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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Seymour Martin Lipset RIP

It has been much unremarked given the holidays and the Gerald Ford reminiscences, but on New Year’s Eve, Seymour Martin Lipset, the great American political sociologist, died after a debilitating illness following a stroke in 2001.Marty Lipset was part of an amazing generation of New York Jewish intellectuals of the mid-to-late twentieth century that was educated at City College, went through immersion in socialist theoretical combat, and emerged to make all sorts of contributions, some Left, some Right, to the political life of the United States. Lipset’s most important contribution was his analysis of “American exceptionalism,” and especially his elucidation of the cultural and social factors that prevented the American working class from the commitment to socialism that characterized their counterparts in Europe. Lipset is also well-known in Canada for his long-standing and serious efforts to examine differences between U.S. and Canadian culture and politics.On a more personal level, I would note Lipset’s involvement late in his career with the Progressive Policy Institute, and his work on the emergence of post-socialist progressive politics in the 1980s and 1990s. During my own long association with the DLC/PPI, I have had the opportunity to meet two “living legends” (politicians aside). One was Betty Friedan, at a lunch with Will Marshall to discuss a New Democrat magazine article that Friedan was writing. And the other was Marty Lipset.

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