A Conspiracy So Dense: Richard Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style”

It’s critical to revisit the cultural moment that gave rise to the elite-baiting, conspiracy-mongering turn of the modern right. Introduction At the outset of the Trump era, historian Leo Ribuffo declared that “Richard Hofstadter’s famous catchphrase, the ‘paranoid style in American politics,’ should be buried with a stake in its heart.” It’s safe to say[…]

The Latest on the Failed United States Coup Attempt

We’re just a few days removed from the attempt by outgoing President Donald Trump’s supporters to take over the US Capital. Thousands of insurrectionists, some of them heavily armed, interrupted Congress’s formal declaration that Joe Biden had won the election. Just before chaos erupted, Trump himself gave a speech where he used incendiary terms to[…]

A History of Petty Presidential Transitions

Presidents who behave badly during transitions usually share something in common – they’re viewed as the worst presidents overall. In 1797, President George Washington was determined to unambiguously hand over the nation’s reins for the first time. He attended the inauguration ceremony of John Adams, his vice president, to show his support. At its conclusion,[…]

Free Speech on Trial: Eugene Debs at Canton, Ohio, in 1918

“My fate is in your hands. I am prepared for the verdict.” Introduction On a sultry afternoon in 1918, the tall, lanky Hoosier walked up the bandstand’s steps and surveyed the growing crowd gathered in Nimisilla Park in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, June 16. They had come to hear the keynote speech at the Buckeye[…]

Congressional Polarization in the 1970s

It’s clear that the congressional parties, after decades of relatively little polarization, began pulling apart in the mid-1970s. You don’t have to look hard to see evidence of political polarization — just watch cable news, listen to talk radio or follow social-media debates. Indeed, a new Pew Research Center report finds that Americans are more ideologically polarized today[…]

The ‘New Right’: The Transformation of American Conservatism since the 1970s

The ‘New Right’ that emerged in the 1980s can trace its roots back to the so-called ‘Old Right’ of the 1950s and 1960s. Sociology, Social Commentary, and the Rise of the Right In the 1950s and early 1960s, most Sociologists believed that the era for ideologies had ended and was replaced by a rough consensus[…]

The ‘Old Right’ from the Early to Mid-20th Century

The Old Right were unified by opposition to what they saw as the danger of domestic dictatorship by President Franklin Roosevelt. Introduction The Old Right was an informal designation used for a branch of American conservatism that was most prominent circa 1910 to the mid 1950s but never became an organized movement. Most members were[…]

The Devil and Mary Lease in 19th-Century Populism

Lease an anti-Semite who used anti-Jewish tropes and direct anti-Semitic references to stir up her audience. There is a statue of Mary E. Lease in Wichita, Kansas, erected in 2001 by a Kansas women’s club she founded in 1886. As someone active in the push to take down statues and rename places, I have been thinking a[…]

The First Commercial Radio Broadcast of Election Results in 1920

With the advent of radio, the ability of politicians to engage and entertain became crucial components of their candidacies. Introduction Only 100 people were listening, but the first broadcast from a licensed radio station occurred at 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, 1920. It was Pittsburgh’s KDKA, and the station was broadcasting the results of that[…]

Election Night as a Big Media Event since Electric Lights in 1892

Journalists have always wanted to be first to tell the public who won. Introduction As election night approaches, Americans will turn to their televisions, computers and smartphones to watch results come in for local, state and national races. Over the years, news coverage of winners and losers has become must-watch programming – even if it[…]

Contested Presidential Elections since Samuel Tilden in 1876

The elections of 1876, 1888, 1960 and 2000 were among the most contentious in American history. Introduction As states continue to count their ballots in the 2020 election, it seems possible that Democrats and Republicans will end up in court over whether President Trump will win a second term in the White House. President Trump[…]

Looking at the Origins of the Electoral College

Three approaches were debated at the Constitutional Convention: election by Congress, by state legislatures, or a popular vote. Introduction The delegates in Philadelphia agreed, in the summer of 1787, that the new country they were creating would not have a king but rather an elected executive. But they did not agree on how to choose[…]

Measuring Public Opinion from the 17th to 19th Centuries

The prerequisites for the emergence of a public sphere were increasing levels of literacy which was spurred on by the Reformation. Introduction The term public opinion was derived from the French opinion publique which was first used in 1588 by Michel de Montaigne in the second edition of his Essays (ch. XXII).[1] The French term[…]

