Category Archives: Political History

ITPL Ep 036 featured image

Episode 036 Libertarianism in US History


This week we take on the topic of libertarianism, an ideology that in recent years has gained many adherents, including political conservatives and people in business, especially the high tech industry. But it’s worth asking, what is libertarianism and where does it fit in the history of American political culture? Is it a mainstream ideology with deep roots in American history? Or is it one on the fringe? And what accounts for its surging popularity in recent years?
Well, to answer these questions, I’ll first give my historian’s take on libertarianism. Spoiler alert: I’m not a big fan. I’ll point out how libertarianism occupies a place on the very outer fringe of American political ideology. And that it’s mainly an ideology of recent origin (ca 1945) and that it’s popularity has a lot to do with the efforts of millionaires and billionaires, as well as large corporations, that fund pro-libertarian initiatives. The US has always revered individualism, but not the radical individualism that defines libertarianism. It’s an individualism that has always been tempered by an equally important commitment to the common good.
ITPL Ep 036 Woodside book cover
Then I’ll speak with Christine Woodside, author of the book, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books. Wait, what? Little House on the Prairie has something to do with libertarianism? Yes. In fact, as you’re about to hear, it has quite a bit to do with it. Let’s just say that it’s a story that includes not only Laura Ingalls Wilder, but also Ayn Rand, the Koch brothers, and the Libertarian Party.

Among the many things discussed in this episode:
What is libertarianism and where does it fit in the history of American political culture?

How have billionaires and corporations since 1945 worked to promote libertarianism?

Why the Founding Fathers were NOT libertarians.

How Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter infused libertarian themes into the Little House books.

How the Little House on the Prairie franchise helped fund the rise of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party in the mid-20th century.

About Christine Woodside – website

Further Reading

Christine Woodside, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books (2015)

Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (2017)

Colin Woodard, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good (2015)

Daniel Cluchey, “The Founding Fathers Were Not Libertarians,” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “I Will Be There” (Free Music Archive)

Doc Turtle, “Thought Soup” (Free Music Archive)

Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

ITPL Ep 034 featured image

Episode 034 The Zenger Trial and the Birth of the Free Press in America


With the mainstream news media under siege these days, and with some people – including one particularly powerful and influential person – denouncing it as so-called “fake news,” this seems like a good time to explore the history of a free press. Just consider how central the free press has been to American history. So many key moments in American history have derived from, or somehow involved, the freedom of the press.
* The abolitionist press and the eventual end of slavery.
* Muckrakers at the turn of the 20th century and the exposure of abuses by big business.
* The Pentagon Papers and the withdrawal of the US military from Vietnam.
* The Watergate investigation and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

These are just a few examples of the vital role a free press has played in American history. And they raise the question: How did this idea of a free press get enshrined in the First Amendment? And how did it come to be seen as a fundamental principle of American democracy?

It’s a long and fascinating story, but it began with the arrest and prosecution of a little known New York newspaper publisher named Peter Zenger in 1735. And that’s the story we’ll focus on in this episode of In The Past Lane, the podcast about history and why it matters.
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Among the many things we’ll discuss:

How the British defied “seditious libel” in the 18th century – and how American colonists began to develop a very different understanding of it.

The biography of Peter Zenger, the unknown printer at the center of the famous 1735 trial that bears his name.

How the 1735 trial of Peter Zenger popularized the idea of freedom of the press.

How the legacy and memory of the Zenger Trial led to the inclusion of freedom of the press in the 1st Amendment.

How Americans came to see a free press as essential to maintaining a healthy democracy.

Further Reading

Paul Finkelman, ed., A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger: with Related Documents (Bedford, 2010)

Gail Jarrow, The Printer’s Trial: The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press (2006)

Richard Kluger, Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America’s Free Press (2016)

Lyrissa Lidsky and Robert G. Wright, Freedom of the Press: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution (2004)

Website: Federal Hall National Monument, New York (NPS) – permanent exhibition on the Zenger Trial.

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “I Will Be There” (Free Music Archive)

Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

 

Jimmy Carter press conference

Episode 030 Presidents and the Media: The History of Political Spin


Subscribe to the In The Past Lane podcastThis week at In The Past Lane, we talk about the American presidency – specifically the history of how US presidents have endeavored to communicate their positions on key issues of the day. To use modern political parlance, it’s the history of “spin,” that important but sometimes tawdry business of crafting and communicating a political message in such as way that it enhances your political standing. American presidents have struggled to do this since the days of the Washington administration. To help us understand what spin is and how and why it’s played such a critical role in the evolution of the modern presidency and in the success or failure of individual presidents, I talk to historian David Greenberg. He’s the author of a fascinating new book, Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency.

David Greenberg, Republic of SpinAmong the many things we discuss:
How Theodore Roosevelt created the original permanent White House spin apparatus.

Why Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information during World War I is unfairly characterized as a nefarious propaganda machine.

Why FDR’s “fireside chats” proved so effective in promoting Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda.

How Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to embrace the new medium of television.

