Investor's Business Daily columnist Svetlana Kunin attacked Elena Kagan's family and roots in a piece headlined "Elena Kagan And 'The Urge To Alter.' " Kunin noted that Kagan, like Kunin herself had Russian roots, but that Kagan's family left Russia before the Communist revolution. She then attacked Kagan for growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan; not having an understanding of the true nature of socialism; having a brother who was involved in radical politics; and writing a college thesis on the socialist movement in the United States.
In the process, Kunin falsely suggested that Kagan embraced socialism in her thesis.
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is only a decade younger than I. And, judging by her name, I can tell that her grandparents came from the same place I did. Kagan's father was a lawyer, as was mine. My mother was a librarian; Kagan's mother was a teacher. Both families had three children. This, however, is where the similarities end.
Kagan's grandparents most likely left their native land around the time the socialist revolution took place. They emigrated to a country where churches and synagogues existed side by side and where people were allowed to follow their individual pursuits and make profits.
My grandparents and parents lived in a socialist country where people were forced to conform to government dictates in order to survive. God-based religion was eliminated from the public sphere. Churches and synagogues were demolished or converted to other uses.
Kunin later attacks Kagan for writing a thesis on the socialist movement in the United States, having a brother who was involved "in radical causes," and asserts that Kagan "perhaps couldn't relate to Americans who prefer their own life, libert and pursuit of happiness" because she grew up "in the comforts of Manhattan's Upper Westside."
Of course, Kagan did not express personal support for socialism or radicalism in her college thesis. Rather, she explored the historical question of why socialism did not become a major political movement in the United States as it had elsewhere in the world. Specifically, Kagan discussed the rise and fall of socialism in New York City in the early 20th century, with a particular emphasis on why the movement collapsed. Kagan's thesis adviser has said that Kagan has never been a socialist, and one of her college peers described her views in college as "well within the mainstream of the ... sort of liberal, democratic, progressive tradition."
From Kunin's column:
In 1980, my husband, my child and I left most of our family behind the Iron Curtain and began the difficult process of emigrating to the U.S.
A year later, while at Princeton, Kagan wrote a thesis titled "To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933." In her acknowledgments she wrote:
"I would like to thank my brother Marc, whose involvement in radical causes led me to explore the history of American radicalism in the hope of clarifying my own political ideas. ... In our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism's glories than of socialism's greatness."
Out Of It
Studying history at Princeton and referring to "socialism's greatness," she was somehow oblivious to the suffering millions of her contemporaries endured around the world throughout the 20th century.
"The desire to conserve has overwhelmed the urge to alter," she wrote. "Such a state of affairs cries out for explanation. Why, in a society by no means perfect, has a radical party never attained the status of a major political force? Why, in particular, did the socialist movement never become an alternative to the nation's established parties?"
Growing up in the comforts of Manhattan's Upper Westside, Kagan perhaps couldn't relate to Americans who prefer their own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, rather than empower ideologues like her brother and his "urge to alter."