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tv   Presidential Elections in the Twentieth Century  CSPAN  March 24, 2016 2:48am-3:47am EDT

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and the possibility of war in the early 1980s. >> i read quite a bit about the breaking of german and japanese codes in world war ii, but i never came across information if the soviet military code was broken during world war ii. >> i don't know. >> talk to me after. >> there's a very interesting book called "youth heroism and war propaganda" 1645 to 1820. i suggest perhaps you look at it because what it talks about is the creation of stereotypes that lend to national cohesion in that period. and the relevance of that to reagan. now, what i find amusing in this is that we know from declassified information about
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war games that were waged, you know, between allied commanders, nato warsaw pact, the exchange of nuclear weapons was off the charts. the tactical nuclear weapons would be expanded to the point where in three or four days hundreds of them would be fired by both sides. so what we're seeing in these kind of books -- i met hackett before he died, a great officer, captured at arnham, et cetera. but here he's writing a book about conventionally stopping the soviets. and i think there was sort of a fantasy about that, that we frankly still live with. we still have nuclear weapons in the world. we still are numb to this. and i wonder what you think about that. because the reality is that when the war games occurred in classified settings, they would just shoot those damn things off and destroy humanity. those god damn things off and destroy humanity. that's not necessarily reflected
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in sort of techno porn books like clancy does, which are basically feel good things that sort of america wins. the bad guys lose, and it's a bunch of bull shit. >> it's worth noting that hackett's book does have a nuclear exchange. it's a limited one. there is an element of imagination in these books, perhaps an escape. although i think the culture is that u.s. systems were so much better than soviet ones that we wouldn't need to use nuclear weapons. obviously, we never fought a war. especially with "war games." it is all simulation. they do go nuclear very quickly. though we can look somewhat at the performance of the technology in the gulf war when they beat the soviet technology
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pretty handily, so it is possible. we still have nuclear weapons and that can go anywhere in the near future. it's come up multiple times in presidential debates now. i don't think anyone is advocating for a zero solution right now. >> this is my last question. going back to the power of narrative and what the gentleman said before about a book leading to albert einstein talking to the president, i think roosevelt, on the atomic bomb. what does that have to do with the star wars initiative? why was it not implemented in it could have made a big difference? >> the first question on implementation, it never really got to where it was technically
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feasible or possible to deploy it effectively. it was a very expensive system. it had initial support for a lot of different reasons, so reagan was a true believer in it. wi they viewed it as a chip. something they would be able to trade for concessions. it was something reagan expressed interest in in his first days as president. he certainly is the driving force for it in his administration. there's a role that science fiction plays in this as well. when he talks about it for the first time, part of his speech is written by a collection of science fiction writers from california. larry correia is involved in this. again, we're seeing a blending
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of fiction and policy even with that, when you're debuting this new program to the world. he decides to use "star wars" to label it speaks to trying to tie it to certain type of culture. >> last question. >> my concern again is with the -- who won the cold war. the chicken hawks won. i mean, the idea of nuclear war, you light the board with a match after the first few games, chapters play out. when i played the game in europe with fnato and when i did it at the pentagon, somehow the chicken hawks, the conservatives, got the idea they won the cold war. we still had nuclear weapons. the russians are still out there with nuclear weapons. we had a chance to disarm.
