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What Good Things Did George Wallace Do?


Elizabeth Bruenig was hired by the New York Times to provide “leftist” hot takes such as this:

George Wallace did good things? This is now a position espoused by a recognized (or at least self-proclaimed) leftist? I, am, um, what? What???????!!!!!???

George Wallace did no good things in his career and certainly not in the time she is thinking of, the 1960s and early 1970s. He was a total scumbag, one of the worst Americans this nation has ever puked up. Now, there was those lies yesterday spread by anti-Bernie people that Sanders once said positive things about Wallace. That’s a complete lie. What Bernie was doing was analyzing Wallace’s appeal. You can agree or disagree (though being LGM, I am sure commenters will be as obnoxiously and dishonestly anti-Bernie as the worst Bernie Bros are toward other candidates on Twitter) with Bernie’s analysis, but it wasn’t a statement of support.

But for Liz Bruenig to state that George Wallace did good things is a truly, genuinely horrible thing to assert. It’s also historically wrong. I mean, given that she opposes abortion, maybe that’s what she’s talking about, but what I think she is talking about is Wallace’s white populism, the fact that he had a decent relationship with organized labor in Alabama and that he supported expanding social programs to white people. But that’s the problem–wanting to expand social programs to white people only is NOT A GOOD THING. And neither is working with an Alabama labor movement to extend collective bargaining only for white people, to the extent that he really did much of that, which wasn’t that much. I don’t even have to go into Wallace’s racism.

I’ve read Dan Carter’s excellent biography of Wallace and what comes across is a pure cold-blooded opportunist who cared nothing at all for how he affected people personally (including his own long-suffering wife) or for the impact of his actions upon the present and future. Maybe that’s what Bruenig likes about him since like Wallace and the people who run the New York Times she really, really hates liberals and that’s the point of every column she is likely to write.

Truth be told, George Wallace is not a very interesting person. Carter’s biography is older now but there’s not that much to say about him that he didn’t. He’s a completely distasteful person, but one who was only driven by his sheer ambition and that makes him profoundly boring. But if prominent people who claim to be on the left are going to actually trying to revive him as a complex figure, well, let’s just say I am going to be busy.

Meanwhile, I think of all the hard-working leftist reporters who the New York Times could have hired for the op-ed page. But then they work on real issues like unions and poverty instead of just hating Democrats. And you know who the Times is going to go for in that scenario.

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