UPK to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

On January 9, 1940, the Committee on Publication and Printing recommended to the Faculty Senate “that the Administration be invited to consider establishing a University of Kansas Press.” It took 6 years, but on July 1, 1946, the University of Kansas Press opened (changing to the University Press of Kansas in 1967 to be inclusive of the six state schools that fund the Press: Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, the University of Kansas, and Wichita State University). 

This year we celebrate our 75 years of publishing acclaimed books on American politics (including the presidency, American political thought, and public policy), military history and intelligence studies, American history (especially political, cultural, intellectual, and western), environmental policy and history, American studies, film studies, law and legal history, Native American studies, and books about Kansas and the Midwest. Our books have reached a wide audience both inside and outside the academy and have been recognized for their contributions to important scholarly and public debates.

The Kansas state motto “Ad Astra per Aspera” is Latin for “to the stars through difficulties.” Our 74th year was difficult, but we are shooting for the stars and ready to celebrate our 75th.

We have a bunch of fun things planned: guest blogs, GREAT SALES, giveaways, unique partnerships, and maybe even a party. Let’s get this party started with a t-shirt sale! Our first-ever merchandise is available for pre-order and shirts will ship on 7/14.

See https://stores.inksoft.com/university_press_of_kansas/shop/home to order.

 

Diehl Ends 35-Year UPK Career

Few things are more interconnected with the University Press of Kansas than Direct Mail and Exhibits Manager Debra Diehl and, after 35 years, May 14 marks her final day with the Press.

Diehl’s responsibilities at UPK extend far beyond those covered by her job title. She’s the resident expert on Press history, official favorite person in the office of visiting kids, and long-time recruiter of local wildlife.

“Debra’s career with UPK has been inspirational,” said Kelly Chrisman Jacques, UPK managing director. “While I wish her chapter in UPK’s book had been a couple of years longer, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work alongside her and learn from her. Deb’s sincerity, enthusiasm, patience, efficiency, and kindness have set the gold standard of exemplary performance and collegiality. She’s incomparable! I’ll miss Deb dearly, but I wish her only the best in her next chapter.”

Diehl’s extensive experience reaches beyond UPK’s walls. She’s represented the Press at meetings across the country and made sure books have traveled to events large and small. If there’s an event at which UPK books might be displayed, Deb knows about it.

“Deb is hands down the best exhibits manager I’ve worked with in over thirty years in publishing,” said Joyce Harrison, editor in chief. “It’s such a joy to come into an exhibit space, with tables to be put into place and boxes to open, and know that all of the books and supplies you need are there. Exhibits require a lot of advance work, and Deb goes about this work with stunning efficiency, especially considering the number of conferences we attend each year.”

As part of the marketing department team, Deb focused on promoting UPK books via the mail—postal and email—and arranging for them to be on display at conferences and events. Deb was originally hired as an office assistant and has worked for every department at the Press. Eventually, when the Press was able to increase its staff, a marketing assistant position was created and she started working with marketing. When the marketing department added another position, Deb moved into her role as direct mail and exhibits manager.

“Debra was on the committee that hired me,” said Suzanne Galle, marketing assistant. “In the many years that have transpired since, she has been a colleague, friend, and confidante all in one. I think all who have had the good fortune to work with her would say the same. Her skill, professionalism, and generosity have been a boon to both the press and all who have worked here. I will sorely miss working with her, but I look forward to seeing the good things that life’s next chapter has in store for her.”

Deb will begin work with Bowersock Capital Partners in Lawrence. It is undecided who will feed the birds and squirrels outside her office window.

“I’m glad that I help market a quality product,” Deb said. “Seeing a book ‘do well,’ whether that’s defined by sales, an award, or getting the author’s next project, is gratifying. But the most rewarding aspect of being at UPK is that I work with great people— people that I respect and like and admire. That’s been the case since day one.”

From Fear, Anger, and Grievance to Boring Competence: The Rhetorical Journey from Trump to Biden

by Robert C. Rowland, professor of communication studies, University of Kansas and author of The Rhetoric of Donald Trump: Nationalist Populism and American Democracy

Presidential elections often lead to a shift not only in policy, but in rhetoric. Jimmy Carter’s straightforward simplicity was followed by Ronald Reagan’s graceful narrative of America as a “shining city on a hill.” George W. Bush’s blunt direct style was followed by Barack Obama’s depiction of a nation in which there “never has been anything false about hope.” While shifts in rhetorical practice are common when one administration succeeds another, there has never previously been a shift as stark and dramatic as when President Joseph R. Biden succeeded Donald Trump. A rhetoric based in fear, anger, grievance, and self-praise was succeeded by one based in themes and language that best might be characterized as boring competence.

In my very recently published book, The Rhetoric of Donald Trump: Nationalist Populism and American Democracy (University Press of Kansas, April 2021), I explain how Trump activates negative emotions such as fear, hatred, and grievance, and then resolves that activation through presentation of himself as first the citizen-outsider and later the strongman president who can fix the problems facing the nation through strength of will. Trump’s rhetoric had and has undeniable power. It has made much of the current Republican Party into his personal rhetorical fiefdom, a point that is quite evident in the efforts to remove Liz Cheney from the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. Cheney’s sin was to put conservative principles ahead of loyalty to Trump. Only a few other Republican leaders have shown the same commitment to principle as Cheney, meaning that the current Republican Party probably should now be known not as the GOP, but as the POT (Party of Trump).

