“At latest count, we have 1.5 million university professors in this country, 1 million of whom are adjuncts. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever – which means that they have no idea how much work they will have in any given semester, and that they are often completely unemployed over summer months when work is nearly impossible to find (and many of the unemployed adjuncts do not qualify for unemployment payments). So, one million American university professors are earning, on average, $20K a year gross, with no benefits or healthcare, no unemployment insurance when they are out of work. Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph.Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs.“
By way a history friend, How the American University was Killed in Five Easy Steps. (Hint: It has to do with the Powell Memo.) I’m finishing up my PhD because I’m pot-committed at this point but, when anyone asks, I never recommend that they follow suit. It is UGLY out there. When the chips were down, I was fortunate enough to have a prior career in speechwriting to fall back on. Most people don’t have that luxury.
Still, the Republicans’ recent intemperate rhetoric aside, one could argue we’re seeing the slow-motion devolution of a movement that began over a half-century ago, with Goldwater in 1964. Since then, Nixon notwithstanding, the Republicans have moved continually to the right, engaging in putsch after putsch to retain the purity of their conservatism (to say nothing of the precious bodily fluids.) Even the much-beloved Ronald Reagan, pretty far right for his day, would be considered a pinko by the standards of the contemporary Tea Partier, as would, in many corners, the Muslim-coddling Dubya.
And so, here we are at the end of the rainbow. The snake is eating itself. Not for nothing is Newt Gingrich, once the Robespierre of this particular Revolution, now frantically swimming right to save his own head — He doesn’t want to end up like Rove. (Speaking of which, Presidents Collins and Snowe, take note: There is no room for you at this table anymore.)
As for the evening’s big winner, well, obviously I think O’Donnell is frighteningly wrong on just about everything, from creationism to onanism, and she’d be an absolute disaster in the Senate. (Good thing she seems unelectable.) Still, however much we disagree, I have to confess a soft spot for anyone who takes their Tolkien seriously.
In a must-read series at Slate, Timothy Noah delves into income inequality in America, a.k.a. “The Great Divergence.” “Even Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman and onetime Ayn Rand acolyte, has registered concern. ‘This is not the type of thing which a democratic society — a capitalist democratic society — can really accept without addressing,’ Greenspan said in 2005.“
“In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that ‘secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo’ Uruguay ‘and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter’…The Sept. 16 cable is the missing piece of the historical puzzle on Kissinger’s role in the action, and inaction, of the U.S. government after learning of Condor assassination plots,’ Peter Kornbluh, the National Security Archive’s senior analyst on Chile, said Saturday.‘”
Another piece of evidence for the prosecution in the trial of Henry Kissinger: A recently declassified 1976 cable has Kissinger canceling a warning to Chile about political assassinations, one day before the Pinochet regime murdered another critic in downtown Washington DC. And let’s not even get started on Allende…
“If there were any doubts that Sarah Palin is a total idiot, she settled them with that single statement….Tip to Sarah Palin: Obama may have some vulnerabilities, and you may have some strengths, but command of the issues doesn’t fall in either category.” As the up traffic here in DC, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan beats back some of the dumber GOP attacks on Obama’s nuclear policy, while Joe Conason tries to explain what Ronald Reagan really thought about nukes.
Sigh…Pick any issue these days, and for far too many of the GOP opposition, the question seems to come down to whether they’re out-and-out venal or just incompetent. Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.
It took awhile to get here, but Gus Van Sant’s timely and vibrant biopic Milk, which I caught on Christmas day, is well worth the wait. In a year that witnessed a former community organizer take his message of hope all the way to the White House, and saw a majority of Californians vote for legislating and invalidating their neighbors’ marriages (my favorite pin: “Can we vote on your marriage now?“), Milk couldn’t feel any more of the moment. (If anything, I wish Milk had come out before the Prop 8 vote, when it might’ve done some good.) Arguably the best film about the realities of politics since Charlie Wilson’s War, Milk is blessed with excellent performances across the board — most notably Sean Penn, James Franco, and Josh Brolin, but also supporting turns by Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill, and others. And as a chronicle of a key moment in an ongoing civil rights struggle, Milk also feels like a watershed film of its own in its approach to its gay and lesbian characters. In short, it’s one of the best films of 2008.
“My name is Harvey Milk, and I want to recruit you.” So began the oft-repeated speel of the San Francisco city supervisor and “Mayor of Castro Street,” who, in 1977 and after several attempts, became the first openly gay official elected to office in the US. But, seven years before those heady days, Milk (Sean Penn) was just a 40-year-old insurance man (and Republican, even), living a closeted life of quiet desperation in NYC. After a chance encounter and illicit proposition becomes an impromptu birthday party, Milk and new beau Scott Smith (James Franco) fall in love, talk about starting over, and decide to go West. Life is peaceful there…or is it? Even as Milk’s camera shop in the gay-friendly Castro district becomes a salon of artists, thinkers, and free spirits, bigotry is rampant even in the streets of San Francisco, and the cops at best turn a blind eye to — and at worst actively participate in — antigay violence. No more, says Milk. Taking a page from the ethnic political machines of an earlier century, he organizes Castro’s gays and lesbians into first a protest movement and then an organized voting and boycotting bloc. And when a redistricting plan emphasizing community self-rule in San Francisco is put into effect, Milk becomes an actual, legitimate political wheeler-and-dealer, with all the benefits and aggravations attending. (For more on the man and the movement, see the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, now on Hulu for free.)
But, even as Harvey Milk rises to power in San Fran, a parallel movement stirs amid the churches and suburbs of Orange County. Led by former beauty queen, singer, and orange juice shiller Anita Bryant, the ever-so-Christian “Save Our Children” campaign gathers steam across the nation in its quest to roll back what meager protections gays and lesbians have managed to establish over the years. And when conservative state senator John Briggs (Denis O’Hare, seemingly forever destined to play assholes) brings the fight west in the form of Proposition 6, an initiative that would ban gays and lesbians from public schools, the battle for California is on. And even as Milk becomes the poster boy against Prop 6 and for recognizing gays and lesbians as full citizens and fellow human beings, he has to contend with trouble on the homefront — not only in his personal life (his new boyfriend Jack (Diego Luna) is more than a little erratic) but in his political backyard, where supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin), from the Catholic, working-class district next door, is starting to act increasingly unstable. (But, I guess this is what happens when society is so permissive as to let a man get all hopped up on twinkies.)
