Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable

The United States emerged from the Second World War as the world’s industrial powerhouse.

Effective full employment, strong manufacturing, social security and rising standards of living meant a lot of things.

It meant the beginning of the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s.

It meant an optimistic population, who elected optimistic, energised leaders.

And it meant jobs for African Americans.

This is the America that produced Doctor Cliff Huxtable.

American prosperity brought Huxtable to medical school.  It bought him his three-storey Brooklyn brownstone. It made him a respected member of the Brooklyn African-American community.

Huxtable’s politics were that of the northeastern African American elite — staunchly liberal Democrat, supportive of Carter, Jesse Jackson and Clinton. However, they took a rightward shift in the mid-nineties as the social crisis confronting African Americans in particular, and the United States in general, destroyed what remained of the mid-20th century liberal consensus.

Most men are unaware of the social forces, which, like waves on the sea, either lift them up or cause them to fall.  For a man who owed his social rise to the cleavages in the global economy a half century before, it was easier for Huxtable to think it was merely hard work which won him success. It was easy then for him to look at the social decay, rising unemployment and despair confronting inner-city African Americans and blame it all on the poor themselves.

Now in his seventies, Huxtable remains a staunch Democrat and in 2008, Obama proved a natural fit for his harder-edged views. Like the President, Huxtable’s politics stress personal responsibility and the supposed failure of absentee fathers for the social crisis.

Cliff Huxtable: just another man hemmed in by the limitations of American liberalism.

Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable

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