This Week’s Book Review – The Last Brahmin

Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.

Book Review

The Man Who Transformed the Midcentury Republican Party

“The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and the Making of the Cold War,” by Luke A. Nichter, Yale University Press, 2020, 544 pages, $37.50 (Hardcover)

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was the grandson of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. His namesake was a confidant of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the bête noire of Roosevelt successor Woodrow Wilson. His grandson became at least as prominent a Republican politician during the mid-twentieth century.

“The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and the Making of the Cold War,” by Luke A. Nichter, is a fresh biography of Lodge’s life.

Nichter examines every aspect of Lodge’s life, from his youth through Lodge’s retirement. In between Lodge served many roles: as newspaperman, elected politician, soldier, a political kingmaker, permanent representative to the United Nations for the United States, ambassador, and the President’s envoy to the Vatican.

Lodge joined an isolationist and regional Republican Party. He helped transformed it into a national party which could compete with the Democrats. He successfully recruited Dwight Eisenhower to run as a Republican in 1952, ending the Democrats’ five-term Presidential reign.

He got Republicans to abandon isolationism. He shaped US participation in the United Nations and NATO. Both were critical institutions in checking Soviet expansion in the late 1940s and 1950s. Lodge served as ambassador to Vietnam in the early 1960s.

Nichter provides an in-depth, well-researched look at Lodge and his accomplishments. It reveals Lodge as a complex and principled individual. Nichter shows Lodge as a skilled retail politician. Lodge won election in Massachusetts and landed Eisenhower’s nomination through attention painstaking to detail. He was a longtime advocate of civil rights in a period of legal segregation.

Lodge put service to country ahead of everything. He resigned his Senate seat in World War II to serve in the Army, the only elected Congressman to do so. He reluctantly agreed to serve both men who defeated him in the 1960 Presidential election as ambassador to Vietnam because Lodge was the best man for the job. (Lodge was Nixon’s running mate.)

“The Last Brahmin” holds lessons for today’s politics. Lodge’s example of service to country and his desire for color-blind equality and emphasis on principled bipartisanship remains relevant today. (Bipartisanship based on true principal, rather than on expediency or total capitulation).

The book also illustrates how the virtues of one generation become the next generation’s vices. Lodge’s internationalism was a necessary antidote for the isolationism of the 1920s and 1930s. Yet in the 1960s, over-aggressive internationalism, which Lodge supported, but did not champion, led to reverses in Vietnam.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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8 thoughts on “This Week’s Book Review – The Last Brahmin”

  1. “He successfully recruited Dwight Eisenhower to run as a Republican in 1952, ending the Democrats’ five-term Presidential reign.”

    1) Mexican-American War, President Polk – Democrat.
    2) Tagalog Insurgency, President Harrison – Democrat.
    3) Mormon War, President Buchanan – Democrat.
    4) Civil War, President Jefferson Davis – Democrat.
    5) WWI, President Wilson – Democrat.
    6) WWII, President Roosevelt – Democrat.
    7) Korean War, President Truman – Democrat.
    8) Vietnam War, President Johnson – Democrat
    9) Afghanistan War, Obamanation – Democrat
    10) Second Civil War – Democrat Socialism.

    Of course, this is cherry picking.

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  2. Uncle Al:
    “He successfully recruited Dwight Eisenhower to run as a Republican in 1952, ending the Democrats’ five-term Presidential reign.”

    1) Mexican-American War, President Polk – Democrat.
    2) Tagalog Insurgency, President Harrison – Democrat.
    3) Mormon War, President Buchanan – Democrat.
    4) Civil War, President Jefferson Davis – Democrat.
    5) WWI, President Wilson – Democrat.
    6) WWII, President Roosevelt – Democrat.
    7) Korean War, President Truman – Democrat.
    8) Vietnam War, President Johnson – Democrat
    9) Afghanistan War, Obamanation – Democrat
    10) Second Civil War – Democrat Socialism.

    Of course, this is cherry picking.

    Yeah, cherry picking.

    While in college I had some great visits with my Mississippi grandmother.  (She moved to Tennessee in 1930.)

    She said she was 28 years old before she ever learned that there was any such thing as a Republican in Mississippi.

    She said that it was Democrats that had sent all her men off to war, every time.  She had voted for Jimmy Carter, but was really mad at him for a number of easily-guessed reasons.

    She voted for Republicans in the 1978 mid-year elections.  And intended to thereafter, which she did.

    She said “Those Democrats have made a good Republican out of me.”

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  3. MJBubba:
    Bipartisanship looked very different in the 1950s and 60s than it does in this century.

    Agreed, and the world and country is worse off for the change in this century.

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  4. Seawriter:

    MJBubba:
    Bipartisanship looked very different in the 1950s and 60s than it does in this century.

    Agreed, and the world and country is worse off for the change in this century.

    Yes, just keep in mind that the polarization started in the 1960s, and they started it.

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  5. MJBubba:

    Seawriter:

    MJBubba:
    Bipartisanship looked very different in the 1950s and 60s than it does in this century.

    Agreed, and the world and country is worse off for the change in this century.

    Yes, just keep in mind that the polarization started in the 1960s, and they started it.

    I never said they didn’t. Bipartisanship is a game of prisoner’s dilemma, where if both sides cooperate both win, if one side cooperates and the other side does not, the cooperative player loses big and the uncooperative player wins even bigger.  But if both sides fail to cooperate both lose.

    We are in the ‘both sides don’t cooperate phase of the game in 2020, and have been for at least the last eight years. Game theory says the best strategy is to cooperate on the first round, then play what your opponent played on the next round. When the Democrats again offer bipartisanship (other than defined as roll over and do what we want) the Republicans should offer bipartisanship on the next round.

    I suspect we will be waiting a long, long, time before the Dems actually cooperate.

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  6. Seawriter:

    MJBubba:

    Seawriter:

    MJBubba:
    Bipartisanship looked very different in the 1950s and 60s than it does in this century.

    Agreed, and the world and country is worse off for the change in this century.

    Yes, just keep in mind that the polarization started in the 1960s, and they started it.

    I never said they didn’t. Bipartisanship is a game of prisoner’s dilemma, where if both sides cooperate both win, if one side cooperates and the other side does not, the cooperative player loses big and the uncooperative player wins even bigger.  But if both sides fail to cooperate both lose.

    We are in the ‘both sides don’t cooperate phase of the game in 2020, and have been for at least the last eight years. Game theory says the best strategy is to cooperate on the first round, then play what your opponent played on the next round. When the Democrats again offer bipartisanship (other than defined as roll over and do what we want) the Republicans should offer bipartisanship on the next round.

    I suspect we will be waiting a long, long, time before the Dems actually cooperate.

    I agree.

    They won’t find a new interest in bipartisanship until it looks like they will never win the presidency again.  And even then, if they still hold the House, they will have a very difficult time convincing their extremists to play nice.

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  7. I participated in an isolated prisoner’s dilemma run at Moo U for small change to be gained.  Start friendly, then reciprocate was how I and my anonymous opponent played 24 of 25 rounds.  #25, I stabbed him/her/it in the back –  Realpolitik less balance of power is unrestrained.

    If you want to end DemSoc pillaging, looting, and burning pick a night, end them en masse nationwide, empty their pockets, and leave the bodies to rot:  morale vs ideology is brokered by blood.  A nail is driven into wood by striking not pushing.

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