Friday, June 26, 2020

Henry Wallace, American Visionary — Jeremy Kuzmarov

Over fifty years after his death, Henry A. Wallace, America’s Vice President from 1941-1945 and an independent candidate for president in the 1948 election, continues to evoke strong emotions. On the left, Wallace remains a figure of veneration for his progressive ideals and promotion of world peace, while among conservative and centrist Democrats, he is considered a naïve dupe of communists who underestimated the Soviet “threat.”
John Nichols’ latest book, The Fight For the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace’s AntiFascist, Antiracist Politics(Verso, 2020) offers a convincing case that those on the left were correct: that Wallace was indeed a visionary who was ahead of his time in warning about a right-wing drift in American politics and danger of corporate fascism and whose policy of cooperation with the Russians might have averted the Cold War.
According to Nichols’, Wallace’s removal from the Democratic Party ticket due to back-door machinations at the 1944 Democratic Party convention in Chicago, was a major turning point in American political history. It began the Democratic Party’s trajectory away from the progressive ideals underlying Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and towards the embrace of neoliberalism. Nichols in turn believes that the time is ripe for a new generation of Democratic Party leaders to reclaim Wallace’s legacy, and revitalize his political platform, which centered on promoting racial and gender equality and the interests of American working people, and advancing a peaceful foreign policy....
Perhaps the sharpest blow to the US strategically in the past hundred year was the replacement of Henry Wallace with Harry Truman in what would be FDR's last term in office. There is a temptation to view America's "problems" as recent. They began back then and now are coming to a head with nuclear war looming abroad and incipient civil war brewing at home. Neither the Cold War nor the Civil War ever actually ended.
We cannot know for sure if things would have turned out better if Wallace had won the re-nomination and succeeded FDR as President. It is quite possible that there would have been a conservative backlash against Wallace that would have thwarted many of his plans or led to his removal from power. However, there is also the possibility that Wallace could have governed effectively and built a consensus around his ideals and changed America’s political landscape in a more progressive direction....
Nichols also points out that many of today's "progressives" are not traditional progressives in the vein of Henry Wallace or George McGovern, but rather exhibit neoliberal and neoconservative tendencies.

Henry Wallace, American Visionary
Jeremy Kuzmarov

1 comment:

Peter Pan said...

Back-door machinations are as American as apple pie.

Traditionalism 1
Progress 0