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what was the lesson that we should have learned from the reagan period? was it that the clancy idea was correct or was it that gorbachev, the pope, solidarity were the ones that really pushed it and the chicken hawks held back, believing they were somehow the winners? >> that's a tough question. there's a lot of parts to that one. so i think the problem with the end of the cold war is it defies these easy narratives. people say reagan wins the cold war because we sent the soviets to their grave. people say solidarity and pope john-paul. it was a blessing it ended peacefully. in a reality, i think it is a mixture of all these things. so clearly you can't ignore the
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contributions of people on the ground in europe. the rise of catholicism in poland, the organization of solidarity and the political resistance pl resistance, plays a role in breaking soviet power. that happens in part because of the environment gorbachev instills. part of that is the economic pressure. part of that is tied to the pressure the u.s. put on them. because the soviets can't afford to resist when the u.s. goes into. -- -- granada. it's sad that we try and break it down to one of these people had to have done it all
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themselves. that credits a large group of people in bringing about a stunningly peaceful end and a peaceful demise to an empire. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. i was very happy on tto be with guys. american history tv in primetime continues thursday with the people and events that shaped the civil war and reconstruction. at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at sherman's march through the carolinas. at 9:00 p.m., lectures in history features the story of civil war veterans. at 9:55, examining john brown and the election of 1860. then lectures in slavery, women, and the civil war. all here on c-span 3. thursday, the atlantic
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council hosts a discussion on russia under president vladimir putin. that's live at noon eastern here on c-span 3. the need for horses on the farm began to decline radically in the 1930s. it was not until the 1930s that they figured out how to make a rubber tire big enough to fit on a tractor. starting in the 1930s, the 1940s, you had an almost complete replacement of horses as the work animals on farms. i do believe in one of my books on horses i read that in the decade after world war ii we had something like a horse holocaust, that the horses were no longer needed, and we didn't get rid of them in a very pretty
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way. >> the professor discusses his book "the rise and fall of the american growth," which looks at americans standard of living in 1870 and 1950. >> what interests people is the impact of superstorm sandy on the east coast back in 2012, that wiped out the 20th century for many people. the elevators no longer worked in new york. the electricity stopped. you couldn't charge your cell phones. you couldn't pump gas into your car because it required electricity to pump the gas, so the power of electricity in the internal combustion engine to make modern life possible is something that people take for granted. next, university of
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washington history professor margaret o'mara talks about her book, "pivotal tuesdays." she begins with the election of 1912 and then explores the 1932, 1968, and 1992 elections. she argues that all occurred during periods of economic and cultural change. the national archives hosted this hour-long talk. >> today's speaker is margaret o' mara, associate professor of history at the university of washington. she held teaching and research positions at stanford university and at the university of pennsylvania. prior to her academic career she worked in the clinton white house and served as a contributing researcher at the brookings institution. after today's lecture, ms. o'
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o'mara will be upstairs in front of the store to sign copies of her book. "the washington post" described "pivotal tuesdays" as a captivating read. o'mara draws a vivid portrait of modern politics, one that takes readers on a tour of the recent past and puts our own modern-day battles into terrific contest. just a delicious book written by an aauthoritative historian and a brilliant narrator. would you please welcome margaret o'mara to the national archives? [ applause ] >> thank you so much, tom. and thank all of you for coming out today and to the national archives. i have been to the archives as a researcher. i have been here as a citizen, as a tourist, as a former resident of washington, d.c. and a resident of other parts of the united states, and it's just such an honor and a pleasure to be here as a speaker and to talk about my book "pivotal tuesdays." i'm also so pleased that you all
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exhibited this interest in a -- such an obscure subject that no one seems to pay any attention to, presidential elections. why can't we get the papers to write about presidential candidates, i don't know. but more seriously, we're more than a year away from election day. 2016. or maybe less than a year now, aren't we? but we have already seen some remarkable moments emerge in this election cycle. we have had a huge celebrity who put the political establishment on the run, a whole slew of outsider candidates on both the right and the left ends of the political spectrum. we're seeing how new media, social media is changing campaigning, changing the way candidates and the campaigns communicate to voters, the way in which voters interact with one another and interact with the people who want to be their
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president. and we also have our experiencing an immense amount of gridlock, partisan in-fighting that's causing many observers to throw up their hands and saying is this whole thing going down the tubes? well, is it? what's new about 2015 and 2016? what's not? what can we learn from earlier presidential elections that will help us make sense of this one? so this is a book about four elections that occurred between 1900 and 2000. and of course, there were a lot of elections that happened -- this is -- hold on a second. i think i'm going to need to go back to our slide show. slide show. all right. let's see if this works this time. there we go. all right. back on track. didn't lose you.
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so i could have chosen a lot of elections. there were many moments, pivotal moments, political moments in the 20th century. there are also other elections that i didn't write about that arguably are -- have been written about a lot and arguably are very good fodder for a book that's putting all these in context. i could have written about the election of 1948 when thurmond bolted from the democratic party to run as a state's rights candidate. i could have written of course about 1960, the election of john f. kennedy and richard nixon. i could have written about, of course, ronald reagan's landslide election of 1980 and the conservative revolution that came in his wake. i also could have written about more recent elections, 2000, 2008. both historic in their own ways, but i chose to write about these four. and why these four?
