The Happy Warrior

by digby

Perlstein has a great pieces in today's NY Times on the occasion of Hubert Humphrey's 100th birthday. They don't make liberals like him any more.

I would just quibble with one small piece in which Rick approvingly notes:

And at a time when other liberals were besotted with affirmative action as a strategy to undo the cruel injustices of American history, Humphrey pointed out that race-based remedies could only prove divisive when good jobs were disappearing for everyone. Liberal policy, he said, must stress “common denominators — mutual needs, mutual wants, common hopes, the same fears.”

It's pretty to think so. But my recollection of the time was that much of the white working class would have rather chewed off their own arms than admit that they had anything in common with black folks. Liberals may have been besotted with affirmative action but they really had no choice. White workers just weren't interested in that kind of solidarity. It would take years of forced integration in schools, work places and academia and a least two generations for many whites to come to see that they were in the same leaky boat.

Of course, it's also not necessarily true that liberals had to throw the baby out with the bath water and consciously alienate the traditional white working class (and I was there -- they did) but I'm fairly sure Humphrey's way wouldn't have worked any better. It was always going to take decades to change what segregation had wrought and until it did, this tension was going to exist on the left as long as the left was committed to racial equality.

The question is whether or not things have changed enough to finally make Humphrey's vision possible.