Why image making became so essential to presidential success in the age of JFK.

How Jimmy Carter — yes, Jimmy Carter – was hailed early on in his presidency as a master communicator and manipulator of the media.

Why spin is not inherently negative but rather an essential element of presidential leadership.

Why the mainstream media is held in such low regard these days.

About David Greenberg – website

Further Reading

David Greenberg, Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency (WW Norton, 2016)

Katz and M. Barris, The Social Media President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Digital Engagement (2013)

William E. Leuchtenburg, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (2015)

Stephen Ponder, Managing the Press: Origins of the Media Presidency, 1897-1933 (1999)

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Haymarket Bombing

Episode 029 Spies, Traitors, & Saboteurs: Civil Liberties in Times of National Crisis


This week, In The Past Lane is in Chicago to check out a cool history exhibition and speak with John Russick of the Chicago History Museum. The exhibition, “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America,” was originally created by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC in the wake of September 11. The idea behind it was to exSubscribe to ITPL - ERIplore the way the United States has handled the challenges posed by internal threats — terrorists, spies, saboteurs, hate groups, etc — while at the same time protecting civil liberties. Some of the many incidents it explores includes: the Oklahoma City bombing, the Palmer Raids, the Weather Underground, the Haymarket bombing, Japanese Internment, the KKK, German sabotage efforts during World War I, Soviet spying and McCarthyism, and the militia movement. It’s an exhibition well worth seeing. Here’s a link with more info. I also took a lot of photographs, so if you’d like to see what the exhibition looks like, just scroll down a bit.

IMG_2083After I toured the exhibition, I sat down with John Russick, Vice President of Interpretation and Education at the Chicago History Museum, to talk about why the museum decided to host “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs” and why the issues it raises are so very important to our democracy. It’s a really interesting conversation about history and how it should inform the present. Among the many things we discuss:

Why Americans are really good at forgetting the past (and why it’s the job of public history institutions to help them remember).

How so many issues that we wrestle with in contemporary American society — immigration, terrorism, radical movements, violations of civil liberties, debates over security vs. liberty — are not new.

How the desire for security in America during tumultuous times has always been in tension with our civil liberties, especially free speech and free thought.

How America has always struggled to define itself and its citizens — What rights are essential? Which ones are the most important? Who should enjoy them? “The work of being a free and fair society,” says Russick, “is never done.”

Why “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs,” which was created 13 years ago, is still very relevant in 2017.

Photos of the exhibition: scroll down

Information on the exhibition: here

Further Reading:

“Exhibit on U.S. spies and traitors hopes to speak to present day,” Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2017.

Description of the exhibition from the International Spy Museum – link

Credits:

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “Escape the Profane” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Discovery” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Photos of the exhibition:

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ITPL Ep 028 featured image

Episode 028 The Crises of the 1790s and the Making of US National Identity


In this episode, we dive into the tumultuous and critically important years of the 1790s, a time when the very fate of the new republic hung in the balance.

subscribe-buttonFirst, I’ll do a short set-up segment on the really perilous political scene in the United States in the 1790s. It’s a lively period when many of the key Founders like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson clashed bitterly over foreign and domestic policy, so much so that many people feared civil war was imminent.

Second, I’ll sit down with historian Carol Berkin to talk about her new book, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism. She focuses on four major crises that threatened the young nation: the Whiskey Rebellion, the Genet Affair, the XYZ Affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Historians have long discussed these controversies as crises that ultimately doomed the Federalist Party. But the real story of the crises of the 1790s, says Berkin, is the way that these four crises all contributed to the formation of American national identity. The US at this time was a new and fragile nation, made up of people who more often than not, identified with their states rather than their nation. So while these crises were divisive and controversial, they also led more and more Americans to see themselves as Americans, and to defend national institutions like the Presidency and the Constitution. My conversation with Carol is fun and deeply interesting and I think you’re going to love it.

Among the things Carol Berkin discusses:ITPL Ep 028 Berkin book cover
* How the crises of the 1790s helped forge U.S. national identity.
* How Americans in the fractious 1790s came to respect not just Washington, but the office of the president.
* How the Whiskey Rebellion threatened the legitimacy of the federal government and how George Washington used a combination of firmness and leniency to defuse it.
* How the Genet Affair threatened US sovereignty in the 1790s.
* How John Adams bungled the XYZ Affair but ultimately benefitted from the nationalist outrage it produced.
* Why the Alien and Sedition Acts were not very repressive in practice.
* How the Federalists deserve credit for guiding the fragile American republic through the tumultuous 1790s.
* How the brutal partisan media and fake news shaped the politics of the 1790s.
* What we in 2017 can learn from the fractious politics of the 1790s.

About Carol Berkin website

Further Reading

Carol Berkin, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism (Basic Books, 2017)

Ronald Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (2004)

Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2000)

Joseph J. Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 (2015)

William Hogeland, The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

The Womb, “I Hope It Hurts” (Free Music Archive)

Scott Holmes, “The Light Between Us” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017