Which reminds me: A word of appreciation for Josh Brolin’s work here. Sean Penn is garnering kudos across the board, and a likely Oscar nod, for his portrayal of Milk, and they’re very well-deserved. It’s really an astonishing transformation Penn accomplishes here — not so much because he’s playing someone who’s gay (homosexual), but because he’s playing someone who’s gay (happy).This is the same guy who sulked through Mystic River?) And, while Brolin will likely — and, imho, justifiably in the end — get edged out for Best Supporting Actor by Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, his work here suggests he’s got some serious chops. At first it seems as if Brolin will just be coasting on his recent Dubya impression — another good-natured, hard-hearted conservative fratboy for the resume. Then, just as you think Brolin’s endangering himself in terms of typecasting, it’s suggested Dan White might also be a deeply repressed closet case. (I tend to find the argument that all frothing-at-the-mouth homophobes are in reality trapped in the closet to be too simplistic by half, but apparently there’s some grounding for it in White’s story. In any case, Brolin underplays it beautifully ) As Milk progresses, we begin to sense other reasons why White is such a strange and ultimately homicidal bird — he’s envious of Harvey, he feels personally screwed over by him, he’s something of a friendless wonder, he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree anyway, he feels trapped by, and powerless before, the authority figures in his life (his wife, his cop buddies, his church). Brolin lets all of this play out without tipping his hand in any one direction. It’s a subtle, complex, and very worthwhile performance, and it’s a testament to the film’s heart that it extends such empathy even to its ostensible antagonist.
Speaking of empathy, this isn’t at all a surprise coming from Gus Van Sant, always a very humanistic director, but it should be noted regardless: When it comes to full recognition of gays and lesbians, Milk laudably practices what it preaches. Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia was good for its time, but nowadays (it’s on heavy rotation on AMC) it gives off a distinctly Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? vibe. And, as I said when it came out, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain often seemed “as somber, restrained, and delicate as Kabuki theater.” By contrast, the couples of Milk are passionate — both physically and emotionally — messy, flawed, and alive. Of course, there have been other well-rounded depictions of gays and lesbians in film in the past — in Van Sant’s earlier work, in the films of other gay directors like Todd Haynes, John Cameron Mitchell, and Kimberly Peirce, and in countless others. Still, Milk feels like an event of sorts. Unlike many of its forebears, it’s a mainstream Oscar-caliber movie that just takes its characters’ sexuality at face value and without apology. In that sense, it feels like a film whose time has come.
I said earlier that Dan White was ostensibly the villain of Milk, but that’s not entirely true. Rather, to its credit, the film is pretty bold about pointing the finger where the trouble really lies: at the conservative-minded legions of organized Christendom — or at the very least its right-wing, for-profit flank — who’ve decided that arbitrarily upholding one proscription mentioned in passing in the Old Testament (shellfish, anyone?), and then ruthlessly enforcing it on the backs of their neighbors and co-workers, is more important than upholding the central tenet of the actual teachings of Jesus: “Love one another.” (Along those lines, expect a good bit of “godless liberal Hollywood” bluster from the usual corners if this film gets any Oscar buzz.)
Which brings us to that Wal-Mart of spirituality, Rick Warren, who as you all know will be delivering the invocation at Obama’s inauguration this month, and who has said all manner of intemperate things about gays and lesbians (as well as jews, pro-choice voters, and others) in the past, even going so far as to campaign for Prop 8 in California two months ago.
Now, when the Rick Warren pick first came out, I didn’t say anything here for two reasons. One was deeply selfish: That was the week I was finishing up my speechwriting app, and it didn’t seem like the most opportune time to be too critical of the administration around here at GitM. (In the end, it didn’t matter anyway, of course.) More importantly, though, I am — and still partly remain — of the mind that the bigger picture needs to be kept in mind here. If it keeps the right-wing fundies relatively happy and docile, and helps them to buy into the notion of a post-partisan Obama presidency, then Rick Warren can give all the one minute ceremonial speeches he wants, so long as Obama ultimately shows himself a friend to gay and lesbian rights in his presidential actions.
But, there’s a sequence in Milk that brought me around a bit. When Dan White mentions the “issue” of gay rights in one crucial scene, Harvey replies: “These are not issues, Dan. These are our lives we’re fighting for.” And, put that way, the calculus changes. To straight progressive folk such as myself, one can easily — too easily — get to thinking of gay rights as an “issue” among many. But, for gays and lesbians all around the country, this is their lives. And, when considered thusly, the president of these United States — least of all a president who ran and won on a campaign of hope — should not be legitimizing bigotry, such as that continuously expressed by Warren without apology, in any kind of forum, let alone the most portentous and culturally significant inauguration in at least fifty years, perhaps ever.
In an eloquent column last week, the NYT‘s Frank Rich articulated basically where I stand on Obama’s decision at this point: His choice of Warren is “no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.” Let’s hope that Obama doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the last Democratic president, who very quickly started backpedaling on gay rights once in office, vis a vis “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And, while I’m sure he’s pretty busy these days, the president-elect (apparently a movie buff of sorts) could do worse than spend a few hours to reflect on the story of another community-organizer who believed in the transformative power of hope, who carried the hopes of his constitutents into higher office…and who faced unflinching and unwavering contempt from an irreconcilable opposition once he got there.
