the related Patterson and
McCormick families) culminated a quarter-century of rabid anti-New
Deal and isolationist fulminations by lending the set of red-baiters their
full support. The two greatest, very large, and well-produced
newspapers ( Ochs and Graham family-controlled, both
Jewish, not incidentally) cleaved their way through the storm of
anti-liberalism aroused by the McCarthyites. McCarthy had to
practically kill himself by insane activity and words, and begin
to die of alcoholism before his effectiveness ceased, and
he be mildly censured by the Senate.

The best achievement of John F. (Jack) Kennedy was
nosing out Richard Nixon in the race for the presidency,
thus giving the nation a respite before suffering that one.
Election results were extremely close; tidy pocket votes,
Texas (Johnson country) and Chicago (Daley country)
let Kennedy scrape by.

Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, despite herself,
put on a good show together, and many liberals and Catholics
liked them. He was not much of either, but then....
He was bothered continually by a wartime back injury,
but bore up well. The cortisone he had to take in large doses
contributed to a very active sex life, seeking surcease
well beyond the bounds of matrimony.

Like his father, a highly successful bootlegger,
adulterer, speculator and king-maker,
with pronouncedly Irish Catholic opinions, if not morals,
Jack could not be put down and created a lot of excitement.
With his brothers, ill-fated Senator Bob and
Senator Edward (whose Presidential potential was vitiated
in the wake of a fatal car accident to a woman companion),
he gave Americans an imaginative and courageous venue
and scenario. Unlike nearly all other politicians,
the Kennedys bristled with independence.

Still Jack seemed like a probable loser the second time around.
He just was not enough like the seventy million Americans
who confessed to Gallup pollsters that they had enjoyed
a born-again experience and consequently maintained
a close personal relationship with Jesus.
That seemed to leave Jack out.

In a matter of hours, fearful that Russian agents or somebody
might be attempting to take over the U.S. government,
Lyndon Baines Johnson,on the airplane carrying Kennedy's body
back to Washington from Dallas,
had himself sworn in as President. He was
"hot to trot," in a border folk expression of the day. A psychiatrist
would say that Johnson was projecting his own strenuous
power drive onto the towers of the Kremlin.

L.B. Johnson was a powerful scoundrel as Senator,
his first electionbrought by outstealing his opponent,
especially in the Hispanic counties along the Rio Grande.
He was a brutal and domineering man
who had spent a decade in the Senate and was the floor
leader of the Democrats.

He had loved F.D.R. and ached to sponsor something
like a new New Deal, even while he wheeled and dealed
in Texas and Washington. His designation as Vice-Presidential
candidate carried Texas for Kennedy;
it could not have happened without him.
He seized his new opportunities avidly.
He caused to be introduced and
usually passed in the Congress a wide range of legislation
serving to reinforce the New Deal programs.

Johnson, though a Johnny-come-lately to staunch reform,
worked furiously for the rights and welfare of African-Americans and
Hispanic-Americans, and by extension for all ethnic minorities.
Perhaps the best that could be said of this political generation is that
in the middle nineteen sixties a favorable resolution of the 100-year
Reconstruction War was obtained in the form of generally enlarged
freedoms for African-Americans and of civil rights laws.

The Supreme Court did most of this job. Several Presidents
ponderously conducted the political machinery of the nation to
victory in the struggle. Liberal sections of the national public
helped, associated with a number of congressmen. The active force
was the Black power movement - from soft to extreme - of the
African-Americans themselves.

Novel features of Johnson's "War against Poverty" program
included granting, to the poor beneficiaries of welfare services, the
right of representation by elections in the local councils that
determined government policy in many everyday activities. This was
only one step, but a startling one, because power was given over
to people who were rarely consulted on anything.

In typical American representation, it has been true
- but denied by myth - that voters were really acting in their
capacity as recipients of largesse from the government and were
expected to vote for delegates who will do their bidding;
but they are formed, for the purpose of grab-bagging, into
neutral-seeming geographical constituencies.

