May 27 is the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Jesse Walker has brought an interesting tribute by Rick Perlstein to my attention. It’s a perceptive analysis, as far as it goes.
It’s not complete, though, because in many ways we live in a very Humphreyesque world. Proudly wearing the Santa Claus label, HHH would certainly be happy with our proliferation of “caring” federal programs and their attendant red ink. Never having met a war he didn’t like, he would enthusiastically sign on to the various “humanitarian” military interventions. Even the Republican Party is dominated by a coalition of Rockefeller liberals (pragmatists) and Humphrey liberals (neocons).
Perlstein is wrong to disparage the Drugstore Liberal book by Sherrill and Ernst. Issued during the 1968 campaign, it’s a witty look at the unpleasant side of modern liberalism. To me, Humphrey compares unfavorably to a less-secular, less-statist, more-traditional, and more-authentic liberal like William Jennings Bryan.
Still, Humphrey had his good points—more personal than political. He was a cut above most of his political contemporaries, in terms of honesty and idealism. Often misguided and self-deluded, he was still a far better man than FDR or LBJ . . . or that darling of more recent Humphreyesque governance: Dick Cheney.