Following the 2018 Election, pt. 2 – Why Elections Matter

by Betty O’Shaughnessy and Dick Simpson, authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century

Let’s begin with a review of the results of the 2016 general election. About 139 million Americans, or 60.2 percent of the voting-eligible population voted, according to the U.S. Elections Project. That compares with 58.6 percent of eligible voters who turned out in 2012, but it’s below the 62.2 percent who turned out to help elect Obama for the first time in 2008.  Approximately 63 million voted for Donald Trump; 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton, winning her the popular vote, although she lost in the Electoral College and Trump became President.  She lost several key rust-belt, battle-ground states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

In Winning Elections in the 21st Century, we wrote that to have a chance at winning, campaigns needed to develop a strong campaign theme and message; raise sufficient funds; identify their voters, and get them to the polls.  How successful were the major candidates in carrying out these activities in the November 2016 election?

Results were mixed. As for messaging, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Bernie Sanders’ “Political Revolution is Coming” slogans were more appealing to certain voters than Clinton’s vaguer “Hillary for America.” When it came to funding, Hillary outspent Trump by almost twice as much, $1,191M to $646.8M; but like Obama, Trump collected more money from small donations (less than $200) than did his opponent. As to finding supporters, Trump managed to reach his voters better than Clinton reached hers (as did Bernie Sanders). The most important aspect of the election was turnout. As described below, turnout from expected Clinton support groups were lower than Trump’s.

Breaking it down by voting groups, Trump won the white vote (57% t0 37% for Clinton), but won college-educated whites voters only by 48% to 45%. Many people felt disenfranchised by the Clinton campaign; and the anger of white Bernie Sanders voters showed up in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, states whose Democrats had supported Sanders in the primaries but voted for Trump in the general elections. The majority of all minority groups voted for Clinton. While African-American turnout was lower than 2012, still 88% voted for Clinton.  Hispanic voting was up, but lower than other groups. It was not as heavily pro-Hillary as expected; while 65% voted for Clinton, while 71% had voted for Obama in 2012. More Hispanics voted for Trump than had for Mitt Romney four years earlier.

While 54% of all women voters chose Clinton, and women in all minority categories voted for Clinton, this did not hold true for white women, 54% of whom voted for Trump. The large turnout of women voters for Clinton upon which her campaign was counting did not happen. Clinton’s 12-point margin over Trump among women was only one percentage point higher than Obama claimed  in 2012.

Getting People Involved

Lately activists are emerging particularly from two groups: women and millennials. Beginning with women: while men vote for women candidates as often as they vote for men, and while women have long been activists, as a group they have been reluctant to run for office — currently making up only 20 percent of elected officials in the U.S.  Women tend to enter electoral politics at lower levels such as school boards, and once in office, are less likely to climb the political ladder for higher office. The gender gap increases with the level of elected office.  Men are 16% more likely to be recruited by political actors, or even encouraged to run by family and friends. Finally, women often see the qualities desired for candidates, such as ambitious or risk-taking, as not very feminine, and few see their spouses taking over household responsibilities if they were to run. Happily, as of the middle of February, 390 women are planning to run for the House of Representatives, as compared to 272 women who filed to run before state deadlines in 2016.

Getting more women to run is important on several levels. Men and women have different backgrounds and outlooks, meaning that equal representation will expand the character and content of legislative debate. Moreover, women’s presence in legislatures changes what issues get on the political agenda. Since studies have shown that most Republican women will vote with Democratic women on issues such as health care and education, having a critical mass of women in legislatures could change the legislative agenda to one that is more family-oriented and nurturing. Finally, with women voting together across the aisles, more women in office could encourage a thaw in the current political impasse between parties.

Millennial voters reflected the demographics of the general youth population.  According to Tuft University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Education and Learning (CIRCLE), millennials had a voter turnout of almost 50% in November 2016, although in eleven battleground states their turnout was closer to 55%.  As a group, more millennials consider themselves independents than the rest of the voting population, although they tend to vote more as progressives than as conservatives, with the exception of non-college educated white males: Clinton carried all millennials 55% to 37% percent,  but 52% of white millennial males voted for Trump.

It is important to make sure that this generation is included in the political process, but that does not always happen with the major party organizations. Many millennials felt ignored or bypassed by regular party activists during the November 2016 campaign.

Today we have a polarized country and voters are more reluctant to become involved in what they think is the dirty business of politics.

To change the direction of the country, the 2018 elections will have to get more people to participate than they did in the 2014 nonpresidential election when the vast majority of us stayed home.

Dick Simpson is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the co-editor with Dennis Judd of The City, Revisited: Urban Theory from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York.

Betty O’Shaughnessy is a visiting lecturer in political science, University of Illinois at Chicago and coauthor of The Struggle for Power and Influence in Cities and States.


Max McCoy (Elevations; A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River) Q & A

The upper Arkansas River courses through the heart of America from its headwaters near the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado, to Arkansas City, just above the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Max McCoy embarked on a trip of 742 miles in search of the rivers unique story. Part adventure and part reflection, steeped in the natural and cultural history of the Arkansas Valley, Elevations is McCoy’s account of that journey. The book will be released later this month.

When did you first have the idea to write Elevations?

Some years ago, my friend W.C. Jameson and I floated the Mulberry River in Arkansas. He suggested that someday we should undertake an adventure: kayaking the length of the Arkansas River—or at least the two-thirds that has water. Although we never got a chance, the idea stuck with me, and evolved. For a time, I was on the faculty of a writing workshop at Gunnison, Colorado, and the drive there from my home in eastern Kansas follows the river for several hundred miles—along Highway 50—from about Hutchinson to Salida. I would often stop at points along the river and think about all of the history at the water’s edge and ponder how the river had changed, and whenever I saw anybody in the river—a kayak, a canoe, a raft, just dipping their feet—that’s where I wanted to be, too.