The source of the power of Trump’s rhetoric was not ideology, nor graceful style. Unlike principled small government Republicans (including, most notably, Ronald Reagan), Trump did not espouse a clear ideological perspective, nor was his rhetoric defined by an elegant style (there was very little artistry of any kind in his rhetoric), nor did Trump motivate his supporters by making a strong argument for a particular policy (in the way that Senator Bernie Sanders has captivated many progressive Democrats through advocacy for a single-payer health care system). Instead, Trump motivated his audience through emotional activation. He created fear and anger by warning of the dangers posed by groups who were Other than white Americans. Thus, he attacked undocumented immigrants, warned of the dangers of Islamic terrorists, attacked NFL players for protesting police violence against people of color, and so forth. His narrative of a nation where his core audience among the white working class was under siege from threatening Others was fundamentally false, but emotionally resonant. As I show in the book, Trump’s narrative was most powerful in places with few immigrants or representatives of the other groups he attacked and least successful in places where the groups he attacked were common. This explains why Trump’s message worked so well in places with few immigrants, such as North and South Dakota, but fell flat in places with many immigrants, such as California and New York.

In addition to fear and anger, Trump activated grievance against elites who he said disrespected and ignored “real” (white) Americans. He also used this strategy to undermine scrutiny of his campaign, presidency, and business by, for example, attacking the media as “Fake News” or even “the enemy of the people.” Finally, Trump resolved the strongly negative emotions of fear, hatred, and grievance by claiming that, as he said in his 2016 Republican National Convention acceptance address, “I alone can fix” this nation.

Since Trump’s rhetoric was defined by emotional activation and then resolution of that emotion through adulation for Trump, he hardly ever engaged in policy argument and never presented an important policy speech, either as a candidate or president. In the book, I detail the way that he took occasions that called for rhetoric focused on policy, such as the State of the Union address or COVID-19 briefings during the pandemic, and transformed them into speeches quite similar to his rally speeches. The same thing occurred on social media, which Trump used not to advance an argument, but to activate and resolve negative emotions. Trump’s focus on emotional activation was so heavy that there are individual speeches by President Barack Obama that contained more sustained argument about policy than in all of Trump’s presidential rhetoric combined.

In contrast to Trump, much of the appeal of the rhetoric of President Biden can be traced not to a particularly graceful style, but to the fact that Biden’s boring competence was for many Americans a very welcome contrast with Trump’s rhetoric of fear, anger, grievance, and self-congratulation. As commentator Ezra Klein observed, Biden’s “quieter strategy” of using rhetoric to “turn down ‘the temperature’ on American politics” actually opened “space for a bolder agenda.” Without the scary emotional thrill ride that Trump’s rhetoric produced, there was more space to lay out and defend actual policy proposals.

The difference between the two approaches to rhetoric was quite evident in the contrast between President Biden’s recent address to Congress that took the place of a State of the Union address and the State of the Union addresses that Trump presented in his term. Biden’s speech to Congress on April 28, 2021, was short on poetry, but long on substance. It lacked the grace, for example, of the heroes-in-the-room theme found in State of the Union addresses from Reagan to Obama. At the same time, he laid out a coherent agenda for confronting the pandemic, rebuilding the economy, counteracting global warming, and acting on a host of other issues. In contrast to Biden, I explain in the book how Trump eviscerated generic norms for the State of the Union, transforming the normally policy-heavy speeches into something similar to rally speeches. For example, in his 2018 State of the Union there was relatively little actual policy exposition, but a great deal of time spent activating fear of undocumented immigrants, accusing NFL players of being unpatriotic for protesting police violence, discussing imaginary threats to gun rights, and so forth. The bottom line is that the only message Trump had was that of emotional activation and resolution. Consequently, every speech became a rally speech, every briefing (even the pandemic briefings he presided over in the spring of 2020) a rally briefing, and nearly every tweet a snippet of a rally speech.

In contrast, Biden’s focus on clearly describing his agenda, his promise of boring competence, which in normal times might have fallen flat, was quite appealing to many. It was not only that Biden had a clear plan for confronting the pandemic, revitalizing the economy, and so forth, but that this style functioned as what Frank Bruni described as “an exorcism of Donald Trump.” Bruni noted that Biden was “less showboat than tugboat,” but added that the “tugboat [was] humbly poised to pull us out of perilous waters.” Over time, Biden’s “boring competence” may wear thin, but in the immediate aftermath of a presidency defined by constant efforts to activate negative emotions, both boredom and competence were virtues that many Americans found quite appealing.

