I would have liked Ike, JFK, maybe even Nixon

I was at first drawn in by this book review in The Wall Street Journal this morning, because at the outset it addressed a big concern I’ve had since the start of this election year:

Even as we tremble at the edge of a fiscal cliff, the culture war insists on our attention. Abortion, contraception, gay and women’s rights, and welfare have all returned to shake up an election season that was supposed to be a simple economy slugfest. Robert O. Self’s “All in the Family” could help explain why. Mr. Self, a professor of history at Brown University, has heroically researched the history of the culture wars from the early 1960s to the present. He offers a provocative analysis that accounts for today’s alliance between small-government and social conservatives, on the one hand, and welfare-state and social liberals, on the other….

However, I was less enchanted by what followed:

Mr. Self begins his history by describing “breadwinner liberalism” as the status quo of the early and mid-1960s. The architects of the Great Society assumed the primacy of male-earner and female-homemaker families. Labor unions fought for a family wage for their predominantly male membership, the Moynihan Report (1965) raised alarms about black male unemployment, and the first efforts at affirmative action took the form of quotas in municipal contracts for male construction workers. In all these cases “women were largely an afterthought,” Mr. Self writes. Breadwinner liberalism, he argues, was based on a model of “masculine individualism”: hardworking, striving, self-reliant….

The review goes on to recount the book’s take on the Kulturkampf that has plagued our politics since the 1960s. Apparently, the author of the book thinks the changes that have come are all to the good; the reviewer demurs.

All I know is this: In 1960, I could have been comfortable as a liberal. For that matter, in 1960, I could have been comfortable as a conservative. I can see myself having voted for Ike. I think I would have been torn between Nixon and Kennedy. (At the time, I favored Nixon, but I was only 7 years old. I don’t know what I would have done as an adult.)

Whatever happened, and however you define it, I can’t be at home in either camp today. And the Kulturkampf stuff is a big part of the reason why.

62 thoughts on “I would have liked Ike, JFK, maybe even Nixon

  1. Brad Warthen

    Kept quiet? Little article? Wasn’t it the lede story, or at least prominently displayed, on either the front page or the Metro front? Whaddya want, eggs in your beer?

  2. bud

    The problem is entirely, 100%, completely and utterly with the Republicans. They are the ones who want to take away birth control and invade a woman’s body and push this anti-gay agenda. The Democrats are merely going along with the positive social trend of the last 50 years that has made our society a far better place. The GOP wants to return to the 19th century. Next thing you know they’ll want to bring back slavery and get rid of women’s suffrage. Heck why stop there. Maybe we can return to serfdom and monarchies and child labor. Hey it worked well in the 14th century didn’t it?

  3. bud

    Interesting that SD II brings up Pastides ridiculous pay raise. I thought it was ok for the rich to keep on getting richer. But I should be charitable in this case and acknowledge simply that SD II is right. What on earth are they thinking?

  4. bud

    I try to be as level headed and low-keyed as possible but this is an area where no serious observer can say the Democrats are pushing the agenda. Democrats are fine leaving Roe v Wade alone. They’re fine adopting the Dream Act which was once championed by Republicans. They’re fine keeping access to hormonal birth control easy and free. They’re fine cleaning up the loose ends left over from Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. It’s the Republicans who get their panties all in a knot over these sensible policy progressions. Time to come into the 21st century is all I’m saying.

  5. Silence

    @ bud – it’s OK for the successful private sector rich to be getting richer.

    When it’s my tax dollars (or other public funds that are classified here as “foundation funds”) paying for ridiculous raises for mediocre performance, I don’t think it’s OK.

  6. Bart

    “The problem is entirely, 100%, completely and utterly with the Republicans. They are the ones who want to take away birth control and invade a woman’s body and push this anti-gay agenda. The Democrats are merely going along with the positive social trend of the last 50 years that has made our society a far better place. The GOP wants to return to the 19th century. Next thing you know they’ll want to bring back slavery and get rid of women’s suffrage. Heck why stop there. Maybe we can return to serfdom and monarchies and child labor. Hey it worked well in the 14th century didn’t it?”…bud

    SDII – and you didn’t think bud could be humorous did you? How’s that little bit of satire for a laugh? Shakespeare would be pleased, so would Winston Churchill.

  7. bud

    it’s OK for the successful private sector rich to be getting richer.

    How about the unsuccessful private sector like the big banks with their propensity to give huuuge bonuses to executives even when they take bailout money?

