Dear Jim, 

I appreciated your latest piece in Public Seminar (“America’s Weimar Moment,” February 6, 2020) and share your concern that Americans on the left/center-left might repeat the folly of their counterparts in Weimar Germany. If we can’t find a way to pull together, we will do irreparable damage to American democracy — to everything that both social democrats and moderate liberals hold dear.  

Given the political climate, your readers may have little patience for folksy reflections, but I still can’t resist sharing what Alvin Johnson wrote during the McCarthy period: 

If you want to live at ease in the political world, be a practical reactionary…. You can all win together following the politician’s Golden Rule: ‘Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. It’s much harder to live at ease, or even in peace, as a liberal.  For liberalism is by nature uncompromising, intransigent.  I have my ideal of the public interest. You have yours.  I can’t get you to support my ideal in return for my support of yours. Ideals don’t cooperate. They fight. (Pioneer’s Progress: An Autobiography (1952: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1960), 271.

This indeed is the challenge we face. But despite some real differences, moderate liberals and social democrats share many of the same core values and must rise to the occasion next November to oust Trump, keep the House and win back the Senate.

Best, Judith Friedlander