Josephus Daniels was a progressive, a warm-hearted family man, a man who genuinely cared about the country’s less-fortunate and down-trodden, at least as he defined them. Yet at the same time, he was a white supremacist, who used the coercive powers of the state to keep blacks in a socially and economically inferior state for generations.
The new consensus has been confirmed since Obama’s victory. His inaugural address announced the end of a decade of war and the start of a process of national reinvention meant to address challenges on the home front. However sensible this new consensus may be, it suffers from a major flaw: its profound vulnerability.
Along with the growth of tribal bureaucracies, this turn toward tribal capitalism has given Indians new reasons to articulate, ponder, and debate some of the basic principles that guide or should guide their economic affairs—to consider in particular whether economic aims and relations in Indian communities do or should differ from those that predominate in the United States.
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If you think the past week or so has not gone well for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, then what to say about the U.S. position in the Middle East? Washington’s attempt to remake or at least manage the region has suffered a string of blows that suggests the end is nigh.
American exceptionalism, or the idea that the United States is somehow both different and better from all other nations, has a long history. From the decision to put novus ordo seclorum (a new order for the ages) on the back of the Great Seal of the United States to President Barack Obama’s claim during his 2008 inaugural that “we are ready to lead once more,” many Americans have believed that their country is something different from anything that has come before or that has arisen since. A leader. A new order.
Doubting the capacity of the law to distinguish between legitimate militancy and subversive radicalism, labor conservatives disapproved of legislation outlawing sedition. Instead they pursued a voluntarist program of evangelizing about the evils of Communism and excluding Communists from AFL unions. In the aftermath of the first Red Scare, labor conservatives formed a crucial backstop against reaction. In the late 1930s, the situation changed. Alienated from the New Deal order and at odds with liberal union leaders in the competing Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), labor conservatives abandoned commonsense anticommunism for calculated red-baiting.
For all his genius as a political theorist (we remember him as “the Father of the Constitution”) and despite remarkable success as a politician (he lost only one election in a public career spanning forty years) James Madison has never been ranked among the greatest of presidents. The War of 1812 permanently stained his reputation. Yet Madison’s wartime leadership deserves a second look.
Madison’s more eloquent and charismatic friend Thomas Jefferson would come to overshadow him as a party leader, and later historians would write of Jeffersonian, not Madisonian, Republicans. Yet as a member of the first federal Congress, Madison laid the foundation for a new party and was initially a more aggressive partisan than Jefferson.
James Madison won the presidency in a landslide in 1808, prevailed in a closer race in 1812, and left office as a revered elder statesman four years later. Among his most appealing traits was a lifelong commitment to religious freedom, but if we could raise him from the dead–never mind the Twenty-Second Amendment limiting presidents to two terms–his views on the separation of church and state might well keep him out of today’s White House.
The reality is that the large-scale targeted killing of civilians has been an integral part of America’s military strategy for well over a century.
What is the difference between life and death? It has nothing to do with the crime or the criminal. It has far more to do with local politics (does the prosecutor think he can get some political advantage going for death rather than life or a term of years?), money (can the accused afford a lawyer and investigators who will do the same kind of work the prosecutor gets done automatically?), the location (most death sentences are handed down and carried out in the south, but not uniformly; in Texas, for example, a preponderance of the death sentences come from just three counties). And, finally, it depends on the composition of the appellate courts the year a particular case comes up: some panels are sticklers for justice; some are sticklers for going by the current rules. Sometimes justice and the rules are incompatible, and in capital cases, lives hang in the balance.
American leaders still crave international leadership. But the time for sweet dreams of a U.S. era in Asia is over.
Dolly’s story is one of many that take us into the complex humanity of Italian immigrant women. She was anything but a victim. Throughout her life she embodied a full range of possibility. While her actions were at times controversial, she was decisive, savvy, and acted on her own behalf and in service of those in her community. It seems she learned this from her own mother Rosa, whose combined wisdom and ability to act was what saved her grandson’s life.
Most Americans have been inoculated against the notion that our country can behave like an empire. Therefore, some readers may well find the focus on empire unsettling. After all, we are regularly reminded by our politicians, clergy, teachers, and the media that the U.S. is an exceptional country. We don’t do empire. That’s for the bad guys. We like to believe that whatever America does internationally is for the common good of humanity. As authors, all we ask is that readers consider our general definition of empire on its historical merits and give our treatment of the U.S. case a fair hearing.