A Rainbow Wave in Kansas

by CJ Janovy, author of  No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas.

“There were tears, of course, as the reality began to set in that the eight years of persecution of LGBTQ Kansans was coming to an end,” Stephanie Mott wrote on Facebook early on Wednesday morning. Kansans had elected Laura Kelly rather than Kris Kobach as their next governor.

Mott, a highly visible transgender activist in Kansas for a decade now, remembered the night Sam Brownback was elected governor eight years ago and reelected four years ago. She also recalled the 2016 presidential election, or “that horrible night 2 years past.” Now she was waking up to a different future, “in the full knowledge that anti-LGBTQ legislation will not pass in Kansas in the next 4 years, at least 4 years,” she wrote, in a kind of social media poetry:

  • No bathroom bills.
  • Protected Kansas LGBTQ employees.
  • Yes, there were tears.
  • It is also about Medicaid expansion, and education and tax policy, and so much more.
  • But for this transgender woman and so many LGBTQ Kansans, it is about life and death.
  • It is about living in a state that respects our identities and honors our love. #GovernorElectLauraKelly

Kelly’s defeat of Kobach was big national news; even bigger national news was that Kansans were sending a lesbian to the US House of Representatives. Sharice Davids, who defeated four-term Representative Kevin Yoder, would also be one of the first two Native American women in Congress.

In its postelection piece on what national media outlets were calling a “rainbow wave” (echoing the slogan of the national Victory Fund, which helped bankroll the victories), NPR’s Leila Fadel spoke with 3rd District resident Hailee Bland Walsh, who called Davids’s win “lifesaving”: “Walsh and her wife never imagined that they’d see an open lesbian serve in their district. She’s been afraid as a minority in an America that’s becoming more and more uncivil,” Fadel reported.

“There’s something really fundamental about feeling safe,” Walsh said. Listeners around the country could hear her voice begin to waver. “And today, for the first time in couple of years— I’m getting emotional about it, but I feel safe.”

Volumes on Davids now wait to be written as she heads to Washington and as we watch what she does there. Pundits are already talking about how Kansas, of all places, elected a lesbian.

From where I sat, watching Davids’s rise from afar (I did not cover her campaign) and witnessing people’s enthusiasm about her, the explanation looked simple: 1) Yoder was a Trumpist from a moderate district; 2) Democrats had fielded a clear and qualified alternative, someone whose very existence and openness stood for something bigger than herself; 3) newly awakened voters who were eager to make a statement against the administration added to the energy in Johnson County, where citizens had been working hard through several election cycles to try to reverse the economic disaster of the Brownback administration—primarily its damage to public education; and 4) in majority-minority Wyandotte County, voters broke a twenty-two-year record for turnout, with Davids getting 68 percent of the vote to Yoder’s 29.

For me, the most surprising moment of the Davids-Yoder race was a couple of lines in the Kansas City Star the morning after the two debated, late in the campaign, when Davids held a substantial lead in the polls:

“Asked if Congress should pass federal LGBTQ protections, Davids advocated for the move and  said ‘LGBT people should be considered a protected class.’ Yoder was not clear about the issue during the debate but clarified afterward that he would support making LGBTQ a protected class under federal law.”

The idea of federal protections for LGBTQ people is blasphemy for party-liners in Trump’s GOP; only two weeks earlier, his administration had considered defining trans people out of existence.

But Yoder’s tendency to say whatever was politically expedient at any given moment was just one reason so many people in the 3rd District had proclaimed themselves #OverYoder. It’s likely any strong-enough Democrat would have beaten him; that a lesbian was the one to do it spoke to a profound change in public opinion.

“Twenty years ago, a lot of identities were liabilities. Being a Native American lesbian in the 1990s probably was a nonstarter to getting elected to anything,” University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller told my KCUR colleague Gina Kaufmann on the morning after the election. “And it didn’t matter yesterday.”

It didn’t matter—in fact, it might have been a strength rather than a liability—thanks in part to the kind of hometown activism chronicled in No Place Like Home.

That change in attitudes is not a fluke. We know this because, far away from the national spotlight yet also in Davids’s district, two other openly gay people won their races: Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz are headed to Topeka in January to represent their neighbors in the Kansas House.

The two representatives-elect came to politics from different angles: Woodard from a lifelong interest and through a primary where his opponent was also gay—thus ensuring that the Democratic candidate in House District 30 would be an openly gay man either way—and Ruiz, who, like so many other activists I met in the course of reporting for No Place Like Home (and my follow-up blog), stepped up because no one else did.

In both cases, however, identity was not their main issue. Like other Kansans, they were most concerned about public education and health care. Voters seemed to have awakened to the fact that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric was an attempt at distraction.

“We got push-polled with a robocall from our opponent,” Woodard told me, “and I had conservative people call me and say, ‘I don’t have a problem with you being gay—what I have a problem with is your opponent attacking you for your stance on LGBT issues.’”

 

CJ Janovy, Digital Content Editor for KCUR, is the author of No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas.

Seth Blumenthal (“Children of the Silent Majority”) Q & A

Children of the Silent Majority; Young Voters and the Rise of the Republican Party, 1968-1980

Only fifteen years before his 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan blasted students on California’s campuses as “malcontents, beatniks, and filthy speech advocates.” But it was just a few years later that Hunter S. Thompson, citing “that maddening ‘FOUR MORE YEARS!’ chant from the Nixon Youth gallery in the convention hall,” heard the voices of those beatniks’ coevals who would become some of Reagan’s staunchest supporters. It is this cadre of young conservatives, more muted in the histories than the so-called Silent Majority, that this book brings to the fore.

