The University Press of Kansas is excited to announce a new editorial series: Politics and Popular Culture.
Series editors: Linda Beail and Lilly J. Goren
Series Description: There is not yet a clearly articulated book series that focuses squarely on the intersection of politics and popular culture, though many books and edited volumes are positioned in just this intellectual space. Because of the growing interest in and importance of this work, we would like to establish a consistent series of publications that encompass a broad interpretation of both politics (including but not limited to the disciplinary borders of Political Science) and of popular culture. A book series dedicated to politics and popular culture would establish a prominent focus and gathering place for work being done across disciplines — in communication, history, media studies, English literature, political science, American studies, and other interdisciplinary scholarship that deals with power, identity, governance, and similar themes. Scholars across these fields would find a desirable home and first-choice publisher for this kind of work. A book series would also create visibility for this kind of work across disciplines, so that scholars and teachers would know to look here for cutting-edge new work for their classes and their research.
We envision a book series that integrates televisual productions, popular literature, gaming, comics, music, fashion, advertising, social media, fandom, and film and cinema. We would be interested in expanding this categorization, or thinking of these areas as the most prominent but not exclusive realm of popular culture and politics.
“We are hoping to publish books that examine popular culture — from TV to gaming, comics, music, fashion, advertising, social media, fandom, and film — in interesting and rigorous ways, with an eye toward the power relationships and political themes embedded in them,” Beail and Goren explain. “We want to appeal to both a scholarly audience (across a range of disciplines and methodologies) and to a crossover audience of fans and layreaders, who will be excited to see texts and phenomena they love being taken seriously, and giving them new food for thought. We want to present work that engages things people already find pleasurable and meaningful in their everyday lives, and shows them some of the deeper meanings, historical and cultural contexts, or political uses of those popular texts.”
Prospective authors should send proposals to the series editors and/or to David Congdon (firstname.lastname@example.org), acquisitions editor at the University Press of Kansas.
About the Editors
Linda Beail is the director of Point Loma Nazarene University’s Margaret Stevenson Center for Women’s Studies and professor of political science.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science and global studies at Carroll University.
“The Little Guy for the Little Guy; 1969 Minneapolis and the White Working-Class Revolt”
by Jeffrey Bloodworth
A political novice before his 1969 mayoral race, Charles Stenvig was not an utter unknown in the Twin Cities. Three years before his mayoral run, he was elected president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. In standard times, the head of a public union would earn intermittent media attention. The mid-to-late 1960s was no normal era, especially for cops and crime. Indeed, by 1969, a gumbo of urban riots, antiwar protests, and rising crime rates caused law and order to supersede economic concerns with working-class voters. More than any other public figure in Minneapolis, Stenvig capitalized on this turnabout.
As the colorful head of a 770-member union, Stenvig honed a populist brand of leadership that infused the Police Officers Federation with greater “militancy” and grabbed headlines. In a 1967 winter protest for higher wages, for example, he had police and firefighters form a human barrier to stop fuel deliveries to city hall. Personally blocking the fuel plug and in full view of the press, he barked at the fuel delivery driver, “You are going to get your head knocked.” Weeks later, he resumed the protest outside the newly constructed $16 million Minneapolis Auditorium. While Mayor Arthur Naftalin and other political elites sauntered into the posh facility to watch Henry Mancini conduct the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, police and firemen carried banners stating, “Council okays $16,000,000 for Auditorium. Fire and Police Protection?” A savvy organizer, Stenvig understood the optics and where working-class sympathies would lie.
In ordinary times, Stenvig’s advocacy for police might tire the public. But for many Minneapolitans, especially the white working class, the late 1960s had spawned significant empathy for police. Rising crime, urban riots, student protests, and increased scrutiny of police tactics had made a cop’s job more difficult. Though hardly a hotbed of violent crime, Minneapolis was not immune to these trends. Along with every other city, Minneapolis witnessed sustained increases in crime. In 1968, for instance, the city endured a sharp 16 percent surge in lawbreaking from the year before. Though criminality dropped in 1969, the accumulated increases in years prior and public perception cemented a public opinion that lawbreakers were running rampant.