Later, I took a job at Emporia State, where I’m a professor now, and when the time came that I could submit an application for a sabbatical, I proposed the river project. I was granted a one- semester sabbatical in Fall 2013 to start the project, and it took another three years of episodic trips to complete the research. There was too much material to put the entire length of the river in one book, so I stopped at the Oklahoma Line—742 miles from the headwaters along the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado. The project had also evolved into more of a personal narrative, rather than just history and nature and culture, and that’s why it’s called a “personal exploration” in the subtitle. It sounds glib, but I set out to find a river and ended up finding myself.

Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the publication? How much time did you spend on the river.

I followed the Hemingway method, I wrote until I bled. Anybody who says that writing is easy must be lying, because I’ve found that any writing worth putting your name to is just the opposite. And, there’s no guarantee that you’ll produce anything to equal Hemingway—or, in this case, Strayed or Krakauer or McPhee. You just bleed and stick to your research and do your damned best to be honest with yourself and the reader. And then, just sometimes, certainly not often enough, you come up with something you’re okay with putting your name to. I’m still too close to the writing of Elevations to know whether it’s any good. That’s for others to decide now.

I came off the river the weekend before the General Election in November 2016, and then wrote steadily for the next few months. This was difficult because I was also working full time, so my days would be spent teaching journalism, and my nights spent writing. I got in the habit of writing late into the night during my days on daily newspapers, and not being a morning person, I’ve never been able to shake it. I already had perhaps 40,000 words written, but I ended up dropping some of that because of the structure that evolved for the book in the last six months or so of research. I finished the first draft at 3:12 p.m. Sunday, February 18, 2017 (I have a habit of recording these things). The draft was 120,000 words, which was somewhat longer than expected. Revisions, following peer review, also added another few thousand words.

Just thinking about the amount of time I spent on the river, or near it, is a bit surprising to me now. It was dozens of trips, each of which ranged in length from a few days to a couple of weeks. As I’ve said, it was episodic in nature, but I was on the water or near it in every season. The hardest for me was winter, and I spent Christmas Day in 2015 along the river, in the mountains, and just a few miles from the spot where the explorer Zebulon Pike had spent a near-disastrous holiday a couple of hundred years before. I had good equipment, and expert advice, but spending a cold 14-hour night in a tent, alone with my thoughts, is not something I’d like to repeat.

What is one thing you were most surprised to learn while working on the book?

That the story was just as much about emotional distance as actual distance. I had this uncomfortable epiphany while spending Christmas Eve in the snow along the river in the mountains that I use work—researching and writing, lecturing and traveling—to create spaces between myself and those I love. Why? Because it’s easier to deal with emotions in the abstract than engage in the messy business of figuring out how you really feel about people and telling them.

The unsurprising and dismaying thing I learned though writing the book is that, as human beings, we tend to repeat the mistakes of the past: Racism, genocide, demonization of immigrants, public policy that grants access to natural resources to only the wealthiest among us, trashing the environment in favor of short-term profits, the ease at which our authority figures lie and violate the public trust—and the capacity of the American public to be deeply in denial about the way things really are.

Did your perspective of the relationship between the river and communities change at all?

Yes. There are so many places where human beings have wrecked the river, from the federal Superfund site at Leadville down to where the river vanishes in western Kansas, that I became pessimistic early on. Much of the worst of this is hidden from view – you have to get out of your car and actually walk the dry bed at Cimarron Crossing or elsewhere to know just how much we’ve lost. Many communities seem ashamed, and perhaps rightly so, of how they’ve treated the river; fences block the view and barricades prevent access, and just walking down to the river requires something that feels like trespassing. Other cities, however, make the river an integral part of the landscape. I’m thinking here of the whitewater park at Salida, or the Riverwalk at Pueblo.

The one place where we humans actually left things better than we found them was at Camp Amache near Granada, Colorado. Amache was a concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, and the internees cared for the land without exploiting it. Imagine being illegally detained for the duration of the war, having your homes and businesses taken from you, and yet still feeling responsible for the land on which you’ve been imprisoned.

What surprised you the most along your journey?

How generous people were with their time and their expertise. Many people just immediately got what I was trying to do, but even those that didn’t were helpful and often kind. Sometimes I’d just approach a stranger and start asking questions, and they would open up. This happened, for example, at Pueblo, where a maintenance worker named Raymond who was watering the lawn dropped everything to give me a tour of Union Depot, including a glimpse inside the clock tower, with the city and the river stretching out below. Another example is Vince Marshall, a member of the Arkansas River Coalition at Wichita, who paddled many sections of the river with me, including my favorite part of the river in Kansas, below Great Bend. And, the whitewater guides I had in Colorado worked hard to keep me out of trouble. Both Brandon Slate and Reid Jackson saved my bacon more than a few times. And, they did it with grace and good humor.

Water levels in the west are at a critical low point. What do you see as the biggest challenge to the people living along the Arkansas River?

You’ve said it – water. Irrigation, compounded by public policy, threatens to make much of what was river in western Kansas into a desert. You would think we’d have learned the lesson about the importance of sustainable agriculture during the Dust Bowl, but apparently we did not. After World War II, advances in technology made it possible for us to pump water that had previously been too deep to reach. Agriculture boomed, and even better irrigation technology followed. For the middle decades of the Twentieth Century, it was thought this new source of water was inexhaustible. But, as we know now, that’s just not true – some areas of the High Plains aquifer, particularly in western Kansas, are dangerously low. The Kansas Geological Survey has excellent data on this, going back to the 1960s. We’re pumping the aquifer dry. There have been some coordinated attempts to reduce irrigation, with some success, but this is a case of delaying the inevitable. At the present rate of irrigation, agriculture in western Kansas is unsustainable. And the end game here is not far in the future… we’re talking decades.