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well, one of the reasons is personal. i was a campaign staffer on the 1992 campaign working for the clinton/gore team, and i had some personal recollections to bring to that story. but more broadly, all four of the elections had common threads that i thought were good ways to -- that knit together and show how different electoral cycles feed into one another and also contrast from each other. they all occurred at moments of economic and cultural change. sometimes tremendous economic and cultural change. in 1912, america is still reeling from the transition from farm to factory. from countryside to city. the birth of industrial capitalism and all of the consequences of that. generation of great wealth but also generation of great inequality and of other social ills. 1932, of course, you have an economic crisis unprecedented in the history of the united states, the great depression.
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1968, a moment of incredible cultural change, of countercultural change, of change on both the left and the right, and the creation of grass roots movements who still are shaping politics today. and then 1992 is the first presidential election after the end of the cold war. it's the first presidential election in which cable tv becomes the dominant medium through which the campaign is fought and won. and it also is the first election of a baby boomer generation president and candidate in which different issues become salient in the campaign and in the election. so, let's start with one of my favorite people to write about as a presidential historian, teddy roosevelt. and 1912 was the year that was
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distinctive for many reasons and one of them being an ex-president decided to once again throw his hat into the ring. it is, again, a pivotal moment when this -- the conversation because there's been so much economic change, the conversation in 1912 revolves around making government do more to rein in the power of industrial capitalism. so if you dial back to the 19th century, not only did american presidents have a different role in american life, and i can talk about more of that in our discussion after my talk, but the government wasn't that big. you didn't have all of these large buildings along constitution avenue and independence avenue. the most americans encountered the government on a daily basis through going to the post office. and other than that, the military and the post office were really the only kind of places of connection between an ordinary american and their federal government.
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and roosevelt is a pivotal figure in that he was -- he served as president at this moment of kind of muddling through what the federal government should do as corporations get bigger, as the population gets bigger, as society gets more complex. and he serves -- he inherits the office after the assassination of william mckinley, of course. he is re-elected in 1904. has a public debate about whether to run again in 1908. decides not to and hands over the keys to his appointed successor william howard taft, who was a friend and ally and someone that roosevelt believed would be a good caretaker of roosevelt's progressive legacy. that didn't quite turn out as roosevelt expected. so teddy leaves the oval office,
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steams off on a steamer to africa to go on safari as only colonel roosevelt could, and he's gone for over a year. he's in africa and then he's in europe on a speaking tour. and meanwhile, william howard taft is back here in washington disappointing him. he's firing some of the close allies, close confidants in the government. he's still closely tied with kind of the old guard in the republican party, and he has a vastly different personality. he's someone who when his description of the 1908 presidential campaign, quote, the most uncomfortable four months of my life. so we'll all just sit and marinate on the fact campaigning was four months long and living with this cycle for this long. and roosevelt is gone, and when he comes back, he is greeted as a conquering hero. and so, you know, one of the conversations that's been running around, around the phenomenon of donald trump over
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the past summer in particular is this, well, america's just obsessed with celebrity and they're -- you know, he's a famous person and so -- and kind of saying we've all become so very, very shallow. well, america was obsessed with colonel ex-president theodore roosevelt and when he returns in june of 1910 to new york city, steams into the harbor, hundreds of boats come out to greet him. thousands of people line the streets, brass bands play. flags wave. and he in headlines across the nation, here's the tacoma times in the pacific northwest, far, far away that devotes its whole front page to teddy roosevelt's return. he is an outsized public figure and he's someone that -- who people not only admire but also are fascinated by.
