I have three items for my write-up today on W.A. Swanberg’s biography of six-time Socialist candidate for President, Norman Thomas. The biography is entitled Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist.
1. Swanberg narrates that Thomas’ newspaper column eventually came to lose its popularity, for Thomas criticized both Republicans and Democrats, which was a turn-off to newspapers and many of their readers. Thomas did, however, praise politicians when they acted according to his principles of peace. Thomas, for example, praised President Dwight Eisenhower’s final speech as President, in which Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex.
Do I like partisan articles, or articles that criticize and praise both sides? It depends. One reason that I like partisan articles, particularly when they’re partisan in accordance with my own political orientation, is that I would like to believe that simply voting for a political party will solve our nation’s problems. But life is more complex than that, for virtually every “solution” that politicians propose will have its strengths and weaknesses. I feel that my role as a voter is to determine if the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, and to vote accordingly. What really rocks my world is when I have a firm pro-Obama ideology set in my mind, along with my justifications for that ideology, and then I take the risk of reading conservative Townhall columns and encounter arguments that President Obama’s policies are grossly problematic. Are these conservatives correct? I doubt that they are entirely. But I don’t think that simply dismissing their arguments as “lies” is the way to go.
Like Thomas, I do like to praise politicians who do what I consider to be the right thing, whatever political party they may be in. When I read an article about Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to expand Medicaid, for example, I clicked “like”.
2. One reason that Thomas’ message of disarmament was so unpopular, according to Swanberg, was that there were many people in the United States who made a decent living within the military-industrial complex. I usually don’t read this in liberal writings that glorify the 1950’s-1960’s as a time when the middle-class was strong and widespread. They talk about unions, progressive tax rates, and government funding of highways, but they usually don’t mention the role of the military-industrial complex in the existence of the middle-class.
In 2012, I occasionally wondered if voting for Mitt Romney would be better for the economy than voting for Barack Obama would be. It wasn’t because I believed that tax cuts for the rich would magically trickle down to the rest of us and stimulate economic growth. Rather, it was because I thought that Mitt Romney’s program of increasing government spending on the military would serve as stimulus. Granted, it would probably also run up the deficit and the national debt, but at least it would give people jobs. It does seem to me that government spending on defense has created more jobs than has government spending on infrastructure. I’ve not seen statistics on this, so I’m open to correction, but I’m just stating my impression. I wish, though, that the government could create more jobs by spending money on peaceful projects rather than weapons that we don’t need. I’m not saying that we don’t need any weapons, but, in 2012, Obama said that even prominent people in the military were saying that they did not need all of the money that Mitt Romney wanted to spend on defense.
3. John F. Kennedy’s Catholic religion was controversial in the 1960 Presidential election, as a number of people feared that Kennedy as President would obey the pope. Thomas himself shared that concern, for he wondered if Kennedy’s Catholic religion would influence his policies on, say, birth control, an issue that was important to Thomas (though, as Thomas noted, he himself had lots of children and grandchildren!). Thomas discussed the issue with Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and she wrote to Kennedy to express her concern, only to receive no response. But Thomas came to be satisfied with Kennedy’s public statements about the religion issue, finding them to be honest and forthright.