Joseph R. Biden, “Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by President Biden — Address to a Joint Session of Congress,” Whitehouse.gov, April 28, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/28/remarks-as-prepared-for-delivery-by-president-biden-address-to-a-joint-session-of-congress.
Frank Bruni, “Biden Has Disappeared,” New York Times, March 21, 2021, SR3.
Ezra Klein, “Biden is the Anti-Trump, and It’s Working,” New York Times, March 5, 2021, A20.
Donald J. Trump, “Full text: Donald Trump 2016 RNC draft speech transcript,” Politico, July 21, 2016, https://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/full-transcript-donald-trump-nomination-acceptance-speech-at-rnc-225974.
Donald J. Trump, “President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union Address,” Whitehouse.gov, January 31, 2018, https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-state-union-address.

Goldstein on Mondale: “Truly consequential”

The death of Walter F. Mondale on April 19, 2021, brought an outpouring of tributes recognizing that the United States had lost an exceptional public servant and exemplary person. I shared that sentiment but for me, he was also the hero of my book, The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden (2016). I never would have written that book had Mondale not become vice president and much of it focused on his work in the historic undertaking to make the vice presidency truly consequential, work often performed in tandem with his partner in the undertaking, Jimmy Carter. Four chapters were devoted entirely to their work as were parts of six of the remaining 12 chapters.

My earlier book on the vice presidency, The Modern American Vice Presidency: The Transformation of a Political Institution (1982), written primarily during the late 1970s, had focused on the office during the quarter-century between the vice presidencies of Richard M. Nixon (1953-61) and Mondale (1977-81). It had traced the office’s dramatic move into the executive branch during Nixon’s vice presidency and the consolidation of that development to sweeping changes in American life and government that began with the New Deal and World War II. The book noted Mondale’s greatly enhanced role as a presidential adviser and recommended the Mondale model vice presidency but was written long before internal documents and other important information about Mondale’s term became available or before it became clear whether the new arrangements would continue after Carter and Mondale left office.

Yet by the early 21st century, if not before, it became clear that the vice presidencies that followed Mondale’s—those of George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden—resembled Mondale’s tenure much more than those of Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Spiro T. Agnew, Gerald Ford or Nelson A. Rockefeller. Clearly, Mondale’s vice presidency had initiated an entirely new period for the office rather than being part of the Nixon era executive branch vice presidency.  Mondale’s recent predecessors had migrated to the executive branch but they spent little time in the West Wing. Yet that’s where Mondale and his successors operated.  Vice presidents from Nixon to Rockefeller often performed peripheral matters and rarely saw the president but Mondale and later vice presidents were in the president’s inner circle. They handled assignments that mattered and spent more hours with the president in a day than their predecessors had in a month. And the changes weren’t limited to time in office but extended to the selection and campaign roles. Beginning with Mondale, vice presidents were vetted extensively before selection, they participated in vice-presidential debates, and pre-convention rollouts soon became the norm, an innovation Mondale began in 1984 when he announced his historic selection of Representative Geraldine Ferraro before the convention.

The White House Vice Presidency began as an effort to describe the office that Mondale and his successors held and to understand how it had become a fixture in the inner sanctum of the West Wing. That investigation kept returning me to Mondale. Carter and Mondale had created the Mondale model vice presidency and the supporting practices and institutions which other administrations had then adopted.

Yet that statement, that Carter and Mondale created the new vice presidency, is misleading since its very simplicity diminishes the difficulty and magnitude of their accomplishment. It was a very big deal!  The unprecedented arrangement required a complicated sequence of steps and created a new model that endured long after they left office. Carter and Mondale needed to reach a mutual commitment that an engaged and empowered vice presidency was in their interests and made sense, to understand the office, its failures and frustrations to create a new vision, to identify and provide the resources to give the new vision a chance to function and to implement it faithfully amidst the stresses of governing to confirm that what seemed good in theory could work in practice. And even if they successfully accomplished each step, their creation would extend beyond their terms in office only if they transmitted the model to their successors and demonstrated its merit and feasibility.

My research led me to appreciate the complexity of their achievement, the necessary steps that were hidden from public view. Mondale had undertaken an intensive study of the vice presidency to understand its vulnerabilities and recurring failures and to identify ways in which it could enhance American government. That study led him to think about the office in a novel way—not principally as a president in waiting but as a senior, elected official committed to helping the president succeed now.  The new perspective on the office accompanied a new vision of the vice-presidential role. Rather than accumulating vice-presidential portfolios, Mondale concluded that the vice president should function as a senior, across-the-board presidential adviser and troubleshooter for high-level assignments. Long before Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Aaron Burr memorably sung of the allure of being in “The Room Where it Happens,” Mondale appreciated lessons implicit in that wonderful song as the secret to a consequential vice-presidency. Mondale recognized that being in the room with Carter would allow him to offer Carter uniquely useful advice—the candid counsel of a fellow elected public servant with a similar perspective and shared political destiny—and would enhance his ability to undertake presidential assignments. Mondale understood that the new vice-presidential vision of a general adviser and troubleshooter wouldn’t just happen. It required new vice-presidential resources—access to the president and the information he got and presidential support. Carter, anxious to have Mondale’s help, gave Mondale every resource he requested and demonstrated his commitment to the project by adding others. Mondale implemented the new vision for four years, giving Carter candid advice and handling high-level assignments skillfully. And then, after Carter and Mondale lost their re-election campaign to Ronald Reagan and Bush, Mondale and his aides schooled Bush and his associates on how to be a successful vice president even though Mondale knew that he would be embarking on a presidential campaign in 1984 which would likely match him against Reagan and/or Bush.