So with welfare mothers now, with community centers, and others.
But these would be functional constituencies, and of the poorest
people, who most Americans would say offhand had no right to
determine how to spend public funds.
Precedents there were, for example, in agriculture,
where farmers (apportioned into districts) were let
decide whether and how to enter into the federal
government programs that guaranteed or boosted their income
if they would change or cut back on their plantings,
or withhold their crops from the market).

Johnson thought he could win the Vietnam War. He took his defeats
there so hard that he decided he must not run again for the
Presidency. Presumably he sensed a defeat;
he may have been mistaken.

It does appear that a tiresome procession of mediocrities occupied the
White House for the second half of the century, beginning with
Truman, with the exception of John F. Kennedy and L. B. Johnson:
Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton.
They were floating uncomfortably on deep waters.
Would the losers have been better?
I can venture a horseback opinion, using as working
definition their net contribution to progress.

Thomas Dewey would have had a more competent staff and been
more at home in world affairs and administrative management than
Truman; he would probably have knocked Joe McCarthy out of the
ring, instead of what Truman did, with his own red-hunting program
in the government (which insultingly vetted four million Americans
and found a couple of hundred were not loyal to America).

Adlai Stevenson had been Governor of Illinois, a liberal newspaper
publisher, an educated man, sympathetic, charming; dull inert
Eisenhower, the champion bureaucrat of all time, but covered with
military glories of everybody else, beat him soundly twice. Then came
Kennedy, shading out Nixon. Barry Goldwater, a darling
"Marlborough man" of the conservatives and the military, was
swamped by Johnson; Johnson turned in an unexpectedly superior
performance afterwards.

Hubert Humphrey, and then George McGovern, sadly, fell before
Nixon. Nixon fell before the Congress, for which he expressed
contempt once too often. He was about to be impeached and probably
convicted, and therefore removed from office for high
crimes and misdemeanors, the first President of this ilk; he had
committed a variety of offenses, several of which, the House leaders
thought, might be conveniently and expeditiously prosecuted by the
Senate: obstruction of justice by bribing of witnesses; withholding
of evidence; misusing federal agencies to deprive citizens of their
constitutional rights; and wrongfully withholding incriminating tapes
from Congressional investigators.

Back of him, as he flew the coop, lay a Presidential record of trying to
block the civil rights of Blacks as well (his contempt for the
Constitution seems to have exceeded his contempt for Congress), of
erratic attempts at stopping a severe economic recession, many dirty
political tricks (committed by men from under his protective wings), a
secret escalation of the Indo-Chinese warfare by ordering
extensive bombings inside Cambodia, and of course the
Watergate Affair.

Nixon, aided by Henry Kissinger, his adviser on foreign affairs,
broke the ice of American relations with China and the Soviet
Union, meeting with the heads of government on their own
territory, and with the Chinese (now hostile to the USSR) implying
that Taiwan was not to be forever free of China, and with the
Soviets pushing a few papers around to indicate that nuclear
disarmament (at least of out-moded weapons) was not impossible.

Kissinger suffered no unendurable taint from his close association
with Nixon. A refugee from Nazism, a Professor at Harvard in due
course, a protégé of Nelson Rockefeller, and a sturdy defender of
the "national interest" against idealistic international politics,
Kissinger felt no rub-off of the evils of Nixonism.

The swank new building complex called Watergate housed the
National Committee of the Democratic Party; it was 1972 and an
election campaign was on that would bring Nixon the greatest vote
ever achieved by a Republican Party candidate. It is most doubtful
that a burglary or even a hand-over of all the Democratic materials
contained in the offices would help anybody obtain anything but
misinformation. Still, Nixon suffered abnormally from paranoia.
His close assistants therefore were also infected with his
psychopathology, and they naturally hired agents
who were professionally
paranoid, ex-CIA personnel and the like.

The results were comic; the burglars were arrested in flagrante
delicto, and the story began to unravel. Before it was over, four
cabinet members and twenty-one additional officers of the Nixon
administration, plus several outside "plumbers," were convicted and
punished. The absurdity of the crime was as nothing compared to the
crimes committed afterwards, and to the indecency and obstructionism
of the Nixon gang. Nixon resigned in August of 1974.
The drama ended in a triumph for the American way of
government. Still, "Tricky Dick" ran around the world afterwards
as if he owned it.