  1. What’s your elevator pitch for Children of the Silent Majority? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

While the 1968 generation first threatened the conservative realignment that Republican leaders envisioned, it eventually offered a vital asset in the increasingly image conscious political environment. More lasting, Nixon’s youth effort fortified the GOP with a cadre of new voters and party leaders after the voting age fell to eighteen.

2. Children of the Silent Majority started as your dissertation. How long did you spend working on the book?

My first research trip was to the Nixon Library in 2009, and so it began.

3. What led you to research the Republican efforts to recruit young voters?

Watching an obscure guerilla television documentary called Four More Years about the Republican National Convention in 1972, I noticed how the Young Voters for the President popped up everywhere and I wondered who they were, and what they were thinking. It took me some time, but I found out.

4. What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing the book?

There isn’t really anything else about Nixon’s Young Voters for the President, so that was exciting but also daunting as the historiography was non-existent. In addition, as I interviewed YVPers I had to resist the nostalgic interpretations of the GOP’s youth effort. Many of the people I talked to referred glowingly to this experience, but of course, not everybody thought so highly of Nixon and his campaign.

5. Your book goes into great detail how, at the height of the 60’s ‘flower-power’ movement, President Nixon and the Republican Party was able to build its majority. Can you draw any parallels between 1968 and 2018? Are Republicans using the same tactics to win young voters?

In some ways, I think the message is that the GOP has largely forgotten young voters’ role in their rise to power. President Trump has been very bad for the Republican brand with youth. Though, I think one thing that is consistent is that College Republicans are still more organized than their Democratic counterparts. I spend quite a bit of time in the book explaining the training program developed by the CR and the Young Voters for the President, and that professional structure and relationship with the senior party officials still provides leadership schools to recruit and cultivate future Republicans.

6. Have you noticed any efforts by either party in the current election that remind you of the Republican playbook used from 1968-1980?

Obviously Obama comes to mind. But interestingly, I have come to appreciate the irony that Obama succeeded in rallying the youth coalition that McGovern sought to build by using the organizational techniques and structure from Nixon’s campaign.

7. As Republican attempt to maintain and build their current majority, have any party leaders (the actual children of the silent majority) made any comments about how they were won over by the party?

Karl Rove comes to mind as he talks quite a bit about his youth activism and the lessons he learned about campaigning in the early 1970s as he too played a central role in the Nixon youth campaign in 1972. Paul Manafort was a Young Republican leader who played a prominent role in Ford’s youth vote effort. If you look at prominent College Republican and Young Republican alumni it’s a who’s who in GOP politics, but in most cases they were political animals before they joined these groups so it’s more about training and organizing youth than winning them over. I interviewed over 15 former YVP members, many went on to very successful careers as political consultants, campaign managers and politicians. Some grew up in Democratic families in the urban, ethnic enclaves or from the South and saw the GOP as an alternative to one party rule.

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

Well, sadly, Hunter S. Thompson. He wrote the most about Nixon’s young voters, and despised them, I think because he appreciated their significance in countering the (and his) liberal dream for youth politics in 1972 and the future. We could sure use him these days.

But as for actual living human beings, Senator Bill Brock who is now 87. He is a fascinating political figure in the GOP’s history, a star in the book, and he deserves his own biography.

A Halloween Reading List…

After the kids are done sorting candy leaving wrappers across the floor, take some time and get spooked with these UPK books…

HAUNTED KANSAS by Lisa Hefner Heitz / Maybe you’ve just been visited by the late Ida Day lurking in the basement of Hutchinson’s public library or the widow Tarot staring forlornly from an upstairs window at Fort Scott, or the phantom Earl floating behind the scenes in Concordia’s Brown Grand Theater. And maybe the horrific Albino Woman truly does haunt Topeka, turning romantic nights into nightmares. . . . maybe.

To pursue the stories behind these and other spectral manifestations, Lisa Hefner Heitz traveled the state in search of its ghostly folklore. What she unearthed is a fascinating blend of oral histories, contemporary eye-witness accounts, and local legends. Creepy and chilling, sometimes humorous, and always engaging, her book features tales about ghosts, poltergeists, spook lights, and a host of other restless spirits that haunt Kansas.

Heitz’s spine-tingling collection of stories raps and taps and moans and groans through a wealth of descriptions of infamous Kansas phantoms, as well as disconcerting personal experiences related by former skeptics. Many of these ghosts, she shows, are notoriously linked to specific structures or locations, whether it is an eighteenth-century mansion in Atchison or a deep—some have claimed bottomless—pool near Ashland.

The evanescent apparitions of these tales have frightened and at times amused Kansans throughout the state’s long history. Yet this is the first book to capture for posterity the lively antics of the state’s ghostly denizens. Besides preserving a colorful and imaginative, if intangible, side of the state’s popular heritage, Heitz supplies ghost-storytellers with ample hair-raising material for, well, eternity. Maybe that person breathing softly behind you has another such story to share. Oh, no one’s there? Perhaps it really was just the breeze off the prairie.

 

GHOST TOWNS OF KANSAS by Daniel C. Fitzgerald / As soon as the Kansas Territory was opened for settlement in 1854, towns sprang up like mushrooms—first along the Missouri border, then steadily westward along trail routes, rivers, and railroad lines. Many of them barely got beyond the drawing board and hundreds of them flowered briefly and died, victims of the “boom or bust” economy of the frontier and the vagaries of weather, finance, mining, agriculture, railroad construction, and politics.

