Historian Yoni Appelbaum Makes a Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump

If you are a fan of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, you will remember our interview in Episode 3 with Yoni Appelbaum, historian and IDEAS editor at The Atlantic.  In this piece, Appelbaum makes a case for the impeachment of Donald Trump.  Here is a taste:

The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America’s constitutional democracy.

Read the entire piece here.

Sports and the White House: Some Historical Context

Brooklyn Atlantic

The Brooklyn Atlantic, 1865 (Library of Congress)

On the day that the Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to visit the White House, Yoni Appelbaum of The Atlantic writes about the first time a championship sports team visited the White House.  It happened in the Johnson Administration–that’s Andrew Johnson.

Here is a taste of his piece:

Here’s the thing about the pilgrimages that championship sports teams make to the White House each year. It’s a tradition rooted in efforts to achieve national unity. Like the broader American project, at their best these visits promote an expansive vision of America, a diverse society finding commonality in shared symbols and common rituals.

But the first such visit was rooted in a very different vision of American society—uniting white Americans by excluding blacks from sports, from civic rituals, and from political equality. As President Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House on Monday, he loudly insisted that he still wished “to honor our great country” and “celebrate America.” His statement did not specify, though, which version of America he intended to celebrate.

In 1865, the United States was engaged in the project of Reconstruction, building a new society in the wake of the Civil War. It was also engaged in playing ball. Union soldiers brought home with them a passion for the American game, and fans flocked to ballfields to enjoy the pleasures of peacetime.

Read the rest here.

Does the “American Idea” Still Exist?

Idea

Yoni Appelbaum, the Washington Bureau Chief of The Atlantic, believes there is still hope.  Here is a taste of his recent piece: “Is the American Idea Doomed?

So where does the American idea stand today? To some extent, it is a victim of its own success: Its spread to other nations has left America less distinctive than it once was. But the country has also failed to live up to its own ideals. In 1857, the United States was remarkable for its high levels of democratic participation and social equality. Recent reports rank the U.S. 28th out of 35 developed countries in the percentage of adults who vote in national elections, and 32nd in income equality. Its rates of intergenerational economic mobility are among the lowest in the developed world.

On opportunity, too, the United States now falls short. In its rate of new-business formation and in the percentage of jobs new businesses account for, it ranks in the lower half of nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Today, Americans describe China as Europeans once described the United States—as an uncouth land of opportunity and rising economic might.

It is no surprise that younger Americans have lost faith in a system that no longer seems to deliver on its promise—and yet, the degree of their disillusionment is stunning. Nearly three-quarters of Americans born before the Second World War assign the highest value—10 out of 10—to living in a democracy; less than a third of those born since 1980 do the same. A quarter of the latter group say it’s unimportant to choose leaders in free elections; just shy of a third think civil rights are needed to protect people’s liberties. Americans are not alone; much of western Europe is similarly disillusioned.

Read the entire piece here.

Pickett’s Charge: History and Memory

The Fourth of July holiday is a time for historians to take to twitter! Since Saturday AM we have been wrestling historically with the question “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?”  Get a tweet every 30 minutes at #ChristianAmerica?

Yoni Appelbaum, the Washington Bureau Chief at The Atlantic, has turned to twitter to offer some perspective on the 154th anniversary of the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg and its signature moment: “Pickett’s Charge.” Here are his tweets:

Check out our interview with Yoni in Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Political Historians Discuss Trump’s First 100 Days

trump-speech

I love the way Yoni Appelbaum, the Washington Bureau Chief at The Atlantic, is bringing good American history to the magazine.  Today Princeton historian Julian Zelizer and Brandeis historian Morton Keller put Trump’s first 100 days into some historical context.

Here is a taste:

Julian Zelizer: President Trump’s first 100 days in office are coming to a close. The grades will soon come out. Politicians, journalists, historians are all starting to evaluate how well or how poorly he has done. This does not go down in the “unprecedented” part of this presidency. Ever since President Franklin Roosevelt pushed through Congress a historic legislative agenda in the early part of his term, the 100-day mark has been a standard part of the political lexicon.

There are many reasons for why we keep using this measure. Once FDR set the bar, it became difficult not to make this comparison. For journalists the 100 day-mark is a nice, clean, and simple way to measure how things are going, while politicians look for ways to gauge the strength of the commander in chief. In our current culture of quick, instant satisfaction, we want presidents to deliver on promises right away—and we have little patience for waiting.

But the first 100 days in office don’t really tell us much. Some presidents who get off to a strong start, like Jimmy Carter, go on to struggle during the remainder of their terms. Others, like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, have tough early months, but then go on to serve two terms and end their term with strong approval ratings. Some of the biggest presidential achievements, like President Richard Nixon’s trip to China or President Obama’s health-care reform, come long after the 100 days are over.

