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My History Can Beat Up Your Politics
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My History Can Beat Up Your Politics

Author: Bruce Carlson

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Since 2006, bringing historical context to the politics of today. TV pundits discuss politics in a vacuum. Cable news tells you everything is 'breaking news' but in most cases, events have long roots in history. In this podcast, we smash and bash the politics of today with a healthy dose of history
182 Episodes
Nothing starts a good presidential transition like charges of treason, and thus it was in 1968 that a tense election ending started a transition between Presidents of two parties.  Yet all things considering, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson's transition is considered one of the better ones.   We look into the circumstances, the actions and the phone calls between LBJ and Nixon, from November 5th, 1968 to January 20th, 1969.  We also look at contemporary news stories, and stories of other presidential transitions.   Music from Lee Rosevere- Music for Podcasts (turns out the true crime edition music really fits)
America's fascination then and now with sea rebels, sea dogs, privateers, smugglers, and pirates by other names is pretty clear.  Books, movies and video games with pirates sell.  We talk with pirate expert and historian Rebecca Simon, Ph.D. and author of "Why We Love Pirates: The Hunt for Captain Kidd and How He Changed Piracy Forever"   We talk about connections between the American Revolution and piracy, and the different ways pirates were viewed in Britain and America, how pirate crews worked, women pirates and more.   
It started with one guy's idea.  And nothing happened with it until after he died.  We look at the Maine and Nebraska congressional district system of Presidential elector assignment and its history as both the NE2 and ME2 went for different candidates than the statewide winner for the first time in history.  That and other 2020 Election thoughts.  
In this episode we look at an enduring mystery, one that didn't matter too much in the 1960 election but has since taken on significance. Could it be that Kennedy lost, and Nixon won, the popular vote nationally in 1960. We looked at it a decade ago, and at that time MHCBUYP declared that Richard Nixon may rightly join popular vote winners but election losers: Cleveland, Jackson, Tilden and Gore.   Now, we think it's complicated.  But still possible.  This, plus the "Gumps of History" and other listener questions.  
A look at the history of child labor and attempts, mostly unsuccessful for decades, at child labor restrictions.  From 2014.  
Host Bruce Carlson reflects on 14 years of the podcast, provides a show update.  Plus some listener questions on masks then and now, Presidents leaving (or not leaving) the Oval, and Kennedy's 1960 election and allegations of fraud.
We discuss the tight election that elected the first Democratic President in 25 years and some comparisons and contrasts to the current election.  A President's umbrella, salutes for his "big foot," chain-armor clad parades, and the importance of a concern for the "general weal." all in this episode.  Music by Stephan Siebert, About Life.
'The public and the public papers have been much occupied lately in placing us in a point of opposition to each other. ' So wrote Jefferson to Adams about the 1796 Presidential Election, America's first with two candidates with true campaigns.  The letter didn't reach its recipient, the opposing candidate of a party; the old friends became political figures and their letters potential weapons as opposing sides had gelled too much.   The 1796 Presidential Election was America's first with two candidates with true campaigns.  Before it was over there would feature negative ads, misconstructions of candidate statements, foreign interference and backlash to that interference, and election count disputes.
A candidate who didn't run for President.  A candidate who ran, but didn't know he was running.  A candidate who didn't want to run, but had no choice.  A candidate who ran without seeming to run, and a candidate who ran but died before the votes were counted.  An election that didn't happen, but would have been a humdinger if it did.  A President who thought he had no competition, thus no true election, but at the very last minute did.  A history of running for President, not running for President and running for President in the worst way.  Grab a mug of hard cider and enjoy the tales of infinite jest and educational interest.  There might even be a thing or two that relates to today.
Abraham Lincoln running against...Sam Houston? It is not a far-fetched idea that Abraham Lincoln might have faced Texas hero Sam Houston in the election of 1860, as he  was under serious consideration to be one of the candidates in what became a four-way Presidential election of 1860.  And he would have been a formidable one, except backroom candlelight politics ended Houston's presidential dreams. Also, how Lincoln benefit from "woke" political "armies," and how an old enemy helped him beat off a third party annoyance.  How two slaveholder candidates got into a debate about who was the bigger slaveholder, how a houseless man sought the Presidency, how the Democratic Party in several states tried to eliminate the split right before the election to beat Lincoln, and how Lincoln and the Republicans won.  
Jimmy Carter's speechwriter said "We were 30 points up, but unfortunately we had to campaign."  A tight race turns to a veritable battle of gaffes between two newbie Presidential candidates.  A surprise challenger and an unelected President.  We go over the close '76 election, including a last-minute event that almost changed history.  
Truman's high-tech train, Dewey's We Go High optimism and the defeat that made him cling to it, Truman's risky calling of a Session of Congress and how it went badly for him in a few ways, and Dewey's decision to get angry, unfortunately first at an average citizen and only later at his opponent.  This and other lesser-known stories of the 1948 Election.  
After the four TV debates between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, there was talk of a fifth.  That talk didn't result in another TV debate, but did provide one more campaign issue for a very tight election, and developed a new thing - TV debate negotiations.   We look at 1960, the fifth debate talk, and other reasons besides the debates that affected the 1960 election results.
From James Blaine's fainting spell days before Republicans chose a candidate, to Washington's extreme flu scare, to the SARS epidemic and a look at the Ever-So-Prescient Defoe's Journal of a Plague Year, Health and Sickness and Politics.
John W. Davis Also Ran

John W. Davis Also Ran


When an obscure lawyer won a party's nomination for President in a surprise convention choice, he used his platform to take on a hate group. 
Why did we go to war in Iraq in 2003? What happened in the 18 months between 9/11 and March 2003 that drove that decision? What was it about George Bush and Tony Blair that meant war was in the cards? And what motivated these two men at the peak of their powers – with the world on their side – to pursue a war that would prove to be historically unpopular
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has brought forth a week of mourning but also politics over the Supreme Court.  We discuss the history behind election-year appointments, most notably 1968 and we look at the thorny issue of Court-Packing.   
The 1880 election was close, with Democrats and Republicans seeking an advantage in its waning days when a letter hits a major city newspaper purporting to be in the hand of a candidate.  It is a letter that could turn the election.  With Todd Arrington, a historian at the  James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, Ohio, we discuss James A. Garfield's surprise nomination and the Morey letter.  We also discuss what could have been had Garfield lived.
From belt buckles to town-hall meetings, to letting the veeps debate, a history of debate negotiations.
In 1892, a dreaded disease caused a President to navigate local health situation and created a new law.  We look at the precedent-setting quarantine order of the 23rd President, Benjamin Harrison.  While we are at it, we look at Harrison's presidency, policies, his influence on future events, his failed attempt to obtain fair elections for both African Americans and city dwellers, and how he annoyed Theodore Roosevelt.
Comments (6)


I hope this wonderful podcast will be continuing in this new year. 🙂

Jan 15th

Cholula Hot Sauce

Inuit, dude. We try not to call them Eskimos anymore.

Feb 25th
Reply (1)


This long analysis of the now worst president makes it easy to juxtapose him with the soon-to-be worst one. 🥇 How similar they are in being petty, bumbling + confused. ❔

Jan 22nd

Brittany D.

Hi Bruce, thank you so much for a dozen Reagans. I learned a ton!! I wish there was one of these for every president.

Aug 1st
Reply (1)
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