H. Stuart Hughes

Faculty Profile

H. Stuart Hughes has a disarming way of prefacing his books with confessions. With a good measure of courage and perhaps a touch of self-indulgence he lays bare his own intellectual predispositions and thereby warns the reader of the inevitable tension between feeling and fact in the writing of history and social criticism. In the academic world this is considered unflinchingly honest procedure. In politics it passes for unpardonable naivete. And since in running for the Senate Hughes has been neither willing nor able to alter his candid style, he seems type cast for the part of Don Quixote.

"I am an agnostic," he announced at his first press conference. (And a Boston reporter cracked, "There goes the ball game.") "Winning is not my major aim," he freely admits. (And our reporter, could he hear, might imagine the fans filing out of the ball park.) "I have never been a strenuous anti-Communist," he writes in a forthcoming book. (The crowd stampedes the exits.)

More signs of wistfulness can be found in Hughes' campaign if one seeks them. At time the professor seems to want the best of six possible worlds. He intends of course, to remain a true intellectual, a man who stands alone resisting the "terrible simplifiers" and the conforming majority. Yet in making his "brief foray into politics" as a vote-getter, he must reduce his intellectual critque to a slogan: "There is one issue ... saving the human race."

He has two visions of his campaign. On the one hand, he is resigned to run as a pioneer of a fresh style of politics, as a citizen-candidate who, appealing to classical ideas of rational democracy, is concerned only with the issues. "I am appalled," he says, "at the degeneration of democracy revealed in the questions people ask me. 'What's in it for you? Who's using you? What interests are you representing?' Politics is portrayed as an inner track on which only certain men backed by money, machine, and connections can run. I want to talk about issues."

On the other hand, one suspects that in those moments of fantasy when he sees himself riding to electoral success (if not victory) Hughes is thinking not in terms of issues but of an image of himself. He is the clean candidate in a dirty state, picking up votes from the disaffected rather than the committed, making a good showing because he is different, personable, cultured, intelligent and naive. It may pay to be naive.

Hughes' platform, like his campaign policy, has two sides. With the rest of what is now called the New Left he is committed to equality at home and peace abroad. Liberals seldom ask if the two are harmonious. Do Cold War policies impede the cause of equality by distracting the attention of reformers as the liberals contend, or do they further it by making an international necessity of social justice?

This is a question which Hughes is not disposed to examine. But as a self-conscious intellectual he is not oblivious to others. He is too close in spirit to Henry Adams not to realize the dilemma of the intellectual in politics. Like Adams he comes of aristocratic American stock, is attuned to public service, and yet in a nation where "politician" is still a dirty word, is fit only for skepticism and irony.

Nevertheless, Professor Hughes has decided to suspend the intellectual dilemmas and run. His compound role--Hughes the intellectual, Hughes the politician, Hughes the man of issues, Hughes the image, Hughes the reformer, and Hughes the peace advocate--is, to be sure, fraught with ambiguities. The voters may not mind the ambiguities, but some Harvard people do, and one often hears them ask, "Why is he doing it?"

The purpose of the campaign, Hughes says, is to inject the issue of peace into political debate. Kowalski in Connecticut and Meyer in Vermont will be doing the same thing, but the Hughes effort will probably get the most national attention. Professor Hughes after all is running as an independent candidate for the two remaining years of the Senate seat which used to belong to the President--a seat which the President's brother, the Speaker's nephew, and the ex-Senator's son also covet. There is no incumbent and no presidential race to blur the issues. If Hughes gets a big vote he will certainly dramatize his platform and advance the pressure not only for gradual disengagement of the United States from areas of Cold War conflict but also for an extension of the welfare programs that have lapsed since the New Deal.

Win or lose, the professor has made himself public property. At Harvard the Dining Hall pundits are already estimating his chances of filling the 70,000-name petition necessary to put him on the ballot. The wags are coining such slogans as "Stu is Thru," and if the professor begins to look like a vote-getter he can expect a red smear.

It takes courage to run for office in Massachusetts, especially if one has principles. It may be that it also takes money, machine support, family connections, and a willingness to blur the issues. If so, Hughes will probably play an admirable Quixote, in which case he could pick up the Spanish vote.