Journal of Policy History


Is There No Democratic Left in America? Reflections on the Transformation of an Ideology

Alonzo L. Hambya1

a1 Ohio University

Historians historicize. They attempt to understand the present and make educated guesses about the future by looking to the past. This attempt at prognosticating “the future of the democratic left” primarily in the United States begins with a broad-brush history of “the left” as equalitarian idea and political movement in the modern world, examines its development in the United States within a context of “American exceptionalism,” discusses its transformation in the 1960s, and assays its struggles in the “present day” of the last three decades. A once-revolutionary impulse, it suggests, has surrendered to the necessity of incremental entitlement politics. As a result, it has subjected itself to the hazards of the pragmatic test, the awkwardness of interest-group politics, and the distinct possibility that even success in the quest for universal social provision would fail to alter existing patterns of inequality.