If you watch old movies, read books from the first half of the 20th century, and are old enough to remember the early 1960s, you will recall that New Deal liberalism was a cheerful, optimistic creed, pro-American and working for economic prosperity. After all, liberals from Franklin Roosevelt through Hubert Humphrey were progressives, which gave them confidence that things were getting better and better. But after a certain point, liberals began to be filled with gloom and doom. America must be punished for its sins; our neglect of the environment will incur apocalyptic judgment; economic prosperity weakens our moral fiber. Conservatives used to sound that way, and did, before the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan.
George Will discusses the shift to a “punitive liberalism” in a discussion of a book that sees the tipping point as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, even though Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist. (I think the tipping point was the Vietnam War, but still. . . .) [Read more…]