Flourishing crime near white working-class neighborhoods caused the issue of law and order to resonate especially strongly with those voters. The heart of the city’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) voters lived in the Ninth and Twelfth Wards, an area adjacent to the crime-ridden south Minneapolis. Comprising only 6 percent of the city’s land area and 12 percent of the population, south Minneapolis featured a swell in significant violent felonies. In a 1969 two-month sample, the area was home to 26 percent of the city’s overall street crimes. When a city journalist rode with a south Minneapolis patrol team during one typical summer evening in 1969, the reporter witnessed police investigate two burglaries, make one arrest for public drunkenness, interview an armed teen, locate a pack of youths dropping stones onto cars from an overpass, and engage in a high-speed car chase. For the working-class homeowners of the Ninth and Twelfth Wards, south Minneapolis’s crime represented a significant bodily threat and a financial hazard to home values.
In the midst of a national and citywide crime wave and a swell in public disorder, Stenvig earned headlines as the Twin City’s chief proponent of the police. Engaging in continual public spats over pay, sick leave, disability, and boycotts, he became so controversial that most Minneapolis police refused public comment on their union chief. Even if many cops winced when their union boss bawled, “I believe there is police brutality—brutality against the police, that is,” many voters appreciated the sentiment.
High on Stenvig’s list of “brutalities” perpetrated against the police were Warren Court rulings that buttressed the rights of the accused. To him, the rulings confirmed that police had become “the scapegoat for politicians.” By 1969, a clear majority of voters concurred with Stenvig. Gallup Polls, for instance, revealed an extraordinary national change in public attitudes toward “crime and lawlessness.” In November 1967, 60 percent of Americans polled had named pocketbook concerns the “Most Urgent Problem Facing Family.” Less than two years later, “Crime and Lawlessness,” which had not even rated as a top-ten issue in 1967, had leaped to second place. This shift in attitudes could be found in the Twin
Cities. One Minneapolis mailman captured this swing in sentiment by saying, “I think at one time the police were a little bit arrogant, but I don’t think it’s that way anymore.” Bemoaning “young people’s” disrespect for the police, he and other Minneapolitans wanted to empower the police and respected cops for having a “tough job.”
Making matters more combustible was that public attitudes toward law and order were swinging to the right at the very moment that New Politics liberals backed protections for the accused. To many voters, these “trivial detail[s]” had enabled violent offenders to escape punishment and pushed the spike in crime. In Minneapolis, the city’s iconic four-term mayor, Arthur Naftalin, had created two such bodies, the Human Rights Commission and a civil rights department, dedicated to the very “trivial details” that typified, in the estimation of some, liberal permissiveness toward law and order. Charged with investigating allegations of police misconduct and brutality, they investigated Minneapolis police for violating the rights of the accused.
As police union president, Stenvig battled Naftalin’s Human Rights Commission.
In what would become his trademark populist bravado, he urged officers to simply refuse to appear before the committee or offer written or oral testimony regarding any “racial disturbance.” In 1968, the commission chair, Raymond Plank, a local liberal business magnate, accused Stenvig of blocking two white officers’ testimony. In response, Stenvig challenged Plank to a televised debate. Possibly looking to the 1969 mayoral race, Stenvig defied the Twin Cities liberal powerbroker. Though the debate never materialized, the pugnacious police union head clearly demonstrated an understanding of political theatrics.
In early 1969, “Charlie” or “Chuck”—never Charles—hit the campaign trail. Punctuating the end of a sentence with the aphorism “isn’t that right”—as in “the mayor is the Police Commissioner of Minneapolis, isn’t that right?”—Stenvig promised, “The mayor’s main job is being the head of the police department.” Using class resentment to his advantage, Stenvig accused business elites, both major newspapers, and the city’s leading law firms of badmouthing his candidacy, because they were “afraid they’ll have a working man as mayor.” Doubling down on this sentiment, he declared, “People are sick and tired of politicians and intellectuals . . . they [the people] want an average workingman from the community to represent them—and that’s me.”
Lacking clear qualifications for the job, Stenvig utterly understood the electorate’s mood. On the eve of the election, one Minneapolitan correctly predicted that “Stenvig will be elected, certainly not because he is a better candidate with better qualifications, but because voters are sick and tired of endless endorsements and other tactics used by the Establishment.” For that voter and Stenvig, the “Establishment” meant perceived liberal permissiveness of crime, urban riots, protests, and social tumult. This charge possessed some merit. In the face of rising fear of and disgust with crime, liberal elites often dismissed crime statistics as unreliable. When that failed, US attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach scorned fears of sexual assault by telling women, “The odd[s] of that happening may be about the same as those of being hit by lightning.” While many liberals stuck their heads in the sand, an actual and verifiable crime wave metastasized.
