When Hillary Clinton gave the commencement speech on behalf of the graduating class at Wellesley College in 1969, Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke was her hapless foil. Ms. Hillary dismissed Brooke’s concerns with social reconstruction; she sought “human reconstruction.” No problem.
Today’s Washington Post hauls Senator Brooke out of mothballs to mark a great moment in the death spiral of modern liberalism: the fortieth anniversary of the Report of the Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission). The Kerner Commission Report attributed the cause of the Detroit and Newark riots of 1967 to “white racism” and called for government spending on social programs on an “unprecedented scale.”
Regarding the report’s sociology (“white racism”), Steve Hayward writes in The Age of Reagan, 1964-1980: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order: “There was no proof or line of argument for this conclusion; it was a straight-out capitulation to liberal guilt.”
Lyndon Johnson had appointed the commission in response to the riots. Steve recalls, as does Brooke in his column, that Johnson was none too pleased with its handiwork: “Johnson ignored the report, refusing even to receive a copy publicly. He saw it as an implied criticism that his Great Society had not gone far enough.”
Steve reminds us that although Ilinois Governor Otto Kerner chaired the commission and gave it its colloquial name, the commission was in fact chiefly the brainchild of New York City’s liberal Republican Mayor John Lindsay. “Kerner later went to prison over a race track scam,” Steve adds. “Lindsay became a Democrat.”
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