Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Cultural Revolution in History

My latest post appears here.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Dangers of this Election

For at least 35 years, our two parties have collaborated in favoring the rich over the poor.  Jointly they have repeatedly cut taxes (except under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and, in a small way, in 2013 under Barack Obama),  eliminated Glass-Steagall, cut back IRS enforcement drastically, and watched or encouraged the continual erosion of the rights of labor.  They have put through trade deals that obviously favored corporations over American workers, and they plan to do so again.  Above all, they have shut their eyes to the basic fact of capitalism, as elucidated two years ago by Thomas Piketty: that the natural processes of capitalism make capital grow faster than the economy as a whole.  That is the biggest single reason why inequality has been increasing in the United States, and it will continue to increase, as Bernie Sanders alone among the major candidates understands, unless the government intervenes drastically in the economy, most notably by increasing marginal tax rates.

Donald Trump, of course, claims that he is magically going to turn this situation around by virtue of his talents as a negotiator.  Somehow he will not only stop corporations from shipping more jobs abroad, but persuade them to bring jobs back.  I personally don't see how voters can take this seriously from some one who has never done much for working people in his life, but apparently, a good many voters do.  It is not so clear, however, that Trump is in fact drawing mainly upon the white working class--Nate Silver has pointed out that his voters are not significantly poorer than Ted Cruz's, for instance, although they are a lot worse off than John Kasich's.  Last night, on a chilling note, I watched Silver tell Trevor Noah that the strongest correlation his team has found for Trump's strongest showings is the number of "racist google searches" coming from that area.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, claims that she will go on fighting for the less well off, although she can't seem to make up her mind whether that refers mainly to women, minorities, and the LGBT community on the one hand, or to the economic lower half of the population on the other.  The New York Times recently reported, in a story based upon talks with her staffers, that she plans to pivot rightward in the fall to pick up disaffected Trump voters.  Knowledgeable analysts are arguing that she is almost sure to win by a wide margin, although Silver, who is clearly still shaken by his failure to take Trump's candidacy seriously, offered up a frightening scenario.  If the polls are reasonably close in October, worldwide fear of Trump's election could trigger a panic in the markets--and that panic in turn could turn the country against the Democrats and elect him.  Still, she is a big favorite in the betting markets at the moment, despite some disturbingly close polls in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio.

Establishment Democrats like to argue that Sanders should be shunned because he has no chance of having any of his sweeping proposals enacted.  Certainly what he wants could not pass overnight, but those who take that line have to face that they are essentially accepting the direction that our country has been going in economically since the 1970s and allowing it to continue.  And too few people, especially of course in the mainstream media, are asking a critical question: if present trends continue under another Democrat, what will the consequences be?

The premise of establishment Democratic strategy is that the party can safely rely on demographics--but in one crucial sense, demographics are turning against them.  While a great many older white voters are going for Donald Trump, a great many younger white and black voters are going for Bernie Sanders.  While there have not been enough to win more delegates than Hillary, there are a great many, and the activists among them--as I know from a Sanders Facebook page I am on--are as disgusted with establishment politics as any conservative Republican.  Young people like Sanders because they know that he is identifying very real issues: the cost of college, which has left many of them with tens of thousands of dollars in debt; the difficulty of access to health care; and the housing market, which here in the metropolitan Boston area is making it very difficult for young people in prestigious careers to afford a house.  How will they feel in four more years if Clinton has been elected and we are still going in the same direction--and perhaps are fighting a new war in the Middle East as well?

About a year ago, listening to NPR, I heard Robert Reich, who has known Hillary Clinton longer, I believe, than Bill Clinton has, suggest that, given sufficient pressure from the American public, she would move in a genuinely leftward election.  I managed to get through to the show to ask him, in more polite language, what he had been smoking, and I was gratified when he apparently reconsidered and endorsed Sanders.  Even if Clinton does try to shift leftward, however--perhaps in response to a new economic downturn, which seems bound to come sooner or later--the Congress remains so under the thumb of corporations that she probably can't get very far.  The most depressing aspect of our politics today, in my opinion, is the lack of serous left wing Senators and Congressmen--much worse than in 1930, say.   And thus, by 2020,. the Democratic Party could face an insurgency comparable to what the Republicans faced this year, and the destruction of our political establishment might be complete.