In conjunction with crime were urban riots. In the mid-to-late 1960s, nearly every major American city witnessed urban disorders centered upon racial issues. These demonstrations reached a crescendo in the summer of 1967, during which bloody race riots erupted in Detroit and Newark. In that same summer, Minneapolitans experienced the largest racial disturbance in their city’s history. By the 1960s, the city’s historically tiny African American population had grown and comprised 4.5 percent of the overall population. They also endured the very same indignities, housing and employment discrimination, and police brutality that had become hallmarks of the black experience in the urban North.
On a warm July night, north Minneapolis exploded in violence following two racial incidents with white authorities. Over the course of two nights, black youth rioted and set fire to the area’s main commercial thoroughfare. Once the riot emerged, participants roamed the district, chucked rocks at police, and set fire to area businesses. When firemen arrived to battle the blazes, rioters pelted them with debris. As an eight-block stretch of Plymouth Avenue businesses burned, firemen refused to return.
In response to the melee, Minnesota’s governor, Harold LeVander, sent six hundred national guardsmen to the area with orders to “shoot looters on sight.” Quite small in comparison to those in Detroit or Watts, the race riot nevertheless rocked white Minnesota. Indeed, for years, Walter Mondale had bragged to his senate colleagues, “No such thing could happen in Minnesota.” Humbled, Mondale realized race relations were not as convivial as he imagined, which for many liberals of the senator’s bent prompted further gestures at racial reconciliation. The senator’s white working-class constituents, however, had opposite reactions: they sought law and order.
A scant seventeen months later, in January 1969, the University of Minnesota witnessed a violent student protest with a significant racial component. Just as the mayoral primary race commenced, approximately sixty to seventy students turned an afternoon meeting with university president Malcolm Moos into a twenty-four-hour occupation of the campus administration building.47 Led by the Afro-American Action Committee (AAAC) and supported by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), protesters barricaded themselves into the Morrill Hall offices, soaked university records with water, and debated the merits of torching the building. The next morning, hundreds of white counterprotesters gathered outside Morrill Hall to hurl rocks and ice at the building. Fearing for their safety, AAAC and SDS members armed themselves with fire extinguishers, broom handles, and fire hoses. With the incident threatening to spin out of control, Moos offered concessions that ended the standoff and refused to sanction the protesters. This conclusion sparked significant controversy among whites in Minneapolis.
It was in the midst of this environment that the contest to replace Mayor Naftalin commenced. Though few observers gave Stenvig much of a chance, the rabble-rousing populist policeman fit the bill for an angry electorate. Stunning the Minneapolis political world, Stenvig captured nearly 50 percent of the primary vote by carrying nine of the city’s thirteen wards, including DFL strongholds. The only real contest was over second place, where Republican Dan Cohen defeated the DFL nominee, Gerard Hegstrom, who finished a distant third. Adding to the ignominy, Hegstrom failed to carry his own neighborhood working-class ward. The two wards he did carry almost exclusively comprised, in predictable New Politics liberal fashion, university students and professors.
Jeffrey Bloodworth an associate professor of history at Gannon University
On Thursday, June 4, 2020, Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the statue memorializing Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s Monument Avenue, a historic thoroughfare long recognized as a commemorative bastion of Lost Cause mythology. The city’s mayor, Levar Stoney, followed suit, announcing the proposed removal of statues of the four other Confederate leaders lining the residential avenue: Jefferson Davis, J. E. B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury. These announcements came on the heels of national and international protests sparked by news of the murder of George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
While Northam’s and Stoney’s announcements were initially met in my home city with optimism and hope for the future, at least among many, an injunction issued by a Richmond judge on June 8 that temporarily blocked the removal of the Lee monument reminds us that resistance to change is both real and deeply anchored in Monument Avenue’s racist history.
