Campaign 2016

1-2016 Election Quake I: Five Expected Surprises in Cultural Trends and the Media

This essay first appeared in the Huffington Post, November 22, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-j-croce/2016-election-quake-i-fiv_b_13144442.html

Huh?—a year and half of campaigning, two leading candidates with the highest disapproval ratings in American history, a Republican Tsunami—how’d that happen?  Get ready, America, for four years of Donald J. Trump’s stern reverse smile. 

Few anticipated the results.  Even Republicans and Trump himself seemed surprised on election night.  Commentators have been wringing their hands for not anticipating the way voters actually voted, and observers from major media stars to people at diners and around water coolers were already calling the campaign unprecedented.  And yet, contemporary history and the current state of the media provide clues about how we have arrived at this surprising election.

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Campaign 2016

2-2016 Election Quake II: Five Lessons from Recent History

This essay first appeared in the Huffington Post, November 21, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-j-croce/2016-election-quake-ii-fi_b_13126268.html

The Trump Phenom and Republican sweep have roots that go even deeper than the inaccurate polls.  The recent past tells the story of the rising strength of sentiments that would lead to this election quake. 

An air of shock and awe still hovers around the election results.  Donald J. Trump declared war on the federal government, on big business, on military and foreign policy leaders, on words that work in campaigning, even on his fellow Republicans, and of course on Democrats.  Few expected these results, from respected polling professionals to Republicans themselves—even as that party benefitted in Congress and state houses.  Recent history shows that these surprises have been building for years.

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Campaign 2016

2016 Election Quake: Ten Expected Surprises

Get ready, America, for four years of Donald J. Trump’s stern reverse smile….

Commentators have been wringing their hands for not anticipating the way voters actually voted, and observers from major media stars to people at diners and around water coolers were already calling the campaign unprecedented. 

See all Ten Expected Surprises as published in History News Network, November 20, 2016. Now that may just be too many surprises at once!  Here below, you can take these surprises in chunks, five at a time:

1-Election Quake I: Five Expected Surprises in Cultural Trends and the Media

2-Election Quake II: Five Lessons from Recent History

 

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Campaign 2016

Constant Growth: The Elephant (and the Donkey) in the Living Room

A shorter version of this essay was published as “An Economy That Grows Anger,” in the Huffington Post, September 24, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-j-croce/an-economy-that-grows-ang_b_12173172.html

On this web page, scroll down to see a revised version of this essay, expanded with more economic data and historical examples, and published as  “Both Parties Back Economic Growth–But Are They Wrong?” in History News Network, October 2, 2016, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/163991.

We’ve got a well-informed Democrat defending a crazy system and a crazy-sounding Republican brashly calling for undisclosed changes. The elephant (and the donkey) in the living room—the unasked question for both Republicans and Democrats—is whether constant growth can be sustained? In medicine, that’s called cancer….

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Campaign 2016

SATIRE: Trump, The Pop Musical; or, A Few Sugary Lyrics to Help Sell the Product

Originally published by the Huffington Post, July 16, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-j-croce/satire-trump-the-pop-musi_b_11035142.html

Now that Trump has triumphed with his nomination by the Republican Party, how can this businessman seize the public imagination on a broader scale?  Consider the marketing that has been central to making “Trump” a household name on TV and at hotels.  Consider music to sell the product.  Get ready, and sing it now: “Love, Love Me!  Love, Love Me!”…

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Campaign 2016

Trump: In the Tall Shadow of Andrew Jackson

Originally published in the Huffington Post, July 1, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-j-croce/trump-in-the-tall-shadow_b_10777918.html

The Trump Phenom—how’d that happen?  Take a look at history…. “Indian Fighter,” general, and slaveholder President Andrew Jackson has been bumped to the back of the $20 bill, but his leadership style and outlook on the world lives.  His contemporary is Donald J. Trump.

Businessman-turned-politician Trump thrives despite the type of comments that have ended many campaigns. Trump’s style on the stump, and his call to “make America great again,” have roots in the American tradition represented by Jackson. Both “Old Hickory” and “The Donald” have inspired deep commitment among their followers for being tough and for saying out what they believe with ideas that have defied the conventional wisdom of their time.

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Campaign 2012

The Outsiders Within: Obama, Romney, and the Tradition of Defying Tradition

Before You Vote, consider this likely pitch from the next popular politician: Vote for me!—I’m an outsider!

Americans have a tradition of defying tradition.

Dear Once and Future Voter: Who are the insiders you are hoping to overturn? Consider the case of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, two candidates for president in 2012 who are members of groups traditionally considered outside the American mainstream….

