A Writer at The Atlantic Uses History to Make a Point About the 2016 Election – And Historians Moan


Hubert Humphrey

From History News Network by Michael Brenes author of The Price of Loyalty: Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson and the Struggle for American Liberalism:

Almost a year and a half later, there remains an insatiable public demand for an explanation of the 2016 presidential election. Much of the (retrospective) blame for Donald Trump has fallen on the Democratic Party’s failure to see what was coming on November 8th: a rejection of the status quo, voter antipathy—or apathy—toward the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and above all, the overwhelming outrage of the white, working-class voter toward cosmopolitanism and racial pluralism. The “forgotten man” came to wreak havoc on American democracy, said much of the punditry.

James Traub’s essay in The Atlantic“The Party of Hubert Humphrey,”sought to overcome such myopia. An ongoing public dissection of the Democratic Party and its woes has meant enduring repeated commentary on working-class voters and how Democrats left them behind. Traub’s essay was different. Traub focused his energies on the “white middle-class,” arguing that the Democratic Party’s “commitment to civil rights required the [white] majority to agree to sacrifice privileges—unearned privileges, to be sure—on behalf of the [black] minority,” creating a politics of victimization, of resistance to the “superior moral standing that liberals derived from defending the rights of the marginalized.”

Traub built his argument around an understudied figure in American politics: Hubert Humphrey., the Democratic senator from Minnesota and Vice President under Lyndon Johnson. Traub pointed to Humphrey’s magnificent 1948 speech at the Democratic National Convention—where he told party members they must “get out of the shadows of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights”—to argue that since 1948 (and Humphrey’s speech), the Democratic Party has pursued civil rights to the cost of majoritarian politics, of the toll it took on their coalition.

Read the rest of the article at History News Network

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