Tag Archives: politics

Publishing Politics

80th-logoAs another presidential election approaches, here’s a political reading list drawn from throughout the University of Wisconsin Press’s eighty years of publishing. This includes some truly landmark books, many demonstrating the important role of Wisconsin in American politics and the role of UWP in documenting that history.

 

The Presidents We Imagine: 4516Two Centuries of White House Fictions on the Page, on the Stage, Onscreen, and Online
Jeff Smith

Examines the presidency’s ever-changing place in the American imagination, from the plays and polemics of the eighteenth century—when the new office was born in what Alexander Hamilton called “the regions of fiction”—to the digital products of the twenty-first century. A colorful, indispensable guide to the many surprising ways Americans have been “representing” presidents even as those presidents have represented them.

COVER MAKER 5.5X8.25.inddThe American Jeremiad
Anniversary Edition
Sacvan Bercovitch

In this anniversary edition, the late Sacvan Bercovitch revisits his classic study of the role of the American political sermon, or jeremiad, from a contemporary perspective, assessing developments in the the culture at large. The American Jeremiad demonstrates how fully our national identity has been forged from conflicted narratives of self-examination and redemption.

 

A Black Gambler’s World of Liquor, Vice, and Presidential Politics: Mouser-Black-Gamblers-cWilliam Thomas Scott of Illinois, 1839–1917
Bruce L. Mouser
Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

William Thomas Scott (1839–1917) was an Illinois entrepreneur and political activist who in 1904 briefly became the first African American nominated by a national party for president of the United States before his scandalous past forced him to step aside. Scott helped build the National Negro Liberty Party to forward economic, political, and legal rights for his race. But the underworld hustling that had brought him business success proved his undoing as a national political figure. He was the NNLP’s initial presidential nominee, only to be quickly replaced by a better-educated and more socially acceptable candidate, George Edwin Taylor.

For Labor, Race, and Liberty: For LaborGeorge Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics
Bruce L. Mouser

More than one hundred years before Barack Obama, George Edwin Taylor made presidential history. Born in the antebellum South to a slave and a freed woman, raised and educated in Wisconsin, Taylor became the first African American ticketed as a political party’s nominee for president of the United States, running against Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. At a time when many African Americans felt allegiance to the Republican Party for its support of abolition, Taylor’s sympathy with the labor cause drew him first to the national Democratic Party and then to an African American party, the newly formed National Negro Liberty Party, which named him its presidential candidate.

Drift and Mastery: An Attempt to Diagnose the Current Unres5482-165wt
Centennial Edition

Walter Lippmann
Introduction and notes by William E. Leuchtenburg
Foreword by Ganesh Sitaraman

In 1914, a brilliant young political journalist published a book arguing that the United States had entered a period of “drift”—a lack of control over rapidly changing forces in society. He highlighted the tensions between expansion and consolidation, traditionalism and progressivism, and emotion and rationality. Mastery over drift is attainable, Walter Lippmann argued, through diligent attention to facts and making active choices. Lippman’s Drift and Mastery became one of the most important and influential documents of the Progressive Movement. This centennial edition remains invaluable as a window to the political thought of early twentieth-century America and as a lucid exploration of timeless themes in American government and politics.

La Follette’s Autobiography: A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences1400-165w
Robert M. La Follette
Foreword by Matthew Rothschild

Robert M. La Follette (1855–1925) was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, governor of Wisconsin, U.S. senator, and the U.S. Progressive Party’s presidential candidate in 1924, winning one-sixth of the total national vote. His Autobiography is both a memoir and a history of the Progressive cause in the United States, charting La Follette’s formative years in politics, his attempts to abolish entrenched state and corporate influences, and his embattled efforts to advance Progressive policies. This centennial edition includes a foreword by Matthew Rothschild, former editor of The Progressive—the magazine that La Follette himself founded.

Joe McCarthy and the Press0751
Edwin R. Bayley

“No one who cares about liberty will read Mr. Bayley’s masterful study without a shudder about the journalistic cop-outs that contributed to making the nightmare called McCarthyism. This book reminds us that it could happen here, but perhaps will make it harder to happen next time.”—Daniel Schorr

“Thorough, incisive and fascinating, this is the best account we have of the strange relationship between Joe McCarthy and the American press.”—Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

0811When Government Was Good: Memories of a Life in Politics
Henry S. Reuss
With a Foreword by John Kenneth Galbraith

U. S. House Representative Henry S. Reuss (D-Wisconsin, 1955–83) believed there was indeed a time when government worked—the “Golden Age” of 1948–68. The economy was functioning, the long overdue civil rights movement had begun to blossom, and the government had integrity. In his memoir, When Government Was Good, he blasts the political forces that he believed led to the disintegration of that Golden Age: economic and racial inequality and excessive militarism.

