The Rise of Anti-Establishment Populism

9780700621934UPK author Dr. George Hawley was quoted in this fantastic Toronto Star story examining Donald Trump’s “anti-establishment” presidential campaign. Hawley’s book, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism offers a complete, complex, and nuanced account of the American right in all its dissonance in history and modern day.

In the story, Hawley states that conservative intellectuals have strategically dealt in anti-establishment populism “with the understanding that they would always be able to remain in control of it…. And now they find themselves completely aghast: they see that someone else is coming along and using those exact same latent tendencies in the electorate to fuel his own rise and is completely not beholden to them, and they’re utterly horrified.”

 

You Say Hello, I Say Goodbye

12322913_10155258639297818_9004970699960871526_oLast week we welcomed new Editor-in-Chief Joyce Harrison to the press. This week we say goodbye Press Director Chuck Myers.

Wednesday will mark the final day for UPK Director Chuck Myers. Appropriately, Chuck will launch a new title Wednesday afternoon. Chuck came on board at UPK as Director on October 2, 2013 and in his stint oversaw the implementation of digital versions of our books and the major overhaul of the UPK website.

Chuck’s dry sense of humor, sharp editing eye and warm nature will be missed by the UPK staff. We wish him well in his new position at the University of Chicago Press.

Donald Trump, His Porn Pledge & the Historic Relevance

Nixon porn exploBy Douglas M. Charles

In the current presidential election cycle, we have witnessed unprecedented firsts from the nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. We have seen this major-party presidential candidate say racist, misogynist, xenophobic and all manner of unorthodox or shocking things, like threatening to pull out of NATO and praising Vladimir Putin. We’ve also seen him borrow from the political past. He’s dredged up and embraced the previously discredited America First movement of the early 1940s, and he’s borrowed the Law and Order mantle of Richard Nixon in 1968. In early August Trump announced, to some excitement and drama, that he had signed the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge, a declaration crafted by an anti-pornography group claiming it seeks to protect children (they all do) and calling itself Enough Is Enough. This latest news item involving The Donald is also nothing new. Focusing on pornography or obscenity and appealing to people’s perceptions of decaying morality has been a standard GOP modus operandi since the late 1960s and Richard Nixon and ever after.

By the late 1960s, after various Supreme Court rulings liberalized federal anti-obscenity law, leading to a boom in the pornography industry, some Americans unsurprisingly became concerned. Around the same time (1970), in the realm of politics, political scientists concluded that Democrats won elections on economic issues while Republicans won by appealing to social issues. The GOP and Nixon fully embraced this idea and appealed to the great “silent majority” of Americans who worried about crime and respected decency, and Nixon squeaked out an electoral victory. Nixon continued to push social issues as president and focused on the pornography boom as something dangerous to Americans. A scientific presidential commission had even been formed by President Lyndon Johnson to study the issue, and the report was due out during Nixon’s first months in office.

The commission concluded that pornography did not contribute in any significant way to America’s various social problems of the time. Nixon would have nothing of it, and pushed the issue going so far as to arrange an all-out effort to discredit the commission’s report and advocating for the strengthening of federal anti-obscenity law. Nixon staffers even drafted an internal report on “The Pornography Explosion” and wanted to “activate all of the anti-obscenity groups” against the commission’s report. Nixon hoped to change the law (but the GOP had only minority numbers in Congress) or push for new obscenity prosecutions to develop a possible new Supreme Court ruling in its favor. Neither happened, but Nixon’s appointing of four conservative Supreme Court justices did slow, if not stop, the liberal trend in obscenity case rulings.

This trend then continued with certain GOP presidents. During the Reagan years pressure mounted again to do something about pornography, which resulted in Reagan’s attorney general, Ed Meese, releasing his own utterly un-scientific report concluding that pornography resulted in sexual violence and social problems. Even still during the 1980s fewer than 100 people were charged under federal anti-obscenity statues and only 71 convicted, a dismal record reflecting the continuing liberal evolution of Americans’ attitudes about the issue. Still, the issue was good for Republican base politics.

Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, however, was not much interested in this aspect of social politics and neither, of course, was the Democrat Bill Clinton. But when George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 he resurrected it as an appeal to his right-wing evangelical base who wanted something done about obscenity and pornography. Bush won the election and even tried, but failed, to reinstate federal prosecutions of adult obscenity — unsurprisingly claiming an aim to protect children, an age-old proclamation —  which had previously faded away. When Barrack Obama assumed office in 2009 he ended the Bush effort (except for the focus on child pornography) as a drain on resources, but socially conservative Republicans tried to push back and demanded the Obama Justice Department do something about the alleged threat pornography posed to American society.

