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  • Originally published 03/27/2014

    Rand Paul Doesn't Stand a Chance

    Libertarianism may be on the rise, but it has no real chance of taking over the Republican Party, much less the nation.

  • Originally published 12/08/2013

    The GOP's Mandela Problem

    Rick Santorum compares apartheid to Obamacare, Rush Limbaugh complains about all of Mandela's media attention, and Dick Cheney is STILL defending his vote against sanctioning the apartheid government.

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Frank Rich: GOP Whitewash

    Frank Rich is Writer-at-Large for New York Magazine....In pursuit of higher office, the image-conscious [Rand] Paul took his own stab at outreach last month, giving a speech at Howard University. Facing a mostly young and African-American audience, he was determined to airbrush history—even very recent history of his own. He had “never wavered” in his “support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act,” he claimed, when in fact he had done exactly that in a Louisville Courier-Journal interview during his 2010 Senate campaign. Back then he’d argued that while it was “abhorrent” of Woolworth’s to refuse to serve Martin Luther King Jr. at its lunch counter, a private business still should retain the freedom to do what it wants. He espoused similar views in a contemporaneous prime-time appearance with Rachel Maddow, who replayed her interview with Paul the night of his Howard address.

  • Originally published 05/12/2013

    Republicans Should Like Ike

    Official White House portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower.As Republican leaders continue to try to redefine their party identity they would do well to review the legacy of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, arguably, the most successful president since World War II. As president he faced crises and challenges both foreign and domestic, different from those of today but equal in magnitude, as well as the need to maintain national leadership.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    Heather Cox Richardson: How Republicans Once Championed the Federal Income Tax

    Heather Cox Richardson is a professor of history at Boston College and the president of the Historical Society. The opinions expressed are her ownThe government has the right to “demand” 99 percent of a man’s property when the nation needs it.That was the argument made by a Republican congressman in 1862 to introduce a novel idea: the federal income tax.The Civil War was then costing the Treasury $2 million a day. To pay for uniforms, guns, food, mules, wagons, bounties and burials, Congress had issued hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds and paper money. But Republicans had a horror of debt and the runaway inflation that paper currency usually caused.Taxes were the obvious answer. A conservative Republican newspaper declared: “There is not the slightest objection raised in any loyal quarter to as much taxation as may be necessary.”...

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Robert W. Merry: The GOP Can Survive Its Iraq Wounds

    Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His most recent book is Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians.A passel of punditry has emerged recently questioning whether the Republican Party will soon recover from the foreign-policy incompetence of the George W. Bush presidency. Some pundits foresee a long period of eclipse before the party will recapture the full confidence of the American people, so seared have they been by the U.S. fiasco in Iraq and the ongoing muddle in Afghanistan. Thus, in this view, the GOP’s fate is set—a long winter of minority-party status.

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Chris Beneke and Randall Stephens: Why Republicans and Academics Need Each Other

    Chris Beneke is an associate professor of history at Bentley University, and Randall Stephens is a reader in history at Northumbria University, in England.After its bruising defeat in the 2012 presidential contest, the Republican Party finds itself at a crossroads. The Grand Old Party's support has eroded precipitously among white women, Latinos, and nearly all voters younger than Clint Eastwood.But the demographic shift isn't the party's only problem. Embarrassed by election-forecasting blunders and awkward clashes with basic science, the Republican Party has solidified its standing—to quote the chairman of the Republican Governors Association—as "the stupid party." When the former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum proclaimed that "we will never have the elite, smart people on our side," he expressed a widespread sentiment.A lot of the "smart people" to whom Santorum was referring, however, belong to institutions suffering from their own demographic troubles and reputations for intellectual narrowness. We mean, of course, America's colleges. A winter of discontent has also settled upon their green quadrangles as the realization dawns that the number of affluent families with high-school-age children is shrinking and that net tuition may be peaking....

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    James T. Kloppenberg: The 2012 Election And The Future of The Parties

    James T. Kloppenberg is the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University. He has a Ph.D. in History and Humanities from Stanford and has held fellowships from the Danforth, Whiting, and Guggenheim foundations, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His 2010 book Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition explores Obama’s political philosophy and commitment to democratic deliberation.The election of 2012 is behind us. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have completed their last campaigns and given their final victory and concession speeches.It is time to reflect on the persistent themes that characterized the campaign and locate the election in relation to the parties’ trajectories in recent years. Identifying those themes might explain, better than pundits’ fascination with demography or with politics as a game of imagery and maneuver, the reasons why the president was reelected by a larger margin than many analysts predicted.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Republicans critical of Obama national monuments bill amid sequester cuts

    Congressional Republicans have condemned Barack Obama for designating five new national monuments at a time when sequester funding cuts are hitting existing national parks and landmarks.Doc Hastings, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement on Monday criticising the president for spending at a time when the sequester has forced the cancellation of White House tours.Obama signed proclamations on Monday establishing the five new monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act."These sites honour the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country," Obama said. "By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come."...