Ghost Towns of Kansas is a practical guide to these forsaken settlements and a chronicle of their role in the history of Kansas. It focuses on 100 towns that have either disappeared without a trace or are only “a shadowy remnant of what they once were,” telling the story of each town’s settlement, politics, colorful figures and legends, and eventual abandonment or decline.

The culmination of more than ten years of research, this new book is a distillation of the author’s immensely popular three-volume work on the state’s ghost towns, now out of print. Condensed and redesigned as a traveler’s guide, it is organized by region and features ten maps and detailed instructions for finding each site. Twenty of the towns included are discussed for the first time in this volume. The book also contains more than 100 black-and-white photographs of town scenes.

With this new guide in hand, travelers and armchair adventurers alike can journey back to the Kansas frontier—to places like Octagon City, where settlers signed a pledge not to consume liquor, tobacco, or “the flesh of animals” in order to purchase land at $1.25 per acre from the Vegetarian Settlement Company. Or to Sheridan, a tough, end-of-the-line railroad town where, according to the Kansas Commonwealth, “the scum of creation have congregated and assumed control of municipal and social affairs.” At least thirty men were hanged and a hundred killed either in gunfights or by Indians during Sheridan’s tumultuous two-year life span. Today the only remainder of Octagon City is a stream named Vegetarian Creek, and “wild and woolly” Sheridan is again a pasture.

 

GHOST SETTLEMENT ON THE PRAIRIE by Joseph V. Hickey / Four miles southeast of the village of Matfield Green in Chase County, Kansas—the heart of the Flint Hills—lies the abandoned settlement of Thurman. At the turn of the century Thurman was a prosperous farming and ranching settlement with fifty-one households, a post office, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, five schools, and a church. Today, only the ruins of Thurman remain.

Joseph Hickey uses Thurman to explore the settlement form of social organization, which—along with the village, hamlet, and small town—was a dominant feature of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American life. He traces Thurman’s birth in 1874, its shallow rises and falls, and its demise in 1944. Akin to what William Least Heat-Moon did for Chase County in PrairyErth, Hicky provides a “deep map” for one post-office community and, consequently, tells us a great deal about America’s rural past.

Describing the shifting relationships between Thurmanites and their Matfield Green neighbors, Hickey details how social forces set in motion by the American ideal of individualism and the machinations of capitalist entrepreneurs produced a Darwinian struggle between Thurman stock raisers and Flint Hills “cattle barons” that ultimately doomed Thurman. Central to the story are the concept of “ordinary entrepreneurship” and the profoundly capitalist attitudes of the farmers who settled Thurman and thousands of other communities dotting the American landscape.

Hickey’s account of Thurman’s social organization and disintegration provides a new perspective on what happened when the cattle drives from Texas and the Southwest shifted in the 1880s from the Kansas cow towns to the Flint Hills. Moreover, he punctures numerous myths about the Flint Hills, including those that cattle dominated because the land is too rocky to farm or that Indians refused to farm because of traditional beliefs.

Like many other small rural communities, Hickey argues, Thurman during its seventy-year history was actually several different settlements. A product of changing social conditions, each one resulted from shifting memberships and boundaries that reflected the efforts of local entrepreneurs to use country schools, churches, and other forms of “social capital” to gain advantages over their competitors. In the end, Thurman succumbed to the impact of agribusiness, which had the effect of transforming social capital from an asset into a liability. Ultimately, Hickey shows, the settlement’s fate echoed the decline of rural community throughout America.

Elizabeth Warren, Settler Colonialism, and the Limits of Democratic Citizenship

by Adam Dahl, author of Empire of the People; Settler Colonialism and the Foundations of Modern Democratic Thought

In my recently published book, Empire of the People, I trace the ideological development of American democratic thought in the context of settler colonialism, a distinct form of colonialism aimed at the appropriation of native land rather than the exploitation of native labor. Specifically, it traces how the ideological disavowal of indigenous dispossession laid the foundations of American democracy, and in doing so profoundly shaped key concepts in modern democratic thought such as consent, constituent power, citizenship, social equality, popular sovereignty, and federalism. Through engagement with a complex array of authors such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John O’Sullivan, Walt Whitman, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Francis Lieber, and William Apess, I argue that norms of modern democratic legitimacy acquired their conceptual coherence and foundational logics from the erasure of settler conquest. Not only was American democratic society founded upon settler colonialism, the boundaries of democratic peoplehood and the intelligibility of “the people” as a subject of rule in American democratic thought emerged through the elimination of indigenous peoples.

Although the book is largely a historical interpretation that ends around the Reconstruction period with Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas (1871), the recent controversy over Elizabeth Warren’s genetic test proving her Cherokee identity has led me to rethink the book’s relevance in our contemporary moment, what experts of federal Indian law often refer to as the era of self-determination. After months of harassment and the hurling of ethnic slurs from the bigot-in-chief – who often berates Warren by calling her “Pocahontas” – the Massachusetts Senator released the results of a DNA test on October 15 showing that she may have had one Native American ancestor anywhere from six to eight generations back. Indigenous peoples across North America have rightly called foul. Senator Warren’s use of DNA testing, among other things, essentializes tribal identification as a form of ethnicity and uses non-indigenous standards to define indigenous identity. The very idea of native DNA testing partakes in a long settler-colonial legacy of using genetic technologies to control and curtail indigenous citizenship.

