Commentary Magazine

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- Abstract

The first time I contributed to this magazine was as a junior partner to Penn Kemble, a friend and longtime political activist who died last October at the age of sixty-four. In 1972, Penn and I collaborated on an article chronicling Senator George McGovern’s role in rewriting the Democratic party’s presidential-nominating rules and his subsequent use of those rules to win the nomination for himself.

Penn had found an inside source, someone who had served on the staff of the so-called “McGovern Commission” and was willing to talk about its deliberations and share its files. These were replete with secret memos frankly discussing how the commission could foist racial and sexual quotas on the party without calling them quotas. (They were referred to jocularly as “non-quota quotas.”) The whole thing amounted to a breathtaking conflict of interest that only a liberal avatar like McGovern could have gotten away with, which induced Penn to propose that the piece be titled “The Machiavellis of Reform.”

About the Author

Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is working on a book about Arab and Muslim democrats.