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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/3/18

Wisconsin-born Marcus Raskin shaped progressive politics of two centuries

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From Cap Times


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Barely a year after the death of Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1957, the voters of his home state sent Robert Kastenmeier to the U.S. House of Representatives. A passionate foe of McCarthy and McCarthyism, the young Democrat sought to break the spell of Cold War fear and reaction that the late senator had exploited to such destructive ends.

To do this, Kastenmeier began working with a handful of progressive members of the House -- including California Congressman James Roosevelt (President Franklin Roosevelt's eldest son) -- to establish what came to be known as the Liberal Project. Kastenmeier suggested that a young congressional aide from Wisconsin, Marcus Raskin, draw up a plan for advancing this transformative "new politics" in Congress and in what they hoped would become a dramatically more progressive Democratic Party.

Raskin came of age in the era when Wisconsin was a laboratory of democracy, where independent Progressives ran state government, Socialists governed Milwaukee, and a liberal Democratic Party was being shaped by young leaders such as Kastenmeier and Gaylord Nelson. His uncle, Max Raskin, the Milwaukee city attorney in the 1930s and later one of the state's most well-regarded jurists, was a central figure in the era.

Marcus Raskin brought a "Wisconsin Idea" passion to writing the Liberal Project memo, arguing for a "much broader (agenda) than the kind of economic liberalism promulgated in the 1930s." He suggested that what was needed was "a complete ... restatement of all areas of public policy, foreign policy, defense policy, industrial policy, agricultural policy, legal and judicial policy. Finally, what is needed is a formulation of the philosophic condition of Man in the 20th Century."

Working with Kastenmeier, Raskin drew leading intellectuals into the process of establishing a "rational program" for postwar liberalism that might "serve as a basis for writing a suggested Democratic Party platform for 1960 and as a campaign text for liberal candidates." They produced "The Liberal Papers," an ambitious agenda that Commentary magazine described as an "indication of a resurgent citizenry in America."

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