It’s also not clear what we should measure. In the current era of strong presidents, executive orders and action should certainly be part of what we evaluate. So, too, should actions by Cabinet leaders, as we see in the current administration when rightward leaning agency secretaries are working hard to undercut the missions of their own programs.

Putting too much pressure on success in the first 100 days creates incentives for quick, and sometimes hasty, action. Great legislation can take time to produce. The legislative process requires what political scientist Nelson Polsby called periods of policy incubation when experts revise and strengthen ideas, where policy makers build support for a bill, and when elected officials can evaluate and when elected officials can evaluate what kind of legislation will work best. Doing everything up front and right away is often antithetical to success especially in a polarized age when “no” is usually the easiest answer to new ideas.

I am as guilty as anyone else for still using this concept but it is probably time to move on to other measures. Asking how presidents did in the first 100 days usually tells us little about what is to come and might even create the exact political incentives we need to avoid.

Read the rest here.

 

“The Atlantic” Endorses Hillary Clinton

am-18601860. 1964. 2016.

These are the only years in which The Atlantic (previously known as the Atlantic Monthly), the historic American magazine of politics and commentary, endorsed a candidate for President of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln.  Lyndon B. Johnson. Hillary Clinton.  The Atlantic endorsed these candidates.

The editors of The Atlantic explain their decision to endorse Clinton.  Interestingly enough, the title of the article is “Against Trump” with the phrase “The Case for Hillary Clinton” in the subtitle.

A taste:

But The Atlantic’s endorsement of Johnson was focused less on his positive attributes than on the flaws of his opponent, Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona. Of Goldwater, Weeks wrote, “His proposal to let field commanders have their choice of the smaller nuclear weapons would rupture a fundamental belief that has existed from Abraham Lincoln to today: the belief that in times of crisis the civilian authority must have control over the military.” And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.” Goldwater’s limited capacity for prudence and reasonableness was what particularly worried The Atlantic.

We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia. There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.

Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

These concerns compel us, for the third time since the magazine’s founding, to endorse a candidate for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.

Read the entire piece here.  Then head over to Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to our interview with Yoni Appelbaum,  Washington Bureau Chief of The Atlantic.

 

“I Alone Can Fix It”: Some Historical Perspective

Trump can fix it

Some of you may remember our interview with Yoni Appelbaum on episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast.  Appelbaum is the Washington Bureau Chief for The Atlantic.  He also has a Ph.D in American history from Brandeis University.

Today at The Atlantic, Appelbaum applies some good historical thinking and context to Donald Trump’s claim that he “alone” can “fix” this country.

Here is a taste:

Has any American political leader claimed so directly to embody the nation, to speak for it, to be its sole hope for redemption?

In 1968, Richard Nixon spoke of a nation torn apart by crime at home, and by wars abroad. But, he promised, better days were ahead. “Without God’s help and your help, we will surely fail; but with God’s help and your help, we shall surely succeed.”

In 1980, Ronald Reagan painted a similarly dark picture of a troubled nation, and offered a similar message of redemption. But his acceptance speech called on Americans to work together to solve their problems. “I ask you not simply to ‘Trust me,’” Reagan said, “but to trust your values—our values—and to hold me responsible for living up to them.”

In 2000, George W. Bush called a troubled nation to renewal, and ended with a note of humility. “I know the presidency is an office that turns pride into prayer,” he said, “But I am eager to start on the work ahead.”

In 2016, Donald J. Trump mounted the stage, and told America that the nation is in crisis. That attacks on police and terrorism threaten the American way of life. That the United States suffers from domestic disaster, and international humiliation. That it is full of shuttered factories and crushed communities. That it is beset by “poverty and violence at home” and “war and destruction abroad.”

And he offered them a solution.

I am your voice, said Trump. I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order. He did not appeal to prayer, or to God. He did not ask Americans to measure him against their values, or to hold him responsible for living up to them. He did not ask for their help. He asked them to place their faith in him.

He broke with two centuries of American political tradition, in which candidates for office—and above all, for the nation’s highest office—acknowledge their fallibility and limitations, asking for the help of their fellow Americans, and of God, to accomplish what they cannot do on their own.

Read the rest here.

Business Majors Need Liberal Arts to Advance in Their Careers

Business liberal arts

Over at The Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum (see our interview with him in Episode 3 The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast) explains why business majors need the liberal arts.

Here is a taste:

American undergraduates are flocking to business programs, and finding plenty of entry-level opportunities. But when businesses go hunting for CEOs or managers, “they will say, a couple of decades out, that I’m looking for a liberal arts grad,” said Judy Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.