“[N]ote a curious fact about his career: It maps perfectly onto the 25-year bull market in stocks that, like Cruise, is starting to show its age. Nascent in the early ’80s, emergent in 1983, dominant in the ’90s, suspiciously resilient in the ’00s, and, starting in 2005, increasingly prone to alarming meltdowns. For both Cruise and the Dow Jones, more and more leverage is required for less and less performance. Place Cruise next to Nicholson, Newman, and Tracy, and he is a riddle. Place him next to Reagan, and he is not so confounding at all.“
In an extended meditation on the overlooked merits of Risky Business, Slate‘s Stephen Metcalf argues for Tom Cruise as an exemplar of the 80′s, Reaganism, and the boom-and-bust market. “More so than any of his contemporaries, Cruise brought to ’80s cinema an aura that corresponded to the novel tonalities of Reaganism.“
“When the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” The new trailer for Ron Howard’s film adaptation of Frost / Nixon is now online, starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Matthew McFadyen, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, and (naturally) Clint Howard. I’m intrigued by this project (haven’t seen the play), but this, sadly, is a pretty poor trailer (“In a world where the president blah blah blah, these men stood up for the truth…”) And, while I know he played the part on Broadway, Langella’s Nixon-voice sounds even more distracting to me than Christian Bale’s bat-rasp.
A personal plug: Also out in stores this week, my fourth collaboration with Democratic pundit Bill Press (1, 2, 3): Trainwreck: The End of the Conservative Revolution (and not a moment too soon). If you couldn’t guess from the title, it basically argues that, just as the New Deal era lasted from 1932-1968, the Age of Conservatism that began in ’64 with Goldwater, hit its stride in the 70′s and 80′s, and gave us the likes of Reagan, Gingrich, and, of course, Dubya, has now hit the proverbial, inevitable, historical brick wall. So let’s survey the wreckage: On one hand, from Katrina to Abramoff and Ed Meese to Alberto Gonzales, right-wing attempts at governance over the past thirty years have usually degenerated into dismal experiments in cronyism and/or incompetence. On the other, conservatism has strayed so far from its ideological roots in the Reagan and particularly Dubya eras that the likes of Robert Taft, Russell Kirk, and William F. Buckley would never even recognize it. (Case in point, the Ron Paul candidacy, wherein a traditional Taft conservative ended up being treated by his esteemed Republican contemporaries in every debate as either a fringe joke or a terrorist-sympathizing dupe.) Either way, the right-wing ascendancy is over, and it’s our time again now (and, though it’s not reflected in this tome, I think y’all know who I’d prefer to be carrying our progressive standard into battle in 2009 and beyond…)
“If National Review is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” A farewell to one of the left’s most formidable and forthright adversaries, who began his career as a nonconformist and, from the war on drugs to Dubya and the neocons, relished bucking the trend until his final days. I hardly ever agreed with the man, and, indeed, found many of his strongly-held views repellent. But, particularly as far as arch-conservatives go, I did have a good bit of respect for him. William F. Buckley, 1925-2008.
If you haven’t been following the recent flap about Ronald Reagan among the Democrats, I’ve been covering it in the comment thread here. Basically, the point Obama was making to the Reno Gazette-Journal, which Clinton and Edwards have both since jumped on, is this: For all his lousy policies — and Obama has said before they were lousy — Ronald Reagan was without a doubt a paradigm-changing candidate in 1980. In that election, he encouraged many “Reagan Democrats” to switch parties to back his candidacy, thus forging a new coalition which enabled right-wingers not only to win most presidential elections since but to pass legislation that is more conservative than the mainstream. Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, on the other hand, was not paradigm-changing. He won a plurality of votes in a three-way race and, by 1994, was already on the defensive again.
So, in 2008, the Democrats can back a possible paradigm-changer such as Barack Obama, a candidate with considerable independent and crossover appeal who might well be able to forge a new progressive governing coalition (as Reagan did for the Right.) Or we can back a polarizing figure such as Senator Clinton, one whom almost half the country is already dead set against and who rests her appeal on repeating the same cautious, poll-tested GOP-lite centrism we had under eight years of her husband…assuming, of course, she can eke out a victory over John McCain or his ilk anyway. (And there’s John Edwards too, of course: While that’s definitely more of an open question, I made my Obama-over-Edwards case here.)
As I said in the comment thread linked above, when it comes to a choice between Clinton or Obama, it would seem a no-brainer, particularly when you factor in her campaign’s tactics of late.
“I can remember when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from — I think it was law school, but I was driving home — going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio and I pulled over and literally wept.” Regarding the thorny question of the Mormon church and race (discussed earlier here), Mitt Romney, to his credit, addressed the issue about as well as can be expected this morning during the Russert treatment on Meet the Press, even going so far as to tear up a little (Video). My, we’ve come a long way from the days of Ed Muskie. Update: Must be catching…Now Clinton’s crying too. Update 2: And Romney again.
So, sorry to regale y’all with another long-winded, bloviating political post only two entries after the last one. But Ted of The Late Adopter asked an important follow-up to my comments on David Greenberg’s Obama piece and public-interest progressivism, namely: “If FDR, Stevenson, the Kennedys all spoke with the rhetoric of citizenship, when did the Democrats stop? With Johnson? Carter? During the 80s while trying to oppose Reagan?” And, while trying to respond in the comment section, I apparently blathered on so long that I broke the site. (“Access Denied with Code 406….severity [EMERGENCY]“) So, I’m posting my response as an entry instead (and there’s precedent for this anyway, as when Scully and I discussed the space program a few years ago.) So, if you find this all ponderous and insufferable, feel free to skip down to the previous entry, where I raved on at equal length about Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There (10/10!) And I promise to get back to more concise entries again soon…
|“Hmm, good question, Ted. Let me take a crack at it in the long-winded, digression-filled, multiple-answer manner we’ve been trained into.
First, while I don’t think he’s entirely comfortable with the Sandelian argument I’m making here, our mutual advisor posits one answer to this question in The End of Reform: This all began in earnest during WWII, when two things occurred.  The financial and productive power of Big Business became absolutely integral to the success of the war effort (thus there was less of a rationale for opposing corporate power in political life), and  Politicians and economists discovered in boom times and Keynesianiam that they could “grow the pie,” economically speaking, rather than be forced to choose a best way to carve it up. So, the civic-minded questions of political economy that dominated the early New Deal fell by the wayside.