Nixon was supposed to be succeeded by Spiro Agnew, but this elegant
figure, hand-picked by Nixon as best equipped to succeed him, proved
to be on the way to jail for accepting bribes while Governor of
Maryland and Vice-President. He made a deal to resign and
avoided prison.

Gerald Ford, of Michigan, Republican leader of the House, was, in
accord with the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution,
appointed Vice-President in Agnew's place by President Nixon
in 1973. After voting for General Motors all his life, he could think of
little better to do than to double-cross everyone
by pardoning Nixon, who had resigned in disgrace
(is there a place for such a term in politics?),
and doing so in a strange way,
a premature pardon against any future prosecution and conviction,
the constitutionality of which is gravely in doubt.
Ford succumbed to Carter,
as well he should have.

Although it is hard to realize, Carter served a full term in office. He
had perhaps the weakest staff and made the poorest appointments of
all. But he had a true concern for people, despite being an engineer
and naval officer earlier in life. He had become a peanut-farmer -- one of
the heavily subsidized agricultural occupations. In fact he was more
of a technocrat than a Georgia dirt farmer; still he gave the
Old South its first President since Woodrow Wilson, who was
hardly a stereotypical Southerner.

Carter's chief problem, and it was ruinous, occurred when
a mob of Iranian fundamentalists overthrew the pro-American
government of the Shah, and took hostage all the Americans
they could round up, imprisoning them in the American Embassy itself.
Ruhollah Khomeïni, a fundamentalist and nationalist mullah, hung tough.
The long months of the hostage crisis were punctuated
by an aborted highly embarrassing attempt by
American special troops to land by helicopter,
rush the Embassy, and rescue the hostages.

By releasing blocked Iranian funds, Carter obtained the freedom of
the hostages, but not before Election Day, when he was defeated by
Ronald Reagan. One might even suspect a Reagan-Khomeïni special
relationship because, later in Reagan's second term, his top security
officers secretly dealt with Iran to sell it weapons, in violation of an
embargo ordered by Congress.

One is ready to go against the populace that found Reagan sincere,
because the record is so peppered with lies and deceptions, with
sleaze, with selective deregulation the chief effect of which -
because it was so primitively done - turned out to be useless, and
costly mergers and failures in the airline business and elsewhere,
huge bank failures, wild speculation in high risk loans, cutbacks in
labor forces of business without protecting discharged employees,
tremendous deficits and negative balances of payments, and
astrological advice tendered to Nancy Reagan and from her to her
husband. The grand hypocrisy of demanding budget balancing and
debt repayment, while adding to both of these great sums, and
lowering or promising to lower tax rates to the rich and middle
classes - such hypocrisy achieved new heights.

It belongs in the company of the meretricious pledges
not to send any of our boys overseas to fight.
When a scholar gets around to researching the fiscal effects
of the Reagan administration, which was so heavily supported
for being tight-fisted and financially well-advised by the
"money-supply-control" school of economists, the
scholar will probably discover it to have been far and away the
most extravagant in American history.

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were alert, conscientious,
modern men beaten out by the aforesaid charming nincompoop.
Dukakis was several cuts above Bush in his attitudes, programs, and
performance (as Governor of Massachusetts). A grotesquely vile
Republican campaign made him seem almost like an outcaste, and
his reactions were so masochistic and formal as to
inspire despair in his supporters.

George Bush, a bumbler from Connecticut, on the other hand, was
made to appear more competent, and perhaps even was so, than his
vanquished, and by his vanquisher, Bill Clinton. So in this man's
opinion, not only has the electorate given undeserved pluralities and
skimpy ones at the wrong times to the wrong men, but it has chosen
the inferior candidate eight out of eleven times.

Nor did Congress sparkle with luminaries. Hubert Humphrey held
forth until demised; he was one of the several best of the century,
marked for the presidency from his youth - like Henry Clay - but
defeated when finally he was nominated - the principal reason being
his support of Lyndon B. Johnson and by implication a Vietnam war
hawk. Too, many Democratic voters were demoralized by the killing
of Robert Kennedy and did not turn out to work for him.