Since at least 1828, every major party has claimed to stand for the interests of the common man and woman, and parties have lost favor when their promises seemed to be completely empty.  This happened to the Republican establishment this year--and it nearly happened to the Democratic one as well.  If one believes, as I do, that the disaffection with our leaders is rooted in very real grievances, it will not go away.  The shape of a new era in our politics may not yet be clear.

[p.s.  This post has been written rather quickly, because I did not think it would have to be written at all.  Another one is ready for, but the editors do not want to put it up until next week.   Since I know many readers have come to count on something here every weekend, I shared some of the week's thoughts. I shall of course post the link here when Time posts the new one.]

Friday, May 06, 2016

The New World Disorder

 Last week I attended a festival showing of a documentary film, The Peacemaker, about a remarkable Irishman named Padraig O'Malley.  O'Malley (who pronounces his first name without the "d") attended the screening and took one afterwards.  There were astonishing moments in the movie for me because of the parallels between our lives.  We both appear to have started graduate school at Harvard in 1971 (although he seems to have abandoned his studies not long afterwards), and he lives in, and has owned, a building on Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge that is nearly across the street from my home from 1973 until 1976.  But our lives have taken very different paths.  While I stayed in academia, he involved himself in the civil war in his home country, trying to bring Protestants and Catholics together starting in the 1970s to at least talk enough to begin to understand one another.  Many of those initial conversations, he explains in the film, took place in bars, not only because of the traditional Irish fondness for drink, but also because he was himself an alcoholic who did not join AA and get sober until many years later, when he had collapsed completely.  But subsequently he has done similar work all over the world, including in South Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans   Indeed, he now hosts seminars at neutral sites that bring together participants on both sides of many different conflicts, so that they may learn from one another.

The movie chose to focus on his struggle with his personal demons and its relationship to his work.  At one point the camera follows him into an AA meeting, although the scene was carefully shot to avoid showing any face but his own.  O'Malley frankly acknowledges that his experience with addiction and recovery has influenced his approach to peacemaking.  Just as AA was founded on the idea that addicts could best help other addicts, his work, his enterprise depends on the idea that adversaries from South Africa, for instance, can give good advice to Israelis and Palestinians.  He also acknowledges, it seemed to me, that he has replaced addiction to alcohol with addiction to his work.  Since I think such connections are very important to understanding the human condition, I appreciated them.  But I was disappointed that the film never went deeply into what he had actually managed to accomplish, or into his views of various world conflicts.  That was a serious gap,. because O'Malley has not only thought about, but written a book about, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, entitled The Two-State Delusion, which appears to be far more realistic than 90% of what is said about that issue. But O'Malley attended the showing and took questions, and I took the opportunity to pose a big one.

"You have been doing this work for a very long time," I said, "and you have participated in some important successes.  But looking around the world, would you say that the problems that you have been working on are getting better, getting worse, or staying about the same?"

I cannot reproduce his answer in full, but it was very clear that he had spent plenty of time thinking about this question himself.  He began on an optimistic note, doubting that we were going to experience anything comparable to the two world wars--a position with which I agree.  But he quickly added that the population of disaffected youth in many parts of the world was growing, and that the opportunities for perpetrating acts of terror were bigger than ever, partly because of the internet, where anyone--like the Tsarnaev brothers--can learn to make a bomb.  And he spoke at some length about how a "dirty bomb" could make an entire city uninhabitable in minutes, creating incredible chaos as hundreds of thousands or even millions of people tried to evacuate it, with unforeseeable consequences later on.  He specifically referred, as I have many times, to the Shi'ite-Sunni conflict in the Middle East, which like the Protestant-Catholic struggle in 17th-century Germany, might easily last for at least a generation.  In short, while he did not specifically answer my question in so many words, his long and careful answer left me with the impression that he did, in fact, think things were getting worse, and that there was no point in pretending otherwise.  That is the same spirit, apparently, that he brought to his analysis of Israel and Palestine.

That in turn fed into an aspect of my own thinking that has been percolating for some months.  No, we are not about to see a conflict parallel to the Second World War, which takes the lives of tens of millions of people.  Looking at conflict from a purely US perspective, it is fact that even now, all the casualties from our Middle East wars since 2001 do not add up to half the casualties in Vietnam during the single year 1968.  But on the flip side of the coin, we seem utterly unable to bring any of these conflicts to an end.  We live in an age of endless war.

