On populism and extremism, Rauch (in The Atlantic) writes: “The Republican party has been taken over by an unscrupulous populist demagogue. His loyalty is to himself, not to his party or any ideology. He glories in violating political norms. He trashes liberals and government bureaucrats but has no use for limiting the government’s powers—at least, not his own powers. He has no problem with deficit spending, provided he can direct it to his base. He plays on white grievance and inflames racial division, while bragging that many black Americans support him and complaining that liberal bullies play the race card to shut him up. He gleefully attacks intellectuals and experts as enemies of America and common sense. He is not above calling his opponents traitors and hinting that they should be dealt with violently. In a crisis, as at present, he is a genius at finding others to blame. And the more he shocks and blames, the more his supporters love him for speaking forbidden truths and standing up to condescending elites. The politician I speak of is, of course, George C. Wallace.”
As well,: ‘We can foresee that unless something changes in American political culture and civil life,’ says Dan Carter, a historian and George C. Wallace biographer, ‘we’re doomed to deal with Trumps, whether they’re this Donald Trump or future Donald Trumps, for the next generation.’ Thank George Wallace for that,” Jonathan Rauch claims.
Mr. Rauch indicates in this worthy piece that “Wallace, a four-time presidential candidate and longtime governor of Alabama (both on his own account and with his wife serving as his surrogate), made his national name as an outspoken segregationist in the early 1960s. But, like Trump, he was more an opportunist than an ideologue, embracing segregation only after losing a 1958 gubernatorial race to a segregationist and vowing, infamously, to ‘never be out-niggered again.’” Wow, that’s a heckuva phrase. That tells you a lot about a person’s character.
George C. Wallace, the multi-term governor of Alabama, ran for president of the United States repeatedly. He was shot and he was the victim of skullduggery by the Democrats to keep him off the ticket. He never did quite get traction enough to win, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t supported by 15-20% of the populace. He was virtually indefatigable, and quite transparent. Though, as Rauch was saying, he wasn’t a white supremacist through-and-through, like politicians David Duke, or Patrick Buchanan. He was an opportunist; a changeling.
You can smell the demagoguery, the entitlement, the power-lust in this statement made by George Wallace: “When they say you and me are racist and a hate-monger and a fascist, it’s because they can’t logically argue against the position we take. And so they write us off.”
Wallace seemed to have his shtick down: “I say we ought to be honest with people, and that’s the reason I believe that people of all races are eventually gonna support this movement, because they’d rather have somebody honest talking.” He was talking, and many Southern racists and angry whites up North were listening.
Rauch writes: “Wallace, unlike Trump, never became president or captured a major political party. Where he did succeed was in identifying, organizing, and mobilizing a constituency which, demographically and attitudinally, maintains remarkable continuity with Trump’s constituency today. ‘I don’t think there’s a very significant difference between Wallace voters and Trump voters,” Ashley Jardina, a Duke University political scientist and the author of the book White Identity Politics, told me.”
“Perhaps most politically significant in today’s context is that Wallace’s support was firmly rooted in the white working class,” Rauch believes. “His support, like Trump’s, was strongly predicted by socioeconomic status and especially education. Middle- and lower-middle-income groups and voters with only high-school education—people who worked in factories and on farms—were his stalwarts. And the strongest predictor of all was a college degree. [Now Rauch quotes Irving Crespi of the Gallup organization]: ‘The white stratification system tended to bifurcate into two major segments—an anti-Wallace educational elite consisting of all those who had attended college regardless of income and a relatively pro-Wallace segment consisting of those who had only gone to grade school or high school and of manual worker families.'”
As I am intending to compare George Wallace to Henry A. Wallace, I should hasten to point out this point Rauch makes:
“Racial resentment,” says John Sides, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, “was one of the things that was distinctive about support for Trump relative to earlier elections. It appears to be what the campaign of 2016 brought to the fore.” But Trump’s appeal seems to have been less to hostility against black Americans and minorities as such than to a sense that society is unfair to white Americans. Call that phenomenon white grievance. White grievance, in turn, solidifies what Jardina calls ‘white identity’: white people seeing themselves as a social group that must pull together to defend its embattled status.”
I believe this is part chicanery on the part of these two snake-oil salesmen (Wallace and Trump), and part socioeconomic stress. It is a belief of mine, though not unequivocally true, that the more capitalistic, competitive, insecure, and lean the economic conditions are, the more “white grievance” and white identity politics will be able to thrive. Scholar Ashley Jardina, who wrote the book White Identity Politics:
“Prior to a couple years ago, whites felt secure in the belief that they held a disproportionate share of economic and political and social resources, so their lives weren’t over-determined by their race. But now white identity has become salient as white Americans feel more and more threatened, and that fear has activated identity in a way we haven’t seen for some time.”