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he comes back in 1912, and he's spouting some more radical ideas -- sorry, 1910. he was talking about more government intervention into markets, doing more to help people, to rectify the economic inequalities that were coming in the wake of the growth of the big corporations of railroads, of steel and oil companies. and so he goes on this huge speaking tour across the country. he barnstorms the country. sounding more and more progressive at every stop. and more radical, picking up on ideas that kind of have been on the fringe of the political conversation and making them more mainstream and having a really robust reception. now, part of this again was curiosity and part of it was genuine hunger for change. and this is something we see over and over again, that outsider candidates, candidates
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who are pushing the envelopes of the political conversation get traction when people are hungry for a new message. when they're dissatisfied with the status quo. when they feel something more, something different needs to be done. sometimes it's more government, sometimes it's less. and now, of course, theodore roosevelt was not the only outsider candidate shaking up the 1912 election as the race grew nearer. we also have eugene debs, a socialist. we have a former socialist running for president now and gene debs was a true socialist running for president. 1912 was the year he won, got the most votes. he got over a million votes and in 1912. and roosevelt is picking up some of the things that debs is saying, definitely more strongly radical, further to the left as we would put him on the spectrum but there's a hunger for new ideas, and so outsider candidates are getting some
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momentum. so by this point as the actual -- people are having to declare -- for a long time, roosevelt says i'm not going to run, i'm not going to run. then he just keeps on getting the big crowds, big crowds. he decides to run against his old friend and ally william howard taft for the nomination. he doesn't get it. taft marshals the party faithful. at the convention, he ends up the victor. roosevelt bolts and runs at a third-party candidate. the head of the bull moose party. what happens at the end of the day? none of the people i have talked about a win. woodrow wilson wins. if you look at the electoral map, see states that went republican in the past went for roosevelt and my home state of washington and also california
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but wilson is also picking up on these conversations about government doing more. this is when the democratic party was the party of small government. of states rights. of washington, d.c. doing less. but wilson in this moment where clearly t lly the u.s. governme to do more than just have a post office, have an army, that he runs and then governs as much more interventionist, progressive guy. this is when the party becomes more activist central government. now, let me go now to another progressive.
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someone who's coming from the same political movement, the political movement of roosevelt, wilson and the like, herbert hoover. and herbert hoover is now remembered as if when those rankings of who the greatest presidents of the 20th century are, he's usually not ranked very highly. when people -- when i talk to my students, college students about herbert hoover and ask them what they know about herbert hoover, they say great depression, hoover-villes, failure. well, herbert hoover was once one of the famous men in america, one of the most admired men in america. he was so famous that his name was a verb. in world war i, this has an extraordinary life story. he was an orphan from oregon. he goes to stanford university when it was tuition free back in the 1890s. and he is a self made millionaire within a few decades. still a relatively young man. a mining engineer. he's tapped by woodrow wilson to run the food administration in 1901. figuring out how to conserve food, get food to the troops. and how to get food to people in war torn countries both during
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and after the war. and housewives would talk about hooverizing when they were economizing on food. he then goes on to become commerce secretary in the 1920s and then is elected president in 1928. and so not only is he renowned for managerial expertise, he is really good at running things and taking a real thorny logistical problem and making it work, but he's also a master of media. he's really good at working new media. this is a guy in 1928 who has talking motion pictures as a campaign ad using talkies. they'd only been out for a year. so rather than being this kind of fuddy duddy failure, he was a modern man. he understood the power of words, the power of images, the power of messages. he once said, the world talks in phrases. the world lives by phrases and we are good advertisers. he understood that politics and
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policy was something that could and should be packaged as if it were a consumer product, that there were very precise ways to target and margaret to people. again, he was very forward thinking. another person who was acutely aware of public image is frank delano roosevelt. he became so acutely aware of this in large part because he had to work very, very, very hard to project an image of himself that was at odds with reality. as we all know, he contracted polio in the early 1920s, disabled for the remainder of his life and went to great lengths to disguise the fact that he could not walk unassisted. i love this photograph which is a rarely seen photograph and i
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wish that i had had the rights and time to get it into the book. but this is a picture of frank roosevelt after being elected governor of new york and a classic roosevelt pose projecting strength, projecting confidence. and of course, he is leaning on a cane. people knew he had polio and wasn't completely able. but he was -- it was very important to convince voters and to convince the press that he was up for the job. not only a job of governor but then the job of president. but if you look very, very closely here, you'll see there's a second cane very artfully concealed behind his leg. he is holding himself up with all of his strength trying to look casual to keep himself upright. so in 1932, you have two modern politicians who are masters of new media, who understand the power of image, the power of short phrases, of sound bytes, even though sound bytes were a little longer than they are today. both hoover and roosevelt probably would have been very good at twitter. perhaps.
