Essay: What Ever Became of the American Center

The death of Senator Henry Jackson has left an empty stillness at the center of American politics. Jackson was the symbol, and the last great leader, of a political tradition that began with Woodrow Wilson and reached its apogee with John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. That tradition—liberal internationalism—held that if democratic capitalism was to have a human face, it had to have a big heart and a strong hand. At home that meant developing and defending the institutional embodiments of the national conscience: civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, welfare (what ambivalent...

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