Tara Kathleen Kelly (The Hunter Elite) Q & A

At the end of the nineteenth century, Theodore Roosevelt, T. S. Van Dyke, and other elite men began describing their big-game hunting as “manly sport with the rifle.” They also began writing about their experiences, publishing hundreds of narratives of hunting and adventure in the popular press (and creating a new literary genre in the process). But why did so many of these big-game hunters publish? What was writing actually doing for them, and what did it do for readers? In exploring these questions, The Hunter Elite reveals new connections among hunting narratives, publishing, and the American conservation movement.


1. When did you first have the idea to write The Hunter Elite?

I started out planning to write about exploration and hunting at the beginning of the twentieth century—originally I wanted to examine how wealthy travelers and their guides interacted on expeditions, and this was a great period to study because there were so many narratives published. The more I read, though, the more interested I got in the narratives themselves, just the sheer number of them, and I started asking why so many hunters and amateur explorers suddenly started writing down and publishing their experiences around the turn of the century. That led me into looking at publishing in that era and thinking about what kinds of stories hunters were selling, why they wrote them at all, what their effect on readers were—and, eventually, what consequences they had. It was an odd shift in perspective, because generally historians use texts like these as sources that tell what happened– “this is what occurred on Roosevelt’s safari” (or “this is what Roosevelt says occurred…”)—but putting them into context as desirable economic commodities in a transatlantic publishing marketplace really changes how we see them. By publishing, these hunters also came to dominate the middle-class recreational press, and that really matters. Among other things, it let their version of conservation sweep aside many forms of local and market hunting across North America: they had an international pulpit from which to persuade middle-class readers, because other hunters weren’t writing about what they were doing.

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

13 years from beginning to end—but happily I wasn’t writing that whole time, a lot of it was spent teaching! It started as a dissertation, but I was lucky enough to get a postdoctoral fellowship to the Huntington Library, where I found a huge amount of great new material that had to be thought through and incorporated into the MS. I also had fantastic press readers who asked me some really challenging questions, so it got reworked once again because of that. It’s a much stronger book as a result, but I’m glad I didn’t know it was going to take this long when I started it!

As far as process, in grad school I wouldn’t allow myself to check email or go online until my day’s writing was finished, but once I started working full-time I didn’t have that luxury. My biggest fear in revision was coming up with a good conclusion, but when the time came I found I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

3. The Hunter Elite is the first book to explore both the international nature of American hunting at the end of the nineteenth century and the essential contributions of hunting narratives and the publishing industry to the North American conservation movement. Why do you think these topics have not been previously explored?

I might say it’s the first book to explore these topics in the way it does? I’ll tackle the second part first: ever since John Reiger’s foundational work back in 1975, we’ve known that the recreational press promoted conservation, but I investigate the why and how of that—the reasons this group of hunters chose to write and publish stories about their experiences, how they recruited editors and publishers as allies, and how readers were urged to participate. I also argue that the content of the narratives—the ways hunters consistently linked wilderness experience to manliness, self-discipline, the pioneer past, and Americanism—played a huge role when they began talking to readers about conservation, because they brought the same rhetoric to bear. And at that point they really did control the national recreational press, especially Outing Magazine, which was the fastest-growing periodical at the beginning of the twentieth century.

As for the international role, I find it odd that it’s been neglected (except for Roosevelt’s safari). Historians like Greg Gillespie have been doing great work on British hunting in North America, and there’s always been a lot of writing on the continental U.S. West, but by 1900 big game was becoming so scarce that Americans seeking trophies had to travel to Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, British East Africa, or India, so it made sense for me to follow them out there. I’ve always loved comparative history and I got so much out of analyzing the very different ways British and American hunters described their experiences, even when they were on the same hunting grounds or even the same expedition. I also got to go in-depth on the logistics of the safari and the unbelievable skills of African gunbearers, but with a different perspective, since I compare them to Alaskan guides and look at how, on both continents, they negotiated with, befriended, and battled the wealthy hunters who employed them. Canada and Newfoundland are in the mix as well: it’s fascinating to watch U.S. hunters describe Canada as an untouched wilderness while British hunters insist that it’s just another colony. The hunter elite also influenced or even wrote game laws in Canada and Newfoundland, as well as addressing hunting in Mexico, so it really is a North American story (with occasional forays through Africa and India).