Paul Douglas of Illinois and William Fulbright of Arkansas - there
were others, too - towered above the Presidents in brains, integrity,
broadness of vision, readiness for the new world.

Presented by his family connections and its willingness to spend
big money on politics with highly charged steeds, first as Attorney General
and then to become Senator from New York, Robert "Bobby"
Kennedy was riding along well until his assassination by a Lebanese
who did not like his pro-Israel stance. He expressed a realistic
sympathetic viewpoint concerning American history - he got into
trouble in Texas one time for apologizing for the Mexican War - a
sincere identification with the poor and humiliated,
and the requisite toughness and energy.

Senator Edward Kennedy, hopelessly compromised by
the usual, but in his case ill-starred, Kennedy shenanigans,
which would foreclose a Presidential nomination,
set up perhaps the best senatorial staff in Washington
and was the rock of party-line New Deal liberalism for decades.

Senator Patrick Moynihan from New York was a rare legislator
whose ideas were non-partisan, as exemplified, for example, in his
proposal to provide a basic allowance for the poorest households of
the country, a negative income tax in a way, such that Nixon could
support the idea, and a small advance in that direction could be made.
A plan for Life Accounts, to be dealt with later,
advocates a radical solution.

Congress during this period loosened farther the controls exercised by
committee chairmen. It also made possible the assignment of more
qualified younger members to suitable committees, rather simply to
powerless and ignored committees. History books have talked of the
great powers of the Speaker of the House, citing the revolt against
Speaker Joe Cannon as the end of an epoch, yet the power of the
Speaker has continued great and his average
tenure has been long indeed.

The Senate adopted new rules of cloture that let a lone Senator
filibuster seemingly for an endless time, for it allowed 60% of its
membership to shut him up. So generous were Senators with their
time, however, that cloture was hardly ever invoked. It did
discourage filibusters, but it also allowed individual Senators to
continue their silent veto or trump card by the threat to
talk a bill to a terminal state.

Without exception the Presidents garnered inferior staffs. One is
tempted to say that a President is no better than his staff, but then must
say also that the White House Staff and Cabinet are no better than
their President. Franklin Roosevelt had incomparably the most creative
and productive aides of any President of the century. Before him, only
Washington and Jefferson were surrounded by other than
mediocrities or wrong-heads.

At this distance from those years, men of distinction lose their status.
Everyone who was enthusiastic about the peripheral wars of the age -
Korea, Vietnam, etc. - is axed ex post facto. The
inventory of the supply-side economists must be sold below cost;
they contributed nothing to the constructive development of the
country; they were merciless, inhumane - and wrong. Yet they
made hundreds of front pages and TV summaries in their hey-day.

Can one pronounce judgement quickly and mercifully (vis-a-vis the
reader) on the majority of politicians of Washington - the White
House, the Congressmen, the campaign managers - of the past half
century? That most were liars and at best merely propagandists goes
without saying.

On occasion Presidents acted against their own wicked beliefs. Thus
Eisenhower had been content with segregation in the armed forces,
and with unequal and separate schools for the races. But he was a
public relations man and when everybody in the Eastern media and
intelligentsia said that he must back the Supreme Court and use
force against force, when the authorities of Arkansas were blocking
the law, he sent troops and the national guard to enforce the law. He
was nearly the last man in public life to say that Joe McCarthy had
overstepped the bounds of "decency."

So it was with President Nixon, who had been a da capo
Sinocommunistophobe, yet surprised everybody and dismayed his
closest supporters by paying a friendly visit to Beijing and
encouraging ping-pong matches between the two great nations.

With minor exceptions, the characters of the Washington scene
contributed to running up huge deficits and debts while
declaiming against them. New taxes that would have stemmed the
tide of debt were anathema.

Most sought glamorous triumphs in outer space; most abetted the
CIA for the worse; most were grandiloquent against crime and
drugs, to no avail or worse; most declared themselves responsible
for a happy condition of the economy, the working class and the
middle class, although the underpinnings of these were rotting away;
most danced to Israeli folk songs; none of them touched upon the
rich who were losing the world economic war, while absorbing an ever
larger percentage of the nation's assets; most pursued trade
policies, foreign aid and world development and conservation
policies that alienated not only the poor world, but much of the rich
world as well; most treated the world's unifying institutions, except
for the financial ones, without sympathy and understanding.

