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The Road to Now

Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers) & Dr. Ben Sawyer (MTSU History) share conversations with great thinkers from a variety of backgrounds – historians, artists, legal scholars, political figures and more –who help us uncover the many roads that run between past and present. For more information, visit TheRoadToNow.com If you'd like to support our work, join us on Patreon: Patreon.com/TheRoadToNow
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Now displaying: Page 1
Jul 8, 2024

Patricia O’Toole’s The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made (Simon & Schuster, 2018) examines the life of a President whose policy was guided by his personal sense of morality. From today’s perspective, Woodrow Wilson’s time in the White House (1913-1921) seems full of contradictions. He supported a constitutional amendment to ensure women’s suffrage, but oversaw the re-segregation of America’s civil service. He championed national self-determination for the people of Europe, but readily deployed US soldiers to intervene in Latin America. And he won re-election with the slogan “He Kept Us Out Of War,” yet called for America’s entry into World War I just a little over a month after his second inauguration. In spite this, O’Toole says that a close examination of Wilson’s thought and policy reveals a consistent world view that binds these seemingly contradictory actions together.

 

Patricia O’Toole is the author of five books, including The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams (Simon & Schuster, 2006), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She previously taught in the School of the Arts at Columbia University was a fellow of the Society of American Historians.

 

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #93 which originally aired on April 30, 2018. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Jul 1, 2024

On July 4th, we celebrate American Independence. But, as Ben argues in his new intro to this episode, the real gift of the founding generation was more than that: it’s the inheritance of the revolution.

 

George Washington is one of the most revered figures in American history. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led his troops to one of the most unlikely and world-shaking victories in modern history, and his selection as President of both the Constitutional Convention and the new government designed that summer in Philadelphia, demonstrate the unmatched faith that the founders had in General Washington. Today, however, we tend to remember Washington more for the jobs he held than for the personal qualities that made him a remarkable member of the founding generation, but the wisdom left to us by our first President in his farewell address is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. In this episode of The Road to Now we explain why in our discussion with Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon about his book Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations

 

Our conversation with John Avlon originally aired as RTN #48 which originally aired on March 13, 2017. This episode includes an updated intro reflecting on the American Revolution by Ben Sawyer, recorded July 1, 2024. This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Jun 24, 2024

In 1866, the Fenian Brotherhood, comprised primarily of Irish Civil War veterans, led a series of attacks on Canadian provinces just across the border from the United States. Their goal: seize Canadian territory and exchange it for Irish independence. Similar raids continued until 1871, and although they were ultimately unsuccessful, they are part of a greater story of the American Civil War, Irish Independence, and trans-Atlantic immigration to the United States in the mid-19th Century. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Christopher Klein about his book When the Irish Invaded America: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom (Doubleday, 2019).

Christopher Klein is an author and freelance writer specializing in history. He writes stories about the past that inform us about the present and guide us to the future. He is the author of four books, including Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero, and a frequent contributor to history.com and many other media outlets.

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #125, which originally aired on March 18, 2019. This version was completely reedited using Adobe’s Enhanced Speech software by Ben Sawyer.

Jun 17, 2024

The American Civil War and the end of slavery in the US may seem like one and the same from our modern perspective, but for those living through the conflict, the abolition of human bondage was anything but certain. Even into the last days of the war, slave traders in Confederate-held cities continued to auction off human beings, realizing handsome profits as they imposed violence and family separation on their subjects.

In his new book, An Unholy Traffic: Slave Trading in the Civil War South, Robert K.D. Colby brings together a wide variety of sources to offer up a never-before seen look into the slave trade during the American Civil War. In this episode, he joins Ben and guest co-host Tim Talbott to explain how the slave trade evolved, why slave traders remained confident in the future of slavery even during the Civil War, and how the combined trauma of slavery and war impacted enslaved Americans long after their freedom had been secured.

Robert K.D. Colby is Assistant Professor of History at Ole Miss who specializes in the Civil War and the history of slavery. His newest book, An Unholy Traffic was published by Oxford University Press in April 2024 and is available in both print and audiobook.

Tim Talbott is the Chief Administrative Officer for the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust in Fredericksburg, Virginia and founding member and President of the Battle of New Market Heights Memorial and Education Association. Tim holds a MA in Public History from Appalachian State University, where Ben had the great fortune to study alongside him.