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but the game has changed. so you can be the master of message, the master of political communication, but if there is -- if reality is at odds, no amount of phrases and images can work against the hard economic reality of the great depression. i should have given an additional note about this photograph which is a soup kitchen in chicago run by al capone. so, the great depression is such a magnitude, such a collapse, a crisis of capitalism that's not been encountered before in american history that it completely floors hoover and all of his advisers and frankly, political professionals on both sides of the isle of its magnitu
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magnitude, its duration, and the fact the old remedies didn't work. hoover actually again the master of phrases as the economy started going south, he said, we can't talk about this as a panic. we can't talk about it as anything but a depression. a depression is -- was understood to be something that wasn't that bad. just a depression. not falling off a cliff. we'll come out of it. and then the depression becomes great. and all of the tools that the government had, again, the federal government despite a couple of decades of progressive you do not have these large agencies that can intervene, that can stimulate the economy. it's very much dependent on private markets making things work. and hoover did not realize this until too late, and by the time that his administration was making more serious interventions in the economy, and they did, the reconstruction
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finance administration, for example, is one example of a hoover initiated piece of the new deal. but he was -- he didn't catch it until too late and because even -- he was the master of management. his reputation as a greet engineer then didn't work when he was trying to engineer an end to the great depression. and he couldn't do it. roosevelt takes advantage of this masterfully. this was a year when any incumbent would have had a difficult time but particularly with someone who was able to pick up on the american's need not for policy prescriptions, because if you go back and see what roosevelt said on the stump in 1932 he was blissfully vague. we think of him as a policy wonk. he wasn't. he was about hope and change and big ideas. he got dinged for it, too. there was some voters like, he is not saying anything. he's not -- you know, i want some meat on the bones. but he talked about the
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forgotten man. he talked to these voters who were out of work, who were feeling hopeless, and said, we're going to fix this. we need bold solutions. we are going to do something. it will be new. he barnstorms the country on the roosevelt special, the back of a train. again, this coming to the people, this image of vitality, of personality, but again leaning on something. making sure a carefully crafted campaign and image that's reaching to a really frustrated and despondent nation. so okay. roosevelt is elected. the new deal is re-elected again. and we -- america enters a period that's understood as sort of a high point of modern liberalism. where government grows larger. where the -- where the liberals are 234 ascendance and the condition servetives are in retreat, but one of the things i
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want to convey in my talk today is that we are neither a conservative nation nor a liberal nation, nor is it right to say there's eras of conservatism and eras of liberalism. yes, there's times when one side is more dominant but let's think of a shifting center where the range shifts a little to the left and a little to the right depending on the moment and depending on who's articulating the message because even in the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, the high point of american liberalism, there is a conservative -- a coalition that is building in strength, that is both grassroots, and top down. it includes herbert hoover who after he's defeated in 1932 retreats back to palo alto, california, to stanford university and there becomes a fierce critic of roosevelt's policies and this broader, more
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interventionist, keynesian approach to governance and includes the grassroots. it includes ordinary americans who by 1964 mobilize to a degree that they got barry goldwater, a very conservative republican nominated as the republican nominee. now, of course, goldwater loses in a landslide. there by validating all these -- people on the left and the right saying you can't go that far right. the republican party says we should have had nelson rockefeller. we can't be this extremist. and many democrats said, ah, see, you know? we have broad based support for the effort. it is like teddy roosevelt thinking everyone -- i can be president again gathering the crowds of 10,000 people every place i go. but things change very, very quickly. so 1968, the fourth election --
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third election i write about in the book is understood as a kind of -- another example of the liberal moment. so much of what we remember and what is written about in the 1968 is about the anti-war liberals who upended the democratic party. gene mccarthy who, you know, whose rise to political prominence was, you know, driven forward by all these young activists, many on college campuses who got deeply engaged in politics because of the vietnam war, because of the vietnam draft, but also more well-known political figures like robert kennedy. but 1968, mind you, is also the year when richard nixon returns to the political stage. this is -- i did get permissions from george louis the designer of this wonderful cover to appear in the book. it is one of my favorite images.
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so richard nixon is -- the democrats are in disarray. richard nixon is the most unlikely comeback story. right? he loses in 1960. he loses in 1962 for the governor of california. like not even president. says you're never going to have nixon to kick around again. i'm going back to my law firm. and then 1968 he's back, but he's back as a very different candidate. again, this goes to sort of putting our current moment in context, thinking about the power of image, thinking about the power of media, and how the same politician might repackage themselves and also take advantage of a very different moment in american history. because, of course, between 1960 and 1968 so much changes in terms of how geo politics, domestic politics, grassroots politics and culture. richard nixon comes back not as
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the same richard nixon of 1960 -- and one of the things i would invite all of you guys to do if you're interested in this this, in presidential campaigns and elections, is to visit the website hosted by the american museum of the moving image in new york called the living room candidate which archives all of the television ads from 1952 forward for the major party candidates and just for fun compare a 1960 nixon ad with a 1968 one. the nixon's '60 ad is very traditional, very kind of the time. black and white. all these ads. it will usually involve him sort of standing like this or, you know, trying to lean on a desk looking casual. and talking straight to the camera and saying, you know, something serious about an issue of the day. it's not particularly charismatic. there are no jingles. there's nothing. it's very straightforward. not particularly glamorous. 1968 ads, it is like mtv.