Due to the time frame of the book, I was unable to consider the main thesis in light of more contemporary currents of democratic thought championing “cultural pluralism” and “multiculturalism” as a way of ensuring the inclusive bases of liberal democratic citizenship in the twentieth century. In David Hollinger’s vision of Postethnic America, for instance, a pluralist and multicultural democracy would foster shared citizenship in a civic nation while also affirming the right of citizens to identify with distinct racial and ethnic groups. Crucial to this vision of pluralist democratic citizenship is the ability of individuals to voluntarily self-identify with ethnic groups. Such a vision of voluntary membership combines the deep appreciation of racial and ethnic diversity with a shared sense of national identity.

Citizenship in indigenous communities, however, is determined through a complex mixture of tribal law and custom, ritual practice, kinship connections, ancestral relations, and responsibilities to the land. The liberal-multicultural ideal of citizenship as voluntary membership stands in inherent tension with this more complex understanding of indigenous citizenship. It is what allows Elizabeth Warren and millions of others filling out census forms to “self-identify” as Native American by checking a box or paying $100 for genetic screening. Proclamations of an era of indigenous self-determination notwithstanding, Warren’s announcement of her self-defined Cherokee heritage both draws from this cultural pluralist strand of thinking and in doing so reveals the settler colonial and dispossessive logics of liberal democratic citizenship in its multicultural vein.

Of course, this ideal of liberal citizenship where members of different ethnic groups voluntarily identify or dis-identify with this or that group is an understandable response to legacies of ascriptive hierarchy and civic exclusion in the United States in the form of immigration quotas, Chinese exclusion, residential segregation, forced sterilization, Japanese internment, Muslim bans, and prohibition of interracial marriage. Any democracy deserving of the name must prevent the ascription of racial and ethnic categories onto citizens without their consent so as to ensure the basic protections of equal rights and liberties.

But here one of the main points of Empire of the People might help us understand our present predicament. The politics of indigenous sovereignty and citizenship cannot be collapsed into the politics of ethnicity, race, and immigration precisely because indigeneity is a different political category than racial identity, ethnic affiliation, or migrant status. For this reason, critical indigenous theorists have warned against the “racialization” and “ethnicization” of indigenous peoples. When Indian nations are cast solely as internal, ethnic minority groups rather than as nations with a government-to-government relationship with the settler state, their ability to pursue their own sovereignty and self-determination diminishes. Where ethnic and racial groups often engage in civil rights struggles for inclusion in the constitutional architecture of liberal democracy, indigenous peoples seek to preserve their own political traditions through the protection of their status as sovereign, self-governing entities.

When we take the liberal democratic ideal of voluntary membership in identity-based groups and impute it onto indigenous peoples, there arises an inherent tension between modern democratic values and indigenous self-determination. Part of what self-determination means for indigenous peoples is not just the control of their own communal resources or the protection of cultural rights to language and land-use. Rather, it has always meant, and must continue to mean, that indigenous communities themselves must be in a position to determine their own communal self-identification, that is, their own standards of citizenship and membership.  But when we treat indigenous citizenship as membership in one among any other ethnic group – precisely as Elizabeth Warren has done – we erode the capacity of indigenous nations to define the boundaries of citizenship in their communities and thus to determine the identity of “the self” that rules in the name of self-determination. To the extent that Warren’s invocation of ethnic identity as a form of voluntary identification represents a crucial aspect of the meaning of citizenship in a multicultural cum settler society, it reveals the constitutive contradictions between contemporary liberal democratic ideals and indigenous sovereignty.

In 1953, Felix Cohen, a seminal expert on federal law, argued that the fate of American Indians indexes and indeed portends the fate of democracy in America: “It is a pity that so many Americans today think of the Indian as a romantic or comic figure in American history without contemporary significance. In fact, the Indian plays much the same role in our society that the Jews played in Germany. Like the miner’s canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith.” Cohen’s famous quip about “the miner’s canary” as a warning sign of the decline of “our democratic faith” suggests that the pursuit of indigenous rights and self-determination moves in tandem with modern liberal democracy.  As one diminishes, the other declines.

As I argue in my book, however, it is, at times, the democratic faith (and by implication the standards of liberal democratic citizenship) itself that undermines ongoing struggles for indigenous self-determination. The closing words of Empire of the People are perhaps relevant here: “Grappling with the foundational role of colonial dispossession in shaping modern democratic thought must lead to a reimagining of the democratic traditions and democratic identity. Unsettling democracy requires more than simply attaching more inclusionary frameworks of constitutional law to democratic institutions. It requires rethinking the theoretical and conceptual foundations of democratic practice in a way that critically confronts their ideological entwinement with the colonial legacies of native dispossession” (184).

How Spiro Agnew Gave My Life Direction

by Joel Goldstein, author of The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden

I got my start due to Spiro Agnew.

I have spent much of my career writing about the American vice presidency and America’s system for handling presidential succession and inability, including my most recent book, The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden (2016).  It never would have happened had not Agnew, one of our least distinguished vice presidents, gotten in trouble for allegedly taking kickbacks from contractors and been forced to resign as vice president and plead nolo contendere to tax evasion to escape more serious criminal charges 45 years ago, on October 10, 1973,

I was a sophomore at Princeton University then and in those days, before cell phones and inexpensive long-distance call options, college students called home on Sunday to check in with our parents.  On my call home one Sunday in October, 1973,  I reported that I was looking for a paper topic for Professor Stanley Kelley, Jr.’s course on Party Politics. My father mentioned having heard a discussion on the Today Show about the Twenty-fifth Amendment and its procedures to allow a president to nominate someone to fill a vice-presidential vacancy subject to confirmation of both houses of Congress.  President Richard M. Nixon had nominated Representative Gerald R. Ford, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, as the first person presented under the Amendment which had gone into effect in February, 1967 and Congress was preparing for its first application.  Professor Kelley approved the topic and it later expanded to become my Princeton senior thesis topic which Professor Kelley, a gifted and dedicated scholar and teacher, supervised.

