The myth of a morally pure America


America is not a morally pure country. No country ever has been or ever will be. Nor will any country ever have a morally pure, homogeneous Left. In democratic countries you get things done by compromising your principles in order to form alliances with groups about whom you have grave doubts. The Left in America has made a lot of progress by doing just that. The closest the Left ever came to taking over the government was in 1912 , when a Whitman enthusiast, Eugene Debs, ran for president and got almost a million votes. These votes were cast by, as Daniel Bell puts it, .. as unstable a compound as was ever mixed in the modem history of political chemistry.” This compound mingled rage at low wages and miserable working conditions with, as Bell says, .. the puritan conscience of millionaire socialists, the boyish romanticism of a Jack London, the pale Christian piety of a George Herron, … the reckless braggadocio of a ‘Wild Bill’ Haywood, . . . the tepid social-work impulse of do-gooders, … the flaming discontent of the dispossessed farmers, the inarticulate and amorphous desire to ‘belong’ of the immigrant workers, the iconoclastic idol-breaking of the literary radicals…and more.”


  1. Rorty, Richard. Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-century America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1998. Print. 52.

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Filed under History, Notes on History, Philosophy, Politics

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