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Political Hatreds



     When I came to the United States by boat in 1937, I traveled first class (thanks to the Commonwealth Fund) for the only time in my life. In Britain, Franklin D. Roosevelt was well liked. It was a shock to me when wealthy American fellow-passengers denounced him with bitter anger as a traitor to his class.
     In Berkeley, where the faculty was left-wing, the hatred focussed on Herbert Hoover, whom Roosevelt ousted. The leftists also hated Herbert Eugene Bolton, the great expert on the colonial missions, but not a Catholic himself. His discovery of Drake's plaque, denounced by them as a fake, provided a focus for this fight, like the authenticity of a saint's relics. My scholarly research suffered since I was caught between the two groups.
     The Republican Party was divided between the more liberal "Rockefeller Republicans" and the conservatives. Hoover really represented the first wing in his idealistic youth, but then, disillusioned by the depression, moved to become the icon of the latter group. When I knew him, how he hated the liberals! It was sad. He left Stanford in disgust.
     Then the faculty hatred focussed on Ronald Reagan, leading Hoover Institution's director Glenn Campbell to withdraw plans to establish the Reagan library here. I have always maintained that an academic institution should be a place where disagreements were the subject of friendly debates. That was the spirit of Harold Fisher, a former Hoover director blackballed by old man Hoover. I once expressed this view to my good friend Milton Friedman, who angrily expostulated that this was impossible; the Hoover Institution had a mission to carry out! He must have felt contrite for his outburst, since he sent me a check for $150 for WAIS. I would not recommend this as a fund-raising device.
     Now the Republican fashion is to hate Clinton and "Clinton's war." Forget Clinton and your hatred; the fact is that the NATO leaders are an extraordinary and admirable group. My criticism of Governor George W. Bush, who impresses me as not being very intelligent or well informed on international affairs, elicited some vehement responses to the effect that he could learn from his advisers. Well, his father President Bush, once Ambassador to China and head of the CIA, was very well informed. How could one grow up under his wing and not become well-informed?
     My praise of Senator John McCain as having the qualities George W, Bush lacks likewise was greeted with hisses. I feel vindicated by the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle (6/18): "McCain Emerging as Choice of GOP Elite: Many intellectuals consider Arizona senator a viable alternative to Bush:" I am happy to be a (mugwump) elitist and intellectual.
     This country is sick with political hatreds. All must learn to consider issues, and not content themselves with individuals or parties. Some of the messages received discuss issues in terms thinly hiding such hatreds. Political rallies must be replaced with informed debates. This will be a slow educational process.
     Meanwhile, become a non-member of the Mugwump non-party! It is a non-organization devoted to the objective study of facts. It represents no financial backer, neither the Gun Lobby nor Hollywood. Its only interest is an organized and peaceful world.
    
     &B More on Political Hatreds
    
     My memo on political hatreds has drawn wide support. John Wonder describes their development in universities. He writes:
     I have my own interpretation of the undeniable political hatreds of which you speak. Its latest, most virulent form, I believe is an outgrowth of the 60's and the 70's. I stood aghast at the complacency of university administrators in general before the subversive activities of the time.The students seemed to think that illicit activities and destruction of property was all innocent fun and freedom of expression, and the administrations didn't dare crack down on it. There was no intellectual content to the demonstrations; how indeed could there be? The students didn't really know anything --about life, about death, about danger, or anything. Of course they were scared to death that they might have to go to Viet Nam; who wouldnt be? But to describe it some kind of great noble principle was so intellectually dishonest as to be sickening.
     What is worse, however, is that the students in general were too callow to think up the argumentation on their own. I think they were egged on by older faculty members, perhaps many of whom resented the adulation bestowed upon WWII veterans.
     My comment: When I came to this country in 1937, student violence was restricted largely to Berkeley. I foretold at the time that it would become a worldwide phenomenon. During the period John describes, I was visiting a troubled university and chatting with a faculty member. The leader of the student rioters came into the office and asked him: "What do we do now?" However, he represented only a minority of the faculty.
     Administrations were frightened of the students, not of the faculty. If they were compelled to call the police, the cry went up "Pigs off campus!" A university in which rational discourse is not possible ceases to be a university.

Ronald Hilton - 06/19/99


More on Political Hatreds



     In our debate on political hatreds in the United States, I expressed my disapproval of the utter hatred for Herbert Hoover, even among historians, when I came to the United States in 1937. This was true in his own beloved university, Stanford. This hatred overlooked his earlier humanitarian contributions, before the Depression.
     It is good to note that historians have come around to this viewpoint, as is clear in Freedom from Fear, a volume in the "Oxford History of the United States", by Stanford historian David M. Kennedy. He points out that Roosevelt took over many of the reforms initiated by Hoover, and that the depression did not really end until 1937. The adulation of Roosevelt remains, and the downgrading of Hoover was partly to make him serve as a foil to his successor, just as the downgrading of President Buchanan served to enhance the image of his successor, Lincoln.
     "Justice delayed is justice denied" is not true in historians' assessment of our presidents as far as posterity is concerned, but it is too bad that Hoover did not live to see it done. It is too late for him. He would have died a less embittered man.

Ronald Hilton - 06/25/99


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