Obviously, Adlai and the brothers Kennedy come after WWII, so that in itself is not a complete answer. So I’d add the following trends:
* 1968. Like 1919-1920, when the strike wave, the race riots, the Red Scare, the failure at Versailles, and various other traumatic events — the tail-end of the influenza wave, the death of TR, the Black Sox scandal, the widespread exposure to Freudianism, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and literary/artistic modernism, the recent Bolshevik revolution, and the Great War itself — all conspired to create great anxiety and help overturn the existing order, I would argue that the events of 1968 irrevocably rent the social fabric of the nation.
It became especially hard for anyone after ’68 to talk about a civic project or a common public interest when America was divided so badly between left and right, black and white — rifts that Republicans like Nixon and Reagan would exploit to their advantage with the Southern strategy and veiled rhetoric about “law and order” — particularly when those leaders who did it best were gunned down in their prime. (This “culture war” is one of the same obstacles the progressives face in the ’20s, with the Red Scare, Scopes, Prohibition, the KKK, etc.) It also became problematic to speak in the language of citizenship when it was now well beyond clear that [a] women, African-Americans, and other minorities had been and were being treated in the civic culture as second-class citizens, and [b] the main civic project which the government was then asking its citizens to become engaged in was the war in Vietnam, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
* GENERATIONS. While both the early New Left (see the Port Huron Statement) and the early civil rights movement (see King, in the original entry) have strong civic, and even Emersonian, components, both Sixties protest groups and the general mood of politics eventually swung over into the rhetoric of individualistic, rights-based liberalism. Meanwhile, the New Right, in its opposition to the New Deal and Great Society, also abandoned to a large extent the language of citizenship and virtue and made an appeal based on individual freedom as opposed to a corrupt, socialistic central government. (For an excellent civic-conservative reaction to this shift, see George Will’s 1983 book Statecraft as Soulcraft, the best thing he’s ever written.)
Stevenson and the Kennedys were of the WWII generation, and — while I loathe the term “greatest generation,” unless you find something inherently great about training fire hoses on small children — they were more comfortable with the civic, “we’re all in it together” appeal of an earlier time. The appeal held less water with the much more skeptical Boomer generation, and, as the political culture embraced the individualistic liberalism/liberation of the late sixties and early seventies, with the nation at large. (You could argue Carter tried to make a civic argument on the energy question, and he was basically laughed out of the room.) Boomer politicians of either party — the Clintons, the Bushes — just aren’t as comfortable making civic-minded, public-interest arguments as their forbears. It’s not how they see the game is played. This is also due to:
* WATERGATE, GATEGATE. From Vietnam to (particularly) Watergate to bureaucratic bloat to Iran-Contra to the fiascos of today, Americans have experienced a severe diminuition in what we believe government is and should be capable of. This open-eyed skepticism about centralized power should be a good thing, but not if we throw out the baby with the bathwater. You know how Richard said “a withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy?” Irony isn’t only the shackles of youth, it’s the shackles of our politics as well.
There’s other things going on too. Not to get all Caro up in here, but LBJ, I think, was inherently uncomfortable making civic arguments as well (unless he was appropriating them, a la “We shall overcome.”) His view, shaped as it was by the exigencies of local Texas politics and his days running the Senate, was that everything ultimately boiled down to self-interest. (This partly explains how he could screw up Vietnam so badly. Eventually he thinks about buying off Ho Chi Minh with a TVA-style system of dams for the Mekong Delta, not realizing that Ho — and North Vietnam — are persevering in part because they’ve committed to an ideal more important to them then self-interest: national independence, a cause they felt they’d been fighting for for thousands of years.)
But, perhaps most important to note, I think it’s fair to say that one reason the rhetoric of citizenship went out of style was because:
* THE PATTERN WAS FLAWED, for all the reasons I said above. If I was a guy growing up in Chicago, Mississippi, or anywhere else, and I was being treated as a second-class citizen by the white power structure, either by being denied the right to vote or being snubbed out of quality jobs or housing, and then I was told my civic duty was to go die in Southeast Asia for lousy reasons (while the Dick Cheneys of the world piled up deferments), I might turn against the civic project too. If I was a woman who was told my civic duty basically amounted to finding a good man, keeping his stomach full and his house clean, and punching out healthy, patriotic American children, I’d rebel against this flawed social order as well.
In short, the post-WWII, Cold War-obsessed civic culture of the 1950s and early 1960s was stifling and half-baked. It basically told citizens that their civic obligation was to buy as much as possible, to not consort with Reds, and, most importantly, to not cause any trouble. It needed to be broken up and reconfigured.
(The progressives of the 1920s come to this conclusion as well, when they see how easily Wilsonian public-interest rhetoric enables the Red Scare (thus letting people on the Right brand every possible progressive program as “Bolshevik.”) This is why some of the most civic-minded Progressives — Jane Addams, for example — play a major part in the creation of the ACLU.)
Here we get to the inherent problems with arguments that rely on civic-mindedness and appeals to citizenship. For one, a public interest that treats certain citizens as second-class is inherently and fatally flawed. Look at the early New Left — for all its progressive inclinations and civic-mindedness on paper and even in practice, it still basically treated women like the help. (See SNCC and Stokely Carmichael: “The only position for women in SNCC is prone.“)
Plus, as a general rule of human nature, groups of people working together tend to desire conformity and despise independence, no matter what their political inclinations. This is as much a failing of the Left as it is the Right. (See Animal Farm, Dylan plugging in at Newport, etc.)
Also, here the coercion problem in civic strands of political thought rears its head — Rousseau’s social compact forcing people to be free, and all that. An argument made on the basis of citizenship presumes coercion — citizens are expected to do this (vote, serve in the military, be informed about public matters) and not do that (drink, hang with Communists, etc.) Coercion isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself — I think everyone agrees citizens should not kill, own slaves, etc. — but  telling people they have to do anything goes against the view of absolute individual freedom enthroned today, and  coercion invariably leads to conformity. which is ultimately the avowed enemy of republican government, which both relies on and should promote individual excellence.
