History Buzz August 20, 2012: Julian Zelizer: In convention speeches, history is made

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

In convention speeches, history is made

Source: CNN, 8-20-12

After losing the nomination to Gerald Ford, left, Ronald Reagan delivered an impromptu speech at the 1976 GOP convention.

After losing the nomination to Gerald Ford, left, Ronald Reagan delivered an impromptu speech at the 1976 GOP convention.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Speeches are the highlight of each party’s political convention, says Julian Zelizer
    • Some speeches put forth ideas that shape the next generation of candidates, he says
    • Others eviscerate the opposition, permanently defining candidates and parties, he says
    • Zelizer: Some speeches inspire, others make instant stars, and others flop resoundingly

 

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” and of the new book “Governing America.”

Now the party is really starting. Democrats and Republicans are preparing to gather to hold their conventions, each using this precious time to tell the nation what its presidential candidate is all about….

Without any more deal-making in smoke-filled rooms, speeches are the highlight of the convention. Even when speeches are made at conventions whose candidate winds up losing, they can offer ideas and rhetoric that become integral to the party for decades to come. A look back at history reveals that there are different types of speeches that we might see in the coming weeks, each with very different purposes and effect….READ MORE

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History Buzz September 9, 2011: New C-Span Series “The Contenders” Profiling Failed Presidential Candidates that Changed and Impacted Political History

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Associated Press

William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate at the turn of the 20th century.

HISTORY ON TV:

The Contenders Premiere

Fri., 8 – 9:30 pm ET on C-SPAN
Henry Clay
LIVE from his Ashland Estate in Lexington, Kentucky

As the 2012 presidential campaign takes shape, we’ll give historical context to our current politics by taking a look back. This Friday night, C-SPAN debuts the first LIVE program in our new history series The Contenders.

Originating from Henry Clay’s home in Lexington, Kentucky, we’ll explore the life, times, and political legacy of a man known simultaneously by his contemporaries as “The Great Compromiser” and “The Dictator” — and perhaps the most powerful politician of his time. Helping us to understand his relevancy today, his almost 50 years in politics, his support for both slavery and keeping the Union together, his quests for the presidency, and a time period covering the first half of the 19th century, we’ll be joined at Ashland Estate by:

· Kentucky State Historian James Klotter, who is currently writing a book on Clay’s presidential aspirations

· Alicestyne Turly, history professor at Louisville University and an expert on the issue of slavery in Kentucky compared to the rest of the country

· Avery Malone, tour director at Ashland Estate

To help connect the discussion to today, we’ll also see clips from House Speaker John Boehner, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul talking about Clay and his relevancy almost 160 years after his death.
For more information on the series and our Contenders, go to www.c-span.org/thecontenders where you’ll find videos, biographical information, election results, helpful links, and more on each of these 14 Contenders featured in the series:
Henry Clay, James G. Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, Eugene Debs, Charles Evans Hughes, Al Smith, Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Adlai Stevenson, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, George McGovern, and Ross Perot.
Watch this Friday at 8 pm ET on C-SPAN, c-span.org, and C-SPAN Radio. The program re-airs Friday night at 11 pm on C-SPAN.

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

‘The Contenders’ a Nod to Failed Candidates Who Still Changed History

Source: PBS Newshour, 9-1-11

Mp3 Download

SUMMARY

A new C-SPAN series starting this month called “The Contenders” profiles failed presidential candidates who still managed to change political history. Gwen Ifill discusses the presidential race losers with George Mason University’s Richard Norton Smith and RealClearPolitics.com’s Carl Cannon.

U.S. presidential campaigns always produce a winner — 43 men have served, one of them twice, as the nation’s commander in chief.History books pay less attention to the losers, even though many had an outsized impact on the election and on the national debate. A good number of them turned out to be ahead of their times.

Beginning Sept. 9, a new C-SPAN series titled “The Contenders: They Ran and Lost but Changed Political History,” will examine 14 of the losers who turned out to be influential, even in defeat.

Richard Norton Smith, scholar in residence at George Mason University, is an adviser to the series, and Carl Cannon is Washington editor for the political website RealClearPolitics.com.

RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University:

Well, it has famously been said, the winners write the history books. And there’s a lot of truth to that.

Turns out winning and losing are relative terms. Of these 14 people, there are a number — we could debate who — who went on, perhaps, ultimately to have greater impact than the people who — quote — “won.”

More important, there are people who lost in the immediate sense, but who turned out not only to be ahead of their time, but in fact were catalysts for political transformations, the most recent example certainly being Barry Goldwater, who carried six states against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and yet who planted the seeds of a conservative movement that arguably has yet to crest…..

I think Henry Clay may be the best president we never had.

Well, Abraham Lincoln said, “He was my beau ideal of a statesman.”He was a constructive force first part of the 19th century. He’s the bridge between Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln, the idea that government had a significant role to play. I mean, it’s curious. Conservatives in the 19th century believed in using government as an agent of capitalist development….

Clay was like the speaker of the House on the day he arrived in the House of Representatives, he, of course, known as the great compromiser. The last one in 1850 arguably delayed the Civil War for 10 years, which gave the North an opportunity to become that much stronger, and, equally important, allowed Abraham Lincoln to emerge from obscurity….
Charles Evans Hughes…. A very successful governor of New York, reformer beginning in the 20th century. Then he was put on the Supreme Court, left the court in 1916 to run a very close race against Woodrow Wilson.

He went back to service in the 1920s as secretary of state under two presidents. But his greatest contribution, arguably, his greatest historical significance, came in 1937 when FDR tried famously to pack the Supreme Court. Hughes was then chief justice. Employing all of his old political wiles, he almost single-handedly managed to thwart the president’s effort to change the court in a way that I think a lot of people today, and certainly even then, regarded as radical….

Tom Dewey, someone who tends to be written off as the guy who…. … who lost to Harry Truman.

If Tom Dewey had been elected in 1948, I would — I think you would never have heard of Joe McCarthy.

One, Dewey is a prosecutor. The first national political debate in America was in 1948. Tom Dewey in Oregon against Harold Stassen, the question being, shall we outlaw the Communist Party of America? And Dewey, ironically, the old prosecutor, took the civil libertarian position.

But, beyond that, Dewey was a boss. He was used to having his way. Joe McCarthy wouldn’t have been allowed to become the phenomenon that he had. Dewey would have taken care of it, and Dewey would have cut McCarthy off at the knees.

 

Richard Norton Smith: Don’t Call Them ‘Losers’

Source: NYT, 9-8-11

On cable news these days Republicans are warring for attention, as the presidential primary season reaches a boiling point, and Democrats are wondering how to win despite a wretched economy. Meanwhile the C-SPAN staff is doing what almost no one else on television does: reaching back into history for campaign lessons.

Associated Press

Thomas E. Dewey was twice nominated for president.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The first person to be profiled is Henry Clay, the successful speaker of the House and unsuccessful Whig Party candidate for president in 1844.

Underwood and Underwood

Charles Evans Hughes waged a “not very effective campaign” for president in 1916.

Associated Press

George S. McGovern, the senator who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972.

But it’s doing so in an unusual way. On Friday night that public-affairs channel will start a 14-week series about the presidents who could have been but never were. Called “The Contenders” — purposefully not “The Losers” — the series is about politicians who lost elections but, to borrow from its self-description, “changed political history” anyway.

“The idea is to offer an alternative school of political history,” said Richard Norton Smith, the presidential historian who is a consultant to C-SPAN and who came up with the idea for the series. He said, “More than a few who were deemed losers in their time turned out to be winners in the longer run.”

The first person to be profiled is Henry Clay, the successful speaker of the House and unsuccessful Whig Party candidate for president in 1844 who was known as the Great Compromiser, revealing one of the reasons that Mr. Smith said the series was “not without relevance in our time.”

So many failed candidates now seem to be staples of our national news diet, whether it’s Sarah Palin with her “will she or won’t she?” run for president; Al Gore, with his continuing campaign about climate change; Mike Huckabee, with his new talk-show career; or even John Edwards, with his fall from the op-ed page to the tabloid cover. But the current crop didn’t inspire the series, said Mark Farkas, its executive producer.

“We knew we wanted to do a history series before the presidential election was really kicked off,” Mr. Farkas said Wednesday, taking a break from reviewing video clips for the Clay episode. Studying the runners-up, he said, is a “great way to track how people have run for the presidency and how they have interacted with the media.”

The most recent crop of candidates wouldn’t have qualified for the series. To be a contender the person had to have run for president before 1996. Mr. Farkas said Mr. Gore, who ran for president in 2000, was considered for the series, but the producing group decided that “history’s still being written about 2000.”

The series starts with Clay and ends on Dec. 9 with Ross Perot, who ran for president in 1992 (and again in 1996). In between are men — they are all men — like William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate at the turn of the 20th century; Eugene V. Debs, the union leader who ran on a socialist platform five times, once from prison; Thomas E. Dewey, the New York governor who was the Republican nominee in 1944 and 1948; and George S. McGovern, the senator who was the Democratic nominee in 1972.

Mr. Smith said the producing team was careful to include an equal number of Republicans and Democrats and a “good sampling” of third-party candidates.

“You can play all sorts of parlor games with this topic,” he said. “Would these guys have been better than the people who beat them? How might history have been different?”

C-SPAN’s schedule is determined by Congress much of the time because the channel is committed to showing the House of Representatives whenever it is in session. But Friday night is typically free for original programming because the House tends to dismiss itself for the weekend. In 2007 Mr. Smith was a consultant for a Friday series that was set at presidential libraries. “We were combing the treasures of the collections,” he said.

Similarly, each 90-minute episode of “The Contenders” will be produced live from a location that was important in the life of the featured person. The episode about Clay will be broadcast from his former plantation in Lexington, Ky., which is significant, Mr. Farkas said, because “many of the compromises that Clay made were over slavery.” Guests on each episode will include estate or museum curators, outside historians and authors.

The locations are significant because “these people are really windows into their time period as well,” Mr. Farkas said.

Mr. Smith, who is a professor at George Mason University and the author of books about Dewey, Herbert Hoover, George Washington and others, became one of C-SPAN’s top house historians after befriending Brian Lamb, the founder and chief executive of the network. They have, Mr. Smith said with a laugh, a “curious basis for a friendship:” Mr. Lamb found out in 1993 that Mr. Smith had visited the grave site of every United States president and then decided to do the same. (There are no plans at the moment for a series about the grave sites.)

Mr. Smith said he perceived “The Contenders” to be an alternative to the constant coverage of the current Republican primary campaign, but relevant to the coverage too. Take Mr. Perot, for instance. “Perot put the deficit on the agenda in a way that made it virtually impossible for whoever won to avoid doing something about it,” he said.

Perhaps there are lessons too for the losers — or contenders — themselves. The Oct. 7 episode will profile Charles Evan Hughes, who governed New York before joining the Supreme Court in 1910. A Republican, Hughes waged a “not very effective campaign” for president in 1916, but then became the secretary of state and later the nation’s chief justice. He wrote opinions that supported elements of the New Deal and strengthened free-press protections and fended off a proposal to add more justices to the court.

“He never even served in Congress,” Mr. Smith said. “But it’s hard to find many public servants who did as much, as well, as long.”

A version of this article appeared in print on September 8, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Call Them ‘Losers’.
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