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A Guest Essay The Schizophrenia of Texas Liberals Houston A Texas liberal who wants to keep a firm grip on reality must cultivate a special type of intellectual schizophrenia. He splits his intellectual concerns and related political activities between two, separate movements, both of which are called “liberal.” One of them is liberal, Texas brand; the other is liberal in the national style. On the state level a Texas liberal finds himself in a rather comfortable ideological position. Confronted by political problems such as the need for conservation, better regulation of business practices, more equitable policies toward labor unions, tax reform, and measures designed to unseat the “interests,” he has at his fingertips a ready-made and thoroughly tested ideology. All he has to do is apply to the local scene the ideas and programs that were popular in Washington, D.C., around 1937. It is really unnecessary for him to work out a new intellectual framework. He can just dust off the old slogans and then get busy with the kind of organizational and political gut-fighting that is needed to put these ideas into practice. This is true because the Texas liberals are for the most part dealing with questions which were answered in a liberal fashion many years ago in the nation as a whole and in most of the states. Robert Welch notwithstanding, the majority of the issues which draw the Observer’s attention would seldom be discussed in a liberal journal published in Wisconsin or Connecticut. Long ago these states confronted similar problems as a result of rapid urbanization and industrialization. In response, a liberal ideology was worked out and a variety of liberal programs accepted. If you traced out the roots of this liberal philosophy, you would be carried back past the New Deal, past Woodrow Wilson’s administration, into the nineteenth century. Here you would find the beginnings of an intellectual process which turned out a creed which guided liberals for the first half of the twentieth century. This creed focused almost entirely upon domestic issues. It pointed the way to political programs which attemptedsometimes succeFsfully, sometimes unsuccessfully to solve the problems spawned by the new giants of industry and by the sprawling cities. Little wonder that the Texas liberal Louis Galambos teaches at Rice University; he has been there for five years. His field is history, and particularly American economic history. He has some degrees, the last one a Ph.D. from Yale in 1960. This year he is on leave of absence from Rice and is spending the year at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he is a visiting professor. Louis Galambos can feel intellectually secure when he applies this same, tested ideology to the problems facing his state. But what happens when this Texan shifts his attention to national affairs? What happens when he tries to participate in the new critique which holds the at tention of liberals scattered along the Boston to Wash ington axis? Sudden ly The Texas liberal finds his major con cerns out-of-date. His ideology is old hat. Entirely new ques tions are being asked; a variety of new an :. swers are being of Galambos fered. On the national level the traditional liberal ideology has been suffocated by success. Social security is here to stay, as even Barry Goldwater discovered. America’s elaborate structure of commissions and laws to regulate business behavior is not going to be dismantled. Even the presence of organized labor, Hoffa or no Hoffa, is simply a fact of life that one accepts; it is no longer a meaningful political question. After all, our form of mixed capitalism a combination of private enterprise, welfare measures, and governmental controls has been given an official and final stamp of political approval: it was accepted by Dwight. D. Eisenhower. During eight years of moderate Republican leadership, no significant attempt was made to destroy the existing welfare and regulatory systems. What better proof could there be that the liberal accomplishments are here to stay? Instead of worrying about this, liberals on the national front are pushing ahead in search of a new ideology, one that will be meaningful in terms of the problems facing the nation in the 1960’s and the decades ahead. During the past ten years, it has become fairly clear that the traditional creed had to be revamped. The civil rights movement jarred many liberals into re-examining their ideas. Why, they had to ask, had the traditional philosophy addressed itself essentially to the economic difficulties, but not the civil rights problems, of minority groups? Foreign policy presented an even more serious dilemma. It was difficult for liberals to take a strong position on America’s diplomatic and military policies because liberal philosophy was primarily concerned with domestic matters. And each year, foreign affairs seemed to become more important. From the vantage point of 1965, it seems clear that in the years ahead the nation’s major problems will continue to be associated with foreign, not domestic, policy. The hydrogen bomb virtually assures this. Unfortunately, liberals have not yet shown that they are very well equipped to guide America’s behavior in world affairs. They seem to have about as much trouble coping with these situations as most other Americans do. In the recent past, liberal positions have frequently struck me as being absurdly utopian, their slogans rather embarrassing. Historically this has not been true insofar as domestic problems were concerned. In this field liberals have matched pragmatic policies with idealistic goals to achieve a truly effective political ideology. Whatever one’s evaluation of liberal intellectual trends in the nation at large, it should be apparent that the central questions are not those which engage the Texas liberal’s attention at home. Only when dealing with the Birch brand of idiocy does he find the questions of yesterday and the questions of today smeared together; but alas, in confronting these people, rational discussion is usually impossible. So the Texas liberal develops a split personality. On the state level he continues to repeat the old themes and, if he wants to achieve anything, to express them with the same fervor that has always distinguished successful liberal movements. On the national level he participates in a growing and intense debate over entirely different questions. Frequently this dichotomy creates problems for the Texas liberal. How, for example, is he to appraise Lyndon B. Johnson’s performance as President? If the Texas liberal applies his state-oriented concepts to Johnson’s record, then the President already fits in a niche previously reserved for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. If, however, he measures Johnson against the new liberal ideology which is beginning to evolve in the nation, the President’s domestiC programs will be merely acknowledged with some polite handclapping; Johnson’s foreign policy will be given center stage and then roundly condemned. For the present, the moral seems clear. The Texas liberal has to acknowledge a paradox and go right ahead dividing his intellectual commitment between these two forms of liberalism. In Austin he can act like a Progressive and talk like a New Dealer. But in the evening when he reads the New Leader, he has to forget F.D.R. and formulate some ideas about foreign policy. In short, to be effective he has to cultivate a special Texas brand of intellectual schizophrenia. September 17, 1965 9