4. When most people think of hunting in this period, they think of Theodore Roosevelt. How does he feature in the book?

The problem with Teddy Roosevelt isn’t just that he’s incredibly anomalous compared to all the other American elite hunters, it’s also that he wrote so much that he still dominates our impressions of elite hunting at the turn of the century. I hope that my book contributes to moving the history of elite hunting out from under Teddy’s shadow. The vast majority of American elite hunters in this era celebrated stalking game on foot as a display of manly self-control, and pointed to their refusal to kill even as many animals as allowed by their hunting licenses as proof of self-discipline; in their narratives they avoided discussing violence, war, and imperialism; and many of them liked and respected their guides. Some elite hunters were also women! You can’t see any of that without shifting out from under TR’s shadow, however, and I think sometimes historians working on the culture of the period have assumed that he was representative of elite hunting. Instead he was, as Christopher Lasch once said, compelling but rather bizarre. I certainly discuss him, especially when it comes to conservation, but I really hope this book helps to move the conversation on elite hunting away from this one man and over to the hundreds of other hunters, male and female, who were also publishing narratives of sport in this period. The story they were telling was equally influential and, I think, more interesting because it’s unexpected.

5. You mentioned conservation: what role did American hunters play in helping to establish national parks?

As we know them today? Everything.

If you like the national parks, thank a hunter—or rather go back in time and thank the Boone and Crockett Club. These guys understood very early on that parks would provide reservoirs for game that would assure good hunting beyond park boundaries, but, as time passed, they also came to see them as the last bastion for endangered animals. Remember, this was the generation that saw the bison driven almost to extinction: Owen Wister, urging Outing’s readers to support conservation, reminded them that “[You may] say that it is our grandchildren who will not find much trout fishing, but bear in mind that men not yet forty have seen the buffalo like armies along the banks.” The hunter elite were directly responsible for creating Glacier, Denali, Mesa Verde, Wind Crater, and what became Grand Canyon National Park, and barring hunting in Yellowstone. They also pushed through game-changing legislation, including the Antiquities Act, which gave presidents the ability to preserve these beautiful places without Congress’ consent (Obama was the most recent president to take advantage of that).

At the same time, conservation in this era had its darker side: saving wild places and animals often meant placing restrictions on local people as well as market hunters, and non-white and working-class hunters were the most likely to feel the impact. What interests me most is how the hunter elite used their power in the national media to disenfranchise local hunters by reaching out to middle-class readers, creating a constituency out of them, and then mobilizing them on behalf of conservation. It’s a different way of seeing the power they wielded than just examining political position and legislation, and it’s one of the parts of the story I’ve uncovered that’s most relevant to the current day: the role played by the media in deciding the outcome of conflicts over nature is really important to environmentalists and political scientists as well as historians.

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

I’d probably have had a different answer at each stage of it, but one thing that strikes me is that I had the bad (or good) fortune to straddle the massive change in availability of these texts that we’re experiencing right now. When I wrote the first draft, everything I used was from libraries and archives, but by the time I was revising for the press almost all those texts—and some I hadn’t encountered before!– were available to me on my phone. There had to be a point where I took a deep breath, reminded myself that more is not always better, and stopped adding material. The availability is great for teaching (and for writers without travel funds), but I wonder sometimes how overwhelming it is for grad students just starting to explore a topic—archives are finite, so you can always reach the end of the file, pat yourself on the back, and go find a pub.