Fear equals identification with whiteness, and the stoking of feelings of grievance, at bottom. Some of this is natural, and much of it is inflamed and exacerbated by demagogues such as George Wallace and Donald Trump. Jardina believes that “…it’s projected that whites will cease to be a majority by the middle of the century. This fact, which was brought into sharp relief by the election of Barack Obama, ignited a wave racial awareness among white Americans, and I think we’re still reckoning with the political consequences of this.”
Rauch ends his analysis with the following:
“…political analysts—emphatically including me—erred grievously by underestimating the importance and durability of Wallace and his movement. In hindsight, his influence over the direction of Republican politics is at least the equal of Barry Goldwater’s libertarian insurgency, Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” and the Reagan Revolution. If you had to boil the history of the modern Republican Party down to a single sentence, you could do no better than this: Barry Goldwater got in a fight with Nelson Rockefeller and George Wallace won.”
Let me now take you back to the 1930s, the era when a more educated, more legitimate Wallace—Henry A.—was hugely influential in American politics, but almost as forgotten today as is George C.
Henry A. Wallace was the second-most loved man in the United States during his political life, after F.D.R. (well, maybe third, if you count Will Rogers). Wallace was Roosevelt’s three-term vice-president. He went on to compete for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, but in a notorious bit of skullduggery, the Democratic National Committee ushered in the much less-loved and clearly inferior Harry S. Truman (LINK). The rest, especially if you ask Japan, is history.
Richard Kochan believes, rightly so, that: “It’s incredible that more people don’t know about Henry Wallace. Had he not been dumped by the Democrats in 1944, the world might have been a far better place as Truman would not have become President and dropped the Atomic bomb when the Japanese had already been defeated.”
The issues Henry A. Wallace dealt with in his time were hunger, progressive politics, national unity, winning the war against Japan and Germany, “winning the peace”, supporting F.D.R.s more progressive policies (against many of the more illiberal “establishment” folks in Washington, and international relations. He was the leader of the “left wing” of the Roosevelt White House, which dealt not only with the economic Depression of 1929-1941, but World War II as well. This quote from him gives a flavor to the brilliant mind and the good values Henry possessed:
“We shall hold firmly to the American theme of peace, prosperity and freedom and shall repel all the attacks of the plutocrats and monopolists who will try to brand us as reds. If it is traitorous to believe in peace, we are traitors. If it is communistic to believe in prosperity for all, we are communists. If it is red-baiting to fight for free speech and real freedom of the press, we are red-baiters. If it is un-American to believe in freedom from monopolistic dictation, we are un-American. I say that we are more American than the neo-Fascists who attack us. I say, On with the fight!”
I read an interesting book (well, at least I found it so because Henry A. Wallace was one of the most influential and amazing persons this country has in its checkered past) called American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace (LINK). Indeed, those times were most remarkable, and, as we know from George Wallace, of great importance. The thick book is full of illuminating passages, historical facts, and stories, such as this quote:
“As Henry A. Wallace saw it, the job at hand was not only to win the war but to win the peace. The outcome of the war had to be more than restoration of the status quo. He sought a postwar world in which New Deal liberalism thrived in America and would spread throughout the world. Most of all he wanted to end the deadly cycle of economic warfare followed by military combat followed by isolationism and more economic warfare ad more conflict.”
As well, Peter Dreier (LINK) notes this about Wallace:
“[He] opposed the cold war, the arms race with the Soviet Union and racial segregation. He was a strong advocate of labor unions, national health insurance, public works jobs and women’s equality. He would have been, without question, the most radical president in American history. He would have served out the remaining three years of FDR’s fourth term and certainly would have sought to be elected on his own in 1948.
[Oliver Stone, in his documentary series The Untold History of the United States] raises several titillating but unknowable questions: Had Wallace become president, would the United States have dropped the atom bomb on Japan? Would the country have spent several decades engaged in a costly cold war and arms race with the Soviet Union? Would we have created a permanent war economy (one that President Eisenhower later warned had become a ‘military-industrial complex’) and replaced England as the world’s most assertive imperialist and colonial power, leading the country into numerous military adventures, including Vietnam? Would our society have postponed for at least a decade the civil rights and women’s rights revolutions?”
One of the most significant consequences of a man like Truman being ushered into office by kingmakers, instead of Wallace, is clearly the presence and unmatched power of the “military-industrial complex.” To strive to prevent such a hugely influential force in American politics, society, and finances from occurring tells you a lot about a person’s character.