A related topic is the fate of the Arkansas River in western Kansas. Most communities between Great Bend and Garden City haven’t seen regular water in the river bed since the late 1970s. This is the result of a series of issues, including irrigation, changing topography, the long-litigated water compact between Kansas and Colorado, the right of “first use,” and snowmelt patterns in the Rockies that have been disrupted by climate change. Even if we stopped all irrigation now, it would take a long time for the river to come back. So long, in fact, that most studies say none of us alive now would be around to see it – and perhaps not even our children, or their children.

From the very beginning, the river has been divvied up for profit. The gold miners blasted it apart at Leadville, it was diverted to make steel at Pueblo, it was pumped to grow crops in western Kansas, and for decades it was used as a dump for toxic chemicals in Wichita. We must instead recognize that the river belongs to all Kansans and Coloradans, that access to it is our birthright, and that we must treat it as the unique and irreplaceable resource that it is. If we don’t, we’re sure to lose it.

What was the most exciting portion of traveling the Arkansas River?

Browns Canyon. I flipped my kayak at a rapid called Zoom Flume and paid the price. It was the only time on the river that I was truly shaken. I’m not a great paddler, but I’m usually comfortable in the water, but that was one place where I thought there was a good chance I’d actually be hurt, or worse. The river swept me into a rather large rock, and I had bruises for weeks. It was my fault, of course, because after all, I was paddling my own boat—and my guide, Reid, had shown me how to run the rapid. I just screwed up and it’s a good thing he was there to help after. You could say I got the hubris beaten out of me.

If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

The next governor of Kansas. The river and the communities along it are snapshots of the problems the state faces today. To name a few examples: the Somali population at Garden City, the target of a bomb plot in November 2016 , should make us think about how we deal with immigration, refugees, and racism; the dry bed at Cimarron, representing the long stretch of the river in western Kansas where irrigation and public policy have pumped things dry and left the river dying, if not already dead; and the fact that the Arkansas is only one of three rivers in Kansas it is legal to paddle unless you get permission from all the landowners along the banks. Kansas has less public land, in terms of percentages, than any other state. Yet, we have this fantastic corridor that is designated as public, but in many areas is treated as a trash dump or a place to race your ATVs. For the areas that have water, access is a problem. More often than not, I found myself accessing the river in Kansas by dragging my kayak up or down many a filthy embankment beneath highway bridges. The best places to launch in Kansas, in my opinion, are in south Wichita and from the city park at Oxford.

What are you reading now?

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I’ve read this several times before, but I return to it when I need encouragement. Frankl was a psychiatrist who was sent to Auschwitz and lost his parents, brother, and pregnant wife to the death camps. Yet, he managed to survive. His book is a memoir of his time in the camps, and explains his philosophy –that while we cannot escape suffering, we can choose our response to it, and that the key to life is not pleasure, but purpose.

Max McCoy is professor of journalism and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University. He has written a mystery series and works of historical fiction, three of which have won Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America.

On Naming and Remembering

by Daniel Cobb, author of Native Activism in Cold War America; The Struggle for Sovereignty

“Say Their Names” has become one of the most potent aspects of the ongoing struggles against racism, state violence, and sexual abuse in the United States and the world over. It has been deployed in opposition to police killings of African Americans, the violation of international human rights, and, most visibly of late, sexual predation.

“Say Their Names” is vitally important because it refuses erasure. By acknowledging the persistent presence of people who might otherwise be rendered invisible, it empowers the targets of disempowerment.

And as #MeToo continues to demonstrate naming emboldens others to shatter a pernicious silence that can only be sustained as long as people subjected to violence and abuse feel isolated, humiliated, guilty, and ashamed. We might hear in #MeToo, then, the words “Say My Name,” which encourage others to break their silence by conveying messages such as “It’s Not Your Fault” and “You Are Not Alone.”

In this way, naming demands that we not only recognize but also remember and, as a consequence of both, take responsibility.

As an historian, this strikes a resonant chord because the work of people in my field is really about memory, about remembering. Our scholarship plays a role in conveying to others a sense of whose lives matter, what events should be considered significant, and why. With this comes the responsibility that inheres in having made decisions about what stories to tell, how to tell them, and why they matter.

I grappled with these questions in writing my first book, Native Activism in Cold War America: The Struggle for Sovereignty, which I published with the University Press of Kansas in 2008.  The book focuses on the period between the late-1950s and late 1960s, and I defined it this way because I wanted to recover stories of American Indian activism during an era that had been overshadowed by the founding of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968, the occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, the Trail of Broken Treaties and Bureau of Indian Affairs takeover in 1972, the confrontation at Wounded Knee in 1973, and the Longest Walk in 1978.

The popular and scholarly fixation on these later events contributed to AIM and Alcatraz being defined as the “beginning” of American Indian activism and to the perception that the 1970s were the 1960s in Native America. During an interview I conducted with him in October 2001, Standing Rock Sioux scholar Vine Deloria, Jr., put it this way:  “What you’re talking about really is moving everything that happened in the Seventies into the Sixties and pretending that it happened then.”

By concluding with the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, I chose to end where most histories of twentieth-century Indian activism begin. It did so to decenter (without diminishing the significance of) the more familiar stories mentioned above. In so doing, I hoped that it might restore the presence of at least some people, places, and events that had been all but erased.

Reinterpreting this critical period in American Indian history did other memory work, as well. Native Activism intended to challenge conventional narratives about the Sixties in the context of United States and global history, which I consider incomplete if Indigenous experiences are designated as peripheral or marginal.