7. What was your favorite part of writing the book?

Engaging with the storytelling—although that also could fall under the “most challenging part,” since I wanted to make sure the anecdotes never overwhelmed the analysis. But these men and women were literate and engaging writers, and that was one of the reasons that their narratives resonated with readers. From sneering condemnations of “the great American trout-swine,” to “Songs of Pig-sticking” (complete with music and lyrics), to accounts of being attacked by grizzly bears (“I was greeted with a terrible growling and the crackling rush of a heavy body. I fired, and was embraced, it seems to me, almost simultaneously, calling to Clark as I went down…”), I never got tired of reading these sources. Their diaries are equally engaging: I love guide George Elson’s simple note on the day his expedition reached its goal, “Your joy no man taketh from you.”

I also kept an eye out for the aside that reveals more than the author intended. The safari, for instance, is often framed as being about subjugation, with white masters and black servants replicating the ugliest of race relations, but Winthrop Chanler (unintentionally) reveals that his workers had their own idea of that relationship when he insists on travelling across a lake on a creaky raft: his men lined the shores, he writes, and “shouted cheering words to us, such as, ‘Look out for the crocodiles!’ ‘If master dies, who’ll pay us.’ These cries, added to the dismal chill of the air, almost caused me to turn back…” Some elite whites might have liked to imagine they were acting out a story of mastery, but at least one worker on that safari knew it was all about his paycheck! I hope my analysis is always clear, but I love being able to share the words of these hunters and their guides with readers; they’re a large part of why this genre became so popular in its time.

8. What surprised you the most as you read these narratives?

I think the amount of evidence I’ve found about big-game hunting women. There’s been some great work written on women’s hunting, but it tends to focus on the handful of women who published narratives: there weren’t many, and they were mostly single, so that’s been our image of female hunters. Reading men’s stories, though, I discovered women hunting everywhere, most often with their husbands, but also with their fathers or brothers; these women didn’t usually publish, however, so they’ve been invisible so far. It upends a lot of what we thought. Charles Sheldon, for instance, took his society bride, Louisa Gulliver Sheldon, hunting, since he thought she would enjoy nothing as much as shooting a bear. It sounds like a hell of a honeymoon: at one point she was almost swept out to sea when they were crossing a river; she managed to keep her rifle above water, though, and displayed it proudly to Charles when he hauled her safely to shore. In addition, he notes, she turned out to be “perfectly cool, even more so than most men,” when dealing with bear. This is actually typical; most men hunting with their wives or daughters have nothing but praise for them.

Women’s published narratives are fascinating as well, because they conform to some elements of the men’s stories but openly challenge others—and even though far fewer women published than hunted, their books were hugely popular. They published in the recreational press as well (helpfully reminding other women, for instance, to discard their corsets before mountain-climbing).

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

Living or dead? Charles Sheldon, the most respected American big-game hunter and the force behind Denali National Park: I’d love to know if he thought I got it right! He could share it with Louisa and maybe I could ask her why she never published her own version of her bear-hunting adventures.

10. What are you reading now?

In fiction, I’m almost through Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, which is fantastic, like The Name of the Rose if it were sci-fi. In history, I just finished Mark Bowden’s Hué 1968. I’ve taught the Tet Offensive and also worked in Vietnam so I was fascinated to read a book that draws on sources from both sides of the conflict.

Tara Kathleen Kelly is an independent scholar with a PhD in American history from Johns Hopkins University.

International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day, but at UPK it’s just another Thursday. A quick search for ‘women’ on our website turns up multiple pages of books about women. So, we picked a few of our favorites…

Wanted Women; An American Obsession in the Reign of J. Edgar Hoover

by Mary Elizabeth Strunk

The iconic photo of Bonnie Parker—cigar clenched in jaw, pistol in hand—says it all: America loves its bad girls. Now Mary Elizabeth Strunk tells us why.

Wanted Women is a startling look at the lives—and legends—of ten female outlaws who gained notoriety during the tumultuous decades that bracketed the tenure of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Strunk looks at real-life events and fictional portrayals to decipher what our obsession with these women says about shifting gender roles, evolving law-enforcement practices, and American cultural attitudes in general.