Chad Bagley reviews the book American Dreamer in such a way as to really elucidate who this man Henry Wallace was, and why he is important, and how it is telling that only one in twenty know who the hell he was:
“In American Dreamer, [authors] Hyde and Culver give a well-written and balanced account of the life on one of the most enigmatic and progressive political leaders that America has ever produced. Why his name has never come up in years of taking history courses amazes me—especially in light of the fact that his thoughts on the cold war, which he tried desperately to steer us away from, turned out to be quite prescient.
Henry A. Wallace was Secretary of Agriculture for eight years, Vice President for four and Commerce Secretary for a short time before his forced ouster. Wallace ran for the Presidency in 1948 on the Progressive ticket, lost, and then left public office. What Wallace left us during this time was a legacy of innovative leadership, genuine public service and a virtual revolution in agriculture.
Wallace eschewed the world of dog eat dog politics and preferred appealing directly to the public than orchestrating back room machinations. He was honest, direct, practical and always put the public good above his own wants or ambitions. In short, he had everything that seems to be lacking in the American political spectrum today.
As I read the book I couldn’t help but think what would have happened if Wallace had remained Vice President (instead of Truman) and therefore become President at Roosevelt’s death. It seems to me that the worst excesses of the cold war and the red scare could have been avoided and that US policy in just about every area may have been put on a more evenly keeled tack for the future (it would have been undone later, but hell, it’s a start).
Wallace was often accused of being an impractical dreamer—but if what he accomplished in his years of public service were the deeds of an impractical dreamer—then we can certainly use more of them.”
Clearly, then, Henry A. was a progressive, whereas George C. was a populist/demagogue; Henry A. was a man of peace and of character, and Wallace I believe scores far lower on both scales. Henry A. had a vision where every person in the U.S. was treated with dignity and had enough food to feed a family; George C. really only sought to stoke racial divisions and foment inter-group animus in order to gain power. One was a uniter and a progressive; the other, stoked racial resentment and feelings of superiority/entitlement. It is clear which thread politicians such as Paul Wellstone, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Dennis Kucinich, and Pramila Jaypal followed, and which path Donald Trump, Jim Jordan, Joe McCarthy, and Newt Gingrich chose. Ω
To end, let’s play a game called “Which Wallace?“ It’s simple: I give you the quotes; you guess whether it was George C. Wallace the demagogue-segregationist, or Henry A. Wallace, the scientist/statesman/progressive. Here goes:
If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. … They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead. (Answer: Henry A. Wallace)
Why does the Air Force need expensive new bombers? Have the people we’ve been bombing over the years been complaining? (Answer: George Wallace)
At the bottom, this whole business is a struggle to maintain the ideals upon which this great American republic was founded, and for which, when the pinch comes, we are always ready to fight. Emperors fight for commercial supremacy, for extension of their domain, for their right to rule. Democracies fight for human liberty for the rights of man. (Answer: Henry A. Wallace, of course!)
I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. (Answer: George, obviously!)
There always is, in economic matters, an appropriate time for change…Owners of concentrated wealth and economic power usually refuse to admit this. The court has also frequently refused to admit it in time to effect the change smoothly and without grievous distress. When the court in such situations refuses to budge, the average citizen rises up to inquire, Whose Constitution is it, anyway? (Answer: Henry A. Wallace)
If any demonstrator ever lays down in front of my car, it’ll be the last car he’ll ever lay down in front of.(Answer: George, of course!)
I did nothing worse than Lyndon Johnson. He was for segregation when he thought he had to be. I was for segregation, and I was wrong. The media has rehabilitated Johnson; why won’t it rehabilitate me? (Answer: George Wallace)
Our choice is between democracy for everybody or for the few —between the spreading of social safeguards and economic opportunity to all the people—or the concentration of abundant resources in the hands of selfishness and greed. (Answer: Henry A. Wallace)
They’re building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia. (Answer: George Wallace)
Winning the peace is more important than high public office. It is more important than any consideration of party politics. The success or failure of our foreign policy will mean the difference between life and death for our children and our grandchildren. It will mean the difference between life and death of our civilization. It may mean the difference between the existence and the extinction of Man and of the world. It is therefore of supreme importance, and we should every one of us regard it as a hold duty to join the fight for winning the peace. I, for my part, firmly believe there is nothing more important that I can do than work in the cause of peace. (Answer: Henry A. Wallace)
The average citizen in this county has more intelligence and sense in his little finger than the editor ofThe New York Times has in his whole head. (Answer: George Wallace)