Indeed, I came to realize that the individuals, ideas, events, and issues in Indian Country were at once shaped by and gave shape to the other histories of which they were a part—from the struggle for black equality and the War on Poverty to the youth movement and decolonization. They were at once distinct and inseparable.

Since the publication of Native Activism, I have continued exploring this theme. In Say We Are Nations, a primary document collection, I illustrate how, from the late nineteenth century to the opening decades of the twenty-first century, American Indians, Kanaka Maoli, and citizens of First Nations have rhetorically and literally connected perennial concerns over treaty rights, land, and sovereignty to other domestic and international concerns, events, ideas, and movements—a strategy Vine Deloria, Jr., described to me as “talking the language of the larger world.”

I have come to see all of the individuals featured in both of these books as part of a much older, vastly more expansive, and ongoing Indigenous political and intellectual tradition of countering colonialism—of demanding not only recognition but also remembrance and, as a consequence of both, the taking of responsibility. By speaking to the persistence of individuals, communities, and nations that might otherwise be rendered invisible, they empower the targets of disempowerment. If settler colonialism, to paraphrase anthropologist Patrick Wolfe, seeks to destroy to replace, these voices refuse such erasure.

Given that we are now moving into the final years of a decade marking their fiftieth anniversary (and because of the profound sense of déjà vu inspired by our present moment), there could be no better time to remember the 1960s. There could be no better time to say the names of people whose lives defined the Sixties and to reflect on what meanings they hold not only in the context of their time but in the context of our own.

For my part, I’d like to share the names of some of people that I wrote about in Native Activism in Cold War America, knowing only too well how many more could be included and deserve recognition.

And so to D’Arcy McNickle, Helen Peterson, Clarence Wesley, and Joe Garry

To Georgeann Robinson, Lacy Maynor, William Rickard, and Ed Dozier

To Bob Thomas, Mel Thom, Browning Pipestem, and Clyde Warrior

To Herb Blatchford, Sandy Osawa, Billy Frank, and Bruce Wilkie

To Angela Russell, Frank Dukepoo, Jeri Redcorn, and Fran Thom

To Gloria Emerson, Shirley Hill Witt, Dorothy Davids, and Della Warrior

To Francis McKinley, Phillip Martin, Forrest Gerard, and Helen Scheirbeck

To Vine Deloria, Walter Wetzel, Wendell Chino, and Jim Wilson

To Bob Satiacum, Roger Jourdain, Ronnie Lupe, and Cato Valandra

To Tillie Walker, Mattie Grinnell, Martha Grass, and Rose Crow Flies High

To Charlie Cambridge, Kathryn Redcorn, Gerald Brown, and Hank Adams

To Victor Charlo, LaDonna Harris, Iola Hayden, and Phyllis Howard

To Esther Ross, Patty Baker, Al Bridges, and Sam English

To Janet McCloud, Andrew Dreadfulwater, Bob Dumont, and Jack Forbes

To the few I have named and the many I have not

To those gone and with us still

As we remember the fiftieth anniversary of the 1960s

I remember you.

Daniel M. Cobb is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Fulbright Bicentennial Chair in North American Studies, University of Helsinki, 2017-2018

Mervyn Edwin Roberts (The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960-1968) Q & A

Mervyn Edwin Roberts’ first book, The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960–1968, for the first time fully explores the most sustained, intensive use of psychological operations (PSYOP) in American history. In PSYOP, US military personnel use a variety of tactics—mostly audio and visual messages—to influence individuals and groups to behave in ways that favor US objectives. Informed by the author’s firsthand experience of such operations elsewhere, this account of the battle for “hearts and minds” in Vietnam offers rare insight into the art and science of propaganda as a military tool in the twentieth century.


1. When did you first have the idea to write Psychological War for Vietnam?

After returning from my first tour in Afghanistan, I realized I needed to understand psychological operations better. I began working on an MA degree in history to help with that. I came across the fantastic Texas Tech Vietnam War online archive and found a treasure trove of PSYOP related documents. That discovery set me on the path to understand that war so I could apply the lessons. Since no overarching history of the use of psychological operations in the war existed, I saw a niche that needed to be filled. With my background in the arcane field of PSYOP, and an interest in objectively understanding the effects of those operations, I felt I could write it.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

My process is not one I would recommend to others due to the laborious nature. I find every document related to the topic, paste all pertinent extracts in chronological order, edit that down to a readable draft, them go back to analyze, as I continually polish the writing. The analysis emerges from the facts, rather than by starting with a thesis and then assembling the facts to fit. I have tried to follow the facts as they emerged, and can honestly say, The Psychological War for Vietnam reflects a very different view than the one I started with.

This book consumed the better part of ten years, starting with my MA thesis and later dissertation, as well as extensive research and re-analysis afterwards. It required travel to numerous archives: U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle, PA, the US Army Special Operations Command Archives, the Nixon and LBJ libraries, and Texas Tech, among others. I also combed the internet for every digital archive with documents related to the use of propaganda in the Vietnam War. Writing the book also required learning to use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software, and then converting data from obsolete formats to map the war and provide new insights for analysis. I also had to review hundreds of pages of Foreign Broadcast Information Service transcripts. After compiling this raw data into a coherent chronological sequence, the writing and analysis began.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

A couple of PSYOP-related books covering short periods of the war had been written, but no overarching framework for understanding the effects. Without a solid base narrative, incorporating the varied sources into an effective timeline and story to even begin the analysis was a challenge for me. PSYOP can take years to produce an effect, which requires a long view. So, in effect, I had to write the history before I could effectively analyze the information at hand. Doing this while in the midst of deployments added to the challenge.

4. The Psychological War for Vietnam is the first book to fully explore the intensive use of psychological operations in the Vietnam War. Why do you think the study of it took so long?

