Thursday, August 6, 2009

Political Nostrodamus

I've never given much thought to Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I know that he was a US Senator from New York, and that before that he served in some capacity in four Presidential administrations. I know that Richard Nixon loved him even though he was a Democrat, and that he had some controversial things to say about race and welfare. That's where my knowledge ends.

Because I'm a presidential campaign geek, I've been reading The Making of the President 1964, not because 1964 is a compelling race, although it is a compelling race despite the landslide outcome, but because nearly all of White's books are out of print, and this is one I found in a used bookstore. So far the most interesting reading is this statement by Moynihan, made in the summer of 1964:

"What are the issues in this campaign? 'Issues' are talk about what's already happened or happening...But these aren't issues, really. Only a handful of people can see the advance issues. Can you explain that the greatest issue twenty years from now may be what's beginning in our knowledge of the human cell, and biology, and reproduction? Can you explain that we're beginning to be able to control our environment, maybe even change the weather - and discuss what we should do about it? Or can you talk about what we have to do to keep old people from growing lonely? Or can you ask them whether they think the purpose of industry should be changed from making things to making jobs?

Maybe we're entering a new phase of government. Maybe the old legislative phase is coming to an end, the time when you passed a new law which set up a new bureau with a new appropriation to run new machinery. What lies ahead may not be problems answerable by law, or by government at all. But that's nothing you can discuss now in 1964 - that's years and years ahead."

Has anybody ever gotten the future so right? Too bad Lyndon Johnson couldn't abide by him (Moynihan was a big Bobby Kennedy supporter); too bad we can't all see the future, standing there right in front of us.


beths said...

Whoa, amazing Moynihan prescience!

tunsie said...

J S Mill On Liberty........tunsie