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Steven Conn: The Fetish of States' Rights

    Steven Conn, editor of To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government (Oxford University Press USA/2012), is professor and director of Public History at Ohio State University. Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in 1980 with a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It's worth remembering, especially in light of several recent events, why that was so important.Philadelphia was a small sleepy town like dozens of others in the South, brutally segregated according to Mississippi law and customs, just like dozens of others. It became nationally famous -- and symbolic -- when three civil rights workers doing advance work for Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 were murdered by some of the local white supremacists. They instantly became martyrs to a heroic cause.Sixteen years later, candidate Reagan didn't mention James Cheney, Andrew Goodman or Michael Schwerner in his speech. Instead, Reagan announced: "I believe in states' rights," and he promised the all-white Mississippi crowd that he would "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them."

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Slavery, Holocaust never OK as political fodder, but Cuccinelli’s history on faith was right

    RICHMOND, Va. — Ken Cuccinelli learned last week that it’s foolhardy to invoke slavery to make a political point.The presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee set off a furor when Democratic Party video surfaced of him comparing the 19th century abolition struggle that triggered the nation’s deadliest war with today’s anti-abortion movement.In remarks made in June 2012 to a Family Foundation gathering of Christian conservatives in Williamsburg, Cuccinelli connected the dots between the role of churches in the early 19th century played in fomenting the movement to contain and eradicate slavery to that of evangelicals in today’s moral crusade against abortion....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Michael Bowen: GOP "Autopsy" Reads Like It Was Written By Thomas Dewey

    Michael Bowen is the author of The Roots of Modern Conservatism.The Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election, the work of the Growth and Opportunity Project, has received a great deal of criticism from conservatives since its release on Monday. Their general take seems to be that, as Brent Bozell put it, establishment Republicans are trying to “out-Democrat” the Democrats.While it remains to be seen how much buy-in the report will receive from the Right, it is worth noting that the proposed solutions parallel those offered by establishment Republicans immediately after World War II. Since the GOP had been in power when the economy collapsed in 1929, many voters equated it with the poverty and suffering of the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt did nothing to disabuse the public of this notion while he built the Democratic party into a liberal juggernaut.

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    Nicole Hemmer: Guarding the Right's Flank

    Nicole Hemmer, a research associate at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, also teaches history at the University of Miami.To understand what is wrong with today's political right, look no further than the American Conservative Union. The ACU made headlines last month when it snubbed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. A source told National Review that Christie hadn't been invited to the ACU's annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which begins Thursday, because of his "limited future" in the Republican Party.To put that in perspective: The ACU found ample room at CPAC for Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    Can American Conservatism Be Salvaged?

    Credit: DonkeyHotey.The greatest threat to the United States today is the Republican Party. The once-magnificent organization of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower has degenerated into a coalition of religious fanatics, gun lunatics, shills for the rich, and libertarian simpletons who hover at the brink of anarchism and would probably like nothing better than to see the United States unable to play the role of a superpower any longer.

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    A Modest Proposal to House Republicans: Cut the Nuclear Weapons Budget

    Nuclear explosion from Operation Dominic -- Shot Questa on May 4, 1962. Credit: U.S. Government.Dear House Republicans:In the heated debates over the federal deficit, you have said repeatedly that you want to cut it without raising taxes and, therefore, that you must reduce government spending.If that is the case, I have a suggestion for you: Why not start by cutting the nuclear weapons budget?

  • Originally published 03/04/2013

    Senator Cruz, You're No James Madison

    Ted Cruz speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. Credit: Gage Skidmore.More than twenty years ago, by way of linking his work to the ideas of James Madison, Ted Cruz titled his senior thesis at Princeton “Clipping the Wings of Angels,” derived from a famous quote in Madison’s Federalist No. 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

  • Originally published 02/24/2013

    GOP Leaders are Playing Chicken with the American Economy

    The illustrious House leadership of the Republican Party. Credit: Flickr/DonkeyHotey.In recent months the U.S. economy has been gaining strength. “Weekly Jobless Claims Plunge to 5-Year Low,” announced The Huffington Post. “Home Prices Hit a Milestone,” reported The Wall Street Journal. “Consumer Sentiment Rises,” announced the New York Times.Now that progress is endangered. Republicans have been acting like it’s a great time to drive the economy into a storm.

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    Ishmael Reed: Neo-Classical Republicanism

    Ishmael Reed is a visiting scholar at the California College of the Arts and the author, most recently, of the novel “Juice!” and the essay collection “Going Too Far.”DURING Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama declared that “Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.”Tell that to black Americans, who were hit harder than the rest of the country by the recession and are having a harder time recovering. That struggle is not a coincidence, or merely a result of past inequality. During the housing bubble, blacks were deliberately targeted for subprime loans: as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, the big banks committed “systematic discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.”