This was a daunting process, as described above. Additionally, the necessary information and technology, such as the GIS data, recently declassified documents and the Combined Document Exploitation Center files, has only recently become available. To write a history of the propaganda war, also required a person knowledgeable in the field yet with an unbiased interest in understanding the outcomes. I actually was not concerned with a specific outcome. I just wanted to understand what happened. Some might view The Psychological War for Vietnam as a ‘revisionist’ history due to some of the conclusions drawn. I would argue, however, the history of the war is only now being written.

5. How do you think public opinion about the Vietnam War and battle methods used has evolved since 1968?

The contentious nature of the Vietnam War has unfortunately caused many scholars to hold positions rather than follow the facts. This has harmed the ability to honestly inform the public. I believe that as a result, the ‘Hollywood’ view of the war has prevailed for the general public and opinion is often based on clichés and misunderstandings about the war and about PSYOP. I believe that has begun to change with more recent histories.

6. What is the major change to Psychological Warfare since the Vietnam War?

Technological improvements since the war have been immense. Along with that, research into communication theory has advanced considerably since 1968. However, because no history of the psychological war in Vietnam was written in the aftermath, operational lessons were not captured. As a result, those experiences were often painfully repeated in later wars. Despite doctrinal improvements, based communications theory research and on recent operations, many of the lessons of the Vietnam War were not heeded. I hope that this book will provide a useful first step in correcting this.

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

Due to the nature of this book, I believe there are actually two groups who will benefit from reading The Psychological War for Vietnam. The general populace interested in understanding the Vietnam War will benefit from an overarching history of the war up to the Tet Offensive and an understanding, from an academic standpoint, of a facet of the war that much misunderstood. Those people involved with psychological operations will benefit from the lessons to be learned.

8. What are you reading now?

To recharge after finishing The Psychological War for Vietnam, I have pivoted to my other area of historical interest, the Persian world since 1500. Two tours in Afghanistan gave me a fascination with understanding the region. I just finished reading Homa Katouzian’s very good history-The Persians, and re-read Oliver Roy’s The New Central Asia.

This summer I intend to shift back to Vietnam to start on part two of the history of the psychological war, covering the period from the Tet Offensive to the fall of Saigon. Much of the research for that is complete.

Mervyn Edwin Roberts III is a professor of history at Central Texas College and a reserve instructor at the Joint Special Operations University at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

From the Backlist: Inside the Pentagon Papers

President Trump’s incessant threats to limit freedom of the press and the timely release of the Steven Spielberg-directed movie starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (The Post) has shown a bright light on the past legal battles between the press and the president. In 2004, UPK published Inside the Pentagon Papers which addressed legal and moral issues that resonate today as debates continue over government secrecy and democracy’s requisite demand for truthfully informed citizens. In the process, the book also illustrated how a closer study of this signal event can illuminate questions of government responsibility in any era.

When Daniel Ellsberg leaked a secret government study about the Vietnam War to the press in 1971, he set off a chain of events that culminated in one of the most important First Amendment decisions in American legal history. That affair is now part of history, but the story behind the case has much to tell us about government secrecy and the public’s right to know.

Commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, “the Pentagon Papers” were assembled by a team of analysts who investigated every aspect of the war. Ellsberg, a member of the team, was horrified by the government’s public lies about the war-discrepancies with reality that were revealed by the report’s secret findings. His leak of the report to the New York Times and Washington Post triggered the Nixon administration’s heavy-handed attempt to halt publication of their stories, which in turn led to the Supreme Court’s ruling that Nixon’s actions violated the Constitution’s free speech guarantees.

Inside the Pentagon Papers reexamines what happened, why it mattered, and why it still has relevance today. Focusing on the “back story” of the Pentagon Papers and the resulting court cases, it draws upon a wealth of oral history and previously classified documents to show the consequences of leak and litigation both for the Vietnam War and for American history.

“ A wonderful and significant story. . . . The issues raised by the Pentagon Papers—presidential power, the role of the courts and the press, government secrecy—are all still with us,” Anthony Lewis wrote. “And this book throws fresh and important light on those issues.”

Included for the first time are transcripts of previously secret White House telephone tapes revealing the Nixon administration’s repressive strategies, as well as the government’s formal charges against the newspapers presented by Solicitor General Erwin Griswold to the Supreme Court. Coeditor John Prados’s point-by-point analysis of these charges demonstrates just how weak the government’s case was-and how they reflected Nixon’s paranoia more than legitimate national security issues.

Following the 2018 Election – A Preview

by Betty O’Shaughnessy and Dick Simpson, authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century.

Two major events of January 20 set the stage for the 2018 election: the massive second Women’s March represented a nationwide upwelling of grassroots activism; and the partial government shutdown affirmed a dysfunctional government in Washington. Both portend a showdown at the polls in 2018.

The 2018 party primary elections begin in March. As set forth in our University Press of Kansas book, Winning Elections in the 21st Century, the first key to the outcome of any election, including these primaries, is money. The 2018 election will be the most expensive off-year elections in American history. Already billionaire candidates for Illinois governor are on track to spend over $50 million each. All congressional candidates will have to raise more than $2 million to be competitive.

Although money is most important, what candidates do with it and how they campaign is also vital. Contenders must have a message that resonates with voters, and a well-organized campaign successfully using both traditional and tech-savvy methods to find and contact potential supporters in person and get them to the polls on Election Day.

U.S. Senate:

The election of a Democrat, Doug Jones from Alabama in a special election victory has already realigned the balance of power in the Senate. Republicans now hold a 51-49 majority; John McCain’s illness makes the margin even closer. With 26 Democratic senators up for re-election and only eight Republicans, the Democrats would have to retain all their seats and pick up Republican seats in Nevada and Arizona. It is unlikely that they can achieve that unless there is truly a massive “anti-Trump” groundswell.