The innovations that Carter and Mondale put in place regarding the White House vice presidency, and the selection, rollout, and campaign roles of vice-presidential candidates have been institutionalized since then. To be sure, those features have been tweaked and updated and different vice presidents have done things a bit differently. But the vision, resources, and institutions Carter and Mondale put in place have survived on a bipartisan basis during the succeeding presidential administrations. They created the office Vice President Kamala Harris now holds.

The White House Vice Presidency thus became not simply a book about the vice presidency as it now exists. It also became a study of an important type of constitutional change, a consideration of how enduring institutional change can occur through the repetition of practices until they become established norms.

What triggered this constitutional change was political leadership, principally the commitment, imagination, planning, and performance of Carter and Mondale in finding a way to recreate America’s most problematic governmental institution into a position of lasting consequence. They were the leaders who made the change happen. Writing the book left me with an appreciation of Mondale’s deep understanding of American constitutional government and political behavior, his creativity in reformulating the vice presidency into a consequential and productive institution of government, and his skill and character in discharging his public trust. I hope the book conveys that picture of the leadership and character of this remarkable public servant and person.

Joel K. Goldstein is the the Vincent C. Immel Professor of Law Emeritus, Saint Louis University School of Law. He is the author of numerous works on the vice presidency, presidential succession, and constitutional law.

Kevin L. Smith Named Director of University Press of Kansas

The University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees, which is composed of the provosts from each of the six Kansas Regents institutions, has confirmed University of Kansas Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith to serve as director of the University Press of Kansas (UPK). Smith joined KU Libraries as dean in May 2016. He previously served as the director of copyright and scholarly communication at Duke University.

During his tenure at Duke, Smith advised faculty, staff, and students on issues of copyright, intellectual property licenses, and scholarly publishing. He played a vital role in coordinating online publishing, offered instructional opportunities on copyright, and increased awareness surrounding intellectual property and open access to the Duke community and beyond.

Smith earned a J.D. from Capital University Law School, a master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, and a master of arts in religion from Yale University Divinity School. Prior to his work at Duke, he was the director of Library and Instructional Resources at Defiance College. He has also worked as an instructor, reference librarian, and assistant librarian.

UPK: What are your first orders of business as the UPK Director?

Smith: The first thing I need to do is to get to know the Press staff. I have been very impressed by their dedication and professionalism during the past few, very stressful months, and I am looking forward to learning about them and from them. Of course, I need to take a deep look at UPK’s finances and operations. And, then, we need to start planning our first steps toward the new initiatives we will undertake in digital publishing and open access.

What do you look forward to most in your new role as director?

As my previous answer indicates, I am looking forward to working with the UPK staff. I also anticipate some creative and exciting conversations about how UPK and the libraries, at KU and at the other Kansas Regents’ universities, can find new ways to collaborate.

How do you plan to balance your responsibilities as Dean of Libraries and Director of UPK?

Appointing Kelly Chrisman Jacques as Managing Director of the Press was a big step. I do not have either the time nor the expertise to oversee the daily operations of the Press, although I expect to learn a lot about how UPK works in the coming months, so Kelly’s new role is essential. Obviously, I will be spending a good deal of time meeting people, talking about the Press, and exploring new ways for the Press to fulfill its mission. Fortunately, the KU Libraries have a very strong leadership team, and I can lean on them quite a bit.

How can UPK collaborate with the KU library system and the library systems at the other Regents universities?

This is something we will need to explore together. The different libraries at the Regents’ universities have different approaches to digital publishing, so as we seek collaboration in that area, we will need to discuss how each of the libraries can work together with the Press, and what the most important objectives are in those collaborations.

A major point of focus moving forward will be developing an active Open Access program with UPK titles. Can you describe how that process will be implemented? What will it look like in 5 years?

It is much too early for me to start predicting the future, five years down the road! But an important goal for us will be to help the faculty at each of the Regents’ universities gain access to publishing expertise and to take advantage of the benefits that open access offers to scholars and scholarship.

The reorganization of a program and new initiatives can take time to implement and review; can you expound upon the anticipated timeframe for this process?

I would like to spend the rest of the spring and summer talking with people and learning about current processes and future possibilities. I hope we can have some basic planning in place by the start of the fall semester in order to facilitate outreach to the faculties at each university.

The Press receives a subsidy from the state of Kansas. That subsidy has not increased in 10 years and will decrease for the next fiscal year. What type of challenges does that present for UPK?

There are financial challenges facing us across higher education right now, and that is very likely to continue. Frankly, I am pleased that the subvention will continue. A big part of the reorganization plan adopted by the Trustees is cutting costs, and it will also be critical for us to identify project-based subventions to help with that goal. Overall, the challenge and the necessity is for the Press to live within its means.

While the Press was being reviewed by Rick Clements, public support for the mission of UPK swelled. How do you address supporters of the Press and instill confidence in the new direction?