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US in the Middle East / Middle East in the US

Lifting the Liberal veil on US support for Israel

Originally published on April 7, 2014 in History News Network; can be accessed here: http://hnn.us/article/155162 

Support for Israeli political and military actions have been doing the work of American conservative ideologies, but in liberal disguise

The American Studies Association is an academic David dwarfed by the political Goliaths currently managing Israeli-Palestinian relations.  But the association’s academic boycott of Israel, for “policies that violate [the] human rights” of Palestinians, has produced a tremendous reaction because it reveals the long-hidden role of American political divisions in US policies in the region.

And yet, among all the debating points against and for the boycott, there has been minimal attention to the role of American political ideologies.  Instead, the arguments against the ASA’s action have been based on the proper role of an academic organization in relation to political events, while supporters of the boycott focus on Israeli restrictions on Palestinian civil rights often with use of military force.

This dynamic is a reminder of the situation in American universities in the mid-1960s. While Civil Rights and the Vietnam War agitated the country, many students with some faculty support asked for a broadening of education to include discussion of race relations and war and peace; most administrators rejected these calls arguing that they fell outside the proper bounds of academic inquiry, labeling them outside issues, or even subversive.

The ASA has long served the academic community and US civil society by telling truth to power.  I first learned American Studies from William McLoughlin, a productive and inspiring scholar in religious and Native American history at Brown University, and a constant agitator for social justice; he had a poster in his office with a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Action to the scholar is secondary, but essential.”

With its resolution for boycott, the ASA joins a growing minority of scholars and advocates seeking to shift the rhetorical agenda by encouraging debate about Israeli policies and “the unparalleled military and financial ties between the U.S. and Israel.”

The ASA president Curtis Marez has been ridiculed for sounding frivolous when he defended the boycott by saying, “We have to start somewhere,” as if it were an action of feckless meandering.  However, given the prevalent American attitudes about Israel and its environs, this may actually be the organization’s trump card for its willingness to challenge the longstanding inertia about a seemingly impossible situation.

The current mainstream US narrative is that the situation is a mess, and the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular are untrustworthy.  Add to this, for a significant minority of Americans, Islam is an illegitimate religion, and many even believe that it will fall sway in an epochal battle that will bring the victory, not ultimately of Jews, but of Christians.  In fact, a higher percentage of American white evangelicals than of American Jews support Israeli claims to Palestinian land.

To most Americans, Israel represents our team in the region, with its harsh measures fulfilling American interests.  This narrative is often presented as both a moral defense of Jews, and as a practical necessity for sustaining American power in this sector of the globe.  With its lack of attention to the Palestinians, this path also suggests a bleak future for Israeli Jews in tense relations with the other Semites in their midst, and with many Palestinians even contained behind walls.  Graffiti on one wall reads “Ich bin ein Berliner,” recalling John Kennedy’s defiance of the Berlin Wall in 1963.

Fear and anger have haunted each side for decades, with tragic cycles of terror and military reprisals.  The boycott is a welcome turn to nonviolence that should be applauded by all sides—except, of course, for those who find Arab terror useful for maintaining fear and justifying robust military policies.

It would be a tragedy if criticism of the ASA about the proper role for an academic organization would distract from the way that Israeli policies toward Palestinians have become a chapter in the contemporary American culture war between neo-conservative support of aggressive military strength by contrast with progressive hopes to scale back military action and spending in favor of diplomatic solutions.

Within this American polarization, ironically, the boycott has prompted some academic progressives to affiliate with Israel’s military measures for dealing with a population within its dominion.  The ASA action reminds us that Israeli political and military actions have been doing the work of conservative ideologies, but in liberal disguise.

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US in the Middle East / Middle East in the US

The ASA Shifts the Spotlight on Israel and its Neighbors

Originally posted on February 6, 2014 on The Hawblog; can be read here: http://blog.historiansagainstwar.org/2014/02/the-asa-shifts-spotlight-on-israel-and.html

The ASA boycott should remind liberals that Israeli political and military actions have been doing the work of conservative ideologies.

  The American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel, for “policies that violate [the] human rights” of Palestinians, will have little tangible political significance.  The tremendous reaction to the bold words of a relatively small academic organization is based on a topic central to the concerns of American studies, the clashing political cultures of the US.

  But the role of American politics in this issue is not immediately clear in the arguments opposing the ASA’s action, which are expressly based on the proper role of an academic organization in relation to political events.  Most critics insist that this organization for the study of United States culture is stepping outside its specialized purview and that the boycott will intrude on proper academic discourse.

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Popular Culture and Cultural Politics

The Government Shutdown: Politics as War by Other Means

Originally published on October 8, 2013 in the History News Network, which can be accessed here: http://hnn.us/article/153522

With the shutdown of the federal government, we are a nation at war. While the vast majority of citizens would be content with almost any peaceable resolution, their elected leaders at the barricades keep the country in wartime footing. War emerges when political or diplomatic means fail; and war brings destruction. Witness the hardships that have already emerged from even a few days of shutdown, and there is no end in sight.

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