  8. Brad

    A couple or three points, Bud:

    1) I’m a serious observer.
    2) the Dems started this year’s most prominent culture battles
    3) the Dems showcased these issues very aggressively at their convention; fortunately, their prime-time speakers rose above this stuff, which saved the convention and accounts for the bounce

  9. Brad

    Actually, sort of by definition, conservatives (real ones, that is) don’t START culture battles, generally. Those seeking a departure from the status quo do.

  10. bud

    To be or not to be, that is the question we must ask as we fight on the beaches, fight on the landing-grounds, fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”

  11. Silence

    bud – I don’t think that the executives of any bailed out firms should be getting any bonuses!
    A bonus is something you get for fantastic performance that is above and beyond what is expected of you. If you just do what is expected, you earn your paycheck. If your company fails and you need a bailout, you have should have just earned a pay cut or a pink slip.

    I would make one caveat though, and that would be that some of the largest banks probably didn’t need a bailout, but were asked/told to take one for the team, so as not to stigmatize the weaker banks that needed a bailout. If that’s the case, the executives shouldn’t be penalized.

    I do agree that CEO pay/bonuses are sometimes at outrageous levels though.
    College president and coach pay are also outrageous.
    Also, pro athlete and movie star pay.
    Also, blogger pay is too high.

  12. Mark Stewart

    If one accepts that cultural norms are constantly evolving, then conservatives can be boat anchors to the cultural norm as much as progressives can be instigators. There is no such thing as the status quo with regard to human aspiration or philosophical/theological evolution.

    I would have no interest in living in the 12th century, or the 19th century, or even the “golden era” of Eisenhower. This is our time. Make the most of today and make plans for tomorrow. Don’t fight the flow of time…

  13. Bart

    “To be or not to be, that is the question we must ask as we fight on the beaches, fight on the landing-grounds, fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”…bud

    I think Obama forgot these parts of Churchill’s speech during the Wednesday night debate(?), but he did rally his first line troops a day or so later. Now, Big Bird is heading up the charge to regain the lead that was so comfortable but now seems to be lost. By way of leaked intelligence reports from inside the Obama camp – (Fozzy Bear has been identified as the “anonymous source”) – Big Bird will be sending Kermit to the front lines to lead the battle while he stays behind with Animal to plan strategy.

    Obama has expressed his confidence in Big Bird to turn things around the same way John Kerry coached him for the debate.

  14. Brad

    And Mark, I’m not saying I want to live in 1960. I’m saying that I’m far more in tune with what both “liberals” and “conservatives” in those times believed than I am with either of those labels today.

    Although now that you mention it, if I had a time machine, I might enjoy visiting the early to mid 60s from time to time.

    I was out of the country during a good-sized chunk of that time (late 1962 to late spring 1965), and feel like I missed out on some cool stuff. I nearly O.D.ed on popular culture after I came back; I loved EVERYTHING about it. Nothing on TV or radio or anywhere else seemed like junk to me; it was all golden, and I went around drunk on it. Of course, I was only 11 years old.

  15. Brad

    But this has inspired a “Top Five” list, about which I think I’ll do a separate post.

    It’s Top Five periods in which I would have liked to live — assuming I could choose the place, and of course my class or role in society…

  16. Steven Davis II

    @bud – If you had to put money on it, would you say Pastides is a Romney supporter or an Obama supporter?

  17. Steven Davis II

    Lede story in the Metro section, I don’t get the paper, what is that something like Page 26?

  18. Bart

    “Big Bird was never a wartime consigliere…”…Brad

    That’s why they brought in Animal as a cover so he could be Fredo supporting Sonny AKA “Big Bird”. But really, the devious mind behind the plot was Miss Piggy! It was her all along!!

  19. Kathryn Fenner

    Who do I get to be in this game? If I have to a woman, I’d like to be twenty years younger to have benefited from Title IX and general feminist changes more. If I get to be a male aristocrat….but if I have to be a peasant, I’ll stick with now….

  20. Tom Stickler

    Sorry Brad, but David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan already have that “both sides are equally bad” franchise sewed up, and show no signs of retiring any time son.

  21. Phillip

    Not to belabor the Big Bird business, but what was Romney’s little throwaway line about PBS funding if not Kulturkampf? Brad, would that be an example of the Democrats’
    “starting” a Kulturkampf issue, simply by desiring not to eliminate PBS? It’s purely a sop by Romney to the anti-intellectual, medievalist wing of his party: it’s certainly got nothing to do with economics, as Romney himself surely knows. As the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted after the debate: “Cutting PBS support to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive.”