  • Originally published 02/11/2013

    Where Have All the Real Conservatives Gone?

    Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley in 1954. Credit: Wiki Commons/UCLA Library/LA Daily News.Recent Republican and conservative convocations have displayed one common thing. Those who pass for thinkers and leaders of these intertwined movements think they can keep doing the same things but achieve better results. With the notable except of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, most Republicans, after sifting through the debris of November 6, think they need new spokespeople and better packaging.The only thing standing between Republicans and the great Reagan landslides of 1980 and 1984 is them. This is a sad commentary on once noble movements. Republican and conservative “leaders” think twenty-first-century Americans are waiting to embrace tenth-century stands on social issues and science, and blustery vague pronouncements on government spending. Does any rational person think today’s Republicans and conservatives bear the slightest resemblance to those who rallied around Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan? Those two icons would not have finished in the top ten in the 2012 Iowa caucus or South Carolina primary.

  • Originally published 01/17/2013

    NRA and the GOP: Together in history

    President Obama’s Wednesday pitch for sweeping new gun control laws included a nod to a conservative icon: Ronald Reagan.The mention of the former president’s support for gun control was a reminder that the relationship between the National Rifle Association and the GOP hasn’t always been a cozy one.In presenting his new gun control proposals, Obama said that not only do most Americans agree with his call to ban assault weapons, but that Reagan also supported the idea.“Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment…wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to ‘listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of [military-style assault] weapons,’” Obama said....

  • Originally published 01/14/2013

    Reclaiming Compassionate Conservatism

    Toynbee Hall, a self-sustaining London community spearheaded by the Salvation Army, in 1902. Credit: Wiki Commons.Defeat, like death, concentrates the mind wonderfully. It also liberates the mind. People venture to think the unthinkable, or at least, the impermissible. A new generation of conservatives may be moved to reconsider some ideas that have fallen into disuse or even disrepute. Compassion is one such idea. 

  • Originally published 09/24/2014

    Let Our Seniors Go

    Our prisons bulge with too many old people, mostly black, put there with too long prison terms, for violent crimes like murder and rape.

  • Originally published 08/31/2014

    Democrats are part of the problem in Ferguson, too

    The halls of an adjourned Congress are ringing with passionate calls to address the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., which resulted from the lethal shooting of an unarmed black teen by police. The response of militarized law enforcement who view protesters as "the enemy" and the city as a war zone has become a particular focus. But, even if the cries are sincere, every congressional word or movement until November will reflect election maneuvering.Democrats quickly staked a claim to the moral high ground. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) are prominent members of both the House Judiciary Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus. Along with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), they initiated a call for a congressional hearing on the use of excessive force by American law enforcement. The Republicans will almost certainly cooperate, if only because it would be impolitic not to do so. Moreover, the hearing would be post-election and not necessarily lead to a change in law or policy.

  • Originally published 08/15/2014

    Beware of Kafkatrapping

    The term "kafkatrapping" describes a logical fallacy that is popular within gender feminism, racial politics and other ideologies of victimhood. It occurs when you are accused of a thought crime such as sexism, racism or homophobia. You respond with an honest denial, which is then used as further confirmation of your guilt. You are now trapped in a circular and unfalsifiable argument; no one who is accused can be innocent because the structure of kafkatrapping precludes that possibility.The term derives from Franz Kafka's novel The Trial in which a nondescript bank clerk named Josef K. is arrested; no charges are ever revealed to the character or to the reader. Josef is prosecuted by a bizarre and tyrannical court of unknown authority and he is doomed by impenetrable red tape. In the end, Josef is abducted by two strange men and inexplicably executed by being stabbed through the heart. The Trial is Kafka's comment on totalitarian governments, like the Soviet Union, in which justice is twisted into a bitter, horrifying parody of itself and serves only those in charge

  • Originally published 08/01/2014

    The Lesson Tolstoy Teaches About Writing History that We Should Remember on the Anniversary of World War I

    An age-old debate in history is whether individuals make history, or whether individuals are swept along by great forces that they can only hope to ride skillfully, not control completely. Tolstoy gave expression to the latter idea in War and Peace: The further back we transport ourselves in examining events, the less arbitrary they appear to us…. The further back in history we transport the object of our observation, the more questionable becomes the freedom of the men producing events, and the more obvious the law of necessity.  While the wide, long-term perspective employed by Tolstoy in this passage is familiar to historians, two articles in the popular press prompted by the anniversary of the beginning of World War I show the great appeal of focusing on the individual. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan details the toll taken by the war on the leaders of major states: Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, England’s King George V, Russia’s Czar Nicholas II. In the Washington Post, Graham Allison examines how two of those three leaders (“Nicky and Willy”) tried to prevent the war. 

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