That presents a growing challenge to colleges and universities. Students are clamoring for degrees that will help them secure jobs in a shifting economy, but to succeed in the long term, they’ll require an education that allows them to grow, adapt, and contribute as citizens—and to build successful careers. And it’s why many schools are shaking up their curricula to ensure that undergraduate business majors receive something they may not even know they need—a rigorous liberal-arts education.

They’re trying to solve a rapidly growing problem. Almost one in five bachelor’s degrees earned in the United States is a business degree, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Education. And that may actually understate the growth of business education—it doesn’t account for undergraduate minors, nor for the students who major in economics at schools where business degrees aren’t on offer. But a panel of educators moderated by Samuelson at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, emphasized the need to ensure that these degrees provide a robust education. (The panel was drawn from participants in the Aspen Undergraduate Business Education Consortium, an initiative that’s promoting the tighter integration of the liberal arts into business curricula.)

There’s good reason for their concern. Put simply, business majors seem to be graduating with some of the technical skills they’ll need to secure jobs, but without having made the gains in writing or critical-thinking skills they’ll require to succeed over the course of their careers, or to adapt as their technical skills become outdated and the nature of the opportunities they have shifts over time.

Read the rest here.

Are You Listening to The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast?

podcast-icon1On Tuesday we will drop Episode 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast.  It will focus on the ways we narrate the past. Our guest will be Nate DiMeo, the host, chief storyteller, and producer of the wildly popular podcast The Memory Palace.

While you are waiting for this episode to drop, I want to encourage you to get caught up with past episodes, subscribe to the podcast, or write an ITunes review.

Here is where we have been so far:

Episode 0: We introduce the podcast and explain the meaning of phrase “the way of improvement leads home.”

Episode 1:  We talk with Jim Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association, about the power of history in American society and the twitter hashtag #everythinghasahistory

Episode 2: Daniel K. Williams, author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade reflects historically on this controversial issue in ways that will benefit listeners on both side of the debate.

Episode 3:  Yoni Appelbaum, the Washington Bureau Chief at The Atlantic, dares us to be historians in public and offers some ways to think historically about the current presidential campaign.

Episode 4: Stanford professor and history education guru Sam Wineburg, the author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, talks historical thinking, Common Core, and the Teaching American history grants

Episode 5:  We talk about “encountering the past” in and out of museums and historical sites with Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Education at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and the author of A Grizzly in the Mail and other Adventures in American History

In addition to these interviews, all of our episodes include a conversation about history with producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling and a historical essay or story related to the theme of the episode.

Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is Here

podcast-icon1If you have been enjoying the 2016 election coverage at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and you are, like me, a political junkie, you might be interested in Episode 3 of the Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast: “Thinking Politically Historically.”

Drew and I talk politics.  I offer an audio essay on the way history is being used (and abused) in the 2016 campaign. And we chat with Yoni Appelbaum, Washington Bureau Chief at The Atlantic.

Also check out our past episodes:

Episode 0: Introduction to the podcast

Episode 1: “Everything Has a History” (Guest: Jim Grossman)

Episode 2: “The Culture Wars” (Guest Daniel K. Williams)

If you have the time or the inclination, please consider writing a review of the podcast at ITunes.

Have You Downloaded Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast?

podcast-icon1For those of you unfamiliar, The Atlantic (formerly the Atlantic Monthly) is one of America’s oldest and most prominent literary  and cultural commentary magazines.

It was founded in 1857 and has published the works of Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Julia Ward Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Pinsky, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, among others. This week on The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast we chat with the magazine’s current Washington Bureau Chief, Yoni Appelbaum. Yoni talks about writing history for the public, his move from the classroom to the editor’s desk, and the political primary season.

If you enjoy this episode, or any of our episodes, we could really use your support.  Tell your friends about us.  Head over to ITunes and subscribe.  Also please consider leaving a review at ITunes.  We really appreciate it.  Thanks.

If You Have Been Enjoying The Way of Improvement Podcast…

podcast-icon1Consider writing a review at the podcast’s ITunes page.

A The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast revolution is under way!  (OK–I admit I have been listening too much to Bernie Sanders.  Sorry).

But seriously, if you have enjoyed the episodes we have released thus far, please, please, please consider writing a review.  We are slowly building up an audience and we could really use your help in making that happen.

It appears that Episode 1: “Everything has a History” and Episode 2: “The Culture Wars” are gaining traction.  Yesterday we cracked the top 100 in the “History” category on ITunes.

I am also excited about our yet to be titled Episode 3.  It will focus on presidential politics and our guest will be historian/journalist Yoni Appelbaum, Senior Editor for politics and Washington Bureau Chief at The Atlantic.  Stay tuned.