Relevant Links:

·      The Smithsonian Digital Volunteers Transcription Center website

·      RTN Episode 270: Women & American Slavery w/ Stephanie E. Jones Rogers

·      RTN Episode 117: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism w/ Edward Baptist

 

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Jun 10, 2024

In 2002, Ashley Capps took a gamble- he rented hundreds of acres in rural Tennessee and put on a music festival. Coming on the heels of the infamous Lollapalooza ’99 and an unsuccessful festival at the same site two years earlier, few thought Ashley could pull it off. As you (and the 80,000 people who attended the festival this year) know, Ashley and his partners proved the doubters wrong and created one of the most iconic festivals in modern America.

Bob and Ben caught up with Ashley Capps back stage at Bonnaroo to talk about the history of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, how Ashley selected Manchester, TN, and the changes in the live music industry that have happened since he began working in live music decades ago. He also shares his insight on building the relationships that make a major festival sustainable. Bob also shares his experiences playing Bonnaroo with the Avett Brothers from the small stage in 2006 to the main stage in 2019.

This episode was recorded live at Bonnaroo on Friday, June 14, 2019 and originally aired as episode #133. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Jun 3, 2024

In this episode, music writer Michaelangelo Matos joins Bob and Ben to discuss why 1984 was a pivotal year in music history. Michaelangelo also shares why he loves books about a single year.

 

Michaelangelos’ book, Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year (Hachette Books) was selected as a Rolling Stone-Kirkus Best Music Book of 2020. You can follow him on substack at @michaelangelomatos.

 

Love a good trivia night? Want to support The Road to Now? You can do both at the same time by joining us for RTN Patreon Trivia! The next round will be in the last full week of June so let us know your availability by Fri. June 7 and then look for the schedule on our Patreon page on Monday, June 10. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

This episode is a rebroadcast of RTN #230, which originally aired on April 11, 2022. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer.

 

 

May 27, 2024

We guarantee you will feel better after listening to the Road to Now this week. We are joined by world-renowned soprano and arts/health advocate Renée Fleming and neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist and the best sell author of This is Your Brain on Music, Dan Levitin. We are discussing Renée’s new book Music and Mind about how to harness the arts to improve health and wellness. The book is a collection of essays from leading Doctors, scientists, researchers, as well as artists Yo-Yo-Ma, Rhiannon Giddens, and Rosanne Cash.

Renée and Dan join Bob to discuss the history of the study of what happens to our brains when we are listening to or even thinking about music. Our guests also discuss how music and art are being used in therapy for certain illnesses and conditions and how they might effective treatments for other conditions. This is an episode you don’t want to miss!

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

May 20, 2024

This fall, the musical Swept Away, which is based on the music of Bob Crawford’s band The Avett Brothers is coming to broadway, and to celebrate, we’re re-sharing our conversation with writer, John Logan, and lead actor, John Gallagher Jr.

 

This conversation was recorded just after Swept Away premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in Berkeley, CA in January 2022, and when you hear the passion from the folks who brought the musical to life, you’ll understand why the show has been such a great success (and why you should go see it).

 

John Logan is Swept Away’s writer whose previous credits include Any Given Sunday, Skyfall, & Red.

 

 John Gallagher Jr. is Swept Away’s lead actor who previously starred in American Idiot & The Newsroom.

 

Learn more about the musical at sweptawaymusical.com and by following @sweptawaymusical on Instagram.

 

 Click here to hear John Gallagher Jr. performing “The Once and Future Carpenter” from Swept Away.

 

This episode originally aired as RTN #219 on January 17, 2022. Original editing by Gary Fletcher. Rebroadcast editing by Ben Sawyer.

May 13, 2024

Jon Grinspan has done something remarkable: in his new book, Wide Awake, he tells a thoroughly researched and brilliantly crafted story that may change your understanding of the origins of the American Civil War. In this episode, Jon joins us for a conversation about the Wide Awakes, the anti-slavery youth movement that played an instrumental role in electing Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and took part in some of the first acts of violence between pro and anti-slavery Americans in 1861. Jon also discusses the ways that the past and present interact in powerful ways, and how politics can evolve, step-by-step, into violence.

 

To quote Jon’s recent article in The Smithsonian: “The most consequential political organization in American history….began when a few working-class kids designed a costume, which grew into a movement and ultimately an army. And it ended with a civil war.”

 

Dr. Jon Grinspan is a curator of political and military history at the National Museum of American History. His book Wide Awake: The Forgotten Force that Elected Lincoln and Spurred the Civil War is out May 14, 2024 from Bloomsbury Press. Click here to order your copy!