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they're technicolor. they're very fast clips. jangling music. you hear nixon's voice saying something very authoritative, paternal about law and order or the need to end the war in vietnam. his vietnam ad is masterful. you can't figure out if he's anti-war or not. it sounds like he's a real peace nik. it's key to nixon's victory. but the other key and this is another important thing to think about and this is quite honestly the main reason i didn't right -- write about 1980 because so much of the story of
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modern american conservatives can be read into the story of 1968. you see the groundwork being laid for what happens in 1980 because, of course, you have a democratic field that not only includes mccarthy and kennedy, but also includes george wallace. the segregationist governor of alabama who famously stood at the schoolhouse doors saying segregation now, segregation forever. he's talking to a national audience, talking to a national audience of working class white people living in big cities. these are the people whose grandparents might have voted for gene debs in 1912. and they certainly voted for franklin roosevelt in 1932. and he's not talking about segregation, but he's talking about rights. he's talking about freedom. talking about taxes. talking about individual freedom and how the individual government is stomping on it, and it's a very powerful and remarkably effective message. he's picking up on messages of ronald reagan in 1976 about the need for smaller government. he's picking up on messages used by other politicians not as
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nationally well-known or remembered like claude kirk running for governor of florida as a republican, former democrat turned republican in 1966. talks about your home is your castle, protect it. and that is -- that is a nationally resonant message. talking about -- talking to people who are very concerned about race and concerned about civil rights. and concerned about where they fit in this new america. but not using the same incendiary language, and nixon also picks up on some of this, talking about freedom, talking about individual rights, and talking about law and order. and that is one of the many reasons he won. so, the story continues bridges over the 1970s and 1980s. a moment when both the two major political parties experienced great change. and think -- this, i think,
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encapsulates in one image what i think happens to the democrats in the 1970s. the democratic party becomes a much bigger tent because much more welcoming place for people of color, for women, for the people who were the leftist activist, civil rights movements plural of the 1960s find a home in the democratic party in the 1 1970s, but at the same time the party still has people like george wallace in it. and this -- from 1972, this is a delegate for the shirley chisholm ad running in 1972 and behind him are supporters of george wallace trying to be heard, and so there's this great democratic fracture. and ultimately the george wallace supporters, the south, leaves the democratic party. and this, without the south, is
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impossible to win nationally and the republicans recognize this. so here's ronald reagan in columbia, south carolina, 1980. this was not republican territory. 20 years before. at all! and now it is. so the reddening of the south is a big -- is a significant shift for the republican party as well as the democratic party. these parties are constantly changing. they're constantly changing and dynamic institutions, which is one of the reasons that a two-party system is so enduring. i'll talk about that a little bit in a moment. so this all sets us up for a moment when -- and this is i think a good lesson of why you should never make predictions too far out because this time in the cycle of 1992, a year and a half before, george h.w. bush
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seemed unbeatable. because of the successful gulf war, because the economy was still pretty good and no major democrat was willing to go there because they thought they were going to lose. so you end up with these guys. an unlikely, younger people whose turn -- wasn't quite their turn to run. they're young. they're in their 40s. people like jerry brown who then and now governor of california. jerry brown is like jerry brown 3.0 now. it's awesome. paul tsongas senator of massachusetts. bob kerry from nebraska. again, vietnam general race. vietnam veteran. tom harkin, of course, this guy, bill clinton from arkansas. and the -- the field -- this is also a field that's very -- this is a new democratic party. this, of course, the new democrats. they're more centrist. they are -- some of them, like clinton, they are southerners. and they're picking up on some of these messages about law and order, about reforming welfare,
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about reinventing government. making government work better. as a way to recapture some of those voters that have been lost to the republican party. but then, there's a third party spoiler, and this is one proof point of how -- what a big deal cable television and cnn was in the 1992 election, and i talk about this a lot in the book. of course, cnn was -- had been around for 12 years before this election rolled around, but this was the first time when it become a decisive force, that this was the new medium. and what it did was a couple of things.
