Cold War liberal

Cold War liberal is a term that was used in the United States during the Cold War, which began after the end of World War II.[1] The term was used to describe liberal politicians and labor union leaders who supported democracy and equality. They supported the growth of labor unions, the civil rights movement, and the War on Poverty, while simultaneously opposing totalitarianism and Communist Party rule. Cold-War liberals therefore supported efforts to contain Soviet communism.

Liberalism during the Cold War [ edit ]

U.S. liberalism of the Cold War era was the immediate heir to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and the slightly more distant heir to the Progressives of the early 20th century.[2] Sol Stern wrote, "Cold War liberalism deserves credit for the greatest American achievement since World War II—winning the Cold War."[3]

The essential tenets of Cold War liberalism can be found in Roosevelt's Four Freedoms (1941): of these, freedom of speech and of religion were classic liberal freedoms, as was "freedom from fear" (freedom from tyrannical government), but "freedom from want" was another matter. Roosevelt proposed a notion of freedom that went beyond government non-interference in private lives. "Freedom from want" could justify positive government action to meet economic needs, a concept more associated with the concepts of Lincoln's Republican party, Clay's Whig Party, and Hamilton's economic principles of government intervention and subsidy than the more radical socialism and social democracy of European thinkers, or with prior versions of classical liberalism as represented by Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican and Jackson's Democratic party.

In the 1950s and 1960s, both major U.S. political parties included liberal and conservative factions. The Democratic Party had two wings: on the one hand, Northern and Western liberals, on the other generally conservative Southern whites. Difficult to classify were the northern urban Democratic "political machines". The urban machines had supported New Deal economic policies, but would slowly come apart over racial issues. Some historians have divided the Republican Party into liberal Wall Street and conservative Main Street factions; others have noted that the GOP's conservatives came from landlocked states (Robert Taft of Ohio and Barry Goldwater of Arizona) and the liberals tended to come from California (Earl Warren and Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey), New York (Nelson Rockefeller), and other coastal states.

Opposing both communism and conservatism, Cold War liberalism resembled earlier "liberalisms" in its views on many social issues and personal liberty, but its economic views were not those of free-market Jeffersonian liberalism nor those of European social democrats. They never endorsed state socialism, but did call for spending on education, science, and infrastructure, notably the expansion of NASA and the construction of the Interstate Highway System. Their progressive ideas continued the legacy of Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Most prominent and constant among the positions of Cold War liberalism were:

  • Support for a domestic economy built on a balance of power between labor (in the form of organized unions) and management (with a tendency to be more interested in large corporations than in small business).
  • A foreign policy focused on containing the Soviet Union and its allies, one factor leading to its dissolution at the end of 1991.
  • The continuation and expansion of New Deal social welfare programs (in the broad sense of welfare, including programs such as Social Security).
  • An embrace of Keynesian economics. By way of compromise with political groupings to their right, this often became, in practice military Keynesianism.

At first liberals generally did not see FDR's successor Harry S. Truman as one of their own, viewing him as a Democratic Party hack. However, liberal politicians and liberal organizations such as the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) sided with Truman in opposing communism both at home and abroad, sometimes at the sacrifice of civil liberties.[4] Hubert Humphrey, for example, in 1950 put before the Senate a bill to establish detention centers where those declared subversive by the President could be held without trial. It did not pass.

Liberals were united in their opposition to McCarthyism.[5]

John F. Kennedy [ edit ]

John F. Kennedy (JFK), the 35th President of the United States, is regarded by some as one of the key players that revived liberalism. JFK was the most influential liberal of the time. During his campaign, Kennedy took the liberal approach by promising voters to revive liberalism, which had withered under Dwight D. Eisenhower, with a new set of reforms collectively called the New Frontier.[6] The young president wanted to expand Social Security to benefit more Americans, help the elderly pay their medical costs, fund educational endeavors, raise the national minimum wage, and reduce income inequality. In his famous inaugural address, Kennedy appealed to American youth by instructing them to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” He later launched the Peace Corps to support this effort, encouraging young Americans to assist people in developing countries. Kennedy also responded to national fears and pressures regarding the space race with the Soviet Union by challenging Americans to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. His enthusiasm spread across the country. He sought to reform economic issues along with issues of the Humanities which is what paved the way for the future of liberalism[7]

Notable Cold War liberals [ edit ]

Some notable pioneers of Cold War liberalism included Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. World War II ended under the Presidency of 33rd President Harry S. Truman. Although Truman is criticized in some quarters now for his decision to use atomic weapons against Japan, popular opinion at the time was a positive one.[clarification needed] Johnson succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, completed Kennedy's term and was elected President in his own right, winning by a large margin over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election.[8] Johnson was greatly supported by the Democratic Party and as President, he was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, and his "War on Poverty". Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and the "Johnson treatment," his coercion of powerful politicians in order to advance legislation. All of his accomplishments were influenced by the idea of Cold War liberalism which was according to most, implemented by JFK.[9]

Henry Martin "Scoop" Jackson, first a congressman and then senator from the state of Washington, is also widely recognized as a Cold War liberal. A Democrat, his political beliefs were characterized by support of civil rights, human rights, and safeguarding the environment, but with an equally strong commitment to oppose totalitarianism in general, and Communism in particular. Scoop Jackson and his legacy are acknowledged as having significant influence on Neoconservatism.[10]

See also [ edit ]

Notes [ edit ]

  1. ^ Schlesinger JR, 1962, p37
  2. ^ Alonzo L. Hamby, Liberalism and Its Challengers: From F.D.R. to Bush (1992)
  3. ^ Stern, Sol (Winter, 2010) "The Ramparts I Watched." City Journal.
  4. ^ Alonzo L. Hamby, Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (1995)
  5. ^ Richard M. Fried, Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective (1991)
  6. ^ Hamby, 1992, pp 104-123
  7. ^ (Hamby, 1992 p.106)
  8. ^ Hamby,1992, p216
  9. ^ Hamby,1992 p.235
  10. ^ Shribman, David (September 3, 1983). "Senator Henry M. Jackson Is Dead at 71" – via

References [ edit ]

  • "Liberalism in America: A Note for Europeans", Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in The Politics of Hope, (1962)
  • Bryan-Paul Frost; Jeffrey Sikkenga (2003). History of American Political Thought. Lexington Books. p. 33.
  • Alfred Fernbach and Charles Julian Bishko, Charting democracy in America (1995)
  • Faulks, Keith. Political sociology: a critical introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.
  • Alonzo L. Hamby, Liberalism and Its Challengers: From F.D.R. to Bush (1992)
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