 

You can hear Jon’s previous appearance on The Road to Now in episode #220 Processing the Past w/ John Grinspan.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

May 6, 2024

You might know Bushwick Bill as a member of the iconic Houston rap group The Geto Boys, but his contributions to rap music, his role in the debates over free speech in the 1990s, and his overall influence are far more substantial than you probably realize. In this episode, we welcome Charles Hughes back to the show to discuss his new book Why Bushwick Bill Matters (Univ. of Texas Press) and to get a better understanding of the challenges and triumphs that shaped one of rap history’s most influential artists.

 

Dr. Charles Hughes is the Director of the Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College. His previous books include  Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South which Rolling Stone named one of the Best Music Books of 2015. You can hear our previous conversation with Charles in episode #25 The History of Country and Soul Music in the American South w/ Charles Hughes. You can follow Charles on twitter at @CharlesLHughes2.

 

This episode is a rebroadcast of RTN #242, which originally aired on July 25, 2022. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 29, 2024

Jonah Goldberg is one of America’s most well-known conservative intellectuals, with a resume that includes more than two decades at The National Review, twelve years as a commentator on Fox News, and two New York Times Bestsellers. In recent years, however, the changing definition of “conservative” in American politics has put Jonah at odds with the party that they once called home. In this episode, recorded live at Word of South Festival in Tallahassee, Florida, Jonah joins Ben & Bob for a discussion that ranges from the history and politics of the Supreme Court, to the Constitutional Convention, to the reasons that Jonah thinks that journalists should avoid becoming friends with politicians. We also discuss Jonah’s reasons for leaving Fox News after more than a decade as a Fox contributor, as well as his decisions to co-found The Dispatch and join the team at CNN.

 

To hear more from Jonah Goldberg, check out his podcast, The Remnant, or pick up a copy of Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy. You can also find out more about his work and speaking engagements at his website, JonahGoldberg.com.

 

This episode was recorded live at Word of South Festival on April 27, 2024. Ben & Bob would like to give special thanks to WOS founder Mark Mustian and the other WOS organizers for the invitation, to Rick & Linda Hyson for the hospitality during our stay in Tallahassee, and to Florida State University for sponsoring the event!

An extended version of this conversation, which includes more than 20 minutes of additional conversation is available to our supporters on Patreon. Click here to listen to the extended episode! Thanks to our Patrons for keeping the show going!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 22, 2024

Can learning the skills required to do good history serve as an antidote to conspiracy theory? Cathy Gorn & Don Wildman think so, and in this episode they join us to discuss their work to teach those skills in the 6th-12th grade classroom through National History Day, a program that reaches more than half a million students and tens of thousands of teachers each year. We agree with them and think National History Day is an American treasure, so we hope you enjoy this conversation about what goes into creating good history, how we can better teach that to the public, and how your kids can get involved in National History Day.

 

Click here to learn more about National History Day programs for students & teachers.

 

Dr. Cathy Gorn has spent more than four decades working with National History Day and currently serves as NHD’s Executive Director.

 

Don Wildman is a podcast & documentary host whose projects include Mysteries at the Museum (Travel Channel) & the podcast American History Hit. He currently serves as Co-Chair of National History Day’s Development Committee.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 15, 2024

Ben and Bob are heading to Tallahassee on April 27 for a live recording at Word of South Festival and the show is free! Click here for details.

The Harlem Globetrotters are one of those great parts of American culture that almost everyone knows and loves. For most of us today, the Globetrotters are outstanding entertainers. But did you know that in the mid-20th century the Globetrotters were probably the single best basketball team on the planet? Did you know that they did travel the globe as agents of the US Department of State during the Cold War, but that they are not, in fact, from Harlem? If you want to know how all of this happened (and how the Globetrotters saved the NBA), you’re going to love this interview with historian Ben Green on the History of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Ben Green is the author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters.

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #56, which originally aired on May 1, 2017. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Apr 8, 2024

The election of 2016 was a lot of things. It was a showdown between two candidates who had been household names for decades. It was the second time in five elections where the winning candidate lost the popular vote. And, most relevant here, it was eight years ago and one of the candidates in that election is running again in 2024, so we’ve still got a long time before we can see the full impact it had on US history.