So Trump’s resurrecting the old ratty dog of pornography and its threat is really nothing new. It’s an effort to motivate the GOP’s socially conservative based in hopes to drum up votes. Could anything come of Trump’s anti-pornography pledge? Perhaps. But obscenity prosecutions have actually diminished steadily not just from the 1960s but throughout most of the 20th Century and into the next. It would be legally and socially very difficult for a President Trump to revive anti-pornography targeting and prosecutions; George W. Bush tried and failed miserably. American culture and social attitudes have just evolved too far to care much and see successful prosecutions. Then again, it would also depend on Trump winning the election, and that seems unlikely.

Douglas M. Charles is the author of UPK books, The FBI’s Obscene File: J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau’s Crusade Against Smut & Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program.

The New Editor-in-Chief

13937914_10155244985812818_7865403029253945207_oWe are thrilled to introduce our new Editor-In-Chief, Joyce Harrison. She brings with her a wealth of university press publishing experience that we are eager to tap. Harrison comes to Kansas from Kent State University Press in Kent, Ohio.

“I’m excited about working with the Press’s terrific staff, authors, and series editors,” Harrison says. “I’ve admired UPK for most of my career, and I’m delighted to be a part of the team!”

Decoding the 2016 Elections

9780700622764Election campaigns this year are playing by new rules. The 2016 presidential nominating conventions clearly demonstrated that many voters are profoundly angry with politics as usual. Republicans primary voters bypassed even Tea Party candidates to nominate Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent, won both delegates and platform concessions from Hillary Clinton. The alienated in both parties show deep dissatisfaction with elected officials, whom they view as ineffective and nonresponsive.

At the same time, campaigns have become increasingly expensive. Candidates spend too much of their time raising money. Often, they seek to please potential donors more than their constituents.

The Citizen United and McCutcheon court cases have drastically affected 21st century campaigns. Not only have limits on spending by interest groups been eliminated, but SuperPAC donors remain secret and flood campaigns with “dark money. Our book, Winning Elections in the 21st Century, explains how grassroots campaigns can win despite these obstacles. It also decodes behind the scenes changes in the 2016 elections.

A strong candidate with avid volunteers can still win votes with little money. The first thousand votes are cheap ‑ almost free ‑ because as much as five percent of the vote is obtained just by getting your candidate’s name on the ballot. The next few thousand votes require financing a headquarters, staff, and publicity. Toward the end of a close race, advertising extras like radio or television ads and direct mail must be bought.  In today’s elections, however, there are additional costs in purchasing data analytic and technological expertise in managing social media, as well as purchasing Internet platforms and ads.

Comparing today’s elections from those of the past, the Internet and related technology cannot be overlooked. The technology developed by national campaigns is now used in local campaigns to interact with their potential supporters to get volunteers, donations, and votes. Planning an online campaign begins by building an integrated system with traditional and online campaign components reinforcing each other. The major technological components of a twenty-first century participatory campaign include a campaign webpage, blogs, email lists, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social media and bloggers have influence, so campaigns develop ways to monitor and respond to them. Knowing this, Donald Trump conducted his successful primary campaign mainly through use of often-hourly tweets. He sent more than 5,000 tweets in the first few months and had millions of views by the time of the early primaries.

Data analytics, information on voters gathered through social media data, is also having a major effect on present-day campaigns. Even local campaigns now use cookie-targeted online advertising to reach voters. Campaigns market their candidate online just like any other product.

Online politics brings both benefits and  problems to voters and candidates. A candidate with no gravitas can use a catchy campaign to gain notoriety, displacing a worthy candidate with less online presence. This accounts for Donald Trump’s success in winning the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

The Internet and social media have become a permanent part of modern political campaigns. Wise use of digital media gives an edge to a candidate, enabling anyone to interact with them.  Smart campaigns use social media to reach voters inexpensively.

As we recount in Winning Elections in the 21st Century, campaigns at even the most local level cost more than even the most expensive campaigns twenty years ago. Yet, raising money other than in Internet appeals is much the same.  The candidate still has to meet and call donors for hours every single day.

Today’s campaigns are digital, with websites, voter analytics, and social media.  Digital technologies make it possible to select which voters to contact and how best to approach them; sending information cheaply to them through the Internet.  But the simple principle behind this is the same since the days of Abraham Lincoln.  Find your favorable voters, get them to the polls, and you win the election.

