Earlier today I wrote John Earl Haynes requesting a comment on Nick Coleman’s Star Tribune column that I discussed in “Nick’s red state.” Dr. Haynes has kindly obliged with the following message:
I much appreciate your kind comments regarding Dubious Alliance: The Making of Minnesota’s DFL Party (U of M Press, 1984). Dubious Alliance narrates the ten-year struggle within Minnesota liberal and labor institutions over the relationship between American liberalism and Communism. It culminated in the 1948 victory of Hubert Humphrey and his allies (Orville Freeman, Eugene McCarthy, Arthur Naftalin, Eugenie Anderson and the then very young Donald Fraser and Walter Mondale among others). Their victory institutionalized the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party as the paladin of New Deal liberalism revitalized to meet the foreign and domestic challenges of the Cold War and the post-World War II era. Their victory also firmly rejected liberalism including within its ranks those who adhered to totalitarian Communism and supported accommodating the foreign policy goals of Stalin’s USSR.
As any reasonable person who has read Dubious Alliance knows, Humphrey and his allies and the anti-Communist liberalism they advanced are presented as having been justified and vindicated. As well, anyone familiar with my own work in Minnesota politics and government would know that I regarded myself as among the appreciative heirs of that generation of DFL founders. My own work in Minnesota politics from 1968 until 1987 when I left Minnesota was entirely within the DFL Party: as a staffer for the Humphrey presidential campaign in 1968, a researcher for the State Senate Liberal Caucus in 1969, on the staff of the Wendell Anderson for governor campaign in 1970, with Anderson’s gubernatorial office after 1971 and later with his U.S. Senate office. I also served on the staffs of Governor Rudy Perpich and U.S. Representative Martin Sabo.
I not only left Minnesota in 1987, I also left active politics and devoted myself to full-time historical scholarship. Times also changed, and I changed as well. As did some others of my generation of liberals, I have taken the road to neoconservatism. But that is a personal preference, and I no longer engage in active politics and partisanship (1968 to 1987, nineteen years, was enough!).
I was at the time and remain to this day tremendously proud of the opportunity to work with those DFL leaders and felt that the work I did at Anderson, Perpich, and Sabo’s direction served the interests of the people of Minnesota. I also remain of the view that the victory of Humphrey and his generation of DFL leaders and the DFL party they made served the interests of the people of Minnesota. I have, consequently, been nonplused by some of the reaction to Katherine Kersten’s Star-Tribune column. The suggestions that the discussion of Dubious Alliance in her column somehow smears the DFL with the Communist taint are preposterous. The point of Dubious Alliance was that the founders of the modern Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party freed the DFL and postwar Minnesota liberalism of that problem. Nor on reading the column can I detect a scintilla of evidence that Ms. Kersten was attempting to use a discussion of Dubious Alliance and events more than fifty years ago to make some point about the contemporary DFL. While I have left active politics, my political innuendo antenna has not become so atrophied that I would not notice such a matter. Those seeing some subtle smear in the column should consider if their partisanship has made their antenna overly sensitive.
John Earl Haynes
We are grateful for the oppoturnity to submit Dr. Haynes’s message for the consideration of our readers alongside Coleman’s intemperate column.