U.S. House:

As with most midterm elections, pundits are predicting that the party out of power (this year the Democratic) is likely to gain seats in Congress. At present, House Republicans have a 241-194 majority in the House, which means that the Democrats need to gain 24 seats to retake the Speakership. Open seats are the easiest to capture, and as of late January, there are 14 Democratic House seats and 27 Republican seats in which the incumbent is not running (not including three vacant or soon-to-be-vacant Republican seats).

Races to Watch in March:

During March, only Texas and Illinois are holding primaries. Some key congressional races in both states will shed light on possible trends in the rest of the country in November.


A true “battleground” district in Texas is the 23rd. In 2016, Republican Will Hurd narrowly defeated Democrat Peter Gallego. At present, five democratic candidates are running in the primary. Of these, Jay Hulings and Gina Jones have the largest campaign chests and are considered strong candidates to defeat Hurd in November.

Although at present the 7th Texas Congressional District race is considered “likely Republican,” The Hill, Mother Jones, Politico and several news outlets consider this election as one of the top 10 House races to watch; Republican incumbent John Culberson was reelected in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried his district. The Hill identifies Alex Triantaphyllis and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher as the top Democratic contenders.

There are seven open House seats in Texas, five of which are “red.” Only the 21st District seems vulnerable to Democrats. Both parties are running a field of candidates here, with businessman and Army veteran Democrat Joe Kopser and former US Congressman Republican Francisco Canseco raising the most money.

Because Texas has been such a strong Republican state, the ability of viable Democratic candidates to win their primaries and knock out some Texas Republican Congressmen in the 2018 November general election will be a harbinger of whether or not the grassroots groundswell of support will change the balance of power in Washington.


Illinois is the opposite of Texas. Despite having a Republican governor who is up for reelection, it is a “blue” state. Several districts currently held by Republicans face strong challenges from Democrats and none of the currently Democratic seats seem likely to be lost.

The Illinois 6th District is marked by Politico as a “race to watch.” Democrats like to say that suburban DuPage County, long considered a stronghold of Republican politics, is turning “blue.” Despite changing public opinion in parts of his district, Republican Peter Roskam generally voted Trump’s position and could be facing a serious challenge. Among the many Democrats running in the primary, the top contenders, fund-wise, are Emily’s List-endorsed Kelly Mazeski and environmental scientist and businessman Sean Casten. If the Democrats elect a strong candidate in the primary, they may defeat Roskam in an upset.

Many observers believe Southern Illinois’ 12th District is the most likely to flip from “red” to “blue.”  St. Clair County State’s Attorney and Navy veteran Brendan Kelly is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Bost and has outraised him by $100,000 for the first quarter. Although President Trump won the district by 58% of the vote in 2016, Democrats see this race as winnable, as U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth won by 8% and Obama won this district twice.

Yet in the end, these critical races and the control of Congress depend on turnout. In off-year elections like 2018, turnout is generally only 25-30%, with Millennials voting even less. To defeat enough Republicans to regain Congress, the anti-Trump voters will have to turn out in much higher numbers. The primary elections will provide the first indication of whether that will happen.

Dick Simpson is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the co-editor with Dennis Judd of The City, Revisited: Urban Theory from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York.

Betty O’Shaughnessy is a visiting lecturer in political science, University of Illinois at Chicago and coauthor of The Struggle for Power and Influence in Cities and States.

Author Events Calendar

Upcoming events for UPK authors…

01/29/18 – C.J. Janovy celebrates Kansas Day by discussing No Place Like Home at the Lawrence Public Library. 7:00 pm More info…

01/29/18 – George Frazier (The Last Wild Places of Kansas) is the featured presenter at the Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies’ Annual Kansas Day Lecture. 2:00 PM More info…

01/30/18 – Mark Harvey (Celebrity Influence) presents “Politics of the Rich and Famous: The Influence of Celebrities on Politics” at Johnson County Community College. 7:00 pm More info…

02/08/18 – Charles Calhoun (The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant) discusses Grant’s endeavors in a variety of areas, including Reconstruction and civil rights, economic policy, the Peace Policy for Native Americans, foreign affairs, and civil service reform. 6:45 pm at The Smithsonian. More info…

02/10/18 – George Frazier (The Last Wild Places of Kansas) visits the Breidenthal Woods south of Lawrence, KS at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center. 1:00 pm More info…

02/19/18 – Robert Rebein (Headlights on the Prairie) visits the Lawrence Public Library to discuss his memoir about growing up in Dodge City, Kansas. 7:00 pm More info…

02/21/18 – Robert Rebein (Headlights on the Prairie) stops by the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library to discuss his memoir about growing up in Dodge City, Kansas. 6:30 pm More info…

02/22/18 – Robert Rebein (Headlights on the Prairie) is a featured speaker at the 2018 the Kansas Author Dinner in Wichita, Kansas. 5:45 pm More info…

Gary Vogler (Iraq and the Politics of Oil) Q & A

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,” John Adams.

During the Iraq War, Gary Vogler spent more time in Iraq than nearly any non-military American. Was the war really about oil? As a senior oil advisor for the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) and briefly as minister of oil, Vogler thought he knew. But while doing research for a book about his experience in Iraq, Vogler discovered that what he knew was not the whole story—or even the true story. The Iraq war did have an oil agenda underlying it, one that Vogler had previously denied. Iraq and the Politics of Oil is Vogler’s attempt to set the record straight.

“Gary Vogler spent 72 months in Iraq after the invasion in 2003 working on oil infrastructure,” Gordon Rudd, author of Reconstructing Iraq; Regime Change, Jay Garner, and the ORHA Story. “I know no other person better qualified to write this story. And the management of oil in Iraq over this period is an important story.”

