"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
The Neoconservative Persuasion: I've been simpatico with the NeoCons since my days reading The New Republic and Commentary in the 1980s. As an ancestral Democrat who admires FDR and Truman and JFK and RFK, who sees a great mission for America in the world, and to whom the Republican Party will never really be home, I find David Frum's description of Neoconservatism strikes a chord:
The term "neoconservative" was coined back in the 1970s by people on the left as a term of abuse for those fellow leftists who were showing signs of backsliding from the lunatic orthodoxies of 1960s liberalism. In those mad days, it did not take much to earn the "neo" label. You could be a socialist like Penn Kemble or a yellow-dog Democrat like Daniel Patrick Moynihan--all you had to do was express some doubt that society was to blame whenever a black youth knocked down an old lady to steal her purse.
Quickly, however, the term "neoconservatism" assumed a more precise meaning. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, friends and foes of the neoconservatives came to accept something like the following definition: A neoconservative was a former liberal or leftist, typically from a poor background, typically Catholic or Jewish, who had been driven rightward by the intellectual and moral implosion of liberalism in the 1960s. They were often the children of immigrants. They had witnessed and in many cases suffered terrible oppression and persecution in Europe. As they saw it, the difference between America and Europe was the difference between life and death. They began as Democrats, but as the Democrats turned against American exceptionalism, so they turned against the Democrats. Still, they retained some of their youthful statism on economic issues and, often, some ancestral affection for Democratic heroes of the past: FDR, Truman, and sometimes Kennedy and Johnson.
As the years wore on, the old line between neoconservatives and traditional Republicans began to blur: One ex-leftist-turned-rightist told me this story. She had attended the New York high school known as the Little Red Schoolhouse in the early 1950s. At her 40th reunion, one of her classmates reproached her for her political migration: "I hear you've become a neoconservative." The ex-leftist answered defiantly, "Yes--in fact, I've just re-registered as a Republican." "Oh please," her classmate replied. "Don't exaggerate."
Godfather of Neoconservatism Irving Kristol offers his own take on the persuasion.
Meantime, here's Mickey Kaus, this past March, on the passing of Daniel Patrick Moynihan:
A college friend of mine, Catherine, babysat for Daniel Patrick Moynihan in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the mid-1970s, the era when Moynihan was making headlines as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. One everning we went out drinking at a low-rent establishment in nearby, working-class Somerville -- the sort of place where the walls are decorated with the corrugated insides of beer cartons. Scruffy college students talked Marxism by the bar, while a group of actual workers -- ruddy, silver-haired Irish guys, fresh off the job, with dirty pants and sweaters -- lined the back wall, swaying shoulder-to-shoulder, singing old songs. Catherine looked at the line of reddening men and squinted. "Isn't that ambassador Moynihan?" We scoffed at her, until she walked right up and introduced herself to one of the swaying men, who rose up -- and rose, and rose -- and fumfawingly admitted that yes, he was.
I always thought this encounter reflected well on Moynihan -- he may have been the most erudite man to serve in the Senate in the last half century, he may have dressed like an Oxford professor, but he wasn't a snob. He wasn't a pedant either, as Jacob Weisberg noted in a NYT assessment two years ago -- but rather someone whose knowledge gave him a "keen awareness of the past's presence," and the melodramatic sweep of history.