The US involvement in the Second World War lasted less than four years.  Had the "war on terror" lasted just as long, it would have been over in 2006.  Even the Vietnam involvement, which seemed endless at the time, lasted only 11 years (1962-72, basically), and thus, on that timetable, the war in the Middle East would have been over in about 2012.  But our war in the Middle East is now beginning to escalate again (and may escalate a lot more under a new President.) It has also spread into various parts of Africa.

Taking an even broader view, the era of the two world wars in Europe has been described as the second Thirty Years War, lasting from 1914 through 1945.  A similarly broad view of the conflict in the Middle East would go back at least to the fall of the Shah in 1979, as Andrew Bacevich's new book does--and 30 years from 1979 would have brought us to 2009.  I think it would very optimistic to suggest that the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia will be at peace by 2029.

Yes, despite the great horrors of the world wars, they served a purpose.  In the end, the United States, the USSR and the British Empire mobilized resources sufficient to completely defeat their enemies--the goal laid down by Franklin Roosevelt, as I showed in No End Save Victory, in the first week of July 1941.  That enabled them to establish peace in Europe.  They could not do the same in Asia, but the Chinese Revolution--another extraordinarily brutal episode--completed that task. By 1960 the power of governments world wide was at an all-time high--both as regards their power to oppress, and to increase the general welfare.  Within ten years, however, a decline had begun, and it has continued ever since.  The prestige both of governments and of the Enlightenment principles upon which they are based has fallen precipitously,and endless war is one result.

About four years ago, I gave my last lecture at the Naval War College, which can still be viewed here. It dealt primarily with US policy in the Third World during the Cold War, but at the end, after taking questions, I made some comments on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.  And as my last slide, I used a quote from Clausewitz, by far the greatest theorist of war, that posed the problem that we faced then, and still seem likely to face for a long time.

    "In war, as in life generally, all parts of a whole are interconnected and thus the effects produced, however small their cause, must influence all subsequent military operations. . . .In the same way, every means must influence even the ultimate purpose. . .thus we can follow a chain of sequential objectives until we reach one that requires no justification, because its necessity is self-evident. In many cases, particularly those involving great and decisive actions, the analysis myust extend to the ultimate objective, which is to bring about peace."

That, clearly, has become Padraig O'Malley's philosophy too, but it seems to be absent from the calculations of world leaders today.  They need to re-establish that objective, and to begin thinking about how to reach it, before there is any hope of bringing our era of endless war to an end.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Prospects for November

I have been rather quiet about the election for many weeks, partly because Bernie Sanders turned me once again into a partisan rather than an observer.   Sanders is right: his campaign accomplished an extraordinary amount.  Its greatest achievement was to show via polls that a candidate like him, committed to social democracy for all Americans and a fundamental reshaping of the US along western European lines, could command broader support in the nation than a representative of the status quo like Hillary Clinton.  The Democratic establishment, however, includes the mainstream media, which generally ignored him, and has very real ties to critical constituencies, especially among minorities. In addition, the younger voters who are Sanders's base do not seem to have shown up in sufficient numbers.  Some of my younger friends expect them to transform the Democratic party in the next four or eight years anyway, but without any leadership from the older generations I do not know how they can do so. 

Clinton seems likely to face Donald Trump in November, and this week, the contours of the race re taking shape.  Trump, as many noted during the key Republican primaries, has a knack for finding his opponent's jugular.  He is beginning to do so once again, by accusing Clinton of playing "the woman card."  Many of her supporters, the New York Times informs us this morning, are welcoming Trump's stratagem, and indeed, Clinton herself picked up the challenge in her Tuesday night victory speech. That reflects the reality in which she and her supporters have been living for about thirty years.  But how it will play with crucial voters is a very open question.

