I’m a sucker for articles like this one (and the one cited in it) — It’s kind of red-meat for political-history geeks, with all those red and blue-state maps, and the linking of the fairly distant past (the GOP as the “party of Lincoln”– Ha!) and the more recent past (Eisenhower’s Republican party), with the toxic partisan politics of today. A great example of “the usable past”! Here’s what Lincoln’s “coalition” looked like in 1860– remember, red=Republican=Lincoln.
“We’re unlikely to return to a mid-20th century situation where the white South is going to support the more liberal party in presidential politics. American politics has instead returned to what appears, historically, to be its natural state. Given that the alliance between the white South and the Republican Party has grown more firm than ever, it is hard to imagine how the party can refashion itself along Lincolnian or Rooseveltian lines.”
via A Southern GOP Can’t Be the Party of Lincoln — NYMag.
‘All the Way’ Stars Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson – NYTimes.com.
A new play about Lyndon Johnson– and a star vehicle for “Breaking Bad”‘s Bryan Cranston– opened last month in Cambridge MA. From the review in the Times:
Concentrating on two parallel story lines — Johnson’s fight to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his maneuvering to secure a full term as president — the play dangles more subplots than a Congressional bill has earmarks: the sordid attempts by J. Edgar Hoover (Michael McKean) to discredit the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Brandon J. Dirden); the infamous killing of three young men seeking to register black voters in Mississippi; the battle to seat black delegates from Mississippi at the 1964 Democratic National Convention that followed; and even comparatively minor incidents like the arrest of Johnson’s longtime aide-de-camp, Walter Jenkins (Christopher Liam Moore), for having sex in a men’s room.
“All the Way” works just fine as a PowerPoint lesson in political history, but it ultimately accrues minimal dramatic momentum. (The polished wooden set by Christopher Acebo is designed to suggest a Congressional chamber.) For policy wonks with an avid interest in the backroom deal making that doesn’t turn up on C-Span, the play will offer plenty to chew on. And yet for all its admirable attention to the complex currents of the period it covers, the wide focus drains the play of the narrative drive that makes for engrossing theater. (A countdown clock, noting the number of days to the presidential election, cannot really engender much suspense, since most in the audience will know how that contest ended.)
Theater rooted in history always faces a fundamental problem. Hew too closely to the complicated crosscurrents of the story and you risk shapelessness; take too many liberties in streamlining the drama and you’re no longer in the realm of fact. With the exception of his comparatively unshaded portrait of Johnson, Mr. Schenkkan comes down firmly on the side of complexity, which may be the honorable path, but not necessarily the more rewarding one for the audience.
Music Meant to Torture Included Julio Iglesias
As most of us know, music (including Megadeth among other heavy metal bands) have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to torture enemy combatants for over 10 years by our country’s military. A recently revealed article details new torture techniques by Chilean Army general Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s including Cat Stevens and Julio Iglesias.
The Occupy Wall Street movement began two years ago yesterday (September 17th, 2011) at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. News about the movement, its protests, violence, and arrests made headlines for over a year. Occupy Wall Street’s purpose was to bring forth awareness and tackle “major systemic issues like corporate greed and inequality.” Today, however, we hear little about the movement as it seems to have fizzled out. Despite the lack of headlines about Occupy in the news in recent months, the movement had a great influence in America for several months and has historical significance today and in years to come.
The 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is coming up in November– on November 22nd, of course: a date that any of us who are of “a certain age” can never NOT associate with that event. This article from the New York Times provides a bit of a preview of the coming deluge of “products of memory” about Kennedy and Dallas and the assassination and the (maybe) conspiracy, and on and on. Movies, books, TV documentaries, new exhibits, a revamped “Sixth Floor Museum” in Dallas.
“It’s amazing that Kennedy should have this extraordinary hold on the public’s imagination 50 years after,” said Robert Dallek, a historian, whose book “Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House” is being released in October. “He’s the one president along with Reagan who gave people hope. It’s hope, it’s optimism, it’s the feeling that he could have made this a different world.”
I’m not sure that I agree that JFK’s “hold on the public imagination” is all that “amazing,” or that all of this attention in 2013 is evidence of that “hold.” The attention comes, in large part, I believe, to the acceleration and intensity of public memory, the “memorial mania” that historian Erika Doss has recently written about. The centennial of the Civil War received far less attention in the 1960s than the sesquicentennial is having in the present. The 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic took place in 1962, and made barely a ripple compared to its centennial just last year. For a whole book-full of reasons, memory is big business these days– and far more contentious than ever before.
This also has to do with Baby Boomers (of which I am one)– not only the immensity of their cohort, but the immensity of their self-regard. If something momentous happened to US, it MUST be important, and MUST be remembered intensely. For millions of boomers, the Kennedy assassination was the first and perhaps most blinding “flashbulb memory,” an event that took up permanent residence (and resonance) in our psyches. We all remember “where we were” about noon on November 22, 1963.
Presidential Politics and the I.R.S..
There it is, in today’s White House press conference: the dreaded suggestion that today’s IRS scandal rivals the malfeasances of Richard M. Nixon–the touchstone, now and probably forever, of presidential dirty tricks. HISTORY rears its ugly head and smacks President Obama, who has been fond of quoting (and being compared to) the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, but who probably does not enjoying being compared to the GOP’s greatest embarrassment, Richard Nixon.