First Ladies and American Women In Politics and at Home

by Jill Abraham Hummer

Unelected, but expected to act as befits her “office,” the first lady has what Pat Nixon called “the hardest unpaid job in the world.” Michelle Obama championed military families with the program Joining Forces. Four decades earlier Pat Nixon traveled to Africa as the nation’s official representative. And nearly four decades before that, Lou Hoover took to the airwaves to solicit women’s help in unemployment relief. Each first lady has, in her way, been intimately linked with the roles, rights, and responsibilities of American women. Pursuing this connection, First Ladies and American Women reveals how each first lady from Lou Henry Hoover to Michelle Obama has reflected and responded to trends that marked and unified her time.

Beyond Rosie the Riveter; Women of World War II in American Popular Graphic Art

by Donna B. Knaff

The iconic bicep-flexing poster image of “Rosie the Riveter” has long conveyed the impression that women were welcomed into the World War II work force and admired for helping “free a man to fight.” Donna Knaff, however, shows that “Rosie” only revealed part of the reality and that women depicted in other World War II visual art—both in the private sector and the military—reflected decidedly mixed feelings about the status of women within American society.

The Woman Who Dared to Vote; The Trial of Susan B. Anthony

by N. E. H. Hull

Just as the polls opened on November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony arrived and filled out her “ticket” for the various candidates. But before it could be placed in the ballot box, a poll watcher objected, claiming her action violated the laws of New York and the state constitution. Anthony vehemently protested that as a citizen of the United States and the state of New York she was entitled to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment. The poll watchers gave in and allowed Anthony to deposit her ballots. Anthony was arrested, charged with a federal crime, and tried in court.

Those Girls; Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture

by Katherine J. Lehman

Long before Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, there was Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Every week, as Mary flung her beret into the air while the theme song proclaimed, You’re gonna make it after all, it seemed that young, independent women like herself had finally arrived. But as Katherine Lehman reveals, the struggle to create accurate portrayals of successful single women for American TV and cinema during the 1960s and 1970s wasn’t as simple as the toss of a hat.

Daughters of Aquarius; Women of the Sixties Counterculture

by Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo

It was a sign of the sixties. Drawn by the promise of spiritual and creative freedom, thousands of women from white middle-class homes rejected the suburban domesticity of their mothers to adopt lifestyles more like those of their great-grandmothers. They eagerly learned “new” skills, from composting to quilting, as they took up the decade’s quest for self-realization.


A Historian Offers Reflections on the Florida School Shootings

By John W. Johnson, author of The Struggle for Student Rights

Valentine’s Day 2018: Parkland, Florida: A disturbed young man, armed with an assault weapon, roams the halls of a school building. He randomly shoots students and school staff as they huddle in classrooms or flee into the halls. Why do such things keep happening in American schools?  It is almost impossible to envision the horrific scene in Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, or to comprehend what the surviving students, their parents and friends are now living through.

In contrast to the most infamous American school shootings in the recent past—Columbine High in Colorado in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012—the Parkland tragedy has generated a powerful movement of student survivors that is capturing the attention of the country. It is too soon to say whether the courage, the emotions, and the articulate thoughtfulness of this student movement will have an enduring impact on public policy. But in the few short weeks since the Parkland tragedy, the students challenging elected officials to do something meaningful about gun safety appears to have set a decidedly different national tone than was the case after the Columbine and Sandy Hook massacres. Day after day, the response of the students in Parkland leads the national news.

Over 50 years ago, I attended a public high school in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. The worst violence I witnessed in my Minnesota high school, however, was an occasional scuffle between students in the halls or cafeteria; I never observed a weapon brandished in anger. But my high school experience is not the perspective I wish to suggest here. At about the time I was drifting through my secondary school classes, worried more about acne or the next debate tournament, a small group of students 200 miles to the south was initiating a protest that would ultimately alter American history. This story–of a handful of students in Des Moines, Iowa in the late 1960s who sported black armbands in silent testimony of their convictions–is the one I offer here.