For now though, we can say that the narrow margin by which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton has already cast third parties- both candidates and outside actors- as central characters in the narrative of 2016. Did Jill Stein’s Green Party run hand the election to Donald Trump, as some Clinton supporters claim? Is it true that Russia “hacked the election?” Or did the Democratic National Committee’s advocacy for Hillary Clinton deny the party a winning candidate. Let’s try to find out.

 

Welcome to the final installment of The Road to Now’s Third Party Series. Today: the election of 2016 and ever after w/ John Heilemann.

 

John Heileman is a journalist and national affairs analyst for NBC News & MSNBC. You can hear him weekly on his podcast Hell & High Water w/ John Heilemann.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 1, 2024

Hear the extended version of this episode by supporting The Road to Now on Patreon! Click here to join.

 

On December 13, 2000, Democratic Candidate Al Gore conceded that year’s Presidential Election to Republican George W. Bush. Gore’s concession speech marked a dramatic conclusion to an election that had been contested for more than a month, with partisans from both major parties flocking to Florida to recount ballots in hopes that the few hundred votes that separated the candidates would fall in their favor. Ultimately, however, the final decision on the election came from the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 to stop the recount, handing Florida’s 25 electoral votes, and thus the Presidency, to George W. Bush who carried the state with just 537 more votes than Gore.

 

The election of 2000 was unusual in several ways. It was the first time an election was decided by a Supreme Court ruling. It was the first election since 1888 in which the winner of the popular vote lost the election. And despite the dramatic scenes that came out of those days between the election and Gore’s concession, and the many passionate criticisms leveled by Democrats- that the electoral college was undemocratic, that the Supreme Court had usurped the election, that voters for Ralph Nader and other third party candidates had handed the election to Bush- few critics pointed to the fact that only 50.3% of eligible voters showed up to the polls- the second lowest turnout in American history.

 

Why was the election of 2000 so uninteresting to so many voters? Why did the Supreme Court decide to intervene in the election, and was it a case of judicial overreach, as so many critics claimed? And in the end, is it fair to say that those who voted for Nader and other third party candidates were the deciding factor in the election? Let’s find out.

 

Welcome to the Road to Now’s Third Party Election Series. Today, part 7: The election of 2000 w/ Doug Heye.

 

Doug Heye is a political commentator who previously served as Communications Director for the Republican National Committee and Deputy Chief of Staff for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. You can follow him on twitter at @DougHeye.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

 

 

Mar 25, 2024

In 1992, President George Bush’s bid for a second term did not go well. Despite taking 79% of the electoral vote in 1988, holding office during the collapse of communism in Europe, and serving as commander-in-chief during the US victory in the first Iraq War, Bush found himself flanked by a smooth talking former Arkansas governor and a Texas businessman armed with a personal fortune and a lot of charts. When it was all over, Bush had garnered about ten million fewer votes than he had four years earlier and a 12-year run of Republican Presidents was over.

 

How did Bill Clinton manage to beat an incumbent President by so much? Was third-party contender Ross Perot responsible for Bush’s catastrophic loss in 1992, or was it really, as Clinton’s people claimed, “the economy, stupid?” And why did Perot, who at one point looked to be a viable contender, decide to drop out of the race, only to rejoin a few weeks before the election? Let’s find out.

 

Welcome to the Road to Now’s Third Party Election Series. Today: The election of 1992 with Julian Zelizer.

 

Julian Zelizer is Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University. He is the award-winning author and editor of 25 books including The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress and Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, co-authored and Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

 

Mar 18, 2024

On November 4, 1980, California Republican Ronald Reagan trounced Jimmy Carter at the polls, beating the incumbent by almost 10 percentage points in the popular election and winning 489 of 538 electors. That type of victory combined with Reagan’s larger than life place in modern political history might lead you to believe the 1980 campaign was never in doubt. But it was. And in early 1980, both men faced viable challengers within their own party, as well as a third party candidate whose 5.7 million popular votes could have changed the outcome of a closer election. The Presidential election of 1980 was not just a turning point- it was, in fact, far more interesting than most people give it credit for.

 

Why did Ted Kennedy decide to challenge the sitting President in the Democratic Primary? How did George Bush win 3 of the first seven GOP primaries against the presumed nominee? And why, as his party’s fortunes looked the best they had in years, did Republican hopeful John B. Anderson of Illinois decide to leave the GOP to run a third party campaign? Let’s find out.

 

Welcome to The Road to Now’s Third Party Elections Series. Today: The election of 1980 with Rick Perlstein.

 

Rick Perlstein is the author of multiple award-winning books, including Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2009) and Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980 (2021). You can hear Rick discussing Reaganland in his previous appearance on The Road to Now in episode #199

 

You can get an extended version of this conversation, extra episodes and more by supporting us on Patreon! Click here for the extended episode!

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Mar 11, 2024

The famous image of a victorious Harry Truman holding up a newspaper headlined “Dewey defeats Truman” is clear evidence that the 1948 Presidential election did not turn out the way many people had expected. That April, Truman’s approval rating had sunk to 37%, causing even many in his party to consider dumping him from the ballot. That summer, a rebellion by southern Democrats led by South Carolina segregationist Strom Thurmond promised to deny Truman electoral votes that his Democratic predecessors could have counted on for a century. Yet, despite all this, Truman didn’t just win, he won big- finishing 4.5 points and 114 electoral votes ahead of Dewey.

 

How did Truman manage to turn it all around in six months? Who was Thomas E. Dewey and why couldn’t he deliver a win with the wind blowing so hard at his back? And what did southern democrats hope they’d get by giving 39 electoral votes to Strom Thurmond even when he had no chance of winning the national election? Let’s find out.

 

In the fourth installment of our Third Party Elections Series, we talk the election of 1948 w/ Jefferson Cowie.

 

Dr. Jefferson Cowie is James G. Stahlman Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. His most recent book, Freedom’s Dominion, A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power (Basic Books) was awarded the 20203 Pulitzer Prize in History. You can hear Jeff discussing Freedom’s Dominion in RTN #255 and his other episodes on the 1970s (#115) and The New Deal and its Legacy (#24).  

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Mar 4, 2024

The Presidential election of 1912 was an unusual moment in American history. It featured an embattled incumbent President facing criticism from his former allies. It offered voters a choice between the sitting President and his predecessor. And when it was all done, the two men who had previously won the Presidency found themselves bested by a college professor with just a few years of experience in politics.

 

So why did the predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, become so critical of the incumbent, William Howard Taft, that he decided to break away from the Republican party to run against him? Why did the Democrats pick relative newcomer Woodrow Wilson to be their Presidential Candidate ? And is 1912 an example of how a third-party candidate can spoil an election? Let’s find out.

 

Welcome to The Road To Now’s Third Party Elections Series. Today: Part 3- The Election of 1912 with Michael Cullinane.

 

Dr. Michael Patrick Cullinane is Lowman Walton Chair of Theodore Roosevelt Studies at Dickinson State University and the author of multiple books, including Theodore Roosevelt’s Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon (LSU Press, 2017). You can also hear him on his bi-weekly podcast The Gilded Age and Progressive Era, available anywhere you get The Road to Now.

 

If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to check out our previous episodes in this series:

-#1 The Election of 1824 w/ Lindsay Chervinsky

-#2 The Election of 1860 w/ Michael Green

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Feb 26, 2024

The Presidential election of 1860 is one we Americans know well. That election sent 
Abraham Lincoln to the White House, southern enslavers to the exit door, and the United States into a bloody Civil War. Lincoln’s leadership in those years and his tragic assassination in the last days of the war propelled the railsplitter into the pantheon of American Presidents.

But sometimes we forget that just a few months before the election, Lincoln looked like a long shot. His experience at the federal level amounted to one term in the House of Representatives. His Republican Party, founded in 1854, was only running its second Presidential campaign. And even in victory, Lincoln’s share of the popular vote fell just short of 40%.


How did Abraham Lincoln win a resounding victory in the electoral college with a minority of the popular vote? Why did the Democratic Party, which had dominated politics in the previous decade, lose to an upstart rival? And why, in the midst of a fierce battle over American slavery that ultimately broke the country apart, did John Bell – a third party candidate that you’ve probably never heard of – have a reasonable chance of winning the 
Presidency by skirting the issue all together? Let’s find out.

Welcome to The Road To Now’s Third Party Elections Series. Today: Part 2- The Election of 1860 with Michael Green.


Dr. Michael Green is Associate Professor of History at UNLV and the author of multiple 
books on the politics of mid 19th century America, including Lincoln and the Election of 1860 (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011).

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Feb 19, 2024

The Election of 1824 was a turning point in American history. Long before the fall of 1824, Americans understood that the winner would be the first in America’s second generation to hold the Presidency. When the election began, all four viable candidates were technically from the same party. By the time it was over, the election had generated the rivalries and passions that formed the groundwork for a new national party system.

 

How did Andrew Jackson win the most votes in the electoral college and still lose the election? How did John Quincy Adams win the Presidency but ultimately lose the country? And was it all due to a “corrupt bargain” as some critics alleged, or is there more to the story? Let’s find out.

 

Welcome to The Road To Now’s Third Party Elections Series. Today: Part 1- The Election of 1824 with Lindsay Chervinsky.

 

Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky is author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution (Harvard University Press, 2020). Check out her previous appearances on The Road to Now discussing the President’s Cabinet (#184) and how Americans have mourned Presidents throughout history (#263).

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Feb 12, 2024

The Constitution empowers the electoral college to select the President, but the process for counting electors’ votes remains in the hands of Congress. In this episode, Constitutional Law Professor Edward Foley explains the origins of the electoral college, how and why the 12th Amendment changed the process for electing Presidents, and the concerns that led Congress to codify the procedure for counting electors’ votes in 1887. Edward also offers some specific ways that updating the Electoral Count Act of 1887 might help us avoid some of the potential problems that might arise in upcoming elections.

Edward Foley holds the Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law at The Ohio State University, where he also directs its election law program. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and the author of multiple books, including Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Presidential Elections and Majority Rule (Oxford University Press, 2020). You can follow him on twitter at @NedFoley.

This is a rebroadcast of episode 224, which originally aired on February 22, 2022. We think this is a perfect episode to set up our multi-episode series on contested presidential elections, which kicks off on February 19 (aka Presidents' Day)! Each episode of the series focuses on the years that third party candidates, tense inter-party rivalries and other campaign surprises, both reflected and shaped the country in that year and for generations to come. Bob and I have an all-star lineup of guests, and we’re kicking off with Lindsay Chervinsky on the 1824 election and John Quincy Adams’ Corrupt Bargain!

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #224, which originally aired on February 22, 2022. The original episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer. 

Feb 5, 2024

The inalienable right to “the pursuit of happiness” is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, but what exactly does that phrase mean? While Americans today may associate it with the right to own land, opulence or some other act of acquisition, many prominent founders understood it to mean something quite different. In this episode National Constitution Center President & CEO Jeffrey Rosen returns to the show to give us the full story and discuss his new book The Pursuit of Happiness: How Classical Writers on Virtue Inspired the Lives of the Founders and Defined America

The Pursuit of Happiness will be available on February 13 via all major publishers. Click here to pre-order your copy, find out more about the book, and see Jeffrey Rosen’s upcoming speaking engagements.

If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to check out Jeffrey’s previous appearance on our show in The Road to Now #211, The Constitution w/ Jeffrey Rosen.

 

Highlighted Resources from the National Constitution Center

The Interactive Constitution (also available as an app in the apple and android app stores)

We The People with Jeffrey Rosen podcast (available anywhere you get The Road to Now)

Educational Video Series

If you’re in Philadelphia, you can visit the National Constitution Center, which is located just steps from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Click here to plan your visit!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

 

Jan 29, 2024

One episode. Two historians/podcasters. Four stories from American history that you’ve probably never heard. And an unknown number of listeners that we hope will find these stories as fascinating and surprising as we do.

 

Greg Jackson is the creator of History That Doesn’t Suck and a Professor at Utah Valley University. Ben Sawyer hosts this podcast and has been teaching history at the university level for over a decade and a half. You might think that at this point they’ve heard it all, but when you keep digging into history, it just keeps surprising you. In this episode, Greg and Ben each share two stories that they discovered in the last year that they found to be the most fascinating. Enjoy!

 

This is a rebroadcast of The Road to Now #239, which originally aired on June 27, 2022. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jan 22, 2024

The FBI has been the subject of criticism and concern since it was founded in 1908, but it has nevertheless become one of the most powerful, stable, and mythologized branches of the Executive Branch of the US government. In this episode, Steve Underhill joins us to discuss the origins of the FBI, the role J. Edgar Hoover played in making the modern Brueau, and how that greater history of the FBI can help us understand how they’ve approached their seizure of documents from Mar-a-Lago and the subsequent attack from Donald Trump.

Dr. Stephen M. Underhill is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at Marshall University, where he studies the rhetoric of law enforcement. His book The Manufacture of Consent: J. Edgar Hoover and the Rhetorical Rise of the FBI was published in 2020.

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #247, which originally aired on September 19, 2022. The original episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. This reair was edited by Ben Sawyer.

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