Can Young Voters Save Us From The Trump Calamity?

by Sandy Horwitt, author of Conversations with Abner Mikva: Final Reflections on Chicago Politics, Democracy’s Future and a Life of Public Service

When my old boss and friend Ab Mikva died on the 4th of July four years ago at age 90, he left an inspiring legacy for democracy’s next generation, including a robust youth civic education organization, the Mikva Challenge.

A person of unquestioned integrity as a state legislator, reform-minded Democratic congressman, chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and White House counsel, perhaps the most enduring–and timely–part of Abner Mikva’s legacy was his respect and support for young people’s participation in the political process, from protesting to voting. He believed that young people could change the world, and he knew they made the critical difference in his electoral campaigns as, I believe, they can in the November presidential election.

As a young legislator who fought against systemic racism, Ab would be inspired today by the tens of thousands of diverse young people engaged in the Black Lives Matter movement. The very first legislation Ab introduced when he was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1956 was an anti-housing discrimination bill, an initiative that was more than a decade ahead of the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. His first important legislative victory in Congress came when he acted on a tip from a Black student at Hyde Park High School on Chicago’s South Side. “Congressman, what are you going to do about all those camps where they’re going to put all us Black folks?” Ab said he didn’t know about any detention camps, but he investigated and discovered that, in fact, they existed, a remnant of the repressive McCarthy era. Ab’s legislation abolished the camps, and he was proud that the process started with an informed, determined high school student.

In the 1970s, when Ab, the liberal Democratic, was running for Congress in a Republican-leaning district in Chicago’s northern suburbs, he won three consecutive elections by less than one percent, perhaps a modern-day record. In 1976, his victory margin was a mere 201 votes. And in those elections, the votes of young people made the critical difference.

How did we know? Because young people in the Mikva campaign led a highly organized, huge, college-student absentee voting project. Thousands of students on scores of college campuses mailed in their absentee ballots because the Mikva campaign reached out to them and Ab talked about issues they cared about—interestingly, some of the same issues that young people care about today: the environment, gun violence and the cost of higher education.

But in recent decades, political campaigns have mostly ignored young people because they are the least likely to vote. That’s a mistake, Abner Mikva knew from first-hand experience, one that the Biden campaign must not repeat.  It must make the youth vote a high priority, in part because the 18-to-29-year-old cohort is now as large as the Boomers. And, in Harvard’s Youth Poll, this youth cohort of likely voters favors Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 30 points.

In battleground states, the youngest, first-time voters can make the crucial difference. For example, in Michigan, which Trump won by less than 11,000 votes, there are 182,397 potential voters 18-to-21. And in Wisconsin, which Trump won by a little more than 22,000 votes, there are 136,119 young Badger residents 18-to-21. Many of the youngest are not yet registered to vote, the single biggest reason why many young people don’t cast a ballot on Election Day.

We need a summer of massive voter registration and inspiration. The stakes are too high for anything less. In the face of the twin calamities of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Trump presidency, we urgently need the full engagement of democracy’s next generation.

Sandy Horwitt is an author in Arlington, VA. His most recent book is Conversations with Abner Mikva:  Final Reflections on Chicago Politics, Democracy’s Future and a Life of Public Service.

University Press of Kansas Launches New Series

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 (dcongdon@ku.edu), 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.

Minneapolis, Politics and the Police… The Election of 1969

An excerpt from The Conservative Heartland; A Political History of the Postwar American Midwest.

“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.

Star Tribune photo

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

 

A Monumental Defeat

by Nicole Maurantonio, author of Confederate Exceptionalism: Civil War Myth and Memory in the Twenty-First Century

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 1960s and Today’s Crises

by Ted Morgan, author of What Really Happened to the 1960s; How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy

“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.

A Pride Month Reading List

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.