The genesis of the Des Moines student protests was the rapidly-building national ferment over the Vietnam War. In the fall of 1965, a couple of dozen central Iowa parents and their secondary school children took busses to Washington, DC to participate in the first mass demonstration against the Vietnam War. On the return trip, these families discussed how to keep alive in Iowa concerns about American foreign policy in Southeast Asia. One proposal—for students to wear black armbands to class on two days in late December—met with general agreement. So, on December 16 and 17, 1965 a couple of dozen students in the 18,000-student Des Moines school system wore crudely-made black armbands to class.

The students participating in the “black armband protest,” as it was called, had two purposes in mind.  First of all, they donned the armbands to mourn the casualties in the Vietnam War—Americans as well as Southeast Asians. Secondly, they wore the armbands in sympathy with the call by New York Senator Robert Kennedy for a “Christmas truce” in order to encourage peace talks. Although a number of students at several Des Moines schools displayed the armbands, three became most prominent in the public eye: Mary Beth Tinker (age 13), her brother John Tinker (age 15), and a friend, Christopher Eckhardt (also age 15). John and Chris were suspended for violating a hastily prepared school board “policy” forbidding the wearing of armbands to protest the Vietnam War, and Mary Beth, although not suspended, was sent home for the same infraction.

The two Tinkers and Chris Eckhardt would see their punishments upheld by the Des Moines School Board in early 1966. Rather than accepting the sanctions, the three Iowa teenagers and their parents allowed the Iowa Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) to represent their interests in federal court. A young ICLU volunteer attorney, Dan Johnston, argued that the school board sanctions violated the three students’ rights of symbolic expression protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Over the next two and a half years the armband case was heard by the federal district court in Des Moines and two circuit court of appeals panels in St. Louis. Eventually, in late 1968, the armband case was argued in front of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Finally, in February 1969, the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling upholding the students’ First Amendment rights and striking down the Des Moines school board sanctions. In the majority opinion, Justice Abe Fortas declared that it “can hardly be argued that . . . students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” In retrospect, Justice Fortas’s opinion established the high-water mark for student rights in America.

Throughout the armband dispute, the three Des Moines students were frequently interviewed and photographed by the Iowa press. Much like the students at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, the Tinkers and Chris Eckhardt were good copy. They were articulate, photogenic, and knowledgeable about issues beyond their years.

In the early 1990s I had the privilege of interviewing the three former Des Moines students—then in their 40s—who were sanctioned for wearing black armbands in the mid-1960s. I also interviewed lawyers, activists and others familiar with the Iowa protest scene during the Vietnam War years. And I examined the legal materials on the case that became known as Tinker v. Des Moines. Finally, I perused the extensive press coverage of the armband dispute.

In 1997, the University Press of Kansas published my book, The Struggle for Student Rights: Tinker v. Des Moines and the 1960s. In it, I tell the story of the Iowa armband dispute, focusing on the actions and the thoughts of Mary Beth, John and Chris. Two decades after its publication, I believe that The Struggle for Student Rights offers instructive perspectives on the public stance of the students who survived the Parkland shootings.

First of all, the Parkland students in 2018, as was the case with the three Iowa students in the late 1960s, have captured public attention because of their sincerity and incredibly eloquent testimonials.  Smart, passionate, camera-friendly young people speaking truth to power has struck a chord with the news media and most Americans following the Parkland shootings. The students at Stoneman Douglas have not only demonstrated high quality critical thinking in their community, but they have also served as an example to young people pushing for gun safety reform in other parts of the country. The Iowa armband protest is still talked about a half century later; perhaps the Parkland-inspired protests will have that degree of staying power.