In spring, 1975, in the course of completing my senior thesis, I met John D. Feerick, who had, as a young New York lawyer, played a critical role in designing and achieving ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and who had established himself as the leading scholar regarding it.  Although Feerick was incredibly busy as a large-firm lawyer and active public citizen, he spent a lot of time speaking to me about the subject and, in one discussion, suggested that I write a book on the vice presidency since no serious academic study had been produced for a couple of decades.  A year and a half later, he included me in a Symposium on the Vice Presidency he organized for the American Bar Association along with luminaries like Senators Birch Bayh, Robert Griffin and Margaret Chase Smith, presidential scholars and former White House aides George Reedy and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Charles Kirbo, the confidante of President-elect Jimmy Carter, among others.

The project Feerick suggested became my doctoral dissertation at Oxford University and, after revisions and expansions, my first book, The Modern American Vice Presidency: The Transformation of a Political Institution which Princeton University Press published in 1982.  The book, which focused on the vice presidency from Richard M. Nixon in 1953 to Walter F. Mondale a quarter century later, argued that the office had changed dramatically during that period but that the development was due largely to major shifts in the larger context of American government and politics beginning with the New Deal and World War II.  As national government had assumed an expanded role and international and national security issues loomed larger, the presidency became more important and drew the vice presidency away from the legislative branch towards the executive branch, the book argued.  The study taught me that constitutional institutions do not operate in isolation but in a larger context in which changes in one part of the system have repercussions elsewhere.

I continued to write about the vice presidency, the Twenty-fifth Amendment, and presidential succession and inability during the rest of the twentieth century and, as I did and as history unfolded, I realized that the Mondale vice presidency was really part of a new era.  Mondale had not only introduced a new model of the office but the new design had stuck.  Mondale and the very talented people he surrounded himself with, people like Robert Barnett, Mike Berman, Jim Johnson, Richard Moe, and others, had imagined a new vision of the vice presidency as an across the board adviser to, and trouble-shooter for, the president and had identified the resources the vice president would need to succeed in that role.  President Jimmy Carter had embraced this new vision and had brought Mondale into the White House and made him part of his inner circle.  When Carter and Mondale lost in 1980, Mondale and his associates had educated the incoming vice president, George H. W. Bush, regarding the new institution they had created and the practices which made it work, and Bush and President Ronald Reagan had adopted the Mondale model.  Bush had continued it with his Vice President, Dan Quayle, as had Bill Clinton and Al Gore, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They didn’t all do it exactly the same way, or exactly as Mondale would have done it, but they all operated as general advisers and trouble-shooters, kept the resources Carter gave Mondale, and functioned as an integral part of the White House.

Whereas my first book demonstrated the dynamic whereby the vice presidency moved from the legislative to the executive branch, The White House Vice Presidency explores the development of a new orientation away from a focus primarily on providing a prepared presidential successor to trying to help the president succeed on an ongoing basis.  Although the new book provides a portrait of what has become a consequential political institution, the White House vice presidency, it also explores two more universal themes: How enduring constitutional change occurs in America through the repetition of practices and the role of enlightened leadership in transforming political institutions.

It’s been a wonderful journey.  I’ve learned a lot and met some terrific people along the way.  And it’s not over.

But who knows what path my life would have taken if the 39th vice president had not gotten into trouble with the law and had not had to resign 45 years ago on October 10, 1973 when I was looking for a topic for a college paper

I owe a lot to Spiro Agnew, and to a number of other people, too!.

Sanford Horwitt (Conversations with Abner Mikva) Q&A

It was 1948 when Abner Mikva, fresh out of college, volunteered at the 8th Ward Democratic headquarters in Chicago. “Who sent you, kid?” the leery ward committeeman asked. “Nobody,” Mikva said, and the man informed him, “We don’t want nobody nobody sent.” That marked the beginning of Abner Mikva’s storied political career, which would take him to the Illinois Statehouse, the US House of Representatives, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Clinton White House—culminating in a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by a young politician he had mentored, Barack Obama.

Around that time, eighty-seven years old and in declining health but as wise and wry as ever, Mikva sat down with his former speechwriter and longtime friend Sanford Horwitt for the first of the conversations recorded in this book. Separated by a generation, but with two lifetimes’ worth of experience between them, the friends met monthly to talk about life, politics, and the history that Mikva saw firsthand—and often had a hand in making.

1. How long did you know Abner Mikva? How did you meet?

We met in 1974 as the Watergate scandal was unfolding. We were both in a place where we didn’t want to be: Mikva was only temporarily—he hoped–practicing law while starting his campaign to get back to Congress after having lost a close race in a new suburban Chicago district. I was an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago but wanted to be doing something political. I volunteered in Mikva’s campaign, stuffing envelopes on Thursday afternoons but soon becoming a full-time volunteer and then Ab Mikva’s press secretary and speech writer when he returned to Congress. He was my inspiring friend for 42-years until his death on the Fourth of July, 2016.

