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The Essential America

The Essential America

Our Founders and the Liberal Tradition

Liberalism is the oldest and most enduring American tradition, a philosophy and way of life we inherited from the Founding Fathers. This is the central idea of The Essential America by George McGovern, America's best-known (and most consistent) liberal.
Referring us to our moral and spiritual foundations, McGovern not only presents a resounding defense of liberalism as "the most practical and hopeful compass to guide the American ship of state" but offers specific proposals for keeping the tradition vibrant.
The Essential America proposes programs for feeding the world's malnourished children. Rather than sending our armies abroad, McGovern spells out policies that confront the causes of terrorism. He proposes cutting our military budget (echoing Dwight D. Eisenhower's powerful warning about the military-industrial complex). He condemns preemptive war, criticizes tax cuts for the rich, and warns against government for the powerful minority.
Americans have traditionally stood for progress, generosity, tolerance, and protection of the needy, McGovern states -- as well as for multi- lateralism in foreign policy and "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." He reminds us that while creative tension between liberalism and conservatism is the genius of American politics, it is the liberals who have been responsible for every forward step in our national history. They built "the Essential America."
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 192 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743269520 | 
  • April 2009
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Faith of Our Fathers

Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.

-- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1927


My father, J. C. McGovern, was a Methodist clergyman -- a follower of the eighteenth-century English founder of Methodism, John Wesley. A fierce opponent of slavery and an ardent defender of the poor and unfortunate members of society, Wesley had a stronger following in the slums and sweatshops of London than in the castles and country estates of the realm. A proponent of personal salvation, he... see more

About the Author

George McGovern
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George McGovern

George McGovern, the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 1972, served in the House of Representatives from 1957 to 1961 and in the Senate for eighteen years. He was the president of the Middle East Policy Council in Washington, D.C., for six years and then served as ambassador to the UN Agencies on Food and Agriculture in Rome under President Clinton. He holds the Distinguished Flying Cross for service as a bomber pilot in World War II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for humanitarian service.

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