How do we get around this Gordian knot? My answer (which, not surprisingly, was also the answer of many of the Progressives) rests with Emerson. As I just said, an argument based on citizenship presupposes inculcating a certain virtue into citizens. But what if that virtue was individuality (not the same as individualism) and independence? The ability to think for oneself, the freedom to grow and innovate, and then the inclination to come back to the circle of citizens, share what you’ve learned, and deliberate about the public good? Emerson argues that we express our consent to government by expressing our dissent with government. If republican government is going to reach its full potential, it needs a community of independent-minded nonconformists. This is the type of citizenship a progressive candidate could and should get behind.
And the Progressives did promote it — People always read Herbert Croly as an apologist for strong, centralized government, but this isn’t quite right. Decades before he got into poltics, Croly was an architecture critic — he was deeply concerned about art and aesthetics, and was trying to fashion a political architecture that would help individuals to thrive. At the end of The Promise of American Life (p. 414), Croly talks about what’s he’s been aspiring to create: “A national structure which encourages individuality as opposed to mere particularity is one which creates innumerable special niches, adapted to all degrees and kinds of individual development.” For him the “Jeffersonian ends” of individuality and improvement were as important as the “Hamiltonian means” of a strong central government.
Ok, to step away from Planet Theory and get back to our real world: How would progressive-minded candidates of today work towards this new civic fabric? Well, first and most importantly, they would have to reconceive today’s liberal arguments in civic, progressive terms, to stop using the language of consumer choice and individual freedom — which plays so easily into the hands of corporate power and the small-government Right — like a crutch and bring back the language of citizenship and a shared narrative/vision/history that brings people together. The civic idea is so desiccated at the moment, for all the reasons mentioned in the original post, that just hearkening to its continued existence would be an immense step in the right direction (as well as a huge political boon for the Left regardless.)
From there, progressives, like their counterparts a century ago, would have to work to fix a broken system. This means campaign finance and lobbying reform, doing what we can to ensure that unwashed money doesn’t corrupt the system as horribly as it does now, and that dollars don’t speak louder than people.
As important here is voting reform. The voting system in our nation is absolutely abysmal. I refuse to believe that a country that can give almost every supermarket or store an ATM and almost every person a cellphone and iPod must be reduced to semi-functioning punchcard booths or electronic voting that can’t create a paper trail. And the long lines we see on every election day are patently shameful. Election Day should be a holiday (why not?), we should move to weekend voting, we should establish a Marshall plan to get every county in America an operating voting system, or something. Also, I doubt mandatory voting would ever work in this country, but what about tax incentives, or more likely public-private partnerships to encourage turnout? (Thanks for voting — here’s your free sundae at McDonalds and 20% off your next purchase at Borders.) The people who say this would be tantamount to bribing folks to vote are usually the people who don’t want voters showing up at the polls.
Today’s progressives should also look to education. The (Bill) Clinton model of adult, lifelong education is a step in the right direction, but what’s missing is the civic component. Civics is deader than dead in our high schools and colleges, so on the most basic level that needs to be emphasized. But, equally importantly, we need to reemphasize the skills key to republican government: critical thinking, deliberation, etc. (Dare I say it, reading.) From an early age we all need to learn how to sift through information to reach a critically informed opinion, to ask the right questions about the information being presented to us, and — perhaps most importantly — to learn how to engage with people who disagree with us in a constructive fashion.
And, a civic-minded progressive would continually look to our shared past and our shared future to bring Americans together. This would mean not only basking in but owning up to our collective past — say, adding a National Museum of Slavery to the Mall. It would also mean engaging in great civic projects which would bind the nation in common purpose (one of the many reasons I believe in the necessity of the space program.)
Some might argue that I’m on crack for thinking that campaign finance reform, civics classes, a slavery museum, and/or a trillion-dollar space program is going to change what’s wrong with America. And, no, these aren’t sufficient. But, as I said in the original post, the story is everything. If our leaders help us reconceive our view of the government — to remind us that the government is an expression of our shared values and ambitions as citizens — then we can begin to look at other problems differently. If we’re all in it together, the continued existence of child poverty, or the woeful lack of health insurance for many, here in the richest nation on Earth becomes that much more unacceptable.
I’m not naive enough to believe that embracing civic progressivism or adopting the rhetoric of citizenship is going to change the country immediately, that money is suddenly going to disappear from our political process thanks to one new law, or that the next iteration of American’s civic fabric will be bereft of the types of discrimination in evidence in the 1860s, 1920s, 1960s and beyond. But, to borrow from Cornel West, “To understand your country, you must love it. To love it, you must, in a sense, accept it. To accept it as how it is, however is to betray it. To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that in it which shows what it might become. America – this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of the no into the yes, needs citizens who love it enough to reimagine and remake it.“
To put the same argument another way, there’s a scene in The Princess Bride where our hero Westley (Cary Elwes) and the princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) are on the run and looking for safety in the dastardly and invariably fatal Fire Swamp. “We’ll never survive,” bemoans Buttercup, to which Westley responds: “You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about a lot of things, including progressivism in politics. Does true love exist? I dunno. Lord knows it hasn’t seemed like it, and I’ve been kicked in the teeth often enough at this point to think not. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t live my life as if it could happen. Same with this view of civic progressivism. David Greenberg may be right that civic-minded candidates have done pretty poorly in recent history, but that doesn’t mean the principle is flawed, or that we should stop trying.
And, besides, to jump over to another fantasy classic, you don’t wear the ring — you destroy the ring. So I’d rather stake my claim with the public interest progressives, even if that doesn’t play as well as all the blatant appeals to self-interest, than get all Boromir up in here and start acting like Republican-lite, which all too many of our party frontrunners have been doing these past few years.
