The Good Fight [Click the title
to buy this book]
by Peter Beinart
In October 2005, when Pew Research Center pollsters asked Americans whether “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally,” more than 50% of Democrats said yes. Among Republicans the figure was just over a quarter. Since 9/11, the single strongest division between the two parties has been on foreign policy. While right-of-center Americans currently rank issues such as capturing terrorists and preventing hostile nations from acquiring nukes as their top priorities, liberals are more concerned about getting U.S. troops out of Iraq and combating the spread of AIDS. The swing voters who carried Bush to his second term were white, blue-collar workers put off, it seems, by the Democrats’ limp-wristed approach to America’s enemies.
It wasn’t always thus. In The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, Peter Beinart takes us back to the beginning of the Cold War to remind us that the campaign to confront totalitarianism and promote democracy in troubled parts of the world—by force if necessary—is a liberal, not a conservative, invention. His account begins with a legendary meeting of minds and political bodies at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 1947. The meeting was organized by the Union for Democratic Action (UDA) in response to the Democrats’ rout in the 1946 midterm elections—largely the result of a perceived (and partly real) Communist infiltration of the Democratic Party. Intellectual heavyweights Arthur Schlesinger and Reinhold Niebuhr were present, along with political icons Eleanor Roosevelt and Hubert Humphrey; Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers and David Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union provided the heft of Labor. The UDA renamed itself Americans for Democratic Action and made an official break with the fellow-traveling wing of their party, declaring their opposition to Communism, both Soviet and homegrown. They spurned Henry Wallace—1948 presidential hopeful and known Communist sympathizer—forcing him to start his own “progressive” party. And despite Wallace’s challenge from the Left and resistance from Southern Democrats over civil rights, it was Harry Truman, the ADA’s man, who prevailed.