First, I am very grateful for all of the support that was expressed for the Press, and I know that the staff is as well. All of the messages encouraging that the Press continue to fulfill its mission really did have a significant impact. The new directions we will be pursuing together are adjustments, efforts to take advantage of new technologies and opportunities; they do not alter that fundamental mission to publish excellent scholarship in the traditional areas of the Press’s expertise. Also, each of these newer trajectories are actually well-trodden paths, and we have lots of colleagues in the Association of University Presses and the Association of Research Libraries who are very willing to think with us to design successful plans.

How can we leverage this enthusiasm and support long-term? What fundraising plans do you have for UPK?

The 75th anniversary of the Press this year is a great opportunity to leverage the attention and support that the Press has received to build a firm foundation of supporters. I see three prongs to our fund-raising work. First, we will collaborate more closely with the KU endowment association to develop a fund-raising strategy.  Second, we will intensify our efforts to identify sources of project-specific subventions. Finally, we will look more closely at grant opportunities in the areas of digital publishing and open access. The Mellon-funded Kansas Open Books project that is currently underway actually advances us a good deal in the arena of digital publishing and open access, and it can serve as a model for what we can accomplish with the assistance of research funders.

University Press of Kansas to continue its work under leadership of KU Libraries dean

LAWRENCE — The University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees, which is composed of the provosts from each of the six Kansas Regents institutions, has confirmed University of Kansas Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith to serve as director of the University Press of Kansas (UPK).

Smith, a well-known authority in the field of scholarly communications, will continue his role as dean in addition to serving as director of the press. This change will allow UPK to take advantage of publishing and scholarly alignment opportunities as well as operate in a more cost-efficient manner.

“Founded in 1946, and established as a consortium by the Kansas Board of Regents, UPK has been a part of our scholarly and academic communities throughout its history,” said Shirley Lefever, chair of the Board of Trustees and Wichita State University interim executive vice president and provost. “We are appreciative of the resources provided by KU Libraries to allow the board to continue its conversations about how to preserve this history while exploring options for the press’ fiscally responsible future. The board is confident in Kevin’s ability to serve in this leadership role.”

As part of this move, UPK will also begin a number of exciting initiatives, including the development of a new open access digital publishing program. This multidisciplinary platform will initially be targeted at faculty at the six Regents institutions, with a goal to expand as capacity and demand permits. UPK will continue to publish books in a traditional manner but intends to reduce its annual production to about 45 books, maintaining high standards of peer review and editorial production. It will continue with a 60/40 mix of scholarly monographs and trade books.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of UPK, which specializes in publishing works on American politics, military history and intelligence studies, American history, environmental policy and history, American studies, film studies, law and legal history, Native American studies, and books about Kansas and the Midwest.

Please visit their websites to learn more about the University Press of Kansas and KU Libraries.

University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees

  • Jill Arensdorf, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Fort Hays State University
  • Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor, KU
  • David Cordle, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Emporia State University
  • Shirley Lefever, board chair, interim executive vice president and provost, Wichita State University
  • Howard Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Pittsburg State University
  • Charles Taber, provost and executive vice president, Kansas State University

Kevin L. Smith, Dean of Libraries, University of Kansas

Smith earned a juris doctor from Capital University Law School, a master’s degree in library science from Kent State University and a master of arts in religion from Yale University Divinity School.

Smith joined KU Libraries as dean in May 2016. He previously served as the director of copyright and scholarly communication at Duke University and as the director of Library and Instructional Resources at Defiance College. Smith has also worked as an instructor, reference librarian and assistant librarian.

As the dean of KU Libraries, Smith advocates on behalf of the libraries, positioning the organization as an integral partner with the university’s academic and administrative units and ensuring its continued leadership in advancing research, teaching, inclusivity and global initiatives. Smith also facilitates external relations through outreach development and engaging in donor relations to solidify fundraising efforts.

Staff Picks: What We’re Reading – March, 2021

An Introduction to the Gospel of John – Don’t let the “Introduction to” title fool you. This is an engagingly written but deeply scholarly book (with a bibliography at the end of every chapter!), but that’s why I love it. No one was more of an authority on John than Fr. Brown, and this book is helping me understand what for me is the most difficult Gospel.    – Joyce Harrison

The Handmaid’s Tale – A dystopian novel set in near-future New England where a totalitarian state has overthrown the United States government. – Erica Nicholson

 

 

O.J. is Innocent and I Can Prove It – Since I was in fourth grade, and the verdict was announced, this case has always been a topic amongst my sisters. We can’t get enough true crime. My sister Melanie told me that I had to check out this book because she now has doubts that O.J. was the killer. It’s a quick read so far, and the evidence that Dear brings forward is astonishing and should not be ignored for the possibility to reopen the case. – Andrea Laws

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on EarthI’m currently reading Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland. It’s long been on my reading list, and hers is a story that resonates with me: the pearl-buttoned, plaid, threadbare shirts; the chapped and calloused hands; and the strong women. Sarah and I grew up about seventy miles away from each other, and the family that she writes about strikes a familiar and frank chord: one that I’ve surely heard at many a family gathering. – Kelly Chrisman Jacques

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life – I started reading William Finnegan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his life spent searching for waves to worship when it was -18 degrees in Lawrence. Now I’m ready for summer. – Derek Helms

 

 

