A Natural-Shouldered View Of American History

billax2

A few days ago we introduced you to the blog “Wearing The Ivy League Look Since 1958” and its author, “Billax.” This morning Billax left a thoughtful comment on the post, along with what sounds like a mission statement. It’s worth quoting nearly in full to stretch out what Billax calls his 15 minutes of fame, since, as he points out, there aren’t many around anymore who have a natural-shouldered view of late 20th-century America.

If you can live with irregular posts, the stories I want to tell are of the late fifties through 1964. Those years – oh, man – those years were the VERY best. Not merely for clothes, but for the expectations faculty had for their students. For the fervent belief that the faculty was preparing the 10 percent who went to college to manage the world. Such statistical certainty never turns out to be quite right, but it is often largely right. When, in late 1963 and in 1964, the world irrevocably changed for United States college students changed, apparel changed, manners changed, expectations changed, certainly and planning evanesced. For a while, planning died and all order went away. And what went away with it was manners and apparel. That story is really the tale I want to tell.

So as my visitor count does back to insignificant, I can go back to telling the significant story of what happened to all of us after President Kennedy was assassinated, Vietnam divided us, and birth control pills made us think we could be completely irresponsible.

It’s the only story I know first hand, and not too many of us are around to tell it any more.

We look forward to your posts, Billax, however irregular, though we promise not to burden you with expectations. Take it from me and take your time crafting them, if only to catch the typos and faulty math. — CC

75 Comments on "A Natural-Shouldered View Of American History"

  1. Certainly sounds like they heyday was for more than just Ivy clothing.

  2. Billax is the man to ask whether the Ivy heyday had anything to do with jazz or football, as some people are fond of asserting.

  3. The idea of a “heyday” depends on who your’e talking about. It’s powerfully romantic to recall the days when the Ivies trained American aristocrats to live up to their illustrious last names, but I’m not going to begrudge the worthy middle and working class kids who got a shot to enter the elite when those institutions changed their admissions criteria. Those kids weren’t used to wearing jackets and ties, because they didn’t go to prep school, so their admission to the Ivies spelled the end of the Ivy look. But it’s hard for me to say that society is worse off for it.

  4. I was at the golf range this weekend chatting with two guys in business, one of whom lectures part time at a university. Both said the manners (such as when writing an email seeking a job) as well as the basic command of English among the texting generation is deplorable beyond words. The foreign exchange students, for whom English is their second language, have higher standards of written communication.

    @Dutch Uncle

    Football was invented in the Ivy League. Get over it:

    http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13531.html

    As for jazz:

    http://www.ivy-style.com/jazz-appreciation-month-jazz-on-campus-album-covers.html

    You don’t have to like either. You don’t even have to like batik. But they’re germane to our topic.

  5. Yale actually had a pretty good football team in the 1960s, which Gary Trudeau had some fun with in his comic strip for the student paper, and Princeton had a Heizman trophy winner around 1950.

    A fact recently picked up from reading Digby Baltzell on the protestant establishment (1962): in one stretch in the late nineteenth century the Yale football team went undefeated for several years with the cumulative score being 166-0.

  6. Heisman, that is.

  7. Great looking Donegal tweed. Magee? Safe guess. But there’s also Molloy.

    http://molloyandsons.com/

  8. When did the elite east coast post-secondary schools broaden their admissions policies to include more working and middle class students and more students from outside the northeastern seaboard? My understanding was that this took place in the years following World War II, not the years following the Kennedy assassination, and the broadening went hand in hand with students entering college as part of the GI Bill. The students continued to wear coats and ties as required right up until the mid 1960s. For much of the 20th century, young men wore jackets and ties; it wasn’t just prep school students. Look at the photos of the crowds watching “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio play for the Yankees in the 1930s and 40s. Dress codes were eliminated as part of the hippy zeitgeist that swept the USA in the mid to late 1960s. And I’m sure many of the upper class boys of that generation went right along with the move to eliminate coats and ties, if they weren’t instigators themselves.

  9. Actually there was a second, different broadening of admissions policies in the late 60s and 70s, post-Kennedy, and this was the effort to recruit and graduate more Students of Color: the Diversity and Affirmative Action measures continuing to this day.