Let us be clear.  For several decades, it has been dogma among the Democratic elite and its allies in journalism and academia that unfairness to women, minorities and gays is the biggest problem facing the United States.  This view has its roots in the late 1960s, when a generation of young liberals, rebelling against their parents, seized upon these flaws in American society as proof of their own superior virtue.  Within these circles, any suggestion of sexism, racism or homophobia is as detestable as advocacy of racial equality was in the white South 100 years ago.  I have believed in fairness all my life, and I certainly favor equal rights for all those groups.  But the exclusive emphasis on the problems of those particular groups has inevitably alienated many white men--and more importantly, it has taken away from broader, very serious economic and social problems that affect us all.  We now have far too much income inequality, and a financial and tax system which makes it worse every year.  We imprison far too many people, regardless of their race and gender.  Our infrastructure is crumbling for all of us.  While the Democratic Party worries about who has seats at the head table, the foundations of the dining hall are crumbling, and too many Americans lack basic resources.

I doubt very much that anyone in the  Clinton campaign will see this post, but if they do, I would like them to think about this.  They are not running a support group for nonwhitemales; they are trying to elect their candidate to the White House.  One can run an academic department based on the principal that no one will dare disagree with you, but one cannot run an election campaign that way.  Every position the candidate takes has to be evaluated based upon the reactions of voters--particularly critical voters.  And I doubt very much that the politically correct vote is large enough to elect any President.

Donald Trump's misogyny and xenophobia will induce many normally Republican voters to stay home or vote for Hillary Clinton.  But given our electoral system, the question is, where are those voters?  In my opinion, most of them are in reliably blue states in New England, the mid-Atlantic region, and the west coast.  Those states are going for Clinton and with Trump (or Ted Cruz) leading the Republicans they will go for her by larger majorities.  But the election will be decided in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  Any sensible campaign will have to target the swing voters--male and female--in those states.  I am not in the least convinced that emphasizing equal pay for women, family leave, and more attention to minorities is the way to get those votes.

Donald Trump has wrecked the establishment of his own party and gotten most of the way towards its nomination by appealing to the disaffected voters for whom the establishment has done less than nothing for the last 35 years.  There are a great many of those voters in the key states.  A Trump Presidency, I feel sure, will do nothing for them.  But Trump is appealing to them by stressing truly national issues: immigration and trade agreements.  He is arguing, as Clinton is not, that the country is fundamentally going in the wrong direction.  Like Sanders, he can argue that she has welcomed trade agreements and financial deregulation, and thus helped get us where we are.  And I am confident that some of Clinton's Goldman Sachs speeches, which she carefully kept under raps during the primary season, will leak during the general election campaign, and that they will show her thanking Goldman for the fine things that it has done for the American economy.  Trump will accuse her of being part of a corporate establishment that doesn't care about average Americans, and that accusation will contain more than a grain of truth.

And what of the Democratic base? Yes, black voters in particular turned out for Clinton in overwhelming numbers in the primary, even though younger black people, like their white counterparts, favored Sanders.  But will they turn out in November in numbers comparable to their support for Barack Obama?  Will less well off women be energized by the prospect of a female President?  I don't know.  What I do know is that a Democrat like Sanders who appealed impartially to all Americans based on economic issues would have been in a much stronger position facing Trump--and it is probably too late for Clinton to adopt that stance, even if she wanted to.

Clinton leads Trump narrowly in national polls at this point, but narrowly.  (I would note, however, that given the polarization in the country, the danger that we might face a repeat of 2000,. in which a candidate lost the popular vote but took the electoral college, is quite real.)   But if she wins by emphasizing the problems of women and minorities, the polarization in the country will get even worse, and might even lead to serious attempts at secession.  From time to time, commentators have compared Clinton to Richard Nixon.  The comparison in my opinion is apt.  Like Nixon, she has never been deterred by setbacks from pursuing her dream.  She, not her husband, is the real "comeback kid."  And like Nixon, she has grasped that however unpopular she may be within the opposition party, she could remain a key figure by cultivating her own party's base.  What she needs now, however, is Nixon's political horse sense.  "Let's get a woman on the ticket," Nixon remarked to William Safire in 1994 shortly before his death. "It hurts the Democrats, but it wold help us."  That is the kind of realism the Clinton campaign needs--especially when it comes time to pick the Vice President.  The swing voters of the eight states I listed above need to know there will be a place for them in Clinton's America, and a white male on the podium beside her would help.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How we got here--a case study

