Stop the presses. A group of "prominent historians" have endorsed the world-historical Barack Obama. A friend of mine, whose unenviable job it is to keep his finger on the psychic pulse of Academe, sent me this item from Inside Higher Education
(and thank God I'm now outside it):
... [A] group of prominent historians on Monday issued a joint endorsement of Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency. The endorsement, released through the History News Network, was organized by Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, and Ralph E. Luker....The scholars who signed included... other A-list scholars in the field....
[Obama] has raised far more money from academics than have other candidates and he has plenty of academic connections himself — he taught at the University of Chicago law school and his wife, Michelle, held a series of positions at the University of Chicago Hospitals ....
One professor who was approached and who did not sign on is Maurice Isserman.... “Edwards is the most appealing candidate at the moment,” Isserman wrote. “It’s not just the vacuous ‘new generation’ rhetoric emanating from the Obama camp that disturbs me — worse is his flirtation with the notion of a ‘Social Security crisis.’ Let’s leave the Republican talking points to the Republicans for a change. Of course, I’d take him in a heartbeat over Hillary, just as (I suspect) I will be taking Hillary The Inevitable in a nano-second over whichever scary guy the Republicans finally go with.”
Another historian who passed, Casey N. Blake of Columbia University, said... “While I am likely to vote for Obama in the New York primary, I am reluctant to endorse any candidate in my professional capacity as a historian.”
I think we all owe Professor Casey a huge debt of gratitude for sparing us the crushing weight of his "professional capacity as a historian," as we grope our benighted, uncredentialled way toward the voting booth. On the other hand, Isserman's banal lesser-evillism tends to diminish the prestige of even a "prominent" historian's opinion.
Candor obliges me to add that Obama's connections with the University Of Chicago would certainly suffice to make him anathema to me, if he hadn't already been anathema to me.
If you're a mean-spirited person, you'll want to read the "prominent historians'" Obamaphile manifesto:
... [A] president can alter the mood of the nation, making changes possible that once seemed improbable. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and kept the nation united; Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Americans to embrace Social Security and more democratic workplaces; John F. Kennedy advanced civil rights and an anti-poverty program.
JFK did all that, guys? Funny, I thought that was LBJ. But that's the difference between an amateur, like me, and a "prominent" historian, I guess. Their Prominences continue:
Barack Obama has the potential to be that kind of president....
... meaning, of course, a JFK kind of president. Man, that's all we need, isn't it? Another fuckin' JFK: He of the "missile gap," the Bay of Pigs, and, last but certainly not least, Vietnam.
Michael Kazin, the point man for this claque of academic Obama groupies, has quite a history himself. I have his life of W J Bryan on a shelf somewhere -- tried reading it, and found it so platitudinous and snoozeworthy that I put it on the list of books to be read only while suffering from the most desperate insomnia. But I kinda thought I remembered him, back in '03, playing a very equivocal role in the runup to the Big 'Raq Attack, and a wee bit of Googling told me my memory isn't completely shot:
[In a Washington Post op-ed] Kazin inexplicably makes some broad generalizations about the left that exist only in the fantasies of Bill O'Reilly and his fans. Sadly, in recent months, we've grown accustomed to Kazin's crowd creating straw men on the left so that they can easily knock them down and look reasonable in the eyes of the major media.
Early in his article, Kazin, who sits on the editorial board of Dissent magazine, says "no one in the current peace movement has put forth a moral vision that might unite and sustain it beyond the precipice of war."
Alas, the Post piece seems to have fallen into the Memory Hole; at an rate I can't find it.
Kazin is perhaps best known for trashing Howard Zinn. I never found Zinn's work terribly compelling myself, but after reading Kazin's jeremiad against him, I'm ready to swear an oath of blood-brotherhood with the man. This is from Dissent magazine, subject of a famous Woody Allen joke:
... most Populists cheered Bryan and voted for him because he shared their enemies and their vision of a producers' republic. Unlike Zinn, they grasped the dilemma of third parties in the American electoral system, which Richard Hofstadter likened to honeybees, "once they have stung, they die." And to bewail the fact that liberal Democrats saw an advantage to supporting rights for unions and minorities is a stunning feat of historical naiveté. Short of revolution, a strategic alliance with one element of "the Establishment" is the only way social movements ever make lasting changes in law and public policy.
Zinn's conception of American elites is akin to the medieval church's image of the Devil.
I'm working on a theory that any time a liberal like Kazin accuses you of having
found a substitute for religion, then you're on the right track. But more of that anon.