The Beginning of Wisdom
When I was a naive graduate student at CUNY, I was surprised to learn that Camelot merchant Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was conservative. When I dared to question this, the professor would respond with a dismissive, "Oh, he's a Reaganite." They would then overtly let me know that was the end of the debate if I wanted a passing grade (never mind that Schlesinger hated Reagan and begged the equally liberal John Patrick Diggins who was writing a surprisingly laudatory book about the late president to "not make him look too good").
That moment was the beginning of my becoming wised up about what passes for liberalism on the East Coast. The political spectrum there has moved so far left that the vital center -- that collection of New Deal and Great Society enthusiasts -- is considered "on the right." My mind still reels over the claim that the likes of Bill Moyers and Chris Matthews are in the William F. Buckley/Ronald Reagan camp. But in the minds of the New York Left what qualifies them for entry is their anti-communism. That alone is the deciding factor for their definition of "conservative."
Now we have the latest example of such thoughtless grouping with Jonathan Chait of the New Republic. In a recent New York piece he has lumped historian Ron Radosh in with Diane West, the author of a new book that asserts, McCarthy-like, that three administrations were dominated by pro-Soviet thinking as two peas in the same "rightwing paranoia" pod.
I haven't read West (I do intend to), but from the scuttlebutt and reviews circulating the internet, it is fairly apparent that she is a reckless historian of the McCarthy school of history. This, Ron Radosh is not. Unlike the conspiratorial school, populated on the left by Oliver Stone, and onthe right by West, Radosh dares to take a complex view of history. He is grown up enough to realize that both Hiss was guilty and McCarthy was a reckless demagogue; that the blacklist was wrong and that the Hollywood Ten were selective civil libertarians.
That is what they used to teach in history courses: to be objective, to realize that, like life, not everything is in black and white. That there is the possibility that there are responsible conservatives as well as irresponsible ones (the same can be said of liberals).
Chait clearly doesn't subscribe to this notion and considers anyone who asserts that there were communists in the American government to be conservative. End of discussion.
My God, I should ask him -- did he attend CUNY?