The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Friday, December 17, 2010


I am almost done reading Theodore White's Making of the President 1968. The country has changed greatly since the year after I was born; here are some of the changes that struck me as especially interesting:

Some institutions of the mid-century are dead and buried. The country used to have a slow primary system that built momentum gradually -- though only a minority of delegates were selected via primaries. Hubert Humphrey gained the Democratic nomination without entering a single primary.

A change unrelated to politics, and definitely for the better: White lists the fine cuisine available in Miami Beach (where the Republicans would convene in August):

... the best bagels and lox, the best pizza and fettucini, to borscht or minestrone or French onion soup, to the best fish and the best steaks, done American, Parisian or Roman.
If transported back in time four decades, your fine dining options include minestrone. Good God.

Another anachronism: White follows Nixon to a trainstop in a small Ohio town and

an Ohio reporter told me that the best pheasant-shooting in the neighborhood lay along the tracks because the pheasants grew fat here on spilled kernels.
Kind of hard to imagine any political reporter anywhere today giving tips on hunting.

A peculiarity specific to the 60's was the "problems of the city." To read political literature of that era, you would think that human history consisted of nomads roaming the tundra, and only in the Kennedy-Johnson era did people settle down to live near one another.

Here is a Jacob Javits patronizing the assembled Babbitry at Miami Beach:

"All these people here who support Nixon are as nice as they could be, but they don't begin to understand the problems of the cities, the urgings of the ghettos, the heat of the subways."

(One should note that 15 years of "understanding" by solons like Javits destroyed ghettos so badly that they appeared to have been bombed.)

"Hot summer nights" and variants thereof are another Sixties shibboleth. Apparently when New Yorkers descended into the subway in the 50's ... or 40's ... or 30's ... or 20's ... or teens, they did so in perfect comfort because heat and humidity had not yet been invented.

And some characteristics of political culture have not changed:

The best label to pin, for example, on any adversary is racist. Once that tag is pinned, no denial can wipe it away, and moral sanction has been set up for any action that follows the pinning of the label. It is important, always, in any issue or confrontation to establish this moral sanction first ...


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