Law and Politics in the Ancient Athenian Agora

The Agora was the central gathering place for all of Athens, where social and commercial dealings took place. Arguably, it’s most important purpose was as the home base for all of the city-state’s administrative, legal and political functions. Some of the most important, yet least acclaimed, buildings of ancient history and Classical Athens were located[…]

Voter Intimidation in the 19th Century and Its Legacy

Voters were threatened and even physically forced to vote a particular way. Introduction Author Edgar Allan Poe, the 19th-century master of American macabre, may have died of dirty politics. According to legend, a gang of party “poll hustlers” kidnapped and drugged him. They forced him to vote, then abandoned him near death. Details are murky,[…]

American Election Campaigns in the 19th Century

Political parties in the 19th century thought of themselves as armies – disciplined, hierarchical fighting organizations. Introduction In the 19th century, a number of new methods for conducting American election campaigns developed in the United States. For the most part the techniques were original, not copied from Europe or anywhere else.[2] The campaigns were also[…]

A Brief History of Voting since the Early Republic

African Americans, women, Native Americans, and citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 had to fight for the right to vote in this country. The Founders and the Vote In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” But how[…]

Teddy Roosevelt and Religion in Politics

Attacks on a candidate’s religious beliefs and affiliations have a long history in America. Teddy Roosevelt knew the danger in this. Catholics, Unbelievers, and Elections In the 1908 presidential campaign, the religious beliefs of the Republican Party nominee, William Howard Taft, came under attack. In response, another prominent Republican – the outgoing President Theodore Roosevelt[…]

A History of Apocalyptic Theology and Threat in American Politics

American leaders have often yielded to despair and lamented “the end” – as far back as the founding of the republic. ‘We Are Not a Chosen People’ During the early stages of national life, the mood was no different. Actually, it was even worse. When Thomas Jefferson realized the implications of grounding a nation upon[…]

Running for President and the Political Machine since George Washington

The technical qualifications for candidates are the same, but how people seek the nation’s highest office has shifted over the centuries. Introduction The requirements have stayed the same – just about any natural-born citizen over the age of 35 can run for president. But who decides who runs has changed substantially. So has campaigning. Nowadays,[…]

The Development of the Two-Party System in Early America

Hamiltonians became known as Federalists and Jeffersonians became known as Democratic-Republicans. Hamiltonians vs. Jeffersonians After the new United States Congress completed its first task of creating a Bill of Rights, it turned its attention to the issue of financing the new government. President George Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as the Treasury Secretary, and Hamilton took[…]

James Madison and the Origins of Partisanship in the United States

Critics argue that Congress has become the “broken branch” of government, marked by extreme partisanship and few achievements. They prescribe nostrums ranging from campaign finance regulation to redistricting reform to foster compromise rather than conflict on Capitol Hill. Yet the American founders, especially James Madison, believed “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” as a way[…]

The Progressive Presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson

The ownership of corporations and the relationship between owners and laborers were the contentious topics of the period. Roosevelt’s Square Deal At the dawn of the twentieth century, America was at a crossroads. Presented with abundant opportunity, but also hindered by significant internal and external problems, the country was seeking leaders who could provide a[…]

Garfield, Harrison, McKinley, and the Legacy of the Front Porch Campaign

At the beginning of the 1880s, Democratic and Republicans candidates observed a tradition of reserve and silence during campaigns. Since gaining a decisive lead in the Democratic primaries, Joe Biden has faced a situation unique in contemporary politics: while preparations for the upcoming general campaign are underway, the candidate himself is locked up at home.[…]

American Politicos and the Weaponization of Conspiracy Theories in the 19th Century

Rumors of secret alliances, bank deals, and double-crossings were rampant in early American elections. From claims that NASA faked the moon landing to suspicions about the U.S. government’s complicity in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Americans love conspiracy theories. Conspiratorial rhetoric in presidential campaigns and its distracting impact on the body politic have been[…]

Brewminate 2020 Election Forecast

Brewminate’s running weekly forecast for the 2020 election. By Matthew A. McIntoshJournalist and HistorianBrewminate Editor-in-Chief Brewminate will be updating a forecast of the 2020 election on a weekly basis. The updates will be posted every Saturday at a minimum with possible updates daily with added commentary. We take an average across multiple polls in each state[…]

A Summer of Protest: Unemployment and Presidential Politics, 1932

Marches, demonstrations, civic unrest, attacks by law enforcement and the military on protesting civilians – in 1932. Introduction An election looms. An unpopular president wrestles with historic unemployment rates. Demonstrations erupt in hundreds of locations. The president deploys Army units to suppress peaceful protests in the nation’s capital. And most of all he worries about[…]