Two recent books to recommend, which have interesting overlaps in the several ways in which they treat the history of liberalism in America:
**Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, by James Piereson. The subtitle of this book describes it well–“how the assassination of John F. Kennedy shattered American liberalism”. This is a fascinating and unique treatment of the history of late 20th and early 21st century American politics, how they have been shaped by the liberal attempt to build and manage the Kennedy myth and legacy since 1963, and how that effort undermined the liberal worldview and helped bring about the cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. According to Piereson in well-documented narrative, these developments led directly to the transformation of progressive liberalism to the anti-American tendencies of today’s political left and what he calls “punitive liberalism”, now reaching its peak of influence in the fever swamps of the far left of the Democratic Party.
**Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg. Again, the subtitle is instructive–“the secret history of the American left from Mussolini to the politics of meaning”. George Orwell once said, “Those who would change a culture corrupt its language, particularly by hiding the reality of an evil they desire behind a less revealing name.” This observation has probably never been more appropriate than in the use of the word fascism. Goldberg does a brilliant job in fully documenting the history of this word as it applies to the regimes of the 20th century and, more importantly, the degree to which it has been corrupted by the left to disguise policies they desire while condemning the political right for aiding and abetting fascist tendencies. His basic argument is that early 20th century progressivism, the forerunner of the liberalism of today, has its emotional and doctrinal roots in European fascism, which is essentially and has always been an ideology of the left, not the right as the mythology has presented it. After reading this book, I have a much different perspective on the underlying themes of current liberal discourse.