With Honor: 4444Melvin Laird in War, Peace, and Politics
Dale Van Atta
Foreword by President Gerald R. Ford

In 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam War, centrist Congressman Melvin Laird (R-WI) agreed to serve as Richard Nixon’s secretary of defense. It was not, Laird knew, a move likely to endear him to the American public—but as he later said, “Nixon couldn’t find anybody else who wanted the damn job.” This biography illuminates Laird’s behind-the-scenes sparring with Henry Kissinger over policy, his decisions to ignore Nixon’s wilder directives, his formative impact on arms control and health care, his key role in the selection of Ford for vice president, his frustration with the country’s abandonment of Vietnamization, and, in later years, his unheeded warning to Donald Rumsfeld that “it’s a helluva lot easier to get into a war than to get out of one.”

The Man from Clear Lake: 4766Earth Day Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson
Bill Christofferson

The life of Gaylord Nelson, a small-town Wisconsin boy who learned his values and political principles at an early age, is woven through the political history of the twentieth century. His story intersects at times with Fighting Bob La Follette, Joe McCarthy, and Bill Proxmire in Wisconsin, and with George McGovern, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Russell Long, Walter Mondale, John F. Kennedy, and others on the national scene. His founding of Earth Day in 1970 permanently changed national and global politics; more than one billion people worldwide now participate in annual Earth Day activities.

4349Raising Hell for Justice: The Washington Battles of a Heartland Progressive
David R. Obey

David R. Obey (D-Wausau) served in the U.S. House of Representatives longer than anyone in Wisconsin history, culminating in the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. After forty years in Congress, Obey looks back on his journey in politics beginning with his early years in the Wisconsin Legislature, when Wisconsin moved through eras of shifting balance between Republicans and Democrats. On a national level Obey traces, as few others have done, the dramatic changes in the workings of the U.S. Congress since his first election to the House in 1969. He discusses his own central role in the evolution of Congress, ethics reforms, and crucial chapters in our democracy.

5067-165wEmergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror
Chris Edelson
Foreword by Louis Fisher

Defining the scope and limits of emergency presidential power might seem easy—just turn to Article II of the Constitution. But as Chris Edelson shows, the reality is complicated. In times of crisis, presidents have frequently staked out claims to broad national security power. Drawing on excerpts from the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court opinions, Department of Justice memos, and other primary documents, Edelson weighs the various arguments that presidents have used to justify the expansive use of executive power.

Edelson-Power-without-Constraint-c
Power without Constraint: The Post-9/11 Presidency and National Security
Chris Edelson

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama criticized the George W. Bush administration for its unrestrained actions in matters of national security. In a thorough comparison of the Bush and Obama administrations’ national security policies, Chris Edelson demonstrates that President Obama and his officials have used softer rhetoric and toned-down legal arguments, but in key areas—military action, surveillance, and state secrets—they have simply found new ways to assert power without meaningful constitutional or statutory constraints. Edelson contends that this legacy of the two immediately post-9/11 presidencies raises crucial questions for future presidents, Congress, the courts, and American citizens.

Wisconsin Votes: 4449An Electoral History
Robert Booth Fowler

This history of voting in Wisconsin from statehood in 1848 to 2008 both tracks voting in key elections across the years and investigates electoral trends and patterns over the course of Wisconsin’s history. Fowler explores the ways that ethnic and religious groups in the state have voted historically, discusses the great struggle for women’s suffrage, and reminds us of many Wisconsin third parties—Socialists, Progressives, the Prohibition Party, and others. Here, too, are the famous politicians in Wisconsin history, including the La Follette family, William Proxmire, and Tommy Thompson.

Public & school librarians choose best UW Press books

Each year, a committee of librarians representing American public libraries and K-12 school libraries select university press books most suited to their audiences.  The result is a bibliography, University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries, an annual collection development tool published with the help and support of two divisions of the American Library Association: the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and, from public libraries, the Collection Development and Evaluation Section of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA/CODES). Each book chosen receives one or two sets of ratings, from a school library reviewer, a public library reviewer, or both. Books rated by the school librarians are also recommended for grade levels.