2. When did you first have the idea to work on Conversations with Abner Mikva?

I heard that Mikva’s health was declining, and I wanted to talk with him– before it was too late–about his fascinating, inspiring political and legal journey and his unvarnished end-of-life insights about our country, then and now. As a writer, I saw parallels between the story I wanted to write about our monthly conversations and the book “Tuesdays with Morrie.”

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

The book is based on monthly conversations Ab Mikva and I had over three years, the last conversation shortly before his death. The conversations, all tape recorded, were mostly at Chicago eateries, including the legendary Valois Cafeteria in Hyde Park where Mikva mentored a young state senator, Barack Obama. I started writing while we were still talking and completed the first draft three months before Ab died. I read it to my friend who by then couldn’t see a butter dish across the table. The version that Ab heard was about 90 percent of the final manuscript. After his death, I spent six months fine-tuning the manuscript, adding material from our final conversations and updating some sections after Donald Trump’s unexpected election.

4. What was the most challenging aspect of writing about your old friend?

To a significant extent, the book is an Abner Mikva memoir which captures the remarkable public life of a gifted liberal icon and brilliant man of unquestioned integrity. But I also have a presence in the story because the narrative is based on our conversations. Often Ab’s reflections, including his regrets, provoked me to examine and re-consider my ideas and shortcomings. I learned a lot. But I wanted to keep the focus on Ab Mikva so that our conversations and the narrative would be much more about him, not me.

5. In Conversations, you write “Abner Mikva saw death coming but not Donald Trump.” How do you think he would respond to the election and current status of the Trump administration?

Days before he died, Ab and I had our last, brief conversation. He told me he couldn’t wait for the Republican convention to start. It was three weeks away. “I’m afraid Trump may self-destruct before the convention,” he laughed weakly. I told him that the Republicans were probably stuck with Trump. “I think they are, too” he replied. “And it couldn’t be better.” He envisioned a resounding Hillary Clinton victory. Ab Mikva had become a big fan of Hillary’s despite their sometimes-rocky relationship when he was Bill Clinton’s White House Counsel and despite his support of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.   Ab thought Hillary had learned from her mistakes, was a true liberal at heart and had a chance to be a transformative president. Perhaps she would have re-nominated Ab’s friend and protégé, Merrick Garland, to the Supreme Court. So, Ab would, first, have been hugely disappointed by Hillary’s loss and the lost opportunities for a progressive agenda and, second, appalled by virtually every aspect of Trump’s leadership and administration—Trump’s incessant lying and disregard for the traditional independent role of the Justice Department and judiciary; the flood of right-wing judicial nominees. especially Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court; the president’s attacks on immigrants and a free press; tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and so on. Ab had already lamented the decline of the Republican Party so he would not be surprised that Republican leaders, with few exceptions, have become Trump enablers. But even with Ab’s multitude of health problems, I am certain he would be doing everything he could to restore our faith in American democracy if he were still with us–and hopeful that the disastrous Trump years will be followed by a democratic reform agenda that he and I discussed.

6. You illustrate how Mikva was a true believer in the lofty possibilities of American democracy. What would you consider the two or three most important lessons learned by reading the book?

In our representative democracy, we as citizens must often trust elected officials to make good decisions for the general welfare. Mikva learned an early lesson that I hadn’t quite considered before he told me about it. On a train ride from Chicago to Springfield in 1957 when he was about to begin his first term in the state legislature, another rookie legislator asked a group of Springfield veterans what it took to be a really good legislator. “Guts,” they answered in unison. And Ab said to me some 60 years later, “I’ve never forgotten it. I still think the first criterion for public officials is guts.” But Ab also learned early in his legislative career, when he became an outspoken leader for gun control in the 1950s, that courageous leadership alone was not enough. Political change comes most often from the bottom up, driven by voluntary, powerful citizen organizations.

7. Mikva might be most well-known for identifying and nurturing the talent of Barrack Obama. What do you think he would consider his greatest professional achievement?

Mikva was proud of the role he played in helping to mentor young Obama and seeing him elected first to the U.S. Senate and then as president. And he took pride in his own legislative achievements and one of his judicial decisions. But he was most proud of two other parts of his legacy: the inspiring model he provided for unquestioned honesty and integrity throughout his public service career, and his leadership, with his wife Zoe’s, in establishing and nurturing the nonpartisan Mikva Challenge. The Mikva Challenge over the last 20 years has become one of the country’s leading youth civic education organizations, providing high school students, especially low-income students of color, with opportunities to make their voices heard on issues that are important to them and their communities—and, in the process, they learn lifelong skills of how to be effective citizens in a democratic society.

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

A young person who does not vote and is already cynical about government, politics and politicians.

In our troubling times, widespread cynicism is understandable but not tolerable if we are going to restore our endangered democracy. After Abner Mikva’s lifetime of civic engagement, from volunteering in political campaigns as a young man to serving at the highest levels of government, he remained idealistic and hopeful. “[H]is moving story of personal honor and pragmatic politics [comes] during a fraught period of our nation’s history,” writes professor David Farber. That is why it’s timely and important—and why the book is dedicated to Democracy’s Next Generation.

News and Reviews

REVIEWS

Drawing Fire; A Pawnee, Artist, and Thunderbird in World War II

Review in Publisher’s Weekly: “…Echohawk movingly recalls the language and warrior traditions he and his fellow Native soldiers followed—and, in one episode, humorously recalls fake ones they invented to intimidate insolent German captives. This excellent and fascinating account is a unique contribution to the literature of WWII.”