“The upshot was that by 1980, race and ideology had become so commingled that one’s stand on racial issues served as a proxy for one’s partisan preference. Previously, economic issues had been the chief dividing line between the parties. By 1980, though, according to the Edsalls, the changes that followed the civil rights movement had crystallized, and racial politics figured just as strongly.” Slate‘s resident historian David Greenberg weighs in on the recent furor at the NYT (and elsewhere) over Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign kickoff speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, site of the 1964 Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman murders. (Coincidence? Sheah.) Therein, Greenberg correctly and succinctly argues that Reagan’s “I believe in states’ rights” was, in an apt turn of phrase, “a dog whistle to segregationists.“
Honestly, I’m not really sure how you could dispute this, unless you want to argue that Reagan and his political handlers were completely ignorant about the civil rights struggle, massive resistance, and the significance of Philadelphia, Miss. in those struggles. (Of course, then you’d have to explain how Reagan remained blissfully unaware of the fact his 1966 gubernatorial bid often relied on similar loaded language.) Was Reagan a racist? I dunno, that’s not the issue. Did Reagan rely on coded racial messages to appeal to white conservatives, akin to what Dubya does these days with pro-lifers and Dred Scott? Obviously.
“I’m leaving on my own terms and I’m leaving with a clear-eyed realism that this isn’t going to mean fewer investigations or subpoenas or weird comments by members of the Democratic caucus.” Well, Karl, we’ll always have hip-hop. One of this administration’s biggest rats leaps off the sinking ship as Karl Rove announces his resignation at the end of the month. But, not to worry. Dubya’s infamous consigliere will no doubt be back in the public eye when the investigations clear and the indictments come down. So, see ya soon, Turd Blossom, and sorry your grand visions of a Republican realignment turned to ashes. I’m sure we’ll still fit you in the history books…somewhere.
Newly released papers from the 1972 election reveal more of the Nixon re-election campaign’s dirty tricks operation at work. “Nixon aides worked assiduously to plant negative stories, including one alleging [Dem VP candidate Sargent] Shriver ‘s ancestors were slave-holders. An operative ‘is trying to get the story fed into certain segments of Black media and will give it to Black surrogates,’ an aide told Chuck Colson, Nixon’s chief counsel.” And, also among the new stuff, a detailed account of eventual White House whistleblower Alexander Butterfield‘s exasperation with Nixon’s dog, King Timahoe. ‘I think the miserable sessions I endured in Latin II as a high school sophomore were easier,’ he groused to Haldeman after meeting Nixon’s valet to discuss ‘doggie affairs.’” (Further excerpts.)
Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007. My thoughts on this are basically the same as on Strom’s passing in 2003, and once again I’d refer everyone to Hunter S. Thompson’s Nixon obit. Of course, it’s bad form to speak ill of the dead…still, I’m sure countless people and pets around the world passed yesterday who are more deserving of eulogy than this contemptible, hypocritical bigot. Let’s just hope, for Falwell’s sake, that God is more compassionate and forgiving than he ever was.
“Morgan’s grasp of Nixon’s place in American culture is confirmed near the play’s end, when Reston endorses an opinion that one seldom hears in routine journalistic commentary but that I believe is undoubtedly true: Nixon was never rehabilitated. He never came back. Despite the pomp and fine words at his funeral, his name remained a synonym for presidential corruption and crime, and the ‘-gate’ suffix attached to scandals ever since certified Watergate’s cultural importance” Rutgers professor and author of Nixon’s Shadow David Greenberg reviews Frost/Nixon for Slate.
Also among the intriguing recent disclosures of the Nixon years are newly released State Department records which reveal further Nixon’s contempt for his Foreign Service. “Just before saying he was going ‘to take the responsibility for cleaning up’ the department, the president told Kissinger on November 13 that he was determined that ‘his one legacy is to ruin the Foreign Service. I mean ruin it — the old Foreign Service — and to build a new one. I’m going to do it.’“
“As President, my primary concern must always be the greatest good of all the people of the United States whose servant I am. As a man, my first consideration is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience. My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book.” Gerald Ford, 1913-2006.
“As George Shultz liked to say: ‘Everybody loves to argue with Milton, particularly when he isn’t there.‘” Milton Friedman, 1912-2006.
“Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when clinging to power is the only idea left. The epitaph for the movement that started when Newt Gingrich and his forces rose from the back bench of the House chamber in 1994 may well have been written last week in the same medium that incubated it: talk radio.” As Foleygate continues to conflagrate and the FBI looks for answers, a TIME cover story wonders if the Republican Revolution of 1994 is dead. Yep.
“Lyndon Johnson was probably right to fret about the political consequences of civil rights. And even he, who knew more about the intricacies of Southern politics than any 20th-century president, could not have known how complicated the future would be.” By way of Cliopatria, Jefferson Decker, a former managing editor of Boston Review and one of my friends and colleagues here at Columbia, takes a look at two new books on the rise of the Republican Party in the South: Kevin Kruse’s White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism and Matthew Lassiter’s The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South.
In somewhat related news, the administration’s freefall in the polls continues, with even conservatives now admitting that Dubya is quacking like a lame duck. Meanwhile, some congressional Republicans begin to hear strains of 1994 in their own corruption and excess. And, with the Christian Coalition also nearing the End of (its) Days to boot, one has to wonder: Could we Dems ask for a more favorable electoral terrain against the Dubya-DeLay GOP heading into this November? And when are our party leaders going to rise to this opportunity and start offering a vision of leadership the American people can get behind?
“The Nixon Library has a history of extreme politicization — the library has seldom hosted serious historians, who tend to be at least somewhat critical of Nixon, more typically showcasing assorted Nixon apologists and right-wing pundits — and so the imminent transfer remains worrisome.” Historian David Greenberg explains how, over thirty years after Watergate and on the eve of finally joining the official presidential library system, the Nixon Library is still trying to resuscitate its namesake’s image, to the detriment of sound history.
“More alarming were Richard Nixon’s last years at the White House. After a good many evening martinis, he would call Henry Kissinger, and the secretary of state would grin silently as he passed around the telephone so that others could listen to their commander in chief’s unbalanced ramblings. Since Nixon was in a position to blow us all up, this suggests a somewhat esoteric sense of humor on Kissinger’s part.” With the fall of Britain’s Charles Kennedy, Slate‘s Geoffrey Wheatcroft very briefly surveys the sordid history of alcoholism in politics. (He could, I think, have done more with The Alcoholic Republic.)
