Ours is an omnivorous culture. Even the most prickly and apparently indigestible of critics, like Lenny Bruce and Paul Goodman, get cannibalized. Therefore, it ought to surprise no one that a socialist leader in America should be universally honored as an elder statesman. This is the fate of Norman Thomas, and not just now as he approaches his eightieth birthday; it has dogged him throughout his career.
Murray Seidler, the more scholarly and detached, if less intimate, of two biographers, dubs Thomas a “respectable rebel,” and sums him up as a “successful failure.” The labels fit. We have to do with a complex paradox which tells us perhaps as much about ourselves as about Norman Thomas. Most people who have...
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