A lengthy discursion may be granted to the author here. It is
common among American historians to quote cordially Alexis de
Tocqueville's discovery that Americans were fearful slaves to public
and crowd opinions, both politicians and the people, right or wrong.
Yet the same historians lack the courage to discuss and portray over
the years the truth of this statement, or is it that they regard it of no
importance to determine whether the Great People is as often wrong
as right or more so? They seem to believe that like God, the People
moves in mysterious ways it wonders to perform.

The first third of American history after Independence was presided
over by men who were not directly and popularly elected. No
candidate for President in the two centuries of American history has
ever won election by the votes of a majority of Americans over 18
years of age. Indeed no candidate for President has ever won
election by gaining the votes of as many as a third of the population
eighteen years of age or older.

I allude to these matters merely to remind oneself that a republic and
even a democracy can deserve the name with only a fraction of its
people voting for the officers of the government. And that a
properly executed public opinion poll will pronounce better than an
election who is the most popular candidate for an office. And that
many other things determine the worthwhileness of a culture besides
the mechanical structures of voting and representation - and
whether the electorate knows what it is doing.

Less than half of the eligible citizens voted in
Congressional elections, fewer in local elections, and
only half of them voted in Presidential elections.
American voting participation was the lowest in the world.
Should you wonder, in view of this fact, at the tumultuous and
bloody history of the struggle for the suffrage, be appeased
perhaps at the thought that the potential vote
is an ever-overhanging Sword of Damocles.
If frightened to a high pitch, Americans
would turn out en masse. Or - and -
continuous sample surveys by the hundreds give
ample information on public opinion
conveying, indeed, less simplistic meanings
than the vote itself.

After nearly two centuries of experience with the popular election of
the President, with ever more extensive electorates - propertied,
White male, Black male, female, eighteen-year-olds - and all rates of
participation from thirty percent to seventy percent of the qualified voters,
there seems little to be said in defense of the people as electors of the
Chief Executive, except the fact that few countries
have done better with different schemes.
The threat of an alternative winner has served,
save in the case of George Washington, to keep
the incumbent intent upon winning votes the next time around,
rather than engaging in enterprises more
dangerous to the republic.

The two most damaging Presidents of recent times were Nixon and
Reagan. After demonstrating beyond cavil in their prior political
lives and in their first terms their deplorable characters and views,
they received two of the heaviest majorities of the
popular vote on record.

If anyone wants final disproof that the populace possesses
impeccable judgement, such a one need only refer to a Gallup poll a
decade after Kennedy's assassination, wherein that individual was
deemed by a two-thirds majority of adult Americans, far less than
the proportion of votes that he won in his lifetime, to be the greatest
President in American history. From the standpoint of the history
books and popular memory, it pays to be assassinated.

To conclude, this author fails to discover much "progress" in
American politics during the post World War II period. Major
changes occurred in the culture of America, but they occurred
independently of the political parties. The parties slackened
then held most voters somewhat. Politics became more
media-oriented, especially in relation to television.

Political machines declined and succumbed, so that the voters were
much less approached as individuals for purchase or exchange of
favors; instead, politicians sought votes by piling mass favors upon
the scale - subsidies of many kinds, tax cuts, safety and
environmental rules, relaxation of regulations and prosecutions - in
short, whatever would pry votes from some niche in the multitude.

The nation was at the mercy of technological and social forces,
including international movements and developments, that churned
up controversies continually. Yet the Korean War and the Vietnam
War set up no new principles, as we shall see. The often riotous
student unrest of the sixties seemed to convulse the established
order, but in retrospect little of permanence was accomplished,
whether in the educational system or in the government.

Environment and crime, especially the illegal drug scene, were
highly agitated, but we can speak of these later, too. The large old
issues remained unsolved, and were left to the natural forces of the
economy and nature herself. No great new issues were raised and
settled. It was not an encouraging record, but we trudged along -
most blessing our three squares a day, a cranky TV, part of a car,
part of a house, and spectator sports.