As I read news of the injunction, I was struck by the language of the judge’s order—that the state had, in March 1890, months prior to the Lee statue’s May dedication, agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the statue, pedestal, and ground on which they sit (known as “Lee Circle” until recent protests led to the informal renaming of the site to Marcus David Peters Circle, after a Black man killed by police in 2018). In 1890, as what would become Monument Avenue was being envisioned, it was clear what was truly being “guarded” and “protected”: whiteness. There was nothing subtle about this message. During the period of Jim Crow, advertisements lined the city’s newspaper, the Richmond Dispatch, assuring white readers that potential residents of “African descent” would be excluded from the neighborhood. More than 130 years later, as debates surrounding the meaning of these monuments have flared, the message continues to resonate.
As part of the research for my book Confederate Exceptionalism: Civil War Myth and Memory in the Twenty-First Century, I attended a series of neo-Confederate events ranging from commemorative celebrations to rallies, each of which was intended to affirm a particular yet historically inaccurate narrative: that the Confederacy was not an entity steeped in racism but rather one in which Black people were, in most cases, part of the family, respected and cared for. Many of the individuals I met over the course of the years I conducted my research maintained that Black Confederates were a vital constituency eager and willing to protect their homes and, by extension, their enslavers.
While the myth of the Black Confederate has been debunked by historians, calls for the “preservation” of Monument Avenue and other sites of Confederate commemoration—sites for the celebration of what neo-Confederates maintain signal “heritage not hate”—persist. In my book, I argue that such calls not only elide the monuments’ racist history but also affirm the desire of many whites to see Monument Avenue and sites like it remain suspended in time, divorced from history—a historic habitat diorama.
The once-pristine diorama—quiet and undisturbed—has, in recent weeks, been disrupted. Jefferson Davis was toppled from his pedestal on Monument Avenue. Covered in pink paint, the president of the Confederacy was left lying in the street. The Lee monument is now covered in vibrant graffiti decrying police violence. It has been transformed into a makeshift memorial, a site of pilgrimage for those fighting for racial justice.
While the judge’s injunction has stalled the Lee statue’s removal temporarily, it seems as though a return to stasis—to the status quo—is untenable. The monument will be removed—a symbolic dismantling of white supremacy culture in the former capital of the Confederacy. And we will be better for it.
Nicole Maurantonio is associate professor of rhetoric and communication studies and American studies at the University of Richmond. She is the coeditor, with David W. Park, of Communicating Memory & History.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past”—William Faulkner
It’s been a long fifty years since the end of the 1960s. Yet, as current events involving racism and the police remind us, the past is still with us. In many ways, the long 1960s era—from about 1954 to 1975—remains a benchmark for protest movements, political turmoil, and youthful activism of various kinds.
On May 4, 2020, we witnessed the fiftieth anniversary of the shootings at Kent State, an iconic 1960s event. What is perhaps most notable about Kent State is how deeply divided the public was over the killing of protesting students at Kent and Jackson State. That polarization reflected the mediated events of the 1960s, and it is still very much with us.
This year’s protests against police violence erupted after millions saw the truly horrifying video of George Floyd being killed by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. These protests, heavily populated by the young, spread like wildfire across the country and much of the rest of the world. Floyd’s desperate words, “I can’t breathe,” have graced sign after sign all across the globe.
The spread of protest, itself something of a media-assisted phenomenon, became a magnet for media attention, generating multiple references to the urban uprisings of the 1960s. As they were in the 1960s, the televisual media in particular became preoccupied with outbreaks of violence against property, including, at the margins of organized protests, the looting of stores. Also echoing the 1960s, mainstream media commentary ranged from right-wing denunciations of the protests—notably President Trump’s malicious calls for crushing protesters with military force—to liberal commentators clearly sympathetic to the protesters’ anguish but who were quick to denounce any form of violence as counterproductive.
The effect of mainstream media coverage, then as now, is to steer the public discourse inside the boundaries of the two-party system, thus leaving outside those who call for more structural reforms of the American political economy. One important difference today is, of course, the prevalence of the internet and social media providing a place where people can find compatible voices, express their views, and share images.
What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy documents the way media coverage helped to spread protest while also generating increasing militancy and alienation among the many protest groups of that era. The book demonstrates how the same mass media continue to fail American democracy. Most fundamentally, the book explains how we got from an era of promising democratic reform to our current world of shocking inequality, endless wars, and a planet on the brink of ecodisaster.
