Adlai Stevenson’s wit, wisdom, and love for America and freedom

Reading Adlai Stevenson’s epigrammatic statements reminds us that, once upon a time, Democrats loved America, loved liberty, and hated socialism.

Having watched Mini Mike Bloomberg show his deep disdain for the same Americans whose votes he seeks, I started thinking of Adlai Stevenson, who challenged Eisenhower for the presidency in both 1952 and 1956. I remember reading somewhere that Adlai Stevenson, an egghead academic who got into politics as a Democrat, really didn’t think much of the American people either.

The problem was that I got completely sidetracked when I started reading quotations from Stevenson. I realized why my father adored Adlai Stevenson: when it came to wit and the exquisite and elegant use of the English language, Stevenson was at the top of the game. But it wasn’t just airy, meaningless puffery at which he excelled, a la Pete Buttigieg, who is a master of the fine art of saying absolutely nothing in beautiful, orotund tones.

Stevenson was an old-fashioned Democrat who believed in Country and Liberty. And back then, in the early days of the welfare state, before the Great Society, before the vast expansion of the welfare state, before open borders, and before Gramscian leftism took over America’s institutions, you could simultaneously believe in Country, Liberty, and a social safety net.

By today’s standards, Stevenson is not a Democrat, although he’s not a Republican either. He’s something that really doesn’t exist anymore. While conservatives have remained closer to the center of American politics, they’re still a little to the right of Stevenson, for he was a man who believed in the promise of limited, humane social welfare and of the U.N. Meanwhile, Democrats have turned into the communists Stevenson hated and feared.

I thought I’d share with you a few of the beautiful, funny, or insightful things Stevenson said — and then try to imagine any Democrat today showing that elegance, humor, patriotism, or wisdom:

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”

“I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.”

“A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”

“It is often easier to fight for one’s principles than it is to live up to them.”

“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

“If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain.”

“The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.”

“We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.”

“Do you know the difference between a beautiful woman and a charming one? A beauty is a woman you notice, a charmer is one who notices you.”

“Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.”

“Nature is indifferent to the survival of the human species, including Americans.”

“Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.”

“Newspaper editors are men who separate the wheat from the chaff, and then print the chaff.”

“On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.”

“Communism is the corruption of a dream of justice.”

“Communism is the death of the soul. It is the organization of total conformity – in short, of tyranny – and it is committed to making tyranny universal.” [Was Trump explicitly alluding to Stevenson when he said “freedom unifies the soul”?]

“As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.”

“When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.”

“It will be helpful in our mutual objective to allow every man in America to look his neighbor in the face and see a man – not a color.”

“Nature is neutral. Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or make the deserts bloom. There is no evil in the atom; only in men’s souls.”

“We have confused the free with the free and easy.”

“The university is the archive of the Western mind, it’s the keeper of the Western culture, … the guardian of our heritage, the teacher of our teachers, … the dwelling place of the free mind.”

“The time to stop a revolution is at the beginning, not the end.”

“We must recover the element of quality in our traditional pursuit of equality. We must not, in opening our schools to everyone, confuse the idea that all should have equal chance with the notion that all have equal endowments.”