The following University of Wisconsin Press books (published in 2015) were chosen for the annual list!

 “The Best of the Best” titles
Bechard-Norske-Nook-Pies-cThe Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes, Jerry Bechard and Cindee Borton-Parker

Each year, panelists from the joint selection committee of librarians present a small selection of their favorite recommendations at the American Library Association annual conference at a “Best of the Best from the University Presses” session, to be held this year at the ALA conference in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 26, 2016, 1:00 p.m.

Outstanding-rated titles from the University Press Books Committee

  • Living Black: Social Life in an African American Neighborhood, Mark S. Fleisher
  • The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes, Jerry Bechard and Cindee Borton-Parker

The above titles received ratings of “Outstanding” by members of the 2013 University Press Books Committee, recommended as essential additions to most public and/or school library collections.

000-099 General Knowledge

Baughman Cover Design071.3   Baughman, James L., Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, and James P. Danky (Editors)
Protest on the Page: Essays on Print and the Culture of Dissent since 1865

Explores the intertwined histories of print and protest in the United States from Reconstruction to the 2000s. Ten essays look at how protesters of all political and religious persuasions, as well as aesthetic and ethical temperaments, have used the printed page to wage battles over free speech; test racial, class, sexual, and even culinary boundaries; and to alter the moral landscape in American life.
LC 2014030784, ISBN 9780299302849 (p.), ISBN 9780299302832 (e.)
School Libraries: General Audience/High School                    Public Libraries: General Audience

300-319 Sociology, Anthropology, Cultures

Grady-Improvised-Adolescence-c305.893   Grady, Sandra  Improvised Adolescence: Somali Bantu Teenage Refugees in America

A glimpse into the lives of African refugee teens, as they negotiate the differences between African and American ideas about the transition from childhood to adulthood. Of interest to social services workers and educators as well as scholars of folklore, anthropology, African studies, and child development.
LC 2014030780, ISBN 9780299303242 (p.), ISBN 9780299303235 (e.)
School Libraries: Special Interest/High School, Professional Use          Public Libraries: Special Interest

Fleisher-LivingBlack-c305.896   Fleisher, Mark S.  Living Black: Social Life in an African American Neighborhood

Breaks the stereotype of poor African American neighborhoods as dysfunctional ghettos of helpless and hopeless people. Despite real and enduring poverty, the community described here—the historic North End of Champaign, Illinois—has a vibrant social life and strong ties among generations.
LC 2015008381, ISBN 9780299305345 (p.), ISBN 9780299305338 (e.)
School Libraries: Outstanding/Professional Use        Public Libraries: General Interest
*Outstanding* rating: “This quality ethnography reads like a series of engaging stories. The study reflects both excellent research and a clear sense of the provisions that ensure quality in qualitative research. A clear voice supporting diversity and our awareness thereof.”—Janie Pickett (AASL)

320-329 Political Science

Bartley-EclipseoftheAssassins-c327.730   Bartley, Russell H. and Sylvia Erickson Bartley  Eclipse of the Assassins: The CIA, Imperial Politics, and the Slaying of Mexican Journalist Manuel Buendía

Investigates the sensational 1984 murder of Mexico’s most influential newspaper columnist, Manuel Buendía, and how that crime reveals the lethal hand of the U.S. government in Mexico and Central America during the final decades of the twentieth century. This is a stellar, courageous work of investigative journalism and historical scholarship—grippingly told, meticulously documented, and doggedly pursued over thirty years.
LC 2015008379, ISBN 9780299306403 (c.), ISBN 9780299306434 (e.)
School Libraries: Specialized Interest / Professional Use          Public Libraries: General Interest

 

640-649 Home Economics

Bechard-Norske-Nook-Pies-c641.860   Bechard, Jerry and Cindee Borton-Parker  The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes

The Norske Nook’s mile-high meringue and dairyland deliciousness attracts foodies, celebrities, and tourists from around the world to sample its glorious pies. This beautifully photographed cookbook features more than seventy pies, including thirty-six blue ribbon-winners at the annual National Pie Championship.
LC 2014037003, ISBN 9780299304300 (c.)
School Libraries: Outstanding/ Middle School, High School, Professional Use   Public Libraries: General Interest    *Outstanding* rating:  “If you aren’t able to make a personal visit to one of the Norske Nook’s ‘pie shrines’ this title will certainly help any home baker re-create some of their amazing recipes. Of course there are old favorites like apple and cherry pie, but you can also find mouth-watering recipes for a Snickers caramel pie, a raspberry white chocolate pie, or a Northwoods root beer float pie. The basics like pie crusts and toppings are covered in their own chapters, and non-pie chapters are devoted to tortes, muffins, cookies and Scandinavian specialties. Even non-bakers will enjoy drooling over the beautiful photographs. The directions are clear and easy-to-follow, which should make this title very appealing to middle and high school aspiring pie bakers.”—Judi Repman (AASL)

700-759 Fine Arts

Langer-RomaineBrooks-c759.13   Langer, Cassandra    Romaine Brooks: A Life

The artistic achievements of Romaine Brooks (1874-1970), both as a major expatriate American painter and as a formative innovator in the decorative arts, have long been overshadowed by her fifty-year relationship with writer Natalie Barney and a reputation as a fiercely independent, aloof heiress who associated with fascists in the 1930s. Langer provides a richer, deeper portrait of Brooks’s aesthetics and experimentation as an artist.
LC 2015008825, ISBN 9780299298609 (c.), ISBN 9780299298630 (e.)
School Libraries: Specialized Interest / High School           Public Libraries:  General Interest

 

780-799 Music, Performing Arts, Recreation, Sports

Diebel-Crossing-the-Driftless-c797.122   Diebel, Lynne   (Illustrated by Robert Diebel)  Crossing the Driftless: A Canoe Trip through a Midwestern Landscape

Crossing the Driftless is both a traveler’s tale of a 359-mile canoe trip and an exploration of the dramatic environment of the Upper Midwest’s Driftless region, following the streams of geologic and human history.
LC 2014030800, ISBN 9780299302948 (p.), ISBN 9780299302931 (e.)
School Libraries: Regional Specialized Interest / High School          Public Libraries: Regional General

 

800-819 American Literature

Merlis-JD-A-Novel-c813.54  Merlis, Mark  JD: A Novel

Thirty years after Jonathan Ascher’s death, Martha finally opens her husband’s journals and discovers his secret affairs with men as well as his all-absorbing passion for their deceased son, Mickey. Mark Merlis shows readers a vivid picture of a family who cannot find a way to speak their love for one another.
LC 2014030801, ISBN 9780299303501 (c.), ISBN 9780299303532 (e.)
School Libraries: Specialized Interest / Professional Use          Public Libraries: General Interest

 

DeVita-A-Winsome-Murder-c813.6  DeVita, James  A Winsome Murder

A serial killer brings bloody murder to the pastoral Wisconsin town of Winsome Bay, requiring the expertise of detective James Mangan, a hard-bitten Chicago cop with an unexpected knowledge of Shakespeare.
LC 2014042916, ISBN 9780299304409 (c.), ISBN 9780299304430 (e.)
School Libraries: General Interest / High School            Public Libraries: General Interest

 

 

Meet Me Halfway813.6  Morales, Jennifer   Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories

When an African American teen suffers a serious accident in the home of his white neighbor, his community must find ways to bridge divisions between black and white, gay and straight, old and young.
LC 2014030802, ISBN 9780299303648 (p.), ISBN 9780299303631 (e.)
School Libraries: Regional General Interest / Professional Use      Public Libraries: Regional General Interest

 

830-899 Literature of Other Languages 

Blessington-Euripides-Trojan-Women-c882.01  Euripides  (Verse translations by Francis Blessington, with introductions and notes)  Trojan Women, Helen, Hecuba: Three Plays about Women and the Trojan War

“These lively, accurate translations will allow readers and theater audiences to appreciate the power of Euripidean tragedy. Blessington’s language is spare and his translation fairly literal, allowing direct—sometimes punchy—delivery while retaining poetic expressions from the Greek.”—Francis Dunn, author of Tragedy’s End: Closure and Innovation in Euripidean Drama
LC 2015010084, ISBN 9780299305246 (p.), ISBN 9780299305239 (e.)
School Libraries: General Interest / High School, Professional Use     Public Libraries: General Interest

 

950-969 Asian, Middle Eastern, and African History

Lee-Dreams-of-the-Hmong-c959.004   Lee, Mai Na M.  Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom: The Quest for Legitimation in French Indochina, 1850-1960

