Postscript to a Decade
In his 1955 book The Liberal Tradition in America, Louis Hartz concluded that "the age of purely domestic crisis apparently is over."1 At the midpoint of that decade such a conclusion probably seemed secure. A Republican had been elected president, but he had not overturned the New Deal. Instead, Eisenhower had further institutionalized it by accepting rather than rejecting it. By 1955 the scourge of McCarthyism was on its way out after the Army- McCarthy hearings. The Supreme Court had ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional and had mandated an orderly transition to integrated schools. The economy was strong, and America was not at war. Little wonder Hartz felt so comfortably optimistic about the future. The Age of Political Enlightenment had finally dawned in America.
But a decade later much had changed, and certainly optimism had dimmed. Instead of the era of civil tranquility Hartz imagined, the 1960s turned into a time of enormous domestic upheavals, a decade of crises.
President Kennedy, the first president born in the twentieth century, saw crises everywhere: from Cuba to Berlin to Vietnam; from price hikes to civil rights (although quite belatedly on this last issue). He shifted political fears in foreign affairs from the issue of confrontation with the Soviet Union to exaggerated concern for smaller nations in the world that he thought would become the new battleground between communism and the free world. He changed