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it was the one that created the 24/7 spin cycle of news where you have what clinton consultants called the beast that needed to be fed. stories all the time. so things that were little blips became stories. and they endured from cycle to cycle to cycle. you have 24/7 to fill with news and we are now seeing this with multiple news station that is need that -- that are beasts that need to be fed, so much more stuff is news. you don't have just the news -- you don't have walter cronkite with the 30 minutes. you have a lot of time to fill so other things come into the cycle. it also requires campaigns to be very, very nimble to respond. sometimes too quickly. sometimes feeds on scandal and interesting news. not just the regular news. but the other dimension is it becomes this platform for ross perot who in a series of interviews with larry king, larry king live was then as you all may remember the kind of marquee must-see tv on cnn. was talking about his views of what the government -- what the country should do and then on
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larry king live announces that he's going to run as a third party candidate for president. and perot's very interesting figure in that kind of like, you know, kind of like teddy roosevelt is straddling between the two candidates. he's maybe more republican, you know, than democrat, that one of the bush campaigns later reflection that bush aides said we just did not take perot seriously enough. many of them knew him from they didn't really think he'd have much staying power. of course, the bush campaign was the one more deeply hurt by p perot. because, again, just like in 1912, 1932 and '68 and just like today, americans were hungry for outsiders and fresh messages and this guy punched through the clutter with the folksy ross perotisms. he was a very different sort of candidate. people understood this billionaire was a man of the people because he was not
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adhering to any script. but another reason that the victory eventually went in -- plurality of votes to clinton was the south. this is a button not produced by the clinton campaign but not discouraged by it either. but one thing that bill clinton did was he went against -- the rules are you usually pick a vice president from some other part of the country. you capture a different demographic. right? he picked al gore from neighboring tennessee. same age roughly. same mid south demographic. but also, a new democrat. a centrist democrat. someone who had -- was part of this new wave of the democratic party. and -- and a -- together, the candidate -- the two candidates were able to with their both their backgrounds and with the campaigns policy emphasis able to capture enough votes in the
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formally solid democratic south to win nationally. it was one piece of this victory. but of course, ross perot, the third-party spoiler, becomes -- doesn't win any electoral votes but he becomes just like teddy roosevelt in 1912, a divisive decisive factor. so, what i've tried to do today and what i have tried to do in this book is to weave elections into the broader tapestry of american history, that elections are not these kind of fun contests that happen every four years or every two years it seems like. but they are reflections of and things that propel economic, cultural and social change. that they're reflections of america. they're reflections of where american are of what their hopes and dreams are in a moment. as dysfunctional as we think the system might be, it's been the
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way for individuals to have their voice heard. and it gives us some lessons for today. one, the lesson of new media. new media and new technologies reshape how to run and how to win from generation to generation to generation. first it was the newspaper, then it was radio, and then television and then cable television. so it's the new -- it's the same story all over again. but you -- but the campaigns that capture that new media platform most effectively are the ones that do the best. outsiders gain traction when voters believed established institutions have failed them. we're often in an anti-establishment moment in this country but particularly now, and i think it helps us, gives us insights of why you have individuals like ben carson, like bernie sanders and others who are running proudly as outsiders. and it's not a swinging pendulum between left and right. the united states political scene is never entirely one nor the other and to say that, ah,
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we are in large now so we have a mandate, that's dangerous territory. instead, let's think about a shifting center. things that richard nixon did as president would be classified as unbearably liberal today. environmental protection. one point he supported a minimum guaranteed income for poor families. this is stuff, you know -- this is bernie sanders' territory, folks. but it was in the world of the late '60s and early '70s, the realm of political possibility with a few steps to the left. now it's moved a few more steps to the right. so understanding where that center is and composed of members of both parties and both parties are actors in the movement between left and right is what we need to think about. so, thank you so much for listening to me. i'd be really happy to field your questions and all that i ask since this is being taped is that if you have a question, come to one of the two microphones on either side and