Authoritative and original, Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom is among the first works of its kind, exploring the influence that French colonialism and Hmong leadership had on the Hmong people’s political and social aspirations.
LC 2014035663, ISBN 9780299298845 (p.), ISBN 9780299298838 (e.)
School Libraries: Specialized Interest / Professional Use                       Public Libraries:  Specialized Interest

Amony-I-am-Amony-c967.610  Amony, Evelyn  (Edited with an introduction by Erin Baines)  I Am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming My Life from the Lord’s Resistance Army

A harrowing account by one of the 60,000 children abducted by the violent African rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. Amony tells of her life as a forced wife to LRA leader Joseph Kony, her eleven years in the LRA, her part in a peace delegation after her capture by the Ugandan military, and her current work as a human rights advocate.
LC 2015008824, ISBN 9780299304942 (p.), ISBN 9780299304935 (e.)
School Libraries: General Interest / High School, Professional Use     Public Libraries: General Interest

 

 

New Books for May 2016

We are pleased to announce these five books debuting in May.

Brykczynski-Primed-for-Violence-cMay 11
Primed for Violence
Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland

Paul Brykczynski

The assassination that changed a nation

“The interwar period was an often violent time in which the demons of the twentieth century increasingly had their way. Brykczynski places the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in the context of growing antisemitism and the emerging challenge to democracy in the recently independent Polish nation. An important story, thoroughly researched and compellingly told.”
—John Merriman, Yale University

Reitzammer-The-Athenian-Adonia-in-Context-cMay 11
The Athenian Adonia in Context
The Adonis Festival as Cultural Practice

Laurialan Reitzammer

Wisconsin Studies in Classics

Rediscovers the influence of women’s rituals on Lysistrata, Plato, and diverse Athenian works

“Persuasively reinterprets the Adonia as a ritual that brought Athenian women’s dissenting voices into the public arena to critique male social institutions and values. This innovative work draws on an immense range of ancient sources—literary, documentary, artistic, and material.”
—Laura McClure, series editor

Wong-Contemporary-Directions-in-Asian-American-Dance-cMay 11
Contemporary Directions in Asian American Dance

Edited by Yutian Wong

Studies in Dance History

An essential guide and model for current studies of Asian American dance

“A methodologically diverse and eclectic approach to Asian American dance studies, where dance is both method and content. These essays illuminate the ways that dance shapes, troubles, and pushes against the contours of what counts as Asian American cultural production.”
—Priya Srinivasan, author of Sweating Saris

Gluck-The-Invisible-Jewish-Budapest-cMay 25
The Invisible Jewish Budapest
Metropolitan Culture at the Fin de Siècle

Mary Gluck

A groundbreaking, brilliant urban history of a Central European metropolis in the decades before World War I

“A magnificently consequential book. Gluck examines the vibrant modernist culture created largely by secular Jews in Budapest, in counterpoint to a backward-looking, nationalistic Hungarian establishment and a conservative Jewish religious elite.”—Scott Spector, author of Violent Sensations

Strang-Worse-than-the-Devil-rev-ed-cAvailable now
Worse than the Devil
Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror
Revised Edition

Dean A. Strang

An unjust trial, as patriotism, nativism, and fear swept the nation

“A riveting account of a miscarriage of justice relevant to our times, when fear of radicals of a different stripe may infect our system of justice.”Booklist

The Greatest Speech in the History of the U.S. Senate Still Resonates Today

(Note: The following opinion piece first appeared on The Daily Call, February 23, 2016. Richard Drake is the author of the UW Press book The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion.)

By Richard Drake
Special to the Daily Call

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Robert La Follette

On 4 April 1917, Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin rose in the Senate to speak in opposition to Woodrow Wilson’s call for war against Germany, a message delivered by the President to a joint session of Congress two days earlier. Wilson had said that to preserve its honor and freedom, the United States had no choice but to fight Germany. The autocratic German government recently had resumed its campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare, which Wilson characterized as an unprecedented evil in the history of civilized nations. Germany had plunged the world into a new dark age, he told the assembled lawmakers. The United States alone, Wilson believed, possessed the power and the moral idealism to bring the war to an honorable and just conclusion “for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples.” In what would become the centerpiece of Allied propaganda about the purpose of the war, the President added, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” At the end of his thirty-six-minute-long speech, nearly everyone present stood and cheered, many patriotically
waving small American flags. La Follette Wilsondefiantly kept his seat and did not join in the applause.

 

An ominous trend

La Follