WASHINGTON -- Peter Beinart is an advocate of liberal -- not ``progressive'' -- nostalgia. He wants to turn the clock back to 1947 at Washington's Willard Hotel.
Beinart, who was born in 1971, is editor at large of the liberal New Republic magazine and disdains the label ``progressive'' as a rejection of liberalism's useable past of anti-totalitarianism. An intellectual archaeologist, he excavates that vanished intellectual tradition and sends it into battle in his new book, ``The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again.'' It expresses Beinart's understanding of liberalism in 1948, 1968 and, he hopes, 2008.
His project of curing liberalism's amnesia begins by revisiting Jan. 4, 1947, when liberal anti-totalitarians convened at the Willard to found Americans for Democratic Action. It became their instrument for rescuing the Democratic Party from Henry Wallace and his fellow-traveling followers who, locating the cause of the Cold War in American faults, were precursors of Michael Moore and his ilk among today's ``progressives.''
Among the heroes of liberalism's civil war of 60 years ago was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who today is 88. He stigmatized their anti-anti-communism as ``doughface-ism.'' Beinart explains: ``The original doughfaces were 'Northern men with Southern principles' -- Northerners who opposed slavery, but who could not bring themselves to support the Civil War.'' Today's doughfaces are ``progressives'' who flinch from the fact that, as Beinart says, ``America could not have built schools for Afghan girls had it not bombed the Taliban first.''
Liberalism's civil war seemed won after Henry Wallace's Progressive Party candidacy failed to prevent President Truman's 1948 election. But the war broke out again in the Democratic Party's crack-up over Vietnam in 1968. Then, Beinart says, a ``new liberalism'' emerged that ``questioned whether America had much to offer the world.'' Four years later the party nominated George McGovern, who had been a delegate to the 1948 Progressive Party convention that nominated Wallace. McGovern's trumpet sounded retreat: ``Come home, America.''