In his first volume of The Age of Reagan, our friend Steve Hayward begins the story in 1964 at the high tide of liberalism. Steve finds that the seeds of the downfall of “the old liberal order” were sown at that time.
Yesterday in Minneapolis Walter Mondale and several of his invited guests held a panel discussion at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute (the perfect location!) to praise the old liberal order, not to bury it. The Minneapolis Star Tribune carries the story: “Mondale, McGovern recall the ‘high tide’ of liberalism.”
Here’s the reporter’s summary of Mondale’s account of the achievements of liberalism at the apex of history in 1965: “In that one year, Congress enacted and LBJ signed laws creating Medicare, knocking down barriers to black voter participation, starting federal aid to elementary and secondary schools, adopting the first-ever federal clean air requirements, ending the system that had allowed immigration mostly from European nations, raising Social Security benefits, initiating federal grants for mental health, doubling funding for existing anti-poverty programs, funding a new program for development of the poverty-ridden Appalachian region, creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development, creating the foundations that became the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, adopting Ladybird Johnson’s pet program for the beautification of interstate highways, requiring the first-ever health warning on cigarette cartons, and making it a federal crime to assassinate the president.” The guy appears to be a little lacking in knowledge of subsequent developments that might cast doubt on the brilliance of a few of these accomplishments.
The story fails to note, but cannot be understood without knowing, that Mondale and McGovern are competing in a contest to determine which should be stuffed and put on display in the Smithsonian after his death as a perfect specimen of 1960’s liberalism. The money quote for McGovern’s entry in the contest is his statement that “Every single forward step in the history of this country has been made as a result of a liberal initiative over conservative opposition.”
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill