Chris Hedges quotes Mr. Debs, and one is taken with Debs honesty,forthrightness even his status as a paradigmatic Socialist politician. Not to speak of his bravery compared to today’s political opportunists. Yet to quote that ‘Great American Philosopher’ Reinhold Niebuhr on “sublime madness” indicates to me that Mr. Hedges has not read Mr. Fox’s insightful biography. That chronicles the life of this American Poser, or as he was called in his time, the thinking man’s Billy Graham. Niebuhr offered in 1932 that he was a Marxient thinker and that the working class should not give up the use of violence to achieve its ends. These two statements led to word reaching Niebuhr that J. Edgar Hoover was about to act against him, that was the reason for his letter denouncing his earlier statements, and the Communist Menace.
Niebuhr became a prophet, whose mission was to sell his particular ‘brand’ of Christian Realism, that was a riff on ‘render unto Caesar’ expressed as an obedience to the imperatives of the American National Security State. He is the perfect ‘Philosopher’ for Obama, and others whose ignorance of his career as a political/moral conformist, offer a convenient rationalization for the conformism of the political present.
Niebuhr and Arthur Schlesinger Jr and the ADA were the ‘Liberal Wing’ of McCarthyism. Read Schlesinger’s Diaries, as edited by his sons, the early entries are startlingly inflected by the use of the term ‘commies’, to almost comic effect, until the the time and the political scene shifts. Sen. Sanders does not represent the Socialist politics and integrity of Debs, but does fit comfortably into the ‘political tradition’ ,that both Niebuhr and Schlesinger represent in The New Democratic Party’s political practice of today.