The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America by Laura Dassow Walls – Humboldt was a Prussian explorer who led a daring and scientifically productive expedition to South America and Mexico during the Jeffersonian era. He was the first scientist to predict man-made climate change and was also an outspoken advocate for Indigenous rights and the abolition of slavery. This book surveys his travels and scientific discoveries and traces his influence on American history, natural science, politics, environmentalism, art, and literature. – Karl Janssen

David Congdon specified his book picks by how he consumes them:

 

 

 

 

Obit – ebook

No One Is Talking About This – audio

Imagining Persecution: Why American Christians Believe There Is a Global War against Their Faith – print

Contingency and the Limits of History: How Touch Shapes Experience and Meaning – print

 

Child Poverty and Richard Nixon’s Family Security Act

by John Roy Price, author of The Last Liberal Republican: An Insider’s Perspective on Nixon’s Surprising Social Policy

It has taken a brutal pandemic for the country to confront the reality of child poverty in “this land of plenty.” Fifty years ago, a Republican president made this a centerpiece of his social policy. In his first months in office, Nixon set out to eliminate federal tax liability for those earning below the poverty line. Out of concern for the wholly dependent as well as those in low-earning working families, he then proposed reform of what was a “catch-as catch-can” program of Food Stamps.

The centerpiece of his strategy was what we first called the “Family Security System” as we were developing it with Nixon. This became his Family Assistance Plan, announced in August of 1969. “FAP” was a complete retooling of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Nixon’s FAP was not only a reform of “welfare”, where its national floor raised help for millions in states whose welfare benefits fell below the states’ own definition of subsistence. But it went beyond “welfare reform.”  It sought a floor under the income of all families with children.

The plan was a “negative income tax.” This meant an income-tested floor of federal payments that would taper off as family income increased. Nixon’s proposal would reach and help the “working poor.” Millions of families struggled to approach the poverty line, even with a parent working full time, where the family was too large, or the wages too little. Nixon would supplement their incomes. The late George Shultz, secretary of Labor under Nixon, was a constant advocate for Nixon including the “working poor.” He did.

An early decision was not to pursue a grant to all parents and children but to focus help on those who most needed it. So, the “capitation grant” or a set amount of money to everyone, without regard to their family’s wealth and other income, was dismissed (to be resurrected in George McGovern’s “demo-grant” proposal of his hapless 1972 campaign against Nixon—an idea McGovern later said he wished he had never heard of). It would have been staggeringly costly, and not concentrated on lifting children and parents out of poverty.

The “negative income tax” had bi-partisan roots. It was advanced by some Kennedy and Johnson economic advisors and by the senior economic advisor to conservative Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, Milton Friedman. Richard Nixon was the first president to set out a universal basic income, out of concern for child poverty, hunger, and the consequent setback for children, whether white or non-white but poor, in a start to their lives to enable them to achieve their potential.

In the course of the debate, Nixon heard arguments about whether people could be trusted with disposable income in cash, or needed to be restricted; whether a floor under and supplement to income would incent them to work or to “lie about.” He wrestled with work requirements, and with the way his plan would fit into existing assistance programs so as not to agitate middle-class concerns about incomes of those receiving federal help exceeding those who were not.

After Nixon’s poverty proposals, some of their progeny were created. The Earned Income Tax Credit was a legacy of his negative income tax and concern about the working poor. So were the Food Stamp programs, now known as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program

With the “reforms” of welfare in the 1990s, the Republicans and President Clinton abandoned the specific federal program, the AFDC, that focused on child poverty. They pivoted to priority on work requirements and reducing rolls of public assistance, with the termination of any assistance after a period. Republicans then began a retreat on EITC and on Food Stamps, pushing budget reductions in these anti-poverty programs for the next twenty years. The pandemic has focused a light on just how crucial these programs are to combat poverty among American children. It is gratifying to see renewed recognition of the reality and the drastic human costs—along with later huge public costs—of widespread childhood poverty. It is good to see efforts by such as Senator Romney, hopefully working with other Republicans and with President Biden in collaboration on these issues. To this writer, it comes as a ray of hope that America’s decency, and its policy, once more should seek to lift up these innocents.

John Roy Price is the retired President and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh. He served as Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs from 1969 through 1971.

You May Also Enjoy: More Binge-Worthy Books.

The majority of the country is stuck inside weathering a deep arctic freeze (oh, and a global pandemic). The staff here at UPK is no different. As an opportunity to turn off the tube, we’d like to suggest some analog matches from our backlist to complement your digital favorites…

 

If you enjoyed Spike Lee’s story of four African American veterans returning to Vietnam decades after the war to find their squad leader’s remains, you might like Lisa Doris Alexander’ Expanding the Black Film Canon; Race and Genre across Six Decades, which expands our idea of what black films are and, going back to the 1960s, shows us new and interesting ways to understand them.

 

Obsessed with mysteries that seem to have no explanation? Dig into J. Patrick O’Connor’s Justice on Fire: The Kansas City Firefighters Case and the Railroading of the Marlborough Five. O’Connor describes a misguided eight-year investigation propelled by an overzealous Bureau of Alcohol, ATF agent keen to retire; a mistake-riddled case conducted by a combative assistant US attorney willing to use compromised “snitch” witnesses and unwilling to admit contrary evidence; and a sentence of life without parole pronounced by a prosecution-favoring judge.