1. When did you first have the idea to write Iraq and the Politics of Oil?

I always felt like I needed to write something for my family. They never understood why I kept volunteering to return to Iraq. I knew that a manuscript or some form of written document was needed to help them understand. My wife read each chapter after completion and we discussed the contents. She now has a much better understanding.

Several people told me that if I did not write the Iraq oil story then it would never be told. Ambassador Bremer asked me to join him and Meghan O’Sullivan on the Rachel Maddow Show in 2013. Maddow was doing a documentary on the role of oil in the decision to go to war. Maddow’s producers interviewed me in the summer of 2013 and the show aired in early March 2014. After seeing their documentary, I realized that I needed to write a factual account of the US involvement in the Iraq oil sector.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

I had never written a book. I have written many business reports and I wrote the Iraq oil Lessons Learned report for the US army in 2006, currently available on Kindle. I did not know the first thing about writing a book. A friend of mine introduced me to Don Phillips, a professional writer who has written many books. Don gave me some great advice. He told me to go home and make a list of all the stories that should be told about the oil sector, no matter how short or long. Then place those stories in the specific chapter where they belong. So, I tell over thirty stories within the twenty chapters in the book. He also advised me to write in the mornings when a person is most creative and to research in the afternoons. I researched and wrote for over a year. My first manuscript was shared with several colleagues who provided excellent feedback for my revised manuscript. The revision was sent to Kansas in mid 2016 and we signed a scholarly publication contract in January 2017.

3. Iraq and the Politics of Oilserves as an about face from your previous stance that the war in Iraq was not about oil. At what moment did you change your mind?

I denied any serious oil agenda until 2014. I risked my life in Iraq for seventy-five months and I firmly believed that myself and all Americans sent to Iraq were originally sent for noble reasons, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). I went on the Rachel Maddow Show with Ambassador Bremer in 2013 and denied an oil agenda. My mind was changed when I started reading articles in the foreign press and on-line news services. It was difficult to change my previous position, especially after being on national television. I hit a tipping point in late 2014 and early 2015. I did not sleep at night. My health suffered. My anger kept me awake many many nights. I read quotes in the foreign press that were made by Israeli government officials, a retired CIA agent and Doug Feith’s Law partner. They were real eye openers. The things I experienced in 2002 and 2003 that did not make sense to me at the time suddenly made perfect sense once I recognized and accepted the oil agenda.

4. Has there been any negative response from your colleagues in the oil industry?

It is still early. The book has not been available very long. The responses have all been positive so far from oil industry colleagues. In fact, there is a favorable review on Amazon by a person from the oil industry.

5. How do you anticipate the future of oil exports from the Middle East to change in the next 15 years?

Forecasting anything about the oil industry over one year is difficult. Doing it for 15 years is impossible. However, it is safe to say that Iraq will be a bigger player in Middle East oil exports going forward. The largest oil auction in history took place in Baghdad during 2009. The potential production volumes identified from the contracts signed after those auctions highlight the important role that Iraq oil production will play for decades into the future.

6. What do you view as the biggest issue facing the oil industry in relation to US foreign relations?

There is an excellent book that was recently written by Meghan O’Sullivan entitled Windfall. It does a good job identifying the increased power the US has achieved in the last ten years because of technological advances in the US oil industry. I have not yet finished her book, but she articulates the issues better than what I have previously read. Meghan worked with me in Iraq during the CPA era and eventually became President Bush’s principal advisor for Iraq.

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

LTG H. R. McMaster, head of the National Security Council. He wrote a book in 2011 about Vietnam called Dereliction of Duty. McMaster stressed two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of President Johnson and his advisors, and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. My book highlights the hubris of President Bush’s advisors to think that they could successfully install a puppet leader in Iraq, Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, to open an Iraqi oil pipeline to Israel. Today, I am witnessing the same group of political ideologues, the Neocons, beating the same war drums for Iran that they beat before Iraq. My fear is that we have learned little about the folly of those who pushed us into Iraq. We may someday find ourselves in a war with Iran, but God help us if we allow the same group of Neocons to push us into such a war for similar reasons.

8. What are you reading now?

Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power   by Meghan O’Sullivan


C.J. Janovy (No Place Like Home) Q & A

This week we will publish C.J. Janovy’s first book, No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas. Her beautiful, powerful book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states. Janovy, along with guest, will celebrate her book at 7pm on Kansas Day (01/29/2018) at the Lawrence Public Library.

We spoke to C.J. about her journey with No Place Like Home

1.When did you first have the idea to write No Place Like Home?

I explain this a bit in the intro. It was June 26, 2013, the day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s ban on gay marriage, respectively. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote that the crowd’s jubilation outside the courthouse that morning was so loud it floated through marble: “A muffled cheer pierced the quiet in the Supreme Court chamber.” News from out in San Francisco was that people danced all night on Castro Street.

I went to a rally in downtown Kansas City with a couple hundred people, but it felt so weird to be celebrating historic rulings that didn’t change anything in states other than California that had banned same-sex marriage. A decade earlier, I’d covered the marriage-amendment politics in Kansas, and as I stood there at the rally that day, I wondered what had become of the Kansans who had fought it back then.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the publication?

From that rally in June 2013 until I turned in the final, edited and revised manuscript was almost four years. I have a great full-time job, so I’d get up at 5 in the morning to write for a couple of hours before work, and usually put in at least one full day of writing on the weekends. I made several reporting trips around Kansas, and those beautiful drives around the state were the best parts, meeting and interviewing people and going to Pride celebrations and other events. I did a lot of phone interviews, looked at a lot of legislation, watched city hall testimonies archived on public-access TV channels, and read a lot of newspaper archives, including on microfilm at libraries.