“The blend of businessmen’s aversion to government regulation, down-home cultural populism and Christian moralism that sustains today’s Republican Party is a venerable if loosely knit philosophy of government dating back to long before the right-wing upsurge that prepared the way for Reagan’s presidency…Insofar as perennial themes shape our politics, it is remarkable how so many of contemporary conservatism’s central ideas and slogans renovate old Whig appeals.“
By way of Cliopatria, historian Sean Wilentz compares today’s GOP to the Whig Party of the 1830′s and ’40s. Food for thought, but, as Wilentz himself admits, the general lack of state power back then — and, more importantly, the absence of corporate consolidation in the antebellum era — significantly changes the rules of the game. While laissez-faire policies more likely meant increased competition and economic growth in the 19th century, it means something else entirely in today’s world, when long-standing, fully-formed corporate behemoths are ready and willing to fill any power vacuum left by less government regulation. (That’s why the Gilded Age analogy, I think, still makes more sense — It’s business cronyism, and not economic competition, that drives Dubya republicanism.) Update: Via The Late Adopter, Eric Foner, the centerpiece of a weekend conference around these parts, reviews Wilentz’s new tome in The Nation.
As suspected by several journalists and at the ripe young age of 91, Deep Throat reveals himself to Vanity Fair as W. Mark Felt, the FBI’s #2 man during Watergate. “‘I don’t think (being Deep Throat) was anything to be proud of,’ Felt indicated to his son, Mark Jr., at one point, according to the article. ‘You (should) not leak information to anyone.’” Update: With great hullabaloo, the Post confirms. Update 2: Nixon weighs in, as do Slate‘s Tim Noah (multiple times) and David Greenberg.
After 30 years of funding all manner of right-wing agitprop, the John M. Olin Foundation closes its doors, thus answering the question, “What if It’s a Wonderful Life had been about Old Man Potter instead of George Bailey?” “Without [Olin], the Federalist Society might not exist, nor its network of 35,000 conservative lawyers. Economic analysis might hold less sway in American courts. The premier idea factories of the right, from the Hoover Institution to the Heritage Foundation, would have lost millions of dollars in core support. And some classics of the conservative canon would have lost their financier, including Allan Bloom’s lament of academic decline and Charles Murray’s attacks on welfare.“
“Bringing Kutler to the library was going to be like Nixon going to China.” The Nixon library in Yorba Linda — the only presidential library under private management — incurs the wrath of the historical community by spiking a conference on the Vietnam War that would undoubtedly have been critical of Tricky Dick. Whatsmore, “historians still did not have access to about 800 hours of tapes and 50,000 documents withheld by the Nixon estate on the grounds that they deal with personal or political, rather than presidential, matters.” That represents a significantly larger gap in the historical record than 18 and a half minutes.
After the general post-election gloominess began to wear off near the end of last year (of course, it hasn’t completely subsided — at times, I think you can still see the cynicism emanating off me like little cartoon lines), I made it a resolution of sorts to start getting more involved in Dem organizing for this upcoming political cycle. So when some friends of mine (and founders of Concerts for Change) alerted me to their forum this evening on “Net Roots and the DNC,” which included A-list lefty bloggers Atrios and Afro-Netizen, former Dean director Zephyr Teachout, Personal Democracy Forum editor Micah Sifry, and NY Dem Party higher-ups Judith Hope and Mark Green, I very quickly decided to go check it out.
All in all, it made for a partial yet intriguing glimpse into the State of the Party 2005, and one I found at turns dispiriting and encouraging (and far more often the latter.) The panel itself was decently engaging, with most of the discussion centered around the imminent battle for DNC chair. (While there were a number of Simon Rosenberg buttons among the attendees, the panel seemed to split between Dean enthusiasts and DNC agnostics, who felt the upcoming election wasn’t of much import regardless of who wins.) There was also some discussion of the role left-leaning bloggers might play in helping to keep the media more attuned to right-wing spin jobs, but, alas, no one figured out how to square that circle just yet.
Former mayoral candidate and Nader Raider Mark Green, charismatic enough in that politico way, closed out the forum part of the evening with some clever but clearly canned remarks for the Young People into that Newfangled Technology stuff. (For example, he advised the crowd to “choose your mentors well,” which, c’mon now, is the same hoary advice Strom Thurmond gave 1000 of us at Boys’ State when I was 17 years old.) He also regaled us with a short US history lesson, which I’ll give him a B+ on — he was spot-on with George Washington plying his constituents-to-be with rum and George McGovern and direct mail, less so with the Lincoln the “real Log Cabin Republican” quip.)
As I said, I found some elements of the evening somewhat discouraging (and not just because I soon realized that my limited socializing skills at these sorts of things had further atrophied since entering academia.) For one, at times I felt the discussion seemed on the verge of degenerating into the worst kind of New Left-era identity politics, whereby the gender and ethnicity of the new DNC chair was somehow more important than his or her vision for the party. [This was driven home by a (white) fellow in the back hijacking the conversation at one point (does this sort of thing happen at GOP events? I always wonder) and loudly enumerating the few minorities in the room (By which he meant black people -- Latinos and South Asians went under the radar), all to suggest that the event was somehow a charade and a farce for its lack of proportional representation.]
This is not to say that issues of gender and ethnicity aren’t central to our party’s core principles, or that the all-white-male slate for DNC chair isn’t a disappointment — to suggest otherwise would be imbecilic…even, dare I say it, Summers-esque. But, to my mind, it’s a question of focus. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, straight, gay, or bisexual…we Dems just got our asses handed to us by the predominantly white male GOP. At a certain point — hopefully soon — we’re going to have to learn to deemphasize these differences among us and reemphasize our commonality as left-leaning citizens of the republic, rising up together against the corporate-sponsored avarice, imperial ambitions, and narrow-minded bigotry of today’s Republican Party. In other words and IMHO, rhetorically we need to start thinking 1933, and at times I heard way too much 1972 tonight.
(Also, and I know this is a goofy history-geek semantic distinction that I’ll just have to get over, but people kept throwing around ‘progressive’ when they meant ‘liberal.’ Not the same, y’all.)