Covid-19: A Compounding Crisis

by Elisabeth M. Eittreim, author of Teaching Empire; Native Americans, Filipinos, and US Imperial Education, 1879–1918

CNN ran a devastating though not surprising headline on Monday, May 18, 2020: “Navajo Nation surpasses New York state for the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the US.” Two months earlier, the New York City region had shut down, including life in the small suburban town where I live. Schools, businesses, and life in general was (and continues to be) quarantined, and daily news briefings counted the highest number of lives lost and rates of community transmission in the country. Only recently have analyses of nationwide statistics regarding the virus revealed the known but often ignored inequities that plague our nation, as higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death are found among African American, Latino, and other minority communities, disproportionately burdening the most oppressed in the land of the free. Perhaps some of the most ignored and neglected among us are the more than 6 million indigenous peoples living in the United States today.

Despite high rates of compliance to some of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country, CNN reports multiple risk factors that the Navajo nation faces with the advent of COVID-19: 30-40% of households without running water, multi-generational family units, and limited numbers of grocery stores. Disproportionately high rates of disease and poverty also plague the Navajo and other Native American peoples, increasing susceptibility to the virus.

The Navajo nation’s vulnerabilities today are not indicative of history repeating itself. Today’s vulnerabilities—and those of other minority communities—are historical inequities compounded. Moments of crisis, like this 2020 pandemic, exponentially exacerbate existing inequities: inadequate access to food, health care, medicine, living wages, and safety. Many Americans like to tell themselves that they have worked hard and have thus earned their salaries, their homes, and their lifestyles. And yes, many have worked hard, although most have not been burdened by centuries of generational poverty.

Historically, disease and European then American greed—conquest, warfare, forced removal, and enforced reservation life—decimated the indigenous population of North America. Between 1492 and 1900, more than 85 percent of the population was lost. Assaults on native lives, livelihoods, and culture continued into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including through institutions that many Americans considered the great equalizer: school.

While missionaries had sought to reeducate American Indians since early contact, by the late 1800s the US government increasingly invested in schooling to resolve the so-called “Indian problem”—that posed by Native Americans who continued to insist on their autonomy despite US expansion. In 1879, the US government opened the first off-reservation Indian boarding school: the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Established in the east, far from most Native American communities, Carlisle and other schools for Indian education sought to “save the Indian” both from their presumed “backwardness” and from extinction itself. Indigenous families were largely coerced into sending their children to such schools, and too many families would never see their children alive again.

From the Carlisle Indian School’s earliest days, disease stole the lives of native children. A Cheyenne child was the first to die in January 1880. Weeks later, an Iowan child died after only three weeks at the school. Diseases like consumption, measles, tuberculosis, and trachoma plagued all Indian schools. Children died of pneumonia, meningitis, and influenza. In the almost forty years that Carlisle was open, more than two hundred student deaths were officially reported, most from disease, though the actual number is much higher, as sick children were often sent home and not counted.

Government-sponsored Indian schools continue to exist today, though their missions now celebrate indigenous heritage and diversity rather than try to squelch it. Still, education alone cannot remedy the poverty plaguing the Navajo nation and other indigenous communities. Education, however well-intended, does not guarantee that households have running water; such children and their families are acutely vulnerable to COVID-19 as they literally cannot wash away the virus.

Most Americans prefer to celebrate the promise of American democracy rather than admit its flaws. We revel in historic victories but minimize the atrocities. We elevate the stories and events of the past that show our best side but ignore those that expose our worst. Such selective storytelling about who we are impacts the policies and perspectives that we hold today. The Navajo nation’s access to running water today may seem disconnected from historic wrongs, but it is the cumulative result of centuries of disease, displacement, deceit, and denial. In fact, most non-native Americans ignore the existence of modern-day indigenous peoples. We confine native peoples to the past, dress up as pilgrims and Indians in kindergarten classroom Thanksgiving celebrations or cheer on a team mascot embodying the bravery and strength of an Indian warrior, but we do not see the plight or resolve of Native Americans today. We do not burden ourselves with the fact that almost half of Navajo households lack running water.

It is now, in times of crisis, that drastic inequities are revealed and worsened. Let us make it a time where we begin to acknowledge our sins of the past and present, where we strive toward understanding, and where we listen. It is not our job to assume that we have all of the answers, but it is our responsibility to respect and hear native voices.

Elisabeth Eittreim is a lecturer in the History Department at Rutgers University and an adjunct in the Women’s Studies Department at Georgian Court University.

Devine and Kopko discuss “Do Running Mates Matter? The Influence of Vice Presidential Candidates in Presidential Elections”

The American vice presidency, as the saying goes, “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Yet vice presidential candidates, many people believe, can make all the difference in winning—or losing—a presidential election. Is that true, though? Did Sarah Palin, for example, sink John McCain’s campaign in 2008? Did Joe Biden help Barack Obama win? Do running mates actually matter? In the first book to put this question to a rigorous test, Christopher J. Devine and Kyle C. Kopko draw upon an unprecedented range of empirical data to reveal how, and how much, running mates influence voting in presidential elections.

Building on their previous work in The VP Advantage and evidence from over 200 statistical models spanning the 1952 to 2016 presidential elections, the authors analyze three pathways by which running mates might influence vote choice. First, of course, they test for direct effects, or whether evaluations of the running mate influence vote choice among voters in general. Next, they test for targeted effects—if, that is, running mates win votes among key subsets of voters who share their gender, religion, ideology, or geographic identity. Finally, the authors examine indirect effects—that is, whether running mates shape perceptions of the presidential candidate who selected them, which in turn influence vote choice. Here, in this last category, is where we see running mates most clearly influencing presidential voting—especially when it comes to their qualifications for holding office and taking over as president, if necessary. Picking a running mate from a key voting bloc probably won’t make a difference, the authors conclude. But picking an experienced, well-qualified running mate will make the presidential candidate look better to voters—and win some votes.

1. What’s your elevator pitch for Do Running Mates Matter? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

This is the most comprehensive analysis yet on the effect of vice presidential candidates in presidential elections. Believe it or not, we find that running mates have very little direct effect on voters, in general, nor do they “deliver” targeted geographic or demographic groups. Instead, running mates matter primarily because they influence voters’ perceptions of the presidential candidates who selected them–which means that they are really voting to elect a president rather than a vice president, in the end.

2. What was your inspiration to research and write about the influence of Vice Presidential candidates?

It started back in 2008, right after John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. We were graduate students at the time, at The Ohio State University, and took a road trip together to see a friend in South Carolina. Naturally, like any political junkies at that time, we were discussing the pros and cons of the Palin pick. One issue was whether McCain should have picked someone from Ohio or another battleground state, to pick up votes in the Electoral College. A lot of pundits were throwing that idea around. We started asking: Is that even true? Has anyone researched this? Back then, we didn’t have internet access on our cell phones and couldn’t look anything up. So we spent most of that drive developing hypotheses and sketching out a research design. That led to our first article, on the vice presidential home state advantage, and then another article and later our first book, The VP Advantage. But we still found ourselves asking whether running mates mattered more broadly, beyond the home state advantage. We wanted to tackle that question in the most comprehensive way possible. So, we knew we had to write this book.

3. You have been researching running mates for most of your career. What is the most challenging aspect of your research?

There isn’t just one way of measuring the effect of a vice presidential candidate, and it’s not always clear which way is best. That’s why, in this book, we use a wide variety of data sources and methodologies to test running mate effects in the most comprehensive way possible. Our conclusions do not rest on a single survey or method of analysis—far from it. We try to show that these results hold up even when you use a range of different approaches. Hopefully, this will give other researchers ideas about how to study this topic and provide further insights into running mate effects in the future.

4. What has been the most consequential Vice Presidential candidate choice of the past 50 years?

Great question. Joel Goldstein—author of The White House Vice Presidency, also from UPK—provides excellent insight here. His research shows that Jimmy Carter’s choice of Walter Mondale in 1976, and their subsequent election, really started a transformation of the vice president’s role into the more consequential one that we know today. If we’re talking about electoral consequences, though, perhaps John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin in 2008 is the most notable. Our research shows that voters’ perceptions of Palin’s readiness—or lack thereof—to serve as president, if necessary, really affected their perceptions of McCain’s judgment, and even whether he was too old to be president. In that sense, choosing Palin undermined the rationale for McCain’s candidacy—that he had what it took to be president, and Barack Obama did not.

5. What is one common misconception about the influence of running mates in presidential elections?

That running mates are, or can be, “game changers”—in other words, a brilliant strategic choice that can rescue a losing campaign, if needed. This is what the McCain campaign expected in 2008, when choosing Sarah Palin. And, we say at one point in the book, this kind of pick is really quite foolish—and reckless, to boot. Running mates matter, but mostly at the margins, and probably can do more to hurt rather than help a campaign. Chances are, voters are going to see such a desperate electoral strategy for what it is, and think all the worse of a presidential candidate for making an irresponsible choice. But even if that presidential candidate were to win the race, now he or she will be deprived of an effective partner in the White House for four or years to come—or, worse yet, saddled with someone who is a hindrance to the administration, or a distraction. Ultimately, we think—and our research shows—that the best electoral strategy is to choose a running mate who is clearly qualified to be the next vice president, or president, if necessary.

6. Has the importance of running mates increased or decreased since the election of 1952?

We don’t see any evidence, in our book, that running mates have any more effect on presidential election outcomes over time. But, certainly, vice presidents have become much more important since the 1950s—and so the stakes of selecting and electing a vice presidential candidate have increased. Here, we’d refer back to Joel Goldstein’s outstanding research on The White House Vice Presidency. Starting with Mondale in the 1970s, vice presidents have come to play a key role as a general advisor to the president and a liaison in terms of congressional relations and foreign affairs. And it’s very likely that vice presidents will continue to be influential in future administrations.

7. What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work?

We want to give readers the opportunity to put the conventional wisdom about vice presidential candidates to the test. Frankly, there’s a lot of bad punditry out there—on this topic, perhaps more than any other. For years, too many people have treated the “veepstakes” as something of a parlor game—brazenly strategizing about how to buy votes on the cheap through vice presidential selection, as if voters are so easily manipulated (when the presumed strategist, of course, is not) and the whole exercise is merely symbolic. Rarely have their assumptions been put to the test, and nowhere as comprehensively as what we provide in our book. With this research, we hope not only to help inform readers about the myths and realities of running mate effects but also to empower them to reject bad punditry and demand better in the future.

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

Joe Biden—or any other presidential candidate who has the responsibility of choosing a running mate, in a given election year. It bears repeating that vice presidents play a major role in modern American government. They can be a tremendous asset to any presidential administration trying to enact its agenda and lead the country responsibly. What a shame it would be—for the president, and for the country—if someone came into that office not because he or she is the most qualified person to do so, but because Joe Biden or any other presidential candidate overestimated a running mate’s ability to influence the outcome of an election. By providing a more realistic assessment of running mate effects, we hope to convince our readers—which, ideally, could include presidential candidates and their advisers—to focus on the real importance of a potential vice president’s qualifications, rather than his or her purported electoral advantages.

 

Christopher J. Devine is assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton. Kyle C. Kopko is associate professor of political science, associate dean, and director of the legal studies major at Elizabethtown College.

COVID-19: Lest We are Forced to Repeat Past Mistakes

by Mary Bryna Sanger, coauthor of After the Cure: Managing AIDS and Other Public Health Crises

When After the Cure was published, the nation was just recovering from numerous public health threats and crises. Now we find ourselves in the midst of a new and serious one with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our experiences in both the policy and management levels and at the federal and local levels have proved uneven at best. Even in areas where the science and effective treatments are clear, public health success often eludes us, even when the stakes are high as they are with COVID-19. Large-scale public health initiatives are complicated, and managing their implementation requires skillful leadership in the face of competing political, organizational, and economic forces. But, as we found in our research, the obstacles to success are often knowable, and “strategic skepticism” of effective public managers can improve the odds.

The history of COVID-19 and the needless death and suffering experienced will surely be seen as a new reminder of what is needed to face these challenges head-on—and how leaders can plan. This will not be the last pandemic.

The lessons we identified in After the Cure bear careful attention today. And it is a failure to heed them that explains much of the chaos and fear we are observing. The COVID-19 crisis, despite its broad spread and massive economic impact, is not so different from many of the public health crises the United States has faced over the years. But the current environment of political denial, weak and uneven policy response, poor and confusing communication, and contentious intergovernmental relations are predictable and typical threats to effective response. They are, in many ways, challenges of management and competence more than they are failures of science or public health. As we analyzed the successes and failures of past efforts in previous US public health crises, we found that management played an outsized role in predicting outcomes. And several key dimensions of management appear crucial.

The lessons of our book seem more relevant today than ever. We considered the discovery and implementation of the polio vaccine initiative, the swine flu vaccine implementation program, reemerging multidrug resistant tuberculosis, the childhood immunization crisis, and the early responses to the AIDS epidemic. All of these efforts faced serious obstacles and challenges, and their successes or failures when they occurred were the result in large part of the quality and nature of executive management by government actors faced with responding to these crises. All major public health crises by their very nature pose a complex combination of social, political, economic, and governance challenges. Failure to identify these challenges and develop a plan to address them in advance explains much of the historical failure in government response to public health emergencies.

Many of the dimensions of the public management challenges we found most important in both the disastrous swine flu debacle and the success of the reemerging tuberculosis epidemic in New York City are key to understanding the COVID-19 story. We documented market failures for important medical supplies, political fights over the implications of scientific findings, the politicization of government research, interagency conflicts, tensions between the federal government and the states, coordination challenges, imperfect dissemination of information through the news media, and questions of distributional equity relating to treatment of different groups and communities. These are all too familiar to our current experience.

Effective responses in past crises featured actors who were able to anticipate and deal with each of these areas—in the case of the COVID-19 response, little or no attention was directed, in advance, to anticipating and developing plans to manage these areas. COVID-19 is not the first time that governments faced challenges with supply chains or disagreements between federal and state actors. But this crisis is remarkable for a lack of planning for how to resolve such inevitable challenges.

But as the pandemic rages on, it is not too late to learn lessons from the past.

Common solutions can be found through the study of historic public health cases. They are as meaningful now as they were then. The overarching lesson is to acknowledge and anticipate these dimensions of resistance and to plan for them. Creative anticipatory responses are needed and facing the challenges with initial skepticism and planning for contingencies is key. New York City’s health commissioner Margaret Hamburg faced multidrug resistant tuberculosis through a carefully orchestrated collaboration with numerous organizational and political stakeholders. She managed the conflict between client advocates and public health nurses who met their homeless patients daily to ensure the administration of directly observed therapy—a key determinant of success among a population spreading the disease. This is not unlike the need to plan for developing a corps of contact tracers to contain virus spread of COVID-19.

Arming executive managers with alternative responses in the face of obstacles takes preparation. Indeed, it requires a way of thinking: learning from the past and anticipating the future. Program design and implementation needs to anticipate what can go wrong and plan for it, such as by sourcing and distributing protective equipment, ventilators, and testing kits. Complex logistics with a global supply chain should have been anticipated and federal leadership to support the states could have provided rational distribution chains to where they were needed. Some of the demands on executive leadership are daunting, but not all of what is needed is rocket science. Some generic types of responses can be built in advance, as the childhood immunization crisis did through legislation that provided cost sharing and indemnification.

Executive management needs to embrace the inevitability of threats to success and approach the design and implementation role with strategic skepticism. Scenario-building is a powerful way to engage in this kind of thinking and planning. Stakeholder mapping, for example, helped in early AIDS response to identify and to plan for the opposition from conservative groups and the Christian coalition. The process helped public health officials neutralize their impact of aggressive early investments in treatments. While the threats of dangerous diseases face complex forces, some unique and idiosyncratic, there is a striking similarity in the obstacles that threaten to derail them. Anticipation can help. Sometimes merely envisioning negative consequences mobilizes ideas and resources to counter them in advance. What Albert Hirschman called “an action-arousing gloomy vision” can and does serve to galvanize executives about impending danger and thus produce strenuous effort to overcome it.

COVID-19 is a reminder of all that can go wrong without planning and executive leadership. Now is a time to revisit the lessons of the past, lest we are forced to repeat them.

Mary Bryna Sanger is professor of urban policy analysis and management and the Deputy Provost and SR. VP for Academic Affairs at the New School University. She is a coauthor of Making Government Work: How Entrepreneurial Executives Turn Bright Ideas into Real Results.

You May Also Enjoy: Our Binge-Worthy Books.

As the global battle against COVID-19 stretches from weeks into months, many people are bound to their couches to binge-watch another show. The staff here at UPK is no different. As an opportunity to turn off the tube, may we suggest some analog matches for your digital favorites.

 

If you enjoyed Ozark’s story of the mob in Kansas City, you might like Wide-Open Town: Kansas City in the Pendergast Era. Edited by Diane Mutti Burke, Jason Roe, and John Herron, the book dives deep into the interwar period when political boss Tom Pendergast reigned and Kansas City was said to be “wide open” because of the vices available.

 

Did you get caught up in the Tiger King drama (Carol did it, right?)? You might also enjoy Dan Flores’s American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, which tells the history of when large cats and other big game naturally ruled the middle of the map.

 

If you can’t wait for Sunday evenings so you can watch two more episodes of ESPN’s brilliant The Last Dance, you might enjoy spending Monday throughSaturday reading Andrew Malan Milward’s Jayhawker: On History, Home, and Basketball. In this book that begins with one fan’s passion for a game, Milward takes a deep dive into sports culture, team loyalty, and a shared sense of belonging—and what these have to do with character, home, and history.

 

Speaking of basketball, if you enjoyed the beautiful story of a Navajo high school team in Basketball or Nothing, you might also (definitely, actually) enjoy Native Hoops: The Rise of American Indian Basketball, 1895–1970. The Native American passion for basketball extends far beyond the Navajo, whether on reservations or in cities, among the young and the old. Why basketball—a relatively new sport—should hold such a place in Native culture is the question Wade Davies takes up in Native Hoops.

 

Now that you’ve mastered every single recipe featured on The Great British Baking Show, you may also enjoy cooking something a bit closer to home. The New Kansas Cookbook: Rural Roots, Modern Table offers modern makeovers of Midwestern mainstays like sloppy joes and sweet custards to dishes influenced by a wide variety of world cuisines. These recipes bring Kansas tradition into the twenty-first century with a new burst of flavor and sense of fun.

 

As the natural world works itself back to normal, binge-watching Our Planet can be inspirational. The End of Sustainability: Resilience and the Future of Environmental Governance in the Anthropocene might be a good fit. The book examines how the continued invocation of sustainability in policy discussions ignores the emerging reality of the Anthropocene, which is creating a world characterized by extreme complexity, radical uncertainty, and unprecedented change.

 

If watching historical reenactments of religious compounds, as shown in Waco, is fun, you may also enjoy Rebecca Barrett-Fox’s stunning God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right. The first full ethnography of this infamous presence on America’s Religious Right, her book situates the church’s story in the context of American religious history—and reveals as much about the uneasy state of Christian practice in our day as it does about the workings of the Westboro Church and Fred Phelps, its founder.

 

Are you binging old episodes of Veep? Maybe get some proper background of how the vice presidency has evolved with Joel Goldstein’s The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden. The book presents a comprehensive account of the vice presidency as the office has developed from Mondale to Biden. Or check out our upcoming book Do Running Mates Matter? The Influence of Vice Presidential Candidates in Presidential Elections. In the first book to put this question to a rigorous test, Christopher J. Devine and Kyle C. Kopko draw upon an unprecedented range of empirical data to reveal how, and how much, running mates influence voting in presidential elections.

 

Maybe you’ve been watching the president’s daily press conference and are interested in an explanation of how the executive branch got to this point. Check out The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal by Stephen F. Knott. Taking on an issue as timely as Donald Trump’s latest tweet and as old as the American republic, the distinguished presidential scholar documents the devolution of the American presidency from the neutral, unifying office envisioned by the framers of the Constitution into the demagogic, partisan entity of our day.