Some of these new campaign trends boost voter information and participation.  Some negative aspects threaten democracy.  All these techniques, both the good and the bad, are now coming to local campaigns. Digital media is evolving quickly, so it is critical that it be harnessed to improve informed, democratic participation. This is a major challenge, not only for the Clinton and Trump campaigns, but for candidates running for town council, school board, or state legislature.  No matter how crazy this election becomes under the new rules of the game, the end must be to improve, not undermine, our democracy.

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

God Hates: An Author Talk

9780700622658On Tuesday evening, Rebecca Barrett-Fox will be discussing her book God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right at the Kansas City Public Library.

In a discussion of her book, the Arkansas State University sociologist goes inside the church, its ideology and daily operations. She makes a case that the Westboro movement isn’t so distanced from more mainstream segments of today’s religious right, where tragedy is commonly attributed to God’s ability to punish sin.

God Hates traces WBC’s theological beliefs to a brand of hyper-Calvinist thought reaching back to the Puritans—an extreme Calvinism, emphasizing predestination, that has proven as off-putting as Westboro’s actions, even for other Baptists. And yet, in examining Westboro’s role in conservative politics and its contentious relationship with other fundamentalist activist groups, Barrett-Fox reveals how the church’s message of national doom in fact reflects beliefs at the core of much of the Religious Right’s rhetoric.

The program begins at 6:30 in the Central Library (14 West 10th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105).

The Vice President as a Power Player

9780700622023Joel Goldstein is the preeminent expert on the Vice President. During this election season the University Press author of The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden has been very busy. In addition to appearing with Vice President Joe Biden on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, Goldstein penned a great piece for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog discussing the increasing influence of the Vice President.

“Moreover, some vice presidents were more influential than others, depending on their skill, standing, relationship with the president and other governmental figures, and the need for their talents, among other factors,” Goldstein writes.

“Notwithstanding these differences, all six vice presidents since 1977 were integral to the White House. The persistence of this pattern through three Democratic and three Republican presidencies, each with different leadership structures and styles, suggests that this change in the vice presidency reflects an institutional change and isn’t simply the result of an idiosyncratic president or vice president.”

Twenty-five Years among the Indians and Buffalo Selected as a Kansas Notable Book

9780700621712Kansas Notable Books is a project of the Kansas Center for the Book, a program of the State Library and has selected Twenty-five Years among the Indians and Buffalo: A Frontier Memoir by William D. Street, edited by Warren R. Street as an outstanding book either written by Kansas or about a Kansas related topic.

Nearing 60, William D. Street (1851–1911) sat down to write his memoir of frontier life. Street’s early years on the plains of western Kansas were both ordinary and extraordinary; ordinary in what they reveal about the everyday life of so many who went out to the western frontier, extraordinary in their breadth and depth of historical event and impact. His tales of life as a teamster, cavalryman, town developer, trapper, buffalo hunter, military scout, and cowboy put us squarely in the middle of such storied events as Sheridan’s 1868–1869 winter campaign on the southern Plains and the Cheyenne Exodus of 1878. They take us trapping beaver and hunting buffalo for hides and meat, and driving cattle on the Great Western Cattle Trail. They give us insight into his evolving understanding of his multi-decade relationship with the Lakota. And they give us a front-row seat at the founding and development of Jewell and Gaylord, Kansas, and a firsthand look at the formation of Jewell’s “Buffalo Militia.”

In later life Street rose to prominence as a newspaper publisher, state legislator, and regent of the Kansas State Agricultural College. At the time of his death—noted in the New York Times—he was still at work on his memoir. Handed down through his family over the past century and faithfully transcribed here, Street’s story of frontier life is as rich in history as it is in character, giving us a sense of what it was to be not just a witness to, but a player in, the drama of the plains as it unfolded in the late nineteenth century. Edited by Street’s great-grandson, Warren R. Street, with an introduction by Richard Etulain, a leading scholar of the West, this memoir is history as it was lived, recalled in sharp detail and recounted in engaging prose, for the ages.

The Wavering Qualifications of a Vice President

9780700622023In a recent piece on U.S. News & World Report, Robert Schlesinger argues that “The vice presidency, it’s been paraphrased, is not worth a bucket of warm spit. But over the last couple of decades two competing and frankly unsettling trends have occurred around that position.”

Schlesinger sites author Joel Goldstein’s book The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden” to illustrate the increased expectancy of Vice Presidential candidates. He writes that, even though the role and importance of the Vice President has evolved over the past 40 years, the qualifications of the candidates may not always stack up.