Earlier this week, the reporter Cokie Roberts wrote an outraged op-ed for the New York Times, complaining that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had reneged on his promise to replace Alexander Hamilton--whom she called "a philandering liar who was the first Secretary of the Treasury"--with a woman.  Lew has now responded to her and other critics by announcing that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, although not for at least another four years, while various black and female activists will go on the back of various bills.  (White male activists have evidently contributed nothing to the progress of the United States.)  Ms. Roberts spoke for a great many women of four different generations, but her column had a special meaning for me. As it happens, I have known her since I was 16 years old, although it has been about a decade since I have seen her.  What is more important today, however, is the similarity in our backgrounds.  We were both Washington brats, because our fathers pursued careers in public service.  Mine was a senior bureaucrat and diplomat under several Democratic administrations, while hers was a long-time Congressman from Louisiana who became the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.  That background taught me to take public affairs very seriously, and readers here know I have never given that habit up.  But although she has spent her career in journalism, she apparently has cast that habit of mind aside.  The reason her evolution deserves a post has nothing to do with our acquaintanceship.  It is because her views are highly characteristic of what passes, today, for the liberal elite.

This is the second time in the last 20 years that Ms. Roberts has, shall we say, brought me up short.  The first occasion was during the Presidential campaign of 2000, when Al Gore was dueling it out with George Bush in what turned out to be one of the most fateful elections in American history.  The panel of pundits on the ABC Sunday show was discussing the last debate between them, in which they had sparred over health care, and specifically, over a patient's bill or rights.  Bush had claimed to support one; Gore had attacked Bush for failing to endorse the Dingell-Norwood bill before Congress, which would have guaranteed one.  Sam Donaldson decided to educate the American public about the provenance of the bill, and the following exchange took place.

DONALDSON: Well, you talk about the message. I mean, remember during the last debate, Gore kept talking about 'the Dingell/Norwood bill, the Dingell/Norwood bill.' And we thought, as a public service, we'd just show you who Dingell and Norwood are. Let us tell you about them. Representatives of Dingell and Norwood introduced the Patients' Bill of Rights favored by Gore and the House of Representatives. John Dingell, from Michigan, is the longest-serving Democrat in the House. His father, who was a House member before him, was a sponsor of Social Security in the '30s, and pioneered the idea of national health insurance back in 1943. Charlie Norwood from Georgia, a Republican, is a dentist. He served in Vietnam and was first elected to the House in 1994 as part of the Republican revolution. So that's who Dingell and Norwood are. Now I'll tell you...
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But the important...
ROBERTS: Yeah, but...
DONALDSON: But there's a guy named Greg Ganske who's also on the bill. It's actually the Dingell/Norwood/Ganske bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the import--the important point...
DONALDSON: But I don't have time to start telling you about him.
ROBERTS: He's from Iowa.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The important point there is that George Bush didn't answer the question about the Dingell/Norwood bill, which is a Patients' Bill of Rights that allows people to--the right to sue.
ROBERTS: Actually, I don't think that is the important point there.
ROBERTS: Because that's not what comes across when you're watching the debate. What comes across when you're watching the debate is this guy from Washington doing Washington-speak.
ROBERTS: And you know, it's having an effect not just at the presidential level, but at the congressional level as well. Because the Republicans did a very smart thing, which is that they voted for their version of a Patients' Bill of Rights, and they voted for their version of prescription drug coverage. So they get to go out and tout all these issues, and then the Democrats are left saying, 'But you didn't do Dingell and Norwood.'

Now Cokie Roberts's father Hale Boggs had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1940, served one term while the United States was preparing for the Second World War, went into the Navy after losing his re-election bid, and served once more in the House from 1946 until his death in a plane crash in Alaska in 1972.   During that long career, he had to take positions on the Taft-Hartley and Landrum-Griffin Acts of 1947 and 1959, which severely cut back on the rights of organized labor, and the McCarran Act, which tried to force the Communist Party underground.   Liberals, interestingly enough, seem to have stopped naming their favorite pieces of legislation after legislators, but in the 1930s, they had passed the Norris-LaGuardia and Wagner Acts, which had increased the rights of labor, and the Wheeler-Rayburn Act,. which had forced holding companies to divest themselves of public utilities.  Congress had also passed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had recently been repealed at the time of the 2000 campaign, and which we have subsequently had time to regret.  Hale Boggs had also been involved in deliberations on civil rights bills (which he, a representative from Louisiana, had opposed), on the interstate highway system, the space program, Medicare, poverty programs, and much more.  He and my father came from a generation that took politics and legislation very seriously, and which,. as a result, managed to do great things.  Al Gore's father, Albert Gore, Sr., belonged to that generation as well.

