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

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...

Time's Up for the NUP

It was one of those classic strange-bedfellow alliances. When the New Unity Partnership (NUP), a consortium of five international unions, formed in summer 2003 (as first reported by The American Prospect in September 2003), it brought together three of labor's most progressive unions -- the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UNITE (the clothing and textile workers union), and HERE (the hotel employees union) -- with two unions from the more conservative side of labor's spectrum: the Laborers and the Carpenters. Indeed, the Carpenters, having hosted several Labor Day events with President George W. Bush, was the only significant American union that boasted of its ties to Bush's decidedly anti-union administration. What the five unions did have in common, though, was a commitment to organizing. In recent years, all five had substantially reallocated resources into organizing campaigns (the Carpenters created a sizable backlash among locals that had lost their autonomy). They...

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