And so, we are at the end of a year that has brought a presidential impeachment trial, a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 338,000 of us, a huge social movement for racial justice, a presidential election, and a president who has refused to accept the results of that election and is now trying to split his own political party.
Good riddance 2020. Good riddance Donald Trump. The best thing of 2020 was discovering Heather Cox Richardson! Your daily affirmations have created it's own movement, it's own energy. And for that we are a grateful nation.
Seventy-five years of economic well-being has lulled Americans into thinking that we were something special, ordained by some almighty being to lead the world. People began to distrust government and why not whens the goings are easy?
No one appreciates what government does until the "Shit hits the fan." Then they clamor for the government to do something. Well, forty years of Movement Conservatives "Starving the Beast" has hamstrung the ability of our leaders to address the serious issues facing us. Couple that with the 2016 election of the most incompetent, most ill-prepared, and most unscrupulous man ever to occupy the White House, and you have the mega-shitstorm of the century.
It's time for a new movement. A movement founded on the common good, decency, and respect for one another. And sometimes the catalyst for that movement is someone you never expected, like a middle-aged, mother of three, from Maine, who took the time to bang out 1200 words: EVERY DAMN NIGHT! A person who teaches you something EVERYDAY!
Here's to better 2021. Here's to a better America. Here's to Dani. And...here's to HCR!
In a year+ of outstanding letters, this one is brilliant! Simply brilliant!
As we begin 2021, I am profoundly grateful for you, HCR. Your calm voice of reason, keen eye for important details and vast knowledge of our political history has given us all a much broader perspective in a year when we could have been buried in the muck and mire that has been 2020. When I felt hopeless in the face of the myriad of woes descending on our country, I hear your calm voice saying "Wait, we've been here before and this is what happened..." Your sleepless nights have not been for naught. There has been a new awakening to the need to be involved in our government and political process. We need to take up oxygen, as you say. Use our voices but also speak with our vote!
Wishing HCR and everyone on this wonderful community a Happy New Year.
This is a masterful and astonishing piece of written history, the former because you have tied, piece by piece, very nearly all the plot points of the last 20 (and indeed 40) years of life in America and some parts of the rest of the world (I am especially appreciative of your naming the Republican effort to 'democratize' the world by military might). The piece astonished because it is so very revealing of daily life and ordinary grasp of ways we could see and recognize the malevolent face of Movement Conservatives, and their slippery promises of greatness we could all feel were not only lies but utterly unjust,, without being able to reach and name the racist, sexist roots of the cries of 'socialism'. And what delight to see how Harry Potter fits in (but have you read the Earthsea books by American writer Le Guin, which preceded Rowling's work by decades and say more, better? Take a vacation and treat yourself to the first 4). My last comment is for the way you opened a long, deep, genuinely communal conversation about our civic and personal lives on your thread, and then listened as everyone spoke, gathering all of us into focus to learn from ourselves, each other, you, and our history. "Oh, wonderful, wonderful and still more wonderful!!" From your articulation here of being American, I take hope for the new year ahead. So, thank you. Thank you.
Heather Cox Richardson, you are simply brilliant, and today's article is a piece de resistance. When we feel lost in the woods you hand us a map, point, and say: "You are here."
I am beyond grateful for your deep understanding of history and your resolute commitment that this democracy, flawed though it is, not be destroyed. You awaken our better—and fiercer—angels to call forth a better future for us all.
Deep bows of gratitude to you.
This letter recaps the analysis you presented in your book, "How the South Won the Civil War," but is no less accurate and timely. I hope that we as a nation will be able to recover from the unmitigated disaster of the Trump Administration and the Republican power machine. One thing left out, but no less important, has been the diminished emphasis on the value of basic education, particularly in the abilities to read and think critically and write cogently. A read of the comments (mainly by those supporting Trumpist and radically conservative positions) on any online news article clearly show that America has "dumbed down" to a shocking extent. We need more emphasis on basic education and critical thinking skills to survive the next 20 years.
Once again many thanks Heather for your excellent analysis of the last 20 years and the context created in the second half of the 20th Century. Biden's work now, Georgia permitting, is to make sure it doesn't happen again and recover the ground lost. The noxious GOP/Koch etc ideology will persist. If government of the people for the people by the people is to survive and thrive, the people must take it back in hand, keep it in hand and elect only those that will do the people's will and work for the general good of everybody regardless of colour, sex, or race....including the economically innovative and successfull.
It took decades for us to get to where we are and it will take decades to rectify our broken nation. Heather has provided the gift of education to recognize what has transpired. It really is up to “we the people” to use that knowledge to make the necessary changes to redirect this diversely rich country.
That process requires us to continue to educate ourselves and our children, stay engaged, pay attention, speak up and out, and actively participate. Even on the local level (as I found out!) politics can be a full contact sport! Not being a politician, I was totally blindsided by the vitriol and nastiness when the “old boys network” was questioned. I was also told (afterwards) a woman “at the head of the table” did not rest well with them! To “soothe” my battered psyche, my husband would read from some colonial newspapers the battles between Adams and Jefferson (i.e. some things haven’t changed) ...it didn’t help!
We must never lose our voices and we must continue to make those voices heard.
John Lewis- “get in good trouble, necessary trouble” - a motto we all should embrace and live by!
Words fail me. You have started every day with me and given me hope - for that I am eternally grateful and look to 2021 with HOPE.
Wishing I could give you a hug of thanks. I hope we don’t forget how to hug our families, friends, neighbors and strangers when we have this pandemic under control.