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i'll take people in order that they show up. thank you. [ applause ] >> i enjoyed very much the talk, and i'm not going to buy one book. i'm going to buy two books for somebody. >> great. >> but i just had one question. i like your selection, but what about 1948? >> uh-huh. >> where you had two outsiders. >> yeah. >> you didn't mention henry wallace who was roosevelt's vice president in 1940 and then four conventions held at the same place in philadelphia. >> yeah. >> and then thurmond breaking off and then wallace. why didn't you pick '48? second, my only criticism is that in 68 nixon -- humphrey --
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do you buy the theory that you didn't go in -- this into specifics if humphrey had broken with johnson over the war, it might have actually made a difference? he did on the weekend before the first tuesday in november. >> yeah. >> but that would have been entirely different. >> yeah. >> so those are two unrelated questions, but i'd like your views on both of them. >> great. i will say part -- 1948 almost made it in. it was a matter of space. and also, because i wanted to think about how i could talk about other elections kind of as bridging between the ones that i discussed in depth. and 1948 is interesting. i think there's a lot of there there. again, you can really dig deep into the changing nature of the south and anticipating what happens. i thought it would be easier to really go there by talking about '68 and the aftermath of the civil rights act and the voting
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rights act and how that was changing the very solid south but the breakaway of the kind of the fractures within the democratic party. they were there, you know, in 1932. they were there. the new deal is this, you know -- >> thurmond was a democrat. >> and so he sort of exemplified this kind of for roosevelt as a reformer had this constraint, you know, building these social welfare programs, first reerate social security and the classes of workers, agricultural workers, household workers excluded. majority african-americans. almost all of the south working in the job categories. i don't have a perfect answer
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of, oh well, there's a reason it wasn't in. mostly because i wish i could have and tried to address them in other ways. the humphrey question's a great one. you know, would have, could have, should have. i don't know. i would have been surprised. it wasn't in humphrey. he did that so late in the game. reflected who he was. he was a loyal guy. a party man. a stand-up guy. and the difficulty that he had was that he could have disavowed, you know, johnson's war as much as he could have, he was still johnson's vice president and also didn't run in the primaries. he kind of comes in as this candidate on a -- to sort of fix the immense, you know, fractures happening in the democratic party. it's, you know, robert kennedy had just won the california primary in june when he is assassinated immediately after. how, you know, there's been a lot of people who have sort of talked about what if he had live ed and he would have been the nominee how it would have changed.
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i don't know. there's a lot going on there and we shouldn't discount the power of the silent majority of nixon's silent majority of people who were really anxious about the immensity of the social change. that they were seeing happening around them. thanks. yes? >> i've often wondered why teddy roosevelt was so wrong about william howard taft. was it a case of roosevelt seeing what he wanted to see or did one or both of them change? >> that's a great question. the roosevelt-taft friendship is just a fascinating one. it itself is a subject of books. and roosevelt was such a -- you know, i see their dynamic as, you know, of course, roosevelt was the alpha dog of all alpha dogs. taft was a pretty -- i mean, brilliant man. oh. such a brilliant man. very, very -- you know, teddy was always one very quick to take credit for things. taft was the opposite. he had this stellar career where he just kind of went from
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strength to strength because he was just so smart and so good. again, we kind of forget the real taft. he is lost to this -- he's sort of seen as this marginal figure, kind of comical figure. he's not. he's this extraordinary man. he was like i was just -- my plate was right side up when things were falling. i was in the right time, right place. not me. it's opposite of others who say it's because i was so smart. he wanted to be a supreme court justice, which he eventually did. i think that they had a very convivial relationship. i think roosevelt felt that taft was going to be his guy and just do what he hoped that he would do. and he -- he got in the oval office and he said, i'm president. i'm going to not always do what teddy would do. ironically, in some ways, he was more progressive. he pushed things in a little more activist direction, but
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teddy saw him as just a party hack. and i think roosevelt didn't -- he hated not being president anymore. he was, you know -- wasn't even 60. he was really young. really vital. he just -- you can see him going on this barnstorming tour in 1910, 1911 and getting more excited every place he goes and the crowds are huge. mind you, you know, when you look at the -- read between the lines of newspaper accounts and the -- observing that there are people who are true believers and people who are just curious. i want to see teddy in person and so they come out and watch, but they're just watching, not cheering. but he really loved the spotlight. he was sort of hungry and he also i think felt that taft was not doing enough. that there was -- he clearly in the time away and particularly the time in europe in 1910 really kind of soaked in some of these ideas that are emerging in european states about the welfare state, about the role of government in industrial life,


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