A Republican from 50 Years ago
I’m assigning my students Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese this week. For the non-historians in our audience, Roll, Jordan, Roll is a classic interpretation of the Old South, which, among other things, did much to introduce the theory of Antonio Gramsci into American intellectual circles.
Its a flawed, but still fantastic, book, with important things to say about paternalism, slave religion, and master-slave relationships. But as part of the background, I want to give the students a sense of where Genovese himself was coming from. So I’m planning to lecture just a bit on Genovese’s personal history, including the controversy around his statements at the Rutger’s teach-in in 1965.
In 1965, at one of the first teach-ins held against the Vietnam War, Genovese famously remarked that “I am a Marxist and a Socialist. Therefore, unlike most of my distinguished colleagues here this morning, I do not fear or regret the impending Viet Cong victory in Vietnam. I welcome it.”
His statement became an issue in that year’s New Jersey gubernatorial race. The Republican, Wayne Dumont, argued that Genovese should be fired from his state job, while the Democrat Richard Hughes defended academic freedom. Hughes won the race, Genovese kept his job, and all was well (except of course, for the Vietnamese). Eventually, Genovese became a right-winger and a Catholic.
Anyways… so I was researching the issue for my lecture and I came upon this article from Time magazine in 1965 reporting on the controversy.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Read this description of the political program of the Republican, Dumont:
Both agreed that New Jersey’s most pressing problem, a chronic shortage of revenue, could be solved only by new taxes. (New Jersey and Nebraska are the only two states in the Union that do not levy statewide taxes on income or retail sales.) Nor did the candidates electrify the populace with pleas for purer water, cleaner air, faster transit facilities.
Higher taxes, stronger environmental regulations, and better public transportation. This is almost literally the exact opposite of current New Jersey Republican governor, Chris Christie, who has staked his governorship on lower taxes, less regulation, and defunding public transportation.
Thought it was pretty notable. Cold War Republicans were no friends of free speech, but at least were reasonable on some other stuff. No longer.