Courageous Liberals

I received a very interesting communication yesterday from Jeffrey Herf, a professor of Modern European History at the University of Maryland. He had much to say about my Tuesday New York Sun column, Come Back Schlesinger.

“It is important to note the identities of those of us who tried and have articulated a mix of foreign and domestic liberalism in our time comparable to Schlesinger’s vital center and, even more importantly, in my view, to the traditions of our greatest President of the twentieth century, Franklin Roosevelt.

Yes, it is true that Will Marshall hosted a gathering of like-minded journalists and intellectuals in Washington. I was a co-organizer, along with Tom Cushman. The initiative began with the Euston Manifesto in London in spring 2006, a statement written by British intellectuals, scholars and journalists. The founding statement by the Euston Manifesto Group is available at: http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/ That statement has been signed by over 3,000 people.

Following a request in August 2006 from the Euston Group to see if we American signers wished to continue this intiative in the United States, I wrote a draft of “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto.” Via email and phone, the text was discussed and revised in consultation with Russell Berman (Stanford), Andrei Markovits (U of Michigan), Robert Lieber (Georgetown), Thomas Cushman (Wellesley), Fred Siegel (Cooper Union) and Richard Just (The New Republic). We posted the revised version of “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto” on the website of the Euston Manifesto Group on September 12, 2006. It is available at: http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/content/view/84/49/

In November, through Thomas Cushman’s efforts, we established a website of a New American Liberalism group. “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto” and other essays can be read at: www.newamericanliberalism.org

You will see that our names are the original authors followed by signers such as Will Marshall, Leon Wieseltier, Martin Peretz, Walter Laqueur, Gerhard Weinberg, Daniel Bell, David Bell, Benny Morris and about 300 others. In January 2007, Will Marshall, director of the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, graciously and importantly hosted a meeting of people from the New American Liberalism with like minded people working in the policy world in Washington.

Unfortunately, the views of the ‘New American Liberalism’ group and of the Euston Manifesto appear to have had no or scant impact on the newly emboldened leaders of the Democratic Party following their victory in the fall elections. Given the views of the current leadership of the Democratic Party and of most of the opinion shaping institutions of American liberalism, it appears that the liberalism we articulated is, and will be for some time without a political home. Yet the expression of these ideas has been important. Perhaps the pendulum will swing again back to the kind of liberalism that a young Schlesinger and his and my hero Roosevelt would pass to us.”

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