Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is the editor-at-large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org

Recent Articles

Assault on Social Security

Last night the president of the United States went before Congress and called for the repeal of the New Deal. Not frontally, of course. Indeed, George W. Bush has taken to invoking Franklin D. Roosevelt as a fellow experimenter-in-arms. That's true as far as it goes, but the goal of Bush's experiment is to negate Roosevelt's. The roots of Bush's speech go back almost as far as the New Deal itself. Social Security was enacted in 1935, and in 1936 Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon questioned its solvency. Since Landon (who carried two states against Roosevelt's 46), right-wing attacks on Social Security have proceeded along two lines: those that doubted its solvency and those that disparaged its ideology. Bush does not delve into matters ideological. The polls may show that the percentage of self-identified conservatives exceeds that of self-identified liberals by two-to-one, but that doesn't mean those conservatives are economic libertarians. (Indeed, many are conservatives...

Butler Did It

Quick, now: Who chaired the Democratic National Committee (DNC) throughout the 1960s? It was, after all, the last glory decade the Democrats have known. They enacted landmark civil-rights, economic-security, educational-opportunity, anti-poverty, and (eventually) environmental legislation. And for almost the entire duration of the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies, there was just one national chairman. Three points if you rightly guessed John Bailey, the Connecticut party boss who later became the state's governor. But you really have to know your political history, or just have a long memory, to get that one, because you can read countless histories of the '60s without coming across Bailey's name, save in those sections dealing with John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign, for which Bailey was a consigliere and an operative -- and not yet the party's national chairman. Confining yourself to just the Democratic universe, you'll come across a passel of Kennedys, a Johnson, a Humphrey, a...

A Voice for All of Us

In those tumultuous days when I was in college, back in the late '60s, Johnny Carson was the establishment. Network television was hopelessly establishment, and The Tonight Show was its apotheosis. We had our own music, our counterculture, and when some of its performers popped up on late-night TV, why, that was just one more instance of Herbert Marcuse's repressive tolerance. Showcase and defang, that's what Carson was up to. Or so, at least, ran the theory. In practice, on any weeknight between 11:30 and 1 (it was still a 90-minute show then), you could find a motley assortment of us in the dorm lounge watching Carson and Co. chip away at our cultural certitudes. Viewing The Tonight Show was one way that a generation that defined itself in large part by its cultural rebellion came to realize that there were seriously great entertainers even among our parents' and grandparents' cultural icons. A lot has been written since Carson's death on Sunday about the central role he played in...

From Lincoln to Lott

Well, Michael Gerson certainly went out in a blaze of glory. The president's speechwriter, now bound for other duties within the administration, left with a Lincolnesque, Wilsonian, Kennedyite sound of the trumpets, and George W. Bush delivered it as well as any text he's ever been handed. The gap between the scripted Bush and the unscripted Bush must be measured in light years. The spirits of Wilson and Kennedy were no surprise; if a president seeks to convey the logic and rightness of America's global mission, they are the predecessors to invoke. But the evocation of Lincoln was something else again. The world, as Bush described it, was Lincoln's house divided -- half slave, half free -- and America's mission was the continuation of the work of emancipation. Lincoln's was the only name that Bush spoke, once he got past acknowledging the eminences in attendance, and to Lincoln he attributed the line, “No one is fit to be a master; no one deserves to be a slave.” Echoes of Lincoln,...

A Tale of Two Texans

Forty years ago tomorrow, Lyndon Johnson took the presidential oath on the steps of the Capitol, and American -- and inaugural -- politics have not been the same since. Before Johnson became president, the United States had not had a president from the South since Zachary Taylor died in office in the summer of 1850. In the 40 years since Johnson's landslide victory, southerners have been president for 24 years -- at least if we grant Poppy Bush's claim that he was really a Texan. By ending southern exceptionalism, by steering to passage the great laws that ended legal segregation and enabled southern blacks to vote, Johnson made it possible for southerners to run for president freed from the burden of defending a profoundly racist system. He made it possible for them to win. The young Johnson entered politics as the most avid of New Dealers, and the New Deal, as historian Jordan Schwarz in particular has demonstrated, was in good measure directed at bringing living standards in the...

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