 

Napoleon’s 1796 Italian Campaign

Review in New York Journal of Books: “The translation is excellently done, with copious footnotes and annotations by the authors on their reasoning for choosing certain English translations for Clausewitz’s strategic thinking, particularly his major themes such as the schwerpunkt, or center of gravity, a term he frequently used to describe the concentration of forces for an attack that have long been debated among Clausewitz scholars.”

 

Justice Robert H. Jackson’s Unpublished Opinion in Brown v. Board

Review in The Review of Politics: “…we should be grateful that he has now made Jackson’s opinion so easily accessible, along with background material on the Court’s struggle to do the right thing in Brown. ”

 

AUTHORS

Mark Harvey, featured in The Washington Post

 

Robert Rebein, featured on Kansas Public Radio

 

Mark Eberle, featured on Kansas Public Radio

 

Greg Weiner, Op-Ed featured in The New York Times

 

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, featured on The University of Illinois website

Dennis Raphael Garcia Tells His Cousin’s Tales

(article originally appeared in the Socorro Independent School District newsletter)

An author, who spoke to Ernesto Serna School’s eighth-graders about a family member’s rise to the high levels of the U.S. government, wants students to plan for their future and understand there are no barriers that cannot be overcome.

Dennis Garcia wrote “Marine, Public Servant, Kansan: The Life of Ernest Garcia” about his cousin, the grandson of Mexican immigrant field laborers, who went from a being a poor student in elementary and high school to become the first Hispanic sergeant of arms for the United States Senate. Ernest Garcia escorted President Ronald Reagan to the podium to deliver the State of the Union address in 1986.

Ernest Garcia rose to be a lieutenant colonel in the Marines before retiring, traveled around the world, met with Pope John Paul, and worked with many prominent politicians.

“I wanted to relay the inspiring and amazing story of my cousin’s life and his experiences,” Dennis Garcia said. “I am using those experiences to encourage and inspire students to put forth an effort and improve their efforts to concentrate on their studies. Even though they are just in the eighth grade, I wanted to let them know they are just starting and they have to work hard.”

Ernesto Serna School Principal Alejandro Olvera wanted his students to learn from an author with an inspiring story to tell.

“We never had the honor and the privilege of having a published author at our campus, I think, especially for the middle school kids,” Olvera said. “So, I thought this was a good opportunity for them. For them, it really changes the way they think. It’s not just coming from the teacher or principal. It’s coming from somebody that has lived life. Somebody that knows of other people’s struggles and the importance of school.”

Ernesto Serna was the first school on Dennis Garcia’s book tour. He also had a book signing at a Las Cruces Barnes & Noble that same day.

“I chose El Paso because my family’s roots and their ultimate success went through El Paso,” Garcia said. “This was their first step in the United States. My great grandfather is buried in Concordia Cemetery. I thought this would be a good place to begin trying to build inspiration with the book and encouragement with the kids.”

Olvera loved the immigrant story and the struggles Ernie Garcia overcame. How the Kansas-native didn’t prioritize school, disregarded his grades and almost missed his opportunity for success. He wanted students to understand the endless opportunities afforded to them at school.

“His message is very loud and clear,” Olvera said. “He basically told our eighth graders ‘you’re going to be in high school so prioritize your school work because you will open all these opportunities for your life. Start now. You have to work hard. You have to be dedicated and never give up. You need to take advantage, so that you can have those opportunities as you go through high school and college.’ I think it really makes our kids think and process the importance of planning now. How your day of instruction and your goal setting starts today.”

English Language Arts and Reading teacher Monica Elizondo agreed. She wanted her students to learn to value their education and for the story to, especially, reach those youngsters that don’t like school or claimed to not like it.

“At first, the students were shocked,” Elizondo said. “I tried my best to read their faces to no avail. They were very quiet even throughout the day, or so I thought, but my colleagues later informed me that the students enjoyed the presentation and talked about it amongst themselves and to the rest of their eighth-grade class. Mr. Olvera also informed me that Mr. Garcia’s presentation had been the topic of conversation during lunch. I always emphasize to my students the value of an education but hearing it from someone who they have never met and who has published a book made a huge impact.”

Eighth grader, Alan Pinal, who earned a free autographed book from Garcia for answering history questions, got the message. He was fascinated with the lecture and hopes to be either a police officer or lawyer.

“I liked that his cousin was able to meet so many famous people like President Reagan,” Pinal said. “I know I have to work hard to get my dreams. I know I can’t slack off and also have too much fun in high school.”

His classmate, Miguel Montoya, said listening to Garcia tell his cousin’s story was amazing.

“It made me think,” Montoya said. “I really want to be a doctor. I’m going to pass all my grades and keep going. I am never giving up.”

It was because students like those eighth-graders that Dennis Garcia decided to write the book about his cousin, Ernest Garcia.

“As a teacher, I wanted to make a difference and change the situation that many students are in right now,” Garcia said. “I was there, so I wanted them to see first-hand they, too, can be successful. This is one formula for what they want to achieve in life. They can follow it or choose their own.”

The Shape of the 2018 Elections: The Blue Wave in 2018

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

This year’s elections have revealed the most polarized nation since 1968. With the recent conviction and plea bargains of two of the president’s top aides, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, presidential impeachment is now part of political discourse.

In addition, both parties show divisions, Republicans between the old-line moderate Republicans and rabid Trump supporters; Democrats between independent-minded progressives and establishment Democrats.

Money is certainly still a factor in this election — candidates from both parties depend on massive donations which have been unregulated since the Citizens United court decision. Nonetheless, it is likely that turnout rather than money will be the deciding factor in the November general elections.  Marches in the street may presage marches to the polls this year – at least by comparison to other non-presidential elections in the past.