Now sadly, what Ms. Roberts said in 2000--that to many Americans, the reference to Dingell-Norwood sounded like a "guy from Washington doing Washington-speak"--probably had an element of truth.  But to me, then and now, that was something for journalists (and historians) to fight against, for the simple reason that a citizenry that no longer cares about the legislation Congress does or does not pass will yield the field to lobbyists and contributors who still do.  Yet Cokie Roberts was not only accepting, but welcoming, the new world of the 21st century in which journalism--especially tv journalism--began pandering to an uninformed public.  Indeed, the implication of what she said was that politicians would be foolish to try to do educate voters.  And I was amazed that someone with her background could take such a position--but there it was.

There is a real link, it seems to me, between what she said in 2000 and her attack on Hamilton this week.  In my opinion as a historian there is no one who more deserves to have his picture on US currency than Hamilton, for the simple reason that he created the financial structure of the United States., and in so doing defined the relationship between the federal government and the economy in lasting ways.  He created the first Bank of the United States, the ancestor of the Federal Reserve, to allow public finance to proceed more effectively.  When Washington asked Hamilton and all his other cabinet members to give him written opinions as to the constitutionality of the legislation that created the bank, Hamilton's reply kicked off the debate on the role of the federal government that has dominated politics ever since, arguing that it fell under the Constitutional provision enabling Congress to pass all legislation "necessary and proper" to carry out its enumerated powers.  While Jefferson argued that the Bank obviously was not necessary to collect taxes or borrow money, since the government was already performing those tasks, Hamilton replied that the bank would enable it to perform them far more effectively, to the benefit of all.  He carried the day, and the same philosophy has informed activist periods of American government ever since.  

But this, and the rest of Hamilton's historical role, means nothing to Cokie Roberts, who wants him eliminated from our currency because he cheated on his wife.  This is not an entirely new idea for her either: I have heard her on the air bragging that when female reporters first went on the campaign trail, it forced their married male counterparts to restrict their extramarital sexual activity--or at least to be more discreet about it.  Denying, in effect, that Hamilton had any serious ambitions in public service at all--surely a remarkable statement to make about one of the key figures at the Constitutional Convention and one of the authors of the Federalist papers--she says that "All he ever wanted was to be 'in'," that is, a member of the establishment, and that only his marriage into the Schuyler family allowed him to do achieve that goal.  In fact, while Hamilton, like so many great statesmen in every modern nation, led less than an exemplary personal life, he was a key figure in our early history, one to whom we do owe some of our most important institutions.  Paul Krguman has pointed this out today as well.

What people like Ms. Roberts (not to mention most of the current historical profession) have utterly forgotten is that issues like racial and gender equality only have any meaning at all within the context of an established system of law, government and society.  If we continue to treat those blessings as a given and to ignore how we secured them, we shall lose them--something which is already happening, thanks to the influence of corporate power.   That, as it happens,. was a danger that another President, Andrew Jackson, warned us of most eloquently, but he is being downgraded as well because of his ownership of slaves and his role in the ethnic cleansing of Indian tribes.  To me, there is a nice symmetry involved in the presence of Hamilton, who founded the US bank and favored financial power, on the $10 bill, and Jackson, who killed the Second US bank, on the $20, but that's because I think the relationship between government and banks remains important.  Indeed, it seems to me, retrograde fellow that I am,. that it turns out to be  very important to all Americans, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.  

Cokie Roberts is far more in touch with the ethos of contemporary liberalism than I am--even if Bernie Sanders has provided a most welcome echo of the traditions in which I was raised.  And yes, the elite of our society is more open to women, minorities and gays than it has ever been.  We are also nearing the point where white maleness alone will define--negatively--virtually ever major figure in American political history.  But we shall still be faced with the task of finding political leaders who, whatever their demographic characteristics, can manage our affairs with the skill and vision of the great leaders of our past, who bequeathed us our country and our institutions.  And at the moment--based upon the course of this year's election--we seem to be unable to do so.  Trashing Alexander Hamilton will not help.