  22. bud

    would you say Pastides is a Romney supporter or an Obama supporter?
    -SD II

    Given the huge success of the USC sports program I’d bet money that he’s an athletic supporter.

  23. Silence

    @bud – I completely agree. Pastides is definitely an athletic supporter.

    Time to get out the detergent and plenty of bleach before we all get jock itch from his obscene pay raise.

  24. Steven Davis II

    @bud – That isn’t an acceptable answer.

    When you were in in school taking standardized test and told to choose A,B,C,or D… choosing E wasn’t an option.

  25. bud

    For all you Romney supporters which version of Romney do you support? This excerpt from a USA Today article on abortion (please let’s not discuss abortion, this is an example of extreme flip-flopping) shows how flagrantly he has changed his position on this issue. Given that he is a Mormon why are there so many changes, revisions, walk backs and ammendments on an issue that’s pretty much a core social value for most of us? From USA Today:

    “Romney’s position on abortion has changed over the years, and has been at the heart of charges that he flip-flops on issues. When he ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002, Romney said he would “preserve and protect” a woman’s right to choose an abortion. He now calls himself “pro-life” and supports abortion only in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.

    Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Associated Press yesterday that Romney is “proudly pro-life and will be a pro-life president.” She also said Romney would “support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

    The Obama campaign noted that Romney has said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would “hopefully” overturn Roe v. Wade. “It’s troubling that Mitt Romney is so willing to play politics with such important issues,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said.

    Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion rights, told USA TODAY that the organization is “confident” Romney will keep promises made to conservatives on this issue.

    “We have full confidence that as president, Gov. Romney will stand by the pro-life commitments he laid out in National Review in June 2011,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. She said these promises include “his pledge to prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform and promote abortion, as well as advocate for a bill to promote unborn children capable of feeling pain.”

  26. Steven Davis II

    I wonder what percentage of regular posters here were Dungeons and Dragons geeks back in the 1980’s. It’s not difficult to pinpoint the ones I suspect were.

  27. Brad

    Yes, Phillip, the right’s attacks on PBS do seem to be cultural to an extent — in an old-fashioned kind of way, in the tradition of good ol’ American anti-intellectualism.

    They would disagree, though, saying it’s a matter of 1) priorities; 2) that the government has no business underwriting either entertainment or news coverage; 3) a belief that public broadcasting presents worldviews with which conservatives disagree.

    In any case, it’s not the kind of culture battle that stirs emotions to the point of overwhelming reason, the way the ones over religion, gender, sexuality and reproduction tend to do.

  28. bud

    This is an important and tragic anniversary that should not go unforgotten. Talk about something that overwhelmed reason. From an article by Dennis Kucinich:

    “Ten years ago, on October 10, 2002, the United States House of Representatives made one of the most calamitous mistakes of a generation. Congress, with willful blindness, voted to attack, invade and occupy a sovereign, oil-rich nation in the Middle East that did not attack us and did not pose a threat to the American people.”

  29. Steven Davis II

    What would be wrong with commercials on PBS? I’d rather watch those than the 20 minute pledge drives that appear every hour for weeks at a time 2-3 times per year. In fact, PBS would probably do better by running advertisements.

    Programming wouldn’t be affected, Sesame Street has already come out blasting Obama for using BigBird in his political ads, they and many other programs aren’t funded by PBS.

  30. Silence

    @SDII – Let’s roll for our character’s attributes:

    Name: Silence
    Race: Human
    Class: Fighter
    Level: 4
    Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
    Armor Class: 5
    Hit Points: 27
    Strength: 15
    Intelligence: 17
    Wisdom: 14
    Dexterity: 15
    Constitution: 15
    Charisma: 16

  31. Mark Stewart


    Life is not about answering a,b,c or d. It’s about critical thinking.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter what party Pastides belongs to, the issue you raised was USC and the Board’s decision to lavishly pay a pretty mediocre public servant.

  32. Mark Stewart

    I wouldn’t go back in time; I would want to see the future when my children would be around forty – to see what they and their children may have to contend with socially, politically, economically and environmentally.

  33. Brad

    I’m not that interested in seeing the future.

    My older children will start turning 40 in just a little over four years. And the signs of what they’ll have to contend with don’t look great.

    Of course, if I could see the future, I could make dead-on investments that could make my whole family’s futures brighter.

    I’d also like to go to a time when all physical ailments are entirely curable — my allergies, my asthma, that beginning creakiness in my knees. That would be something. I’d come back physically as I was when I was 20, but with the benefits of experience.

  34. Steven Davis II

    @Silence – That took me a minute, and I had to look back at my previous posts. I guess those are D&D attributes. Funny, you wouldn’t have been on my list had you not volunteered this information.

  35. Steven Davis II

    @Brad – To each their own, I don’t see that much when I had to look up at who you were talking about. Then factor in that these are the “good” photos. Have you ever seen those “without their makeup” websites, most of the “pretty people” are actually pretty homely when their makeup artists take the day off.


  36. Silence

    Back to the war on PBS… Aren’t there like 40 years worth of Sesame Street episodes at this point? Why are they still making new ones? Their target audience doesn’t know the difference, b/c they haven’t seen the old ones.

    Did we add some new letters to the alphabet that I missed? New numbers? Do they still teach sharing, and friendship and those type of concepts? Hasn’t it all been covered? Really, they only need a few years worth of reruns and they could run them in perpetuity.

    Also, aren’t the letters and numbers supposed to be sponsoring the show anyhow? I distinctly remember that every episode was brought to you by the letter “D” for example, and the number “6”, also for example.

  37. Brad

    Due to hard times, most consonants and practically all of the numbers have had to cut back on their marketing budgets. And the vowels aren’t doing much better…

  38. Brad

    Actually, Steven, I prefer most of those without their makeup. That’s because most of them are fundamentally beautiful, so I prefer them without all the gunk on.

  39. Silence

    This comment section of Brad’s blog has been brought to you by Maybelline.

    “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline?”

  40. bud

    Big Bird has become the issue but what really should be is Romneys complete and utter lack of saying what he’ll cut out of the budget. Obama is trying to show how empty Romney’s budget cutting claims are by showing just how tiny the PBS subsidy is in comparison the the federal budget. All this secrecy from Romney should be offputting to anyone who wants to base their vote on an open discussion of the issues. Romney should be more forthcoming rather than merely throwing poor ole Bid Bird under the bus.

  41. Steven Davis II

    @bud – If PBS went under, Sesame Street would just go to another network. Sesame Street like many of the other programs aren’t funded by PBS. Nova could go to the Discovery Channel, Sesame Street could go to Nickelodeon, Masterpiece Theater could go to MTV, etc… You see everyone gets these channels now, just like cell phones, if you can’t afford cable or cell phones the government will provide you with them.

  42. Silence

    I do wonder sometimes if public broadcasting, specifically NPR has inhibited the growth of private TV/Radio channels to take hold in certain genres. Do we really need a publicly funded classical music broadcast station? Is there enough audience that it could be self sustaining? Same with liberal news and talk. I wonder if NPR’s dominance in the segment effectively doomed Air America?

  43. bud

    I think most liberals don’t care for the talk radio format. A liberal Rush Limbaugh is just not appealing to us. I found most of the AA hosts to be obnoxious and prefered the more toned down hosts who analyzed issues in a more low-keyed manner. But they were fairly rare.

  44. Silence

    @ Kathryn – I like “All Things Considered”, “Morning Edition” and “Marketplace”. My favorite NPR show is “This American Life” and I’m actually enjoying “Ask Me Another” which is a recent addition to our local station.

    I absolutely hate some of the shows though: Arts Daily makes me change the station. Your Day makes me physically ill, often violently ill. SC Business review also results in a channel changing. Earth Sense makes me want to punch someone in the face it is so stupid, and Making it Grow is terrible as well.

  45. Brad

    The local thing I like the least is when I turn on my radio when I’m driving somewhere at lunchtime, and they’re going on and on about pet care. Really. I don’t get it.

    I, too, have a strong negative reaction to “Arts Daily.” I don’t know why.

    Do you ever listen to “The Takeaway” or “Fresh Air”? I like those. But I probably appreciate “Morning Edition” the most.

  46. Silence

    Brad, that’s “Your Day” when they are blithering on about pet care.

    I like “Fresh Air”… Terry Gross is sexy, but I don’t much care for “The Takeaway”. I’ll listen to it if there’s nothing else on, but it’s not my favorite.

  47. Kathryn Fenner

    Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me is my favorite. I like the pet care segment on Your Day, and some of the others, but when they do a piece on visual art exhibits……

    Arts Daily is not well done. She seems to just read press releases. Sometimes, I cannot even tell what city the event is in.

    From the Top, about precocious classical musicians, uuggghh. I want to hear from seasoned professionals, like Phillip!

  48. Steven Davis II

    They do a radio program on visual art? And Romney wants to cancel government support? And the Democrats are upset?

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