The elephant in the room is the threat of presidential impeachment. Leaders from both parties are reluctant to push for impeachment before the election, preferring first to let Robert Mueller’s investigation run its course. According to The Hill, Democrats feel that focusing on impeachment could be politically unsafe for Senate Democrats, who are defending 10 seats in states won by Trump in 2016. At the same time, the New York Times reports that senior Republican Party leaders are urging their most imperiled incumbents to speak out about the wrongdoing surrounding President Trump, with the fear that “Where there’s smoke, and there’s a lot of smoke, there may well be fire.” This is enlarging the rift between the Trump White House and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Although both parties show divisions, they are more pronounced in the Republican Party. Some Republican leaders are calling on their candidates with tough races to stop defending Trump, but to paraphrase the once-party leader and recent primary loser Tim Pawlenty, the Republican Party has become “the Party of Trump.”

No one faction is winning all the primary elections in either party. Rather, the extent to which candidates’ positions are in harmony with those of their constituents seems to determine the winners In this election, especially “all politics is local.” Both moderates and radicals have won their party’s primaries.

While money is an important factor in any election and this will be the most expensive non-presidential election ever held, turnout will determine election outcome. Generally low during midterm elections, Pew Research reports that U.S. House primary turnout is 84% higher for Democrats and 24% for Republicans than 2014.  It has also been higher in most gubernatorial and senatorial elections. Turnout has increased most among women but also groups who have not voted in recent elections, such as minorities and young voters. Since the Parkland shooting, registration for voters 18-29 has increased by 2.16% nationwide, and among several battleground states like Pennsylvania it has gone up 16%.  The goal for various national organization has been to increase youth voting from a low of 19% four years ago to above 30% and that goal is almost certain to be achieved, with an increase of more than 2 million voters in this category alone.

Post-millennials have a higher sense of political efficacy than slightly older Millennials. And they tend to vote Democratic/progressive. Younger candidates on the ballot may also be more appealing to this generation, who believe they can make a difference.  In 2108 challenging candidates are younger and more have won their primary elections. Governing magazine reports that while the average age of incumbent governors facing election is 62, most candidates running against them are 50 or younger.  The same is true up and down the ballot.

Turnout remains the key. If women, minorities, youth and the LGBT community come out to vote, the Democrats will win in 2018.  But to build a long-term winning coalition, they must also truly listen to the people who felt so ignored that they voted for Donald Trump in the first place.  In a time of polarization in a politics of resentment, it is hard to mobilize the base and bring back alienated voters.

It is impossible at this point to predict whether Republicans can maintain their Congressional majority or the Democrats can take over the House and change U.S. policies. The election will be critical.  If the Democrats win back either House, they will block all future Trump administration policies and legislative efforts.  The election will set the stage for the 2020 election which will determine whether progressives or conservatives guide the future of our country.

Dick Simpson and Betty O’Shaughnessy are authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century, which provides a guide to understanding the nuts and bolts of current elections.

UPK Announces New Series: Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia

The University Press of Kansas is excited to announce a new academic series: Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia.

As more and more academics at various career stages are exploring different options for work outside the professoriate, changes to academia are causing a rethinking of both the curricula and the ethics of PhD programs. People considering alternate career paths after academia continue to need resources to guide them. The aim of this new series is to redefine what success means for current and former PhD students.

Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia seeks projects that lead to meaningful professional development and create lasting value. Topics should speak to graduate students, recent and experienced PhDs, university faculty and administrators, and the growing alt-ac and post-
ac community. The series will offer affordable books marketed to a wide readership. Projects could be analyses of the academic and alt-ac or post-ac landscapes; how-to guides about dealing with a PhD program or transitioning into various professions; memoirs about different stages of an academic journey; (re)examinations of the purpose, structure, and ethics of graduate education in the twenty-first century; or something else. There’s plenty of room for creative approaches!

“This series is being launched at the perfect time, as there are so many people who are questioning their PhD track or who have PhDs but are thinking about careers outside academia,” explains Joyce Harrison, press editor in chief. “Joe Fruscione and Erin Bartram have their fingers on the pulse of the ‘alt-ac’ world, and I’m looking forward to working with them to produce helpful guides not only for PhDs and PhDs to be, but also for university faculty and administrators.”

About the series editors…

Erin Bartram, PhD, is a freelance writer and historian of women and religion in the United States. After three years on the tenure-track job market, she left full-time academic teaching in 2018. She currently serves as the associate editor of Connecticut History Review, and her writing on history, teaching, higher education, and post-academic life has appeared in the Washington Post, Common-place, the Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. Catholic Historian, and on the pedagogy blog Teaching US History.

Joseph Fruscione, PhD, is a freelance editor, stay-at-home dad, and communications director for the nonprofit PrecariCorps. After fifteen years in aca¬demia as an adjunct teaching American literature, film, and first-year writing, he left teaching in May 2014 to pursue a freelance career. He’s worked as a post-academic consultant for The Professor Is In, and he occasionally does freelance consulting for new alternative academics or post-academics. He’s written Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry (Ohio State University Press, 2012) and edited Teaching Hemingway and Modernism (Kent State University Press, 2015), among other scholarly writing projects. He’s also published pieces about adjunct life and higher ed for Chronicle Vitae, Inside Higher Ed, Digital Pedagogy, PBS NewsHour’s Making Sense series, and elsewhere.

Please send inquiries and questions to rethinkingcareersseries@gmail.com.