3. What is one thing you were most surprised to learn while working on the book?

I was most surprised to learn that Charlie Snook, a transgender man from Newton, and LuAnn Kahl, a transgender woman who worked on farms in Haven and Kalvesta, appeared on an episode of a short-lived reality-TV series called “Sex Change Hospital” back in 2007. It was set in Trinidad, Colorado, where there was a surgeon famous for performing thousands of gender-confirmation surgeries (this I already knew). Alas, the episode is no longer on YouTube.

4. How did you identify the activists featured in the book?

The first person I contacted was Tom Witt of Equality Kansas, a statewide organization that works to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, who connected me with several other people. Like Tom, many of the activists I profiled were public figures – I’d seen them leading rallies or giving speeches or I’d read newspaper stories quoting them. When I interviewed them, they told me stories about other people who’d been involved, so I contacted those folks too. I sent emails and Facebook messages introducing myself to strangers, and many of them wrote back. Others clearly didn’t want to talk, a choice I respect.

5. You’ve lived on both coasts and have made a home in Kansas City. Can you describe the cultural differences or challenges LGBT citizens face in the middle of the country?

That’d be a whole other book(s) — and I hope dissertations are being written on the subject as we speak. But for starters, I’d say the biggest challenges are the smaller dating pool, and limited access to a large and diverse community of peers and allies  and the resources and services such communities can provide.

6. What do you view as the biggest issue facing the LGBT community in Kansas in 2018?

I think it’s the same biggest issue facing all of America in 2018: Saving our endangered democracy.

During the legislative session last year, Equality Kansas held one of its annual rallies on the steps of the Capitol. I was surprised, as were others, by how young the crowd was – mostly college and even high school kids. During his speech, Tom Witt gave them instructions (he’s good at that): “When you go home,” he yelled, “start looking outside your LGBT community and your Gay Straight Alliance and your usual church groups. Our country is in a horrible mess, but we have to resist. As a queer community, we already know how to resist and resist and resist. Take what you know about fighting bad ideas and say, ‘I’m in this fight with you.’ Unite with other progressive organizations around Kansas.” He’s right. We need to take our experiences and the hard lessons we’ve learned fighting for our own causes and put them to use in service of our country.

7. Your book is dedicated to Matthew Shepard. Has his death served as motivation for you to advocate for LGBT rights in conservative regions?

I wouldn’t identify myself as an advocate, though I’ve obviously written advocacy journalism; as a journalist, I consider myself a witness. But I know that witnessing is a political act, and that being present and recording these stories makes me a participant. I also know that being part of the community I’m writing about gives me access and understanding that outsiders might not have, and I feel a profound responsibility to my sources and their stories.

Matthew Shepard’s murder wasn’t what inspired me to start this project, but by the end of it I’d spent a lot of time on lonely roads. LGBT people – especially trans people – are still in danger. But in general, these days the world – yes, even Kansas – is a much better place for 21-year-old LGBT people. I want us to remember those who helped create it but didn’t live to see it.

8. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

I’m going to resist the urge to name one politician or the other who I hope reads the book so they’ll know their rhetoric doesn’t speak for all of Kansas. Instead, I’ll say I hope these stories reach individuals out there who might feel isolated, who want to make the world a better place but don’t know how, who need to know they’re not alone.

9. What are you reading now?

Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives, the University of Texas Press’s collection of personal essays by women music writers, edited by Holly Gleason.


C. J. Janovy is an arts reporter and editor for KCUR (Public Radio Kansas City, MO) and former editor of The Pitch.

From the Backlist: Libel Laws and the Free Press

Each Thursday we will look at backlist titles that remain or have become relevant. In response to President Trump’s recent pledge to examine libel laws, we revisit two tiles in our Landmark Law Cases and American Society series that helped define defamation law and libel.

In 2011’s The Free Press Crisis of 1800; Thomas Cooper’s Trial for Seditious Libel Peter Charles Hoffer offers a nuanced view of the Sedition Act, often regarded as an extreme measure motivated by partisan malice, that weighs all the arguments and fairly considers the position of each side in historical and legal context.

The far-reaching Sedition Act of 1798 was introduced by Federalists to suppress Republican support of French revolutionaries and imposed fines and imprisonment “if any person shall write, print, utter or publish . . . scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States.” Such a broadly and loosely defined offense challenged the freedom of the American press and gave the government the power to drag offending newspaper editors into court. The trial of Thomas Cooper in particular became an important showcase for debating the dangers and limits of the new law, one with great implications for both the new republic and federal constitutional law.

“A terrific piece of work by one of our very best historians,” Peter S. Onuf said. “Written with verve and authority, it provides a masterful account of a little-known story with powerful implications for the subsequent history of free speech.”

Hoffer’s book is an authoritative review of this landmark case and a vital touchstone for anyone concerned about the role of government and the place of dissent in times of national emergency.

When the New York Times published an advertisement in 1960 that accused Alabama officials of willfully abusing civil rights activists, Montgomery police commissioner Lester Sullivan filed suit for defamation. Alabama courts, citing factual errors in the ad, ordered the Times to pay half a million dollars in damages. The Times appealed to the Supreme Court, which had previously deferred to the states on libel issues. The justices, recognizing that Alabama’s application of libel law threatened both the nation’s free press and equal rights for African Americans, unanimously sided with the Times.

In New York Times v. Sullivan; Civil Rights, Libel Law, and the Free Press, Kermit L. Hall & Melvin I. Urofsky provide a compact and highly readable updating of one of the most memorable decisions in the Supreme Court’s canon.

“By connecting what most commentators have seen as a controversial freedom of press case to the contentious civil rights movement that produced it, Hall and Urofsky have provided new insights into both legal and political history,” Steven F. Lawson said. “An excellent and accessible book about an important moment in American history.”