 

Did Aaron Sorkin’s historical legal drama stoke your interests in Chicago history? Check out Joel E. Black’s Structuring Poverty in the Windy City: Autonomy, Virtue, and Isolation in Post-Fire Chicago. Black explains how the process begun by the Relief and Aid Society after the Great Chicago Fire in October 1871 would expand outward—from jobless men to workingwomen to southern African American migrants, each defined by, and defining, poverty.

 

Love the work done by the Dutton family in Montana, but know it’s the women who really run the operations? Check out Sandra K. Schackel’s Working the Land: The Stories of Ranch and Farm Women in the Modern American West. Schackel tells the tales of how women on today’s ranches and farms have played a crucial role in a way of life that is slowly disappearing from the western landscape.

 

Has the pandemic and cold weather turned your family into something resembling the Fraser family? Maybe check out Ian Dowbiggin’s The Search for Domestic Bliss: Marriage and Family Counseling in 20th-Century America.In The Search for Domestic Bliss, Dowbiggin delves into the stories of the usual suspects in the founding of the therapeutic gospel, exposing little known aspects of their influence and misunderstood features of their work.

 

If you’ve spent countless hours streaming the 17(!) seasons of “medical drama” on Grey’s Anatomy, maybe it’s time to brush up on your actual anatomy. Try John Cody’s classic Visualizing Muscles, which features a live model painted to look as though his skin had been stripped off and then photograph in multiple poses. Paired photographs—show how the simulated muscles produce the subtle lights and darks, hills and valleys, on the model’s unpainted skin.

 

So you’re into dystopian science fiction Westerns with a side of amusement park fun? Well then, you need to check out William H. Katerberg’s classic Future West: Utopia and Apocalypse in Frontier Science Fiction. Katerberg takes a new look at works of utopian, dystopian, and apocalyptic science fiction to show how narratives of the past and future powerfully shape our understanding of the present-day West.

 

A flying object, shaped like a potato chip with the center cut out, lands on Earth and grows a crystal shell? Cool. Thomas E. Bullard wrote a whole book about it. The Myth and Mystery of UFOs shows how ongoing grassroots interest in UFOs stems both from actual personal experiences and from a cultural mythology that defines such encounters as somehow “alien”—and how it views relentless official denial as a part of conspiracy to hide the truth. Bullard also describes how UFOs have catalyzed the evolution of a new but highly fractured belief system that borrows heavily from the human past and mythic themes and which UFO witnesses and researchers use to make sense of such phenomena and our place in the cosmos.

 

Watching the news have you thinking: ‘Well, how did we get here?’ David E. Kyvig’s The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture since 1960 has some answers. In this magisterial work, Bancroft Prize-winning historian David Kyvig chronicles the rise of a culture of impeachment since 1960—one that extends far beyond the infamous scandals surrounding Presidents Richard Nixon (Watergate) and Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky) and has dramatically altered the face of American politics.

A Century Ago, White Protestant Extremists Marched on Washington

by Elizabeth Dias, previously published in The New York Times

In the weeks following the attack on the Capitol, many Americans have argued over whether the violence was a singular event or an outcome of deeper forces. Voters, Congress and a former president are clashing over who is to blame.

To Kelly J. Baker, a writer and public scholar of religion and racial hatred, the attack felt familiar, and it made her nervous. Many rioters, a largely white group, were motivated by religious fervor and saw themselves as participants in a kind of holy war. Some brought Confederate flags, others crosses. Some who invoked the name of Jesus were members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys, whose participants have espoused misogynistic and anti-immigrant views. Some were motivated by conspiracy theories and QAnon falsehoods as well as their conservative Christian faith.

In many ways it resembled the culture of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and the group’s march on Washington in 1925, said Dr. Baker, who previously was a religious studies lecturer at the University of Tennessee. Many Americans associate the K.K.K. with white hoods, burning crosses and anti-Black racism but are less familiar with its white Protestant ambitions and antipathy toward Catholics and Jews. Dr. Baker explores that history in her book “Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930,” published by the University Press of Kansas in 2011.

In a conversation with The New York Times that has been edited for length, Dr. Baker reflected on how white Protestant Christianity and nationalism have long been interwoven — even a mainstream movement — and how many white churches today have yet to reckon with white supremacy.

No. White Christianity and this white supremacist Trump extremism are definitely not a new combination. I’d push back a little bit about the language of extremism to say that some of this stuff has been remarkably mainstream in American history. I just think that what we’re seeing right now is a dramatic form of it.

What did the attack on the Capitol remind you of historically?

It reminds me of some of the actions of the 1920s Klan, where they are marching on Washington in hoods and robes and carrying flags and crosses to show their dominance and presence in American life.

This was the largest order of the Klan in American history, millions of members in all 48 continental states. Usually the estimates are four to six million. Folks were bankers and dentists and lawyers, pastors and politicians. This involved both white men and women. They stood for, explicitly, white supremacy and white Protestantism. Arguably, it is an evangelical movement too. For membership you were supposed to be a white Christian. You had to be supportive of nationalism and patriotism. They actively encouraged members to go to church. Their language was definitely influenced by evangelicalism, the way they talk about Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

At the time, what was going on with white Christians who were not members?