“But even as the vice presidency has found its proverbial groove, the quality of candidate for the office has not kept pace, especially since George H. W. Bush,” Schlesinger writes. “He was qualified to follow Mondale, of course, but his own hand-picked successor, Dan Quayle, was famously ‘no Jack Kennedy.’ Quayle’s four years as the number two were a nothingburger (though in fairness, Goldstein says he was a “valuable legislative and political adviser and operative”), for better or worse.”

 

Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth

Layout 1 (Page 1)Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway blockbuster Hamilton kept Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill and has transformed this unlikely founding father into something of a celebrity. But while Hamilton is currently seen as a heroic figure, throughout much of the nation’s history he was seen as “un-American” – a closet monarchist who hated the “great beast,” the people, and a man whose dictatorial ambitions were checked by the champion of the common man, Thomas Jefferson.

It was Jefferson and his lieutenants who engaged in one of the first campaigns based on the politics of personal destruction. Jefferson believed that Hamilton favored “a monarchy bottomed on corruption” and had betrayed the spirit of 1776. Hamilton was in essence a British agent, and this cunning immigrant from the Caribbean repeatedly manipulated an aging, somewhat dim-witted President George Washington. Hamilton’s premature death in 1804 at the hands of Vice President Aaron Burr presented the Jeffersonians with a chance to “spin” the historical record and further distort Hamilton’s principles and practices. John Adams, who also despised Hamilton, partly for good reason, would later join Jefferson in crafting a narrative which portrayed Hamilton in a most unflattering light. Jefferson’s description of Hamilton as a plutocratic power-monger merged over time with Adams contempt for Hamilton’s character. Adams believed that Hamilton suffered from a “superabundance of secretions” which led him to engage in unbridled whoring. Additionally, both Jefferson and Adams were nativists, and it perturbed them that this “Creole bastard,” who was not quite “American,” held such sway over George Washington, whom they also resented.

Jefferson’s heirs in the Democratic Party, particularly Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, echoed the Sage of Monticello’s caricatured conception of Hamilton, but the Civil War and the rise of the anti-slavery Republican Party provided a brief respite from populist Hamilton-bashing. A series of Republican presidents, including James Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison, all deeply admired Hamilton for his nationalism and to some extent his anti-slavery stance, which stood in stark contrast to Jefferson’s neo-secessionism.

Hamilton’s reputation peaked at the dawn of the 20th century, when Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt invoked Hamilton’s nationalism and his embrace of “energetic” government to provide a founding imprimatur for his progressive agenda.  One of Roosevelt’s less than progressive successors, Warren G. Harding, revered Hamilton, and his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, erected a statue of the first Treasury Secretary that stands to this day outside his former cabinet department. But Harding’s and Mellon’s embrace of Hamilton was guaranteed to offend progressives and populists, and when the Great Depression came, Hamilton was held almost as culpable as Mellon and Herbert Hoover.

Other than Thomas Jefferson, no American contributed more to Hamilton’s negative image in the American mind than Franklin D. Roosevelt. The only book review FDR ever wrote was of Claude Bowers’ Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America (1925), a sophomoric account of Jefferson’s gallant resistance to Hamilton’s plutocratic plotting. FDR loved the book, and would go on to present the same caricatured account in many speeches and letters. It was Roosevelt who elevated Jefferson into the American Pantheon with Washington and Lincoln, and it was Roosevelt who led the drive to erect the beautiful tidal basin memorial to the Sage.

Hamilton’s reputation during the Second World War sank so low that he was seen by many as Joseph Goebbels in a waistcoat and breeches. His defenders were compelled to argue that he would, in fact, have opposed the Nazis. At the height of the war one of the leading Broadway shows was The Patriots – the plot of this multiple-award winning play revolved around a cigar chomping Hamilton stomping around the stage all the while proclaiming that the American people were “drunken swine.” FDR invited the playwright to stage a command performance in Washington and to attend the dedication of the Jefferson Memorial.

This image held well into the 20th century, but began to breakdown partly in response to Hamilton’s status as the sole immigrant among the key founders. This status will likely secure his reputation in an increasingly diverse America. Hamilton’s standing has also improved due to increased scholarly appreciation of the role of race in American society. Jefferson’s role as one of the largest slave owners in Virginia stands in contrast to Hamilton’s founding membership in the New York Manumission Society. And, fair or not, it appears to be an iron law in American history that as one falls the other rises. Jefferson would have it no other way; as the Sage himself once put it, “opposed in death as in life.”

–Written by Stephen F. Knott, author of Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth