Monday, August 06, 2007

The Change in the Liberal Viewpoint

via RCP from this weekend, a interesting look back at the changes the political left has undergone in the US since the assassination of JFK. Kennedy's policies were liberal, but tough and realistic, in the same vein as FDR or Harry Truman's. Since his time, the American Left has had a rather different view of both America itself and the world at large.

"In a crucial and counterintuitive interpretive act, the nation's opinion elite made JFK a martyr to civil rights instead of the Cold War. Kennedy had been killed by a communist, Lee Harvey Oswald, who a few years before had tried to defect to the Soviet Union. Liberals nonetheless blamed the assassination on, in the characteristic words of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, "the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots."

Thus, the assassination curdled into an indictment of American society: "Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in Nation," read a New York Times headline. Until this point, 20th-century liberalism had tended to see history as a steady march of progress. Now, the march had been interrupted by the country's own pathologies."

America became seen as the root of all evil in the world, from its very founding up to the modern era, and minority groups its victims. The view of the government power being used to make the world a better place also got left behind in strange conspiracy theories about secret cabals out to destroy the planet. Another interesting fact is that Communist icons and ideals became fashionable - anyone or anything opposing the US must be good, righteous and noble, of course.

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