The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions

By Eugene J. McCarthy | Go to book overview

24
Innocence in Politics

Americans generally are suspicious of politics, and this attitude is far from superficial. It goes much deeper than the public dismay over corruption in government or incompetence in public officials. In fact, the American attitude toward politics shows, more clearly than anything else, a belief in the innocence of Americans. It is a belief that has been a significant force since our colonial era.

As inhabitants of a new land, and living under a new government, Americans from the beginning thought of themselves as also new and innocent, set apart from the stream of tradition and unmarked by history. This attitude continued long beyond our status as a young nation.

Politics is considered by many Americans to be an enemy of innocence and simplicity. Party activity, in particular, is considered degrading by citizens who claim to be nonpartisan. So it is common practice in partisan campaigns to organize citizens' and independents' committees, as distinguished from party committees, to support candidates. These devices are supposed to remove the blight of party identification. Another common device is the use of the term "crusade" to identify one's cause.

The Republican campaign of 1952 provided one of the clearest examples of this technique. General Dwight Eisenhower's supporters insisted that their actions and interests were nonpolitical, that their program was based on moral and spiritual principles. Even in their preliminary conflict with the supporters of Senator Robert Taft, Sr., the Eisenhower forces proclaimed the distinction between the crusaders and the politicians clearly and loudly.

In the 1952 battle over convention delegates, the Taft forces viewed the fight over the Texas delegation as a political one. The Eisenhower supporters would not allow the term "political" to be

-127-

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The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction by Tom Wicker vii
  • Preface xix
  • Part I - Institutions 1
  • 1 - Toward a More Responsible Presidency 3
  • 2 - The Vice President as Crown Prince 15
  • 3 - Changes in the Congress 19
  • 4 - The Courts, the Last Appeal 28
  • 5 - Court of Ideas 32
  • 6 - A Kind Word for the Bureaucrats 35
  • 7 - A Kind Word for the Military 45
  • 8 - A Warning About the Military Establishment 49
  • 9 - The Cia and the Inner Ring 58
  • 10 - The Corporations 61
  • 11 - The Universities 68
  • 12 - The Democratic and Republican Parties 75
  • 13 - Alternatives to the Major Parties 80
  • Part II - Operations 87
  • 14 - A Hard Look at the Primaries 89
  • 15 - Personality Cults 96
  • 16 - The Cult of the Expert 97
  • 17 - A Good and Becoming Exit 100
  • 18 - Listen to Mr. Parkinson 104
  • 19 - The Sst: Object Lesson in Dynamics of Opposition 106
  • 20 - The Lobbyists 109
  • 21 - Grant Park, Chicago 116
  • 22 - Marching on Washington 118
  • 23 - Changing America 122
  • Part III - Principles 125
  • 24 - Innocence in Politics 127
  • 25 - Language and Politics 130
  • 26 - Poetry and War 135
  • 27 - Ares 144
  • 28 - Intellectuals and Politics 148
  • 29 - Out of Phase 155
  • 30 - Trouble in the Economics Community 158
  • 31 - Constitutional Amendments 165
  • 32 - Five Systems of Justice 170
  • 33 - The Enemies List 173
  • 34 - Censorship 182
  • Part IV - A Good Person is Not So Hard to Find 185
  • 35 - John Bennett 187
  • 36 - Emerson Hynes 189
  • 37 - John Kennedy 190
  • 38 - Dan and Doris Kimball 193
  • 39 - Robert Lowell 196
  • 40 - Wayne Morse 197
  • 41 - Lewis Mumford 203
  • 42 - Eleanor Roosevelt 205
  • 43 - Frank Rosenblatt 207
  • 44 - Adlai Stevenson 208
  • Notes 215
  • Index 223
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