The very intelligence and impressive presence of the Parkland students, however, is proving difficult for some conservative spokespersons and media pundits to find credible. We are hearing accusations that the testifying Parkland students are accomplished actors who are being fed lines from anti-gun interest groups. Similarly, the Tinkers and Chris Eckhardt were denigrated by some Iowans for allegedly parroting their parents’ anti-war views. This opinion was voiced even though the parents of the Tinkers and Chris Eckhardt often disagreed with the statements and activities of their children. Such criticism will persist as long as young people raise their voices in the public arena.  Justice Hugo Black, dissenting in Tinker v. Des Moines, maintained “It may be that the Nation has outworn the old-fashioned slogan that ‘children are to be seen not heard,’ but one may . . . be permitted to harbor the thought that taxpayers send children to school on the premise that at their age they need to learn, not teach.” Perhaps the best that the Parkland students can hope for is that their strident but peaceful advocacy will persist long enough to persuade some in the middle of the political spectrum of the wisdom of their views on gun safety.

A related lesson for modern gun safety advocates to glean from the Iowa armband protests is that such advocacy takes a great deal of time to change the minds of a diverse and contentious population. The Iowa students in the 1960 fought their cause in the courts for over three years and were part of a many-sided anti-war movement that did not bring the Vietnam War to a halt until a decade later. I am one of those who believes the anti-war movement was, ultimately, instrumental in actually ending the Vietnam War. But there are many historians and politicians who differ, believing that the anti-war partisans of the sixties and seventies had nothing to do with the final American withdrawal from Southeast Asia. Given the intransigence of the NRA and other pro-gun advocates, the goal of sensible gun regulation will not be achieved easily or quickly in America today. But the example of the peaceful but persistent Iowa armband protest shows that a just cause may eventually prevail.

One significant difference between the Sixties protest climate and that of the country in recent years is that digital technology, ubiquitous today, was just a dream in the armband era. The Tinkers and Chris Eckhardt staked out their territory prior the birth of the internet and cable news.  This meant that the protesting students of the 1960s functioned in the context of a much slower and more episodic news coverage than is now the case.  By comparison, the Parkland students cannot easily secure any breathing space from reporters, videographers, smart phones and blogs.

Mary Beth Tinker recently retired after a long career as a pediatric trauma nurse, having treated gunshot wounds in scores of children. Now in her mid-60s, Mary Beth spends many of her waking hours reminding audiences of her past activism and promoting diverse student voices for free expression in the current environment.  Both from her perspective as a plaintiff in the Iowa armband case and as a trauma nurse, she has weighed in on the Florida school shootings.  In addition to communicating with her audiences in public appearances, she maintains a professional website promoting the “Tinker Tour”–https://tinkertourusa.org/.


Johnson is an emeritus professor of History at the University of Northern Iowa. In his 43-year academic career, he taught courses on Recent U.S. History, American Civil Liberties, and Critical Thinking.  He is also the author of a number of books and articles, including The Struggle for Student Rights: Tinker v. Des Moines and the 1960s

University Press Joins Forces with Osher Institute

The University Press of Kansas and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute would like to announce a partnership. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is a part of KU Professional & Continuing Education and are committed to creating accessible and innovative learning environments throughout Kansas and the Greater Kansas City area, with special focus on participants age 50 and over although anyone can participate.

Choosing from a diverse collection of courses, participants create their own program of personal development, expanding their views of the world and enriching their lives and their communities. Faculty and facilitators are carefully selected to assure they have the academic qualifications, a passion for the topic, and a love of teaching to create a meaningful and fun learning environment. The partnership will involve the Press facilitating an introduction between our authors and Osher where they can become special presenters or long term teachers for their programs. Osher’s mission is very similar to ours and we found we had a lot of common goals between us, so a partnership will become mutually beneficial to Osher, the Press, our authors, and the participants in these programs. This relationship will help our outreach to the local and regional community and our authors will enjoy the experience as well as gain exposure for themselves. We have already introduced two of our authors to the Osher Institute who were thrilled at the opportunity to work with programs that will benefit our local communities. Our expectation once our partnership is established here in Kansas is to provide this opportunity for all our authors across the country as there are 120 Osher sites spread throughout all 50 states.

If you have any questions about the Press, or the services we can provide to you, please contact Interim Director Conrad Roberts at ceroberts@ku.edu. If you have any questions about the Osher Institute, please contact Director Jim Peters at jpeters1@ku.edu .

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.