The Klan was kind of a dramatic example of what a lot of other white people would understand: the importance of Christianity, patriotism, that there was tacit agreement about white supremacy.

There are people that are counteracting these white people that are doing this, but white supremacy wasn’t a controversial topic. The Klan was really upfront and honest about using this term. So a lot of other white Christians might have the same beliefs that they did, but the Klan took it up to 11. These are folks who were picking up the hood and robe to say that America needs to be saved, from immigrants, from people of color.

Did this combination start in the 1920s? Where does it start?

Arguably we can talk about how the combination of Christianity and white supremacy goes to the American founding, with early folks like Puritans showing up and claiming they’re the nation upon a hill and that this is now their land and they have dominion over it. It’s not like we can say that the Klan came from the Puritans. But a variety of different movements in different time periods pick up the same ideas and rhetoric and practices.

What are you observing about this current period of extremism and Christianity. How does it compare to the waves before?

As a historian, sometimes you think, “I don’t know if I can take this moment in history and bring it to the present.” But you can definitely find that if you look at a Klan newspaper from the 1920s that there was similar language about God and there’s similar language about the threat to the nation, from immigrants or Catholics or Jews. It just looked so familiar.

Some of the differences are kind of interesting. Klansmen went around with hoods and robes, so they are not sharing their identity. One of the interesting things to me about this movement now is the willingness of people to be so public about their beliefs. I think they’ve been emboldened by Trump’s behavior.

That feels a little different to me from the more polished version that the 1920s Klan wanted to have, where they’re very careful about their rhetoric, and very thoughtful about how they presented their Christianity, and were very much into having a smooth moving P.R. machine to make them look respectable. I have a hard time imagining a Klan riot on the Capitol.

The Klan was not as apocalyptic as some of the current folks are, you know, where they are thinking about the world ending.

What do you make of the conservative Christians who condemn the violence at the Capitol?

It is interesting that there are conservative Christians who support Trump but say the violence is a step too far. I think that is important. But I have this kind of inkling that that means they’re OK with everything else. Like, the violence is a step too far, but is the white supremacy? Is the anti-immigrant impulse? Are they also convinced that something happened with the election and Trump should have remained president?

Part of the downfall of the 1920s Klan is that there were Klan leaders that pushed too far. There were a couple of cases involving Klansmen that involved a whole bunch of violence. So people started defecting because they don’t want to be associated. But I think the important thing about that is that Klansmen and Klanswomen were on board with exclusion. They’re on board with anti-immigrant sentiment. They are totally there for white supremacy. It’s just that when that violence reached a particular moment, they felt like they had to step back. And that seems similar to me here.

We have also seen a lot of anti-Semitism among the Trump extremists. How does that fit historically with white Christians?

In 1890, there’s a push against immigrants, particularly Catholic and Jewish immigrants. We definitely had it with the 1920s Klan, that the two groups it primarily was against were Catholics and Jews, with again a deep concern that somehow the character of the nation would be changed if it wasn’t so dominated by white Christians, Protestant Christians. They were nervous about the enfranchisement of Black people as well, but so much of their effort was directed toward other religious groups.

The extremism that we are seeing, is it similar to the rise of Islamic extremism? We made such a distinction between Islam and Islamic extremism. Does that apply to Christianity in the United States?

I don’t think we should flatten and say Christianity equals Christian extremism in the same way that we shouldn’t say Islam solely is the same as Islamic fundamentalism. But I do think we have to figure out, what is it about these traditions — and the people that are part of these traditions and have practices and beliefs — that makes extremism a possibility.

To what extent is this moment a pivot point? Are we at the end of something, are we at the beginning of something?

Whether this is a beginning or ending, I think one of the things that we can’t take our eyes off of is this question of, How we could get here? I think there’s still a lot of ‘I don’t know how this happened’ that’s occurring around this moment. It’s a mistake to assume that this is some sort of anomaly that we can just move past. It’s a dangerous mistake because I think we need to be very thoughtful about the roles of the politicians in leading to these sorts of things, the role of social media.

I am not super optimistic that we are at the end of this kind of violence. I’m not. And I think part of that comes from researching white supremacist movements for over 15 years.

I’m wondering the extent to which white, conservative American Christianity is changing. Are there any historical lessons of hope?

There still has to be a reckoning within white Christian churches about white supremacy. There need to be very careful conversations about this, not as, “Individuals are prejudiced,” but about, “This is the system that we all inhabit.”

There were white Christian leaders in the 1920s who were anti-Klan. We see this happening within some white churches, who have very much paid attention to the movement for Black lives and have understood that they have a job in this. There are glimmers of hope.

But I think that there still has to be a reckoning with what churches and leaders and organizations are involved in something like the events on Jan. 6. And that’s going to require a lot of soul-searching and interrogation.

Elizabeth Dias covers faith and politics from Washington. She previously covered a similar beat for Time magazine. @elizabethjdias

Kelly J. Baker is the editor of Women in Higher Education.