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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: March, 2024
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.

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