All that being said, however, my general impression of the evening was quite favorable, mostly because of the energy, exuberance, and organizational acumen on display from the attendees. We may have lost the recent battle in 2004, but much of the online community-building infrastructure seems intact…and, indeed, seems to be here for the duration. I was reminded of the recent scholarship on the rise of the New Right (by Lisa McGirr, Rick Perlstein, and Matthew Dallek, among others), which ably demonstrates how conservatives, soundly defeated in 1964, managed to capture the California governorship only two years later, once Reagan had replaced Goldwater at the top of the movement. For now, the wheels are definitely churning at the grass-roots level…if we can just get the party machinery in order, find a standard-bearer willing to abandon the protective camouflage, and, most importantly, work on a way to articulate our democratic values against the corporate ministrations of the GOP, we might actually get somewhere.
If nothing else, it speaks volumes that conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie is worried about what he sees from the online left — he’s a guy who knows a thing or two about political organizing, and how quickly the worm can turn. Matt Drudge and GWB, we’re coming for you.
In today’s movie bin, a post-Eternal Sunshine Jim Carrey returns to hamming it up in the full trailer for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Sean Penn (with the aid of 21 Grams co-star Naomi Watts and Don Cheadle) resurrects Samuel Byck (also featured in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins) in the international teaser for The Assassination of Richard Nixon.
“The president — highly intelligent, personally flawed, detested by many, a man who was first elected in a narrow three-way race and then reelected easily — had faced impeachment. In the following election, his vice president, a decent man with decades on Capitol Hill, was beaten by an inexperienced governor from the South. Four years passed. The economy weakened and oil prices soared. Crises in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan eroded our national confidence. Clearly the president was in trouble. Yet many were not comfortable with his opponent. Yes, he was effective on television. But was he a steady hand? Was he trustworthy? Would the country be safe in his hands? The year was, of course, 1980.” James K. Galbraith makes the case for a decisive Kerry-Edwards victory in November.
So…you might’ve missed this little story in all the D-Day hullabaloo, but apparently former President Ronald Reagan died. Due to my cable issues, I’ve thankfully missed much of the canonization and hagiography of the past few days, although I’m sure the GOP will repeat it all at their upcoming convention anyway.
I know it’s bad form to speak ill of the recently deceased, so I’ll let others handle straightening the record about Ronnie’s not-so-stellar presidency. But, given all the revisionist history out and about at the moment, I do think this is a good time to consider the thesis of Reagan’s America by Garry Wills:
|Much of Garry Wills’s argument in Reagan’s America can be encapsulated by George Costanza’s advice to Jerry Seinfeld, prior to Jerry’s being polygraphed about his Melrose Place viewing habits: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Over and over again, Wills scrutinizes the tales and myths told by Reagan about himself in his private speeches, public addresses, and autobiography, and finds them to be embellished, exaggerated, and – more often than not – patently false. And therein lies his uncanny appeal for so many people: Reagan’s myths are America’s myths…As Wills puts it, “the truth about [America's] actual behavior, whether on the old frontier or the new, is as threatening to our sense of identity as the terrorist himself.” (452) And because Reagan believes so thoroughly in his own American myths, many Americans could join him in believing them as well…[Wills writes,] “Visiting Reaganland is very much like taking children to Disneyland…It is a safe past, with no sharp edges to stumble against. The more visits one makes to such a past, the better is one immunized against any troubling cursions of a real [American past.] If capitalist ‘conservatism’ canoot be rooted in the real past it works to obliterate, then it will invent a deracinating past, a nostalgia for the new, a substitute history to lull us in the time machine that travels on no roads, reaching goals no one could plan.” (459-460)
In sum, “Reagan gives our history the continuity of a celluloid Mobius strip. We rides its curves backwards and forwards at the same time, and he is always there.” (440) Put differently, the appeal of Ronald Reagan for so many is that he offers us a simulacrum of American history that is both appealingly mythic and appallingly untrue.
Well, at the very least, the effusive eulogizing going on right now may help topple barriers to stem-cell research. And, no matter what one’s political persuasion, I think we can all agree that helping to eliminate scourges like Alzheimer’s Disease would make a wonderful asset to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.
Well, between Tenet’s resignation and Reagan’s end, my cable modem picked an eventful few days to give up on me. More to come next week, after the Time Warner technicians have ascertained and corrected the problem.
“Woodward reports that in July 2002 Bush ordered the use of $700 million to prepare for the invasion of Iraq, funds that had not been specifically appropriated by the Congress, which alone holds that constitutional authority. No adequate explanation has been offered for what, strictly speaking, might well be an impeachable offense.” Sidney Blumenthal sees the behavior underlying Reagan’s Iran-Contra fiasco revived, while law professor Cass Sunstein delves deeper into the illegality and unconstitutionality of Dubya’s likely misappropriation of funds.
The White House tsk-tsks John Kerry for the F-word. C’mon, now. Kerry’s youth-targeted outburst in Rolling Stone undoubtedly has a whiff of Gore-like “let-your-hair-down” calculation/desperation about it, but let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill here. We all know good and well that our presidents and political leaders have been swearing up a blue streak since time immemorial. (Richard “expletive deleted” Nixon is just the most notorious example.) And it wasn’t all that long ago that George “Major League” Dubya and Big Time needed their own mouths washed out with soap. So let he who is without sin cast the first #$%@ stone.
Historian David Greenberg and the Washington Post examines Dubya’s stylistic debts to Richard Nixon.
Sorry about the lack of updates since Sunday….As it happens, encroaching November has frightened me into working harder on my US history orals site. My note-taking is still two months or so behind my reading, but – in case you’re interested – I’ve recently put up notes and reviews on the following books:
|John Morton Blum, Years of Discord: American Politics and Society, 1961-1974.
William Leach, Land of Desire, Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture.
Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right.
Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus.
Ellen Schrecker, Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America.
Robert Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975.
Robert Weisbrot, Freedom Bound: A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement.
Gary Wills, Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home.
Updates to the orals site should come relatively frequently for the next few months, so expect more to come.