The images broadcast in the 1960s gave right-wing commentators fodder for fueling a backlash to 1960s social movements and the liberal Kennedy-Johnson years. It began with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 effort to link the “riot” in Harlem to the “lawlessness” of the Southern civil rights movement—thus becoming the first Republican to win four states of the Old South. The backlash continued through Ronald Reagan’s 1966 rise as governor of California and Richard Nixon’s successful “law and order” presidential campaign of 1968.
Typically, the backlash seized on the most extreme behaviors that’s visible in the media, equating the “lawlessness” with the allegedly destructive intentions of the protest movements themselves. Highly inflammatory protest actions, like the Viet Cong flags that began showing up at antiwar protests, aided the cause of backlash commentators. Politicians cynically played on the fears, antipathies, and feelings of being “left out” of 1960s era reforms on the part of rural Americans, white southerners, the white working class, and religious conservatives.
The other backlash story revolves around corporate America’s anxiety over declining economic profitability in the 1970s. As the corporatist Trilateral Commission put it, the rise of “previously passive or unorganized groups” (notably racial minorities, women, and students) in the 1960s era produced what they termed an “excess of democracy.” Their response became a blueprint for the neoliberal America that emerged under Ronald Reagan—deregulate the economy, cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, privatize everything public, and greatly expand defense spending.
Which brings us to Donald Trump—quite probably the most narcissistic, corrupt, and polarizing president in our history. Trump very effectively plays off the post-1960s themes, voicing sentiments, however crudely, that those who’ve long felt marginalized find emotionally satisfying. At the same time, he backs policies that enrich the rich, militarize our police, and endanger the future habitability of the planet—further marginalizing the public at large.
There are, however, lessons from the 1960s era that can help point the way toward a more democratic, just, and sustainable future. These, too, are considered in the concluding chapter of What Really Happened to the 1960s.
Ted (Edward P.) Morgan is emeritus professor of political science at Lehigh University. In addition to What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy, he published an earlier interpretive history of the 1960s entitled The Sixties Experience: Hard Lessons About Modern America.
The University Press of Kansas is proud to help celebrate Pride Month with a curated list of books studying the legal battle for gay rights…
No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas
by C.J. Janovy
Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The 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.
The Courts, the Ballot Box, and Gay Rights; How Our Governing Institutions Shape the Same-Sex Marriage Debate
by Joseph Mello
If the same-sex marriage debate tells us one thing, its that rights do not exist in a vacuum. What works for one side at the ballot box often fails in the courtroom. Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage used appeals to religious liberty and parental rights to win ballot measure campaigns, but could not duplicate this success in court. Looking at the same-sex marriage debate at the ballot box and in the courts, this timely book offers unique insights into one of the most fluid social and legal issues of our day—and into the role of institutional context in how rights are used.
Judging the Boy Scouts of America; Gay Rights, Freedom of Association, and the Dale Case
by Richard J. Ellis
As Americans, we cherish the freedom to associate. However, with the freedom to associate comes the right to exclude those who do not share our values and goals. What happens when the freedom of association collides with the equally cherished principle that every individual should be free from invidious discrimination? This is precisely the question posed in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, a lawsuit that made its way through the courts over the course of a decade, culminating in 2000 with a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Judging the Boy Scouts of America, Richard J. Ellis tells the fascinating story of the Dale case, placing it in the context of legal principles and precedents, Scouts’ policies, gay rights, and the culture wars in American politics.
The Case for Gay Rights; From Bowers to Lawrence and Beyond
by David A. J. Richards
As Americans wrestle with red-versus-blue debates over traditional values, defense of marriage, and gay rights, reason often seems to take a back seat to emotion. In response, David Richards, a widely respected legal scholar and long-time champion of gay rights, reflects upon the constitutional and democratic principles—relating to privacy, intimate life, free speech, tolerance, and conscience-that underpin these often-heated debates.
The Sharon Kowalski Case; Lesbian and Gay Rights on Trial
by Casey Charles
While car-crash victim Sharon Kowalski lay comatose in the hospital, battle lines were drawn between her parents and her lesbian companion Karen Thompson, initiating a nearly decade-long struggle over the guardianship of Kowalski. The ensuing litigation became a rallying point for gays and lesbians frustrated by laws and social stigmas that treated them as second-class citizens. Considered the most compelling case of his lifetime by the late Tom Stoddard, former executive director of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, the Kowalski legal saga also resonated deeply among AIDS patients who worried that they too might be legally deprived of their partners’ care.