  10. I’m convinced that the death of JFK and the American involvement in Vietnam have been catastrophes for the United States and the western world.
    If Kennedy had not been killed (or if Nixon had won in 1960),if USA had been held out from Vietnam war,many things would be different.
    No counterculture for instance ( or a counterculture Beatnik size).
    Obviously things as Beatles could be not avoid (but one time Paul McCartney said that if in 1960 British Parliament had not abolished conscription,the Beatles and the Stones would never have existed), but without the shocjk of Dallas and the damned war in south east Asia,changes would be much more slow.

  11. Very interesting alternate history, Carmelo! I agree it’s fascinating.

    On a more trivial note, what would have happened to the Ivy League Look if World War II had never occurred?

  12. The shift after 1945 was driven primarily by a desire for distinction on the basis of academic excellence rather than social caste, which meant admitting more people on merit rather than on family and prep school connections. The transformation took place gradually over the next few decades. Baltzell documents how by 1960 the prep schools themselves were becoming more socially diverse as well.

    It was not that intellectual distinction could not be found, or acquired, on campus; it was that, from the Gilded Age up to WWII, football, anti-intellectualism, and using school to establish social and business connections were predominant. The Yale Class Book of 1900 conducted a survey covering three floors of a dormitory and “found that not a single student wrote his own themes. They bought them, of course” (Baltzell, 130). My earlier vague reference to Yale’s winning streak in football was not accurate: for nine seasons (1883-1901) they went undefeated, and in 1888 scored 700 points to its opponents’ zero (130).

    In the 1990s in New Haven, I met someone who graduated from Yale College in the mid-1960s. He freely confessed that he was admitted because his family had always gone there, that he dutifully earned his gentleman’s “C”, and that he would never be admitted if he applied today. (Think George Bush the younger.)

    I agree with rojo that the emphasis on racial diversity, and of course the admission of women, came in the late 60s and 70s.

  13. (correction: “their opponents’ zero”)

  14. The seeds of the upheaval of the 1960s were planted in the 1950s. Many would argue that it goes back further, to the 1930s, 1920s, 1890s, 1860s…. Regardless of when it those seeds were planted, I don’t think that the Cultural Revolution would have been avoided had Kennedy not been assassinated, or if we had not gotten involved in Vietnam. At most, it would have been postponed.

  15. Of course,postponed.
    How much? Well i think that the cultural changes could be spresd on 70s and 80s.
    And is probable that with a more slow process would have been avoided conflicts and tensions.
    Maybe the so called “political correct” would be different.

  16. I agree with Henry.The real battle wasn’t conservative / liberal, the old left already controlled most institutions. The revolution was between the old left and the new left. Seems the old left created monster.

  17. Henry, have you ever read Spengler’s “The Decline of the West”? It postulates that all cultures (and cultural phenomena) go through a birth, maturity and then decadence phase. I think declines in manners, dress and custom are inevitable (at least in an advanced capitalist democracy), but I do think it would have been more gradual if it weren’t for the turbulence of the ’60s.

    The passage I often cite from Woolf’s “The Final Club” about dress on Princeton changing almost overnight (within one class year) after holding strong for 70 years seems relevant here.

  18. Without WW-II?
    Well,Chris,assume that Hitler was shot in WW-I and in some way Weimer Republic had passed his crisis point.
    With Stalin busy to kill communists and Japan without allies, alone aganist the most great powers in the world,September 1 1939 would be only a day for put linen and seersucker in the closet.
    Without WW-II many changes occur in United States.
    FDR unlikely would be presented to a third term, the recovery from depression would be more slow.
    No internal mobility for the war,no GJ bills so the college remans a elitist place.
    Nothing cold war from late 40s,so nothing military industrial complex and less big corporations,
    Less suburbia.
    Without WW-II and cold war,technology is more slow in development (men in space are delajed to decades).
    More slow computers development.
    Without the spread of the large slopes of aviation for the war,is probable that flying boat era continue until early 60s.
    Ivy probably remains a vernacural style in some environment of east coast: without the war British Empire is intact, and with it the prestige of the British fashion of Savile Row.
    Is probable that in 50s we not have the great success of Italian man’s fashion.
    Italy is still fascist (also if without the nazi influence the regime is rather moderate).
    Maybe great events as the Rome world fair of 1942 and the Rome Olympic games of 1944 light the reflector on Italy (more are the exploitation of Lybic oil from early 50s that make Italy very rich),but with Mussolini still riding i hardly see any “continental/Brioni” style trendy in USA in 50s.

  19. A lot of nostalgia going on here. I’ve never understood that, all the trad icons were looking to the future, modern architecture, avant-garde jazz music, new discoveries in science, etc. But all you guys want to do is look back to the past and reminisce about how much better it was and how young people talk on their phones too much, or whatever it is you guys are grumpy about.

  20. I really like the way Carmelo works out a detailed alternative history based on Hitler having been killed in WWI. Yet it is hard for me to rule out the possibility that other events would have occurred instead, leading to the gradual democratization of the ruling class. Teddy Roosevelt, well before WWI, selected both a Jew and a Catholic for cabinet posts explicitly in order to encourage what we now call diversity. The country was growing too fast through immigration — Charles Eliot Norton, at Harvard and absolutely an elitist, opposed a bill to restrict Italian immigration because he thought that not only the old families needed to remain prominent but that new families were needed to expand the ruling class.

    In other words, I agree with Christian’s nod at the logic of advanced capitalism. Look at sports as one of the advanced engines of integration and social mobility. It’s not where you come from, it’s how you perform on the field, or the court, etc.

    It was just not possible for everyone to keep on wearing natural shoulder jackets, etc., precisely because it represented the old elite. I keep wearing them anyway, and damn the torpedoes.

  21. Two points:

    First, to me, the 60s changed everything. It spawned a mass, mindless acceptance of relativism–cultural, aesthetic, artistic. It inheres today in my boomer generation like a cancer and has been passed down to the next generation. I’m always saddened when some guy in his sixties–dressed in the uniform of the Proletariat (in LA that would be cargo shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops)–explains to me that I have no right to say that rap music is inferior to Beethoven.

    Second, it’s true that in prior generations it wasn’t just in prep schools and elite colleges that men were expected to wear a coat and tie to class.

    Decline? Well, yes. I don’t see that anything remotely approaching a world of manners and etiquette is likely to return.

  22. Fred, where’d you get your notions? That word…trad…I do not think it means what you think it means.

  23. Halberstam flippantly referred to the gang of “leaders” who shaped a good bit of public policy as the “best and the brightest.” Lots of number crunchers and techno-geeks and “quants.” They thought they had it figured out–even mathematically. How to rid the world of communism, poverty, and injustices. High minded geniuses, including the boy wonder from Hyannis. The advent of Ivy as eggheadeness.

    What a disaster.

    Was the beginning of the end the defeat (’52 Senate race) of Lodge? Funny in a mildly ironic way–Lodge helps the general as went up against Taft, a fellow old line WASP. This is the distraction that leads to the ascent of young “Jack.”

    The Kennedy presidency was catastrophic for this country in a number of ways, some of which had nothing to do with his hubris, bad habits, obsession with glamour, or tragic reliance upon rhetoricians and quants.

  24. And those hideous high shouldered suits. It’s one thing to aim for the English military look. Quite another to constsntly appear as though one is shrugging and sucking in stomach simultaneously.

  25. “All the trad icons were looking to the future, modern architecture, avant-garde jazz music, new discoveries in science”…

    Well,this is the image that Europeans (especially Britains) have of “Trad/Ivy”.
    But keep in mind that also in USA in 50s and 60s IIvy league clothes were considered “conservative”.
    Ivy not is (or not only) the way in which cool jazz musician dressed.

    “The Kennedy presidency was catastrophic for this country in a number of ways, some of which had nothing to do with his hubris, bad habits, obsession with glamour, or tragic reliance upon rhetoricians and quants”.

    Well,i like JFK,but studyng history I am not more convinced that his election was a good thing for America and free world.
    Too many promises,too many disappointments (sound new?)
    The shock for his death was too much great.
    Maybe would have been better if Nixon was elected in 1960.
    However…
    JFK was not a liberal,but a conservative/moderate democratic.
    He was cautious on covil right (and this was bad) and had not in mind nothing expensive great society,but a vigorous taxes cut for middle class.
    He was a cold warrior.
    He was skiful in foreign policy (conversely Johnson was skiful in domestic policy) and had the prestige for the clever negotiation in the Cuban misses crisis: many historians said that would have avoided the Vietnam trap.
    He had glamour.
    I think that at the end in 1968,accused for the lost of Vietnam by Republicans, and fad for his 8 years in white house would be,less or more as Obama now.
    I see Nixon or Rockefeller in white house in 1969.
    Is possible that the two terms Presidency of JFK,avoiding Vietnam war have slowed social change (no great traumas in 60s).
    Maybe the changes start in early 70s…but considers that without Vietnam and with Kennedy’s taxes cuts American economy in 1970 is very strong and prosperous.
    Maybe Rockefeller (that wasa liberal Republican) ,if in White House, can consider a sort of Republican great society.

  26. ( correction: He was cautious about civil rights).

  27. JFK was part of the old left. He had to be cautious on civil rights, democrats controlled the South. He had a lackluster presidency and might not have been re elected. Which is why he went to Texas in the first place.

    If you think Ralph Lauren’s “Polo Lifestyle” is brilliant marketing one wonders if he didn’t get his idea from Camelot marketing.

    I have always liked JFK, but are there any more morally flawed powerful political families than the Kennedys? Clintons?

  28. @Christian

    I’ve read Spengler’s Decline of the West (the abridged single-volume edition…that still counts, right?). Spengler’s thesis would suggest that the era of decorum and honor in Western culture has been replaced by decadent, selfish consumerism, but honestly that’s not what I see. Strict codes of etiquette are gone, but I’d be prepared to argue that the average 21st century male’s behavior is more “gentlemanly” than ever before. Many behaviors that were taken for granted two generations ago are far rarer, like bar fights or domestic violence. Assault arrests are at an all-time low, and have been on a steady decline since the 60’s (with a small peak in the early 90’s). Alcoholism is less common. Our legal system is fairer and corruption rarer. And I know this will rankle some curmudgeons here, but treating women and ethnic minorities with respect is a pretty big deal.

    Obviously, we’ve also lost many things that made society more beautiful and courteous. But on balance, I think we’re living in a very civil age. The narrative of decline and fall that many like to indulge in is just not correct.

    As an aside – Carmelo, I don’t think I’ve ever met a non-American, non-native English speaker as knowledgeable as yourself about the subtle points of American political and social change in the 20th century. Cheers!

  29. I’m sure Spengler says at one point that the concept of progress itself is a symptom of decadence!

    And surely the use of the word “decadent” to describe the butter sauce for lobsters at a corporate restaurant chain, or to describe low-fat chocolate snack bars aimed at overweight soccer moms, is a sign of decadence.

    PS: Currently on my nightstand:

    http://www.amazon.com/Decadent-Poetry-Penguin-Classics-Rodensky/dp/014042413X

  30. “butter sauce.” not sure why that prompts a chuckle, but it does.

  31. “He had a lackluster presidency and might not have been re elected”.

    In 1964 aganist Goldwater?
    Well,for sure not with the Johnson result (that wasin part caused from the memory of Dallas murder).
    But no way that Barry Goldwater could win in 64.

  32. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a non-American, non-native English speaker as knowledgeable as yourself about the subtle points of American political and social change in the 20th century. Cheers”!

    I love the United States history,.
    More,XX century was the American century (and i hope that also XXI will be…or we are in great troubles),
    so know USA history is know history of their own nation.
    Sorrowfully many,many things that i love of America no longer exist from long time.
    So when i see an old movie or read a history book is how find lost old friends.

  33. We’ll never know the results of a JFK / Goldwater election, but Johnson without the canonization of JFK,who knows?

  34. Goldwater was a political suicide for Republicans in 1964.
    Times were not ready for a right wing Republican candidate;
    remember also that in 60s the Republican establishment was moderate and east cost based.
    Goldwater was a dramatic departure from a tradition of moderate candidates,like Willkie,Dewey,Eisenhower and Nixon too.
    I not see how Goldwater with his political platform could win in 64 (remember “tactical nukes to defoliate Vietnam”,”extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”).
    Hell,also the electoral slogan was loser:”In your heart, you know he’s right”!
    I have read a funny thing: in late 1963 JFK joke “God,please,send me Barry in 64”.
    I think that Rockefeller (if not had divorced a year before),Scranton,or also Nixon would be better choices.
    I not see difficulty for Kennedy to beat Goldwater,of course not with the huge LBJ margin.

  35. Goldwater was a short-term disaster but long-term brought about Reagan and the GOP ascendancy.

    Interesting point about the old left/new left – recall WFB and Allan Bloom had an awful lot to say about how left-wing administrators handled the SDS and other counterculture movements.

  36. “Goldwater was a short-term disaster but long-term brought about Reagan and the GOP ascendancy”.

    Absolutly!
    The Republican party of today is son of Goldwater (unfortunately).
    Personally I am convinced that Reagan is the result of all these years of leftist excesses,from late 60s.
    Without these turbolences,with more slow,step by step changes in society is possible that control of GOP would remain in moderate hands,and that Democratic Party had not become more and more liberal.
    Goldwater and his heirs are not my cup of tea.
    I like Ike.
    Forever.

  37. A very,very interesting article “John F. Kennedy Would Not Recognize Today`s Democratic Party”.

    http://religiopoliticaltalk.com/jfk-a-conservative/

    :

  38. A.E.W. Mason | November 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm |

    I think rather that the cultural orientation of the “barroom brawl” has worked its way up into the professions and other areas of life where we once expected something better. We’re all “bros” now. Go into any white shoe firm and you’ll be hard pressed to find any male whose cultural literacy extends much beyond football. If you can find a partner whose read a book on some aspect of military history he’s an intellectual. A few years back a Yale fraternity was suspended for a hazing incident in which some young aspirants appeared chanting, “No means yes, yes means anal” in front of a women’s dorm. Today’s young man is no more gentlemanly than before; rather, he’s simply restrained by statutes, speech codes, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the administrative code of the state in which he lives. The fabric of society is so shredded from factions tearing at each other that the rules of daily interaction are now written by lawyers. And, none of this had to happen in order to achieve advances in civil rights.

    Think about this: When Joseph P. Kennedy took over Pathe Exchange, the old line American law firm that had for years acted as its general counsel both here and in France, resigned. Why? They wouldn’t represent a company controlled by an unethical scoundrel. This would never happen today.

  39. @ A.E.W. Mason “And, none of this had to happen in order to achieve advances in civil rights.” I agree completely with your description of the current state of our society, and lament also the state it is in. But I don’t think we got to this point because of advances in civil rights, which I take you to be implying. The whole point of civil rights, as I understand it, is civility and respect for everyone.

    It’s always hard to be sure of cause-and-effect sequences in highly complex situations with innumerable variables. But what I see predominant at all levels is a selfish individualism going hand in hand with an outsized sense of entitlement. How did that happen? I don’t know. Individualism is fundamental in American culture, but what we have today looks like a corruption of the ideal.

    “…the rules of daily interaction are now written by lawyers.” Nice formulation. The law is double-edged. The law is at the heart of civil society, but what’s legal is not always what’s ethical. I don’t know how to address that.

  40. Fred, you must be as out of it as I am: young people don’t use their phones to talk.

  41. I really like this guy’s clothes. They’re extinct, virtually unobtainable except on eBay and the Winnetka Resale Shop, but they are beautiful, just like Gatsby’s shirts.

    Beyond that, Mr. Billax is full of it. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, you were okay if you were a union guy with seniority or a Yalie with the right bloodlines. Otherwise things could be dicey, especially for blacks and Hispanics, poor people, people with mental and emotional issues (especially screwed-up World War II vets), and women in the workplace. I was there and I remember, vividly. Mr. Billax evidently had a good time, being, presumably, one of the ten-percent then thought to be entitled to run the country. Their clothes were nice, but their standards of public responsibility were low and their achievements lower still. They ran the country into the ground. It is still there.

  42. We owe a thanks to Mr. Billax for having triggered this discussion. It could not have taken place in a history or political science class at my university, Princeton, today, because the students know nothing more than what is in their textbooks.

  43. 50s and 60s were not a perfect world,but i not think that today is better.
    Injustice,greed,discrimination,racism,fanaticism,vulgarity,power of privilege,violence,are still here.
    And also hypocrisy is still here..only is a different type of hypocrisy.
    Often is called “political correctness”.

  44. MythReindeer | November 20, 2014 at 1:30 am |

    “and birth control pills made us think we could be completely irresponsible.”

    Wait, what?

  45. A.E.W. Mason | November 20, 2014 at 1:41 am |

    @RJG

    Thank you. I should clarify that I most certainly do NOT think that civil rights advances are responsible for, or the cause of, our current state of affairs. My comment about civil rights was made in anticipation of an argument that goes something like: “Well, who cares if we’ve lost a sense manners and gentility. Back when we had those there was also segregation.” Actually, I’d say that I very much agree with your analysis of the problem as very complex. And, I’d add that I might have hoped that as our desire to rid ourselves of prejudice became more accepted, over time it would have made our culture more civil and less coarse in the bargain. Alas, that hasn’t happened.

  46. @ A.E.W. Mason My apologies for misconstruing your original statement.

  47. Carmelo – WFB and Russell Kirk had a lot of fun at Ike’s expense. Very funny stuff.

  48. In the context of today’s university “No means yes, yes means anal” may easily be construed as a tongue in cheek political statement. Ugly, sure, bad taste, definitely, but in the context of the universities’ current fascist PC state it may be appropriate.

  49. The responsability of current status are equally divided between new left (liberals) and new right (the Goldwater’s grandchildrens).
    Both are the different face of the same coin.
    The most great tragedy for the United States is the lost of the centre in politic.
    Moderate Democratics (in Truman ,JFK and LBJ tradition) and moderate Republicans (the tradition of Dewey,Eisenhower,Rockefeller,and yes Nixon).
    New left and new right are radicals destructive forces.
    Also here the mess begin in late 60s, caused by Vietnam war in firstly,a war that lasted SEVEN YEARS (1965-1972)
    Vs the nineteen months of WW-I,the three years and eight months of WW-II,the
    three years and one month of Korean war.
    More the Kennedy death (whatever one can think on JFK) was a huge trauma.
    Not coincidentally peoples said that a worse new era begin after the Dallas murder.

  50. @Carmelo

    “but i not think that today is better.
    Injustice,greed,discrimination,racism,fanaticism,vulgarity,power of privilege,violence,are still here.”

    Strongly disagree with you there. Obviously these things still exist, and maybe “vulgarity” is worse now. But the other things have gotten unimaginably better. We are living in the most peaceful era of human history by any measure. Never before have you been less likely to be assaulted, murdered, or the victim of theft. Not to mention that we have more transparency in today’s public sector, such that crooked cops, organized crime, corrupt union bosses, back-dealing in smoke-filled rooms and the like were once fixtures of life and now have nearly faded away. The news media likes to hammer away at the violent chaos we’re supposedly all sliding into, but I feel like it’s demonstrably true that our era is significantly safer, more honest, and in many ways more civil than in the past.

    And part of the reason we know that is because “political correctness” is at the top of people’s list of complaints.

  51. A lot of things are better today.
    However i not agree that 50s and 60s were a worse era.
    Each time have his problems and his dark side.
    About the “most peaceful era of the human history”,well i have fear that you’re too much optimist.

  52. Carmelo

    The seeds of the new left insurgency were sown long before Kennedy was ever elected, it was sown in academia. It culminated in Chicago 1967, the new left won.

    The new right began for the same reason, because there was no real difference between the parties.

    LBJ a moderate?

    Chandler

    You’re correct violent crimes are down and have been for sometime. But things haven’t changed all that much in politics, there’s still plenty of $.

  53. I played college ball, so fuck you.

    Google “criminal ivy league”,.my point being that it would be intellectually bankrupt and bad form to extrapolate that all ivy leaguers are rapist and crack whores.

  54. @MAC
    Only most frat rats

  55. I’m also a frat rat, you must have led a sheltered life. You can be a gentleman and still not be ashamed of one’s testosterone.

  56. “LBJ a moderate”?

    Was not a liberal,for sure.
    He was a old new dealer,in the FDR tradition (remember also that from Dewey in away the moderate Republican establishment accepted the basic of New Deal heritage),and his program of a “great society was bold.
    His damnation was that “piddling piss-ant little country” aka Vietnam.

  57. And about civil rights,many forget how much Nixon made in this field.

  58. @MAC

    In my book, a gentleman is neither ashamed of nor proud of his testosterone

  59. Then we are in agreement.

  60. Carmelo
    How’s that Great Society thing working out, it did nothing as promised. LBJ was no less left than Obama.
    Yes, LBJ owned Viet Nam, a hillbilly from the Texas hill country with no real military experience shouldn’t micro manage a war.

  61. I agree,in foreign policy Johnson was unskilled (euphemism).
    JFK was much more conservative compared with Johnson,and foreign policy was his field (very less domestic policy).
    But Great Society was mainly sunk by Vietnam war.
    Is a fact that after LBJ Democratic party was moved to left (and there remained).

  62. In the interest of intellectual honesty, I’m at a loss as to how Carmelo can say that a liberal is somehow distinct from “a old New Dealer, in the FDR tradition” – see Charles Kesler on drawing a pretty straight line from Wilson to FDR to JFK/LBJ to present day progressives. It’s an honest concession – doesn’t have to be bad at all, but presenting the New Deal as something other than straight forward progessivism is inherently problematic.

  63. “Progressivism” is a euphemism for leftism. The “Great” Society was a straight-up socialist wealth redistribution scheme (i.e., theft from the productive, distributed to the indolent). Not only was LBJ’s War on Poverty a failure, it actually made the poor worse off.

  64. Carmelo

    FYI, we’re still living with the Great Society.
    JFK had great PR and great rhetoric, but strong in foreign policy is a stretch. the historians at the State Dept. would disagree.

    https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/jfk-foreignpolicy

  65. Well,don’t forget that i’m European,so a limitate program of wealth distribution from a European perspective can appear not necessarily “socialist” (at most social democratic).
    But you take the point,LBJ was progressive (in FDR way).
    However,you agree that after 60s Democratic party has moved to left (too much)?

    MAC
    I have not said that JFK was strong in foreign policy,but that was more clever in that field that LBJ (that was terrible).
    Agree that had great rhetoric and PR,but maybe for this in Europe during his Presidency the prestige and the popularity of United States were to the stars.
    And i don’t think that period is remember as bad days in America.
    Agree that his death left a legacy difficult to manage,and this was a great trouble.
    Maybe with hindsight Nixon would have been a better choice in 1960.

  66. Carmelo
    I forgive you for being European……….. 😉

    All kidding aside, thanks for the discussion, always interesting and fun.

  67. Christian,

    I just noticed your comment way up high. No, I’ve not read The Decline of the West, but thank you for the suggestion. It’s on my reading list.

    Though overeducated (I have a Ph.D.), I am woefully under-read. I’m trying to catch up, though. Right now, I find on my nightstand the last of the “Little House” books (I’m reading them along with my daughter), The Words of Abraham Lincoln, Andersen’s Fairy Tales (also with my children), Elegance, some short stories by Hawthorne, a book on La Bohème, some short stories by Chesterton, a novel by Theodore Sturgeon, The Iliad, and, of course, The Bible.

    On the docket for after I’ve plowed through (some of) those: something by Dickens (I start a new one every year after Thanksgiving), The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, something by Poul Anderson, more Wodehouse, Augustine’s Confessions, several collections of essays… you get the point.

  68. Henry
    Everyone should read Spengler.

    I know many prefer real books, but this is a good resource for free downloadable literature

    .http://www.openculture.com/2014/03/the-harvard-classics-download-all-51-volumes-as-free-ebooks.html

  69. Mr. MAC:

    Your “fuck-you” comment was not altogether unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with being an Ivy League football player or frat guy, but in context of this discussion, who cares? I remember some Ivy League Vietnam vets from my college days. I doubt they consider the 1960s to have been a wonderful era. Their thoughts are relevant. (Some of them were smart hillbillies who got to school on the G.I. Bill. They did just fine in class. LBJ would have done so as well, had he been given the chance.)

  70. Mr. MAC:

    Your “fuck-you” comment was not altogether necessary. There’s nothing wrong with being an Ivy League football player or frat guy, but in context of this discussion, who cares? I remember some Ivy League Vietnam vets from my college days. I doubt they consider the 1960s to have been a wonderful era. Their thoughts are relevant. (Some of them were smart hillbillies who got to school on the G.I. Bill. They did just fine in class. LBJ would have done so as well, had he been given the chance.)

  71. @DSF

    MAC’s “fuck-you” comment was altogether unnecessary.

  72. That’s your opinions, but I decide my comments. Seems frat men and college football players are fair game to disparage, how about black, jewish, latino and etc. stereotypes in a non political context? In those cases I would also respond the same.

    First, LBJ graduated from college in 1930.

    I wonder what the ivy league tuition was in 1945. How many ivy students relied on the GI Bill to attend on $500 a year for books and tuition, $50 a month living expenses? Unless on scholarship my guess is few.

    See my comments on “The Graduate” thread concerning the 60s. It was a cornucopia of ivy clothing, but a destructive nightmare socially.

  73. “I remember some Ivy League Vietnam vets from my college days. I doubt they consider the 1960s to have been a wonderful era”.

    Which 60s?
    I think that 1960-1963 was a different era.
    1964 was a transition year.
    Trouble begin from 1965-66 i believe,but became really nasty from 1967.

  74. Harvard Yale game this last weekend, now someone explain to me how the ball players are thugs. 😉

    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Sports/2014/11/23/Nudity-Veganism-and-Excitement-at-Harvard-Stadium

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