I ponder the difference between our national experience and what happened in Sweden starting in the time between the two world wars ... the formation of the amazing and long lasting relationship between the Social Democrats (the government of the people and by the people), the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (the labor union movement which included agrarian support), and the Swedish Employers Association (the financial "elite"). The Employers Association was incredibly remarkable, having at its core fewer than 20 families, with the standout family being the Wallenbergs (industrialist bankers who at one time owned companies employing 20% of the Swedish workforce).
The collaboration among these three forces, the Social Democratic government, the labor unions, and the company ownership would then collaborate over the following decades to create a highly egalitarian society that evolved over time as society changed and ideals changed to include the rights of women, child care, health care, education, etc.
The interesting image that comes to my mind from our nation between the two world wars is the image of Henry Ford being carried in his chair from his office by members of the National Guard because he was locking out workers attempting to form a union ... the opposite of the Swedish Employers Association and the Wallenberg family in particular.
Sweden and the Nordic countries owe much to the Wallenberg family for the leadership in helping to establish a different society than accomplished by the bloody Russian Revolution or the slower but similarly bloody Nazi Revolution in Germany.
At this time, FDR was forming the basis for the prospect of a similar society in our nation ... but as you point out, there has always been the American West image to appeal to ... if you don't like life where you are, then rather than work together to build a better society, you simply move west and take over land occupied by Native Americans, killing them if it suits your purpose, and create your own vision of life.
I grew up in a rural environment prior to the time of Reagan and farm cooperatives were common to serve business needs of the community ranging from farm supplies, mutual insurance companies, and financial needs. With the shrinking of the small farms and the growth of large farms, farm cooperatives have faded ... and they represented a social democratic aspect of society, of people working together as opposed to being "rugged individuals".
At the time Reagan was elected, I remember a feeling of horror regarding what was happening to our nation ... and that horror has only grown over the past 40 years.
We need some of the wisdom and generosity of the Wallenberg family to exist in our "elite" ... and it is difficult to find. Meanwhile, we have a large portion of the nation that thanks in part to the ending of the Fairness Doctrine can view society from their echo chamber and express rage without any intelligent understanding of working together as a society.
The next years will be an interesting challenge ... will we really continue to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people ... will we be able to examine what the Nordic countries are doing and learn what could benefit our society as well as learn from their challenges?
A terrific, clear-eyed analysis. Thank you, thank you - and best wishes for 2021.
I am a dual UK /US national, and whenever in the US, am impressed by the "patriotism", or what I would call "jingoism", embedded in American life. Flags on the lawn and everywhere else is a minor expression. Almost every single TV advertisement contains either a flag, or the word "America" as in "America's favorite.." (check next time you watch TV - you may not have noticed) National anthems at sporting events (we reserve that for international competition). Oaths of allegiance in *schools*, for Goodness sake. Nowhere in Europe would (or could) this happen. This is, to my mind, insidious brainwashing and surely a large component of the polarization currently being experienced. The old Soviet Union did exactly the same thing, as does China now. This has become more and more prevalent since Reagan, I believe. I don't remember politicians wearing flag lapel pins, for example, until the 70's when Republican candidates wore them as an expression of their patriotism. Obama had a major problem with this, and didn't want to wear one, but eventually succumbed, as it was deemed "unpatriotic" Just sayin'...
From a year of letters weaving the history of American politics into today’s reality, you have been amazing. This one is the most succinct for me. Wowed. Thank you and sincere wishes for a brighter 2021 for us all.
The importance of an overview from 50,000 feet cannot be stressed enough. It enables us to "see" the long-view strategy that the GOP has assiduously executed (while we were distracted by so many other things and struggles in our everyday lives) to create for themselves an authoritarian government in which they would "rule" and extract enormous wealth from the labors and taxes of the commoners. HCR, YOU NAILED IT, and we are grateful!
To this excellent analysis, which shows deep understanding of recent American history, I would add only one idea: the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy robbing the progressive side of our politics and government of brilliant, compassionate leaders who possessed the ability to explain Democratic, anti-poverty positions that might have changed the political calculus.
i am very grateful for the nyt article which led me to you. I dont understand how you write these incredibly nuanced, thoughtful pieces every day. Bravo and thank you. You are the ultimate dot connector. As for your readers, we all need to help build your reach. Every day, let's all forward the email to five new people. Thank you Heather, from your newest fan on Marthas Vineyard.
THANK YOU Dr. Richardson! Thank you for articulating the trajectory of the conservative movement of the last 40 years. It's actually exhilarating to see this laid out so cogently. I was in my early teens when Reagan was elected, and have known in my bones since then that he was the front man for an ideology that I consider inherently unfair and even dangerous to our democracy. I thought the 80's were a horror show politically, and things have gone down hill since then for the most part. Even when Democrats do gain power, Republicans have become so nasty and effective at blocking them that my frustration just grows, to say nothing of the corporate takeover of the dems as well. I really appreciate your analyses of why we got here, and this community of people who understand and acknowledge these problems. The women AND the men ;-)
This time of yr always calls for a looking back. Most times we look at what happened in the last yr as we prepare for a New Year. There is no question the last yr has been horrific, some would say the last 4 yrs has been beyond awful (me!)...what have we done to ourselves, what is wrong with this country & its leaders. Focusing on this short time frame for what a future holds for us conjures despair BUT widening our past view 20 yrs, as you have done in this beautifully written historical perspective, that moral arc of the universe shows us the bend toward justice, equality, fairness, progressive thinking is surely bending, slowly being realized & addressed where it needs to be through citizen activism, government policy & laws. This “20 year in review” has helped my perspective moving forward. My commitment to remaining active in preserving democracy & supporting progressive, empathetic leadership is stronger than ever. Let’s allow ourselves a small moment of celebration for our future as we continue to fight this pandemic. History always shows us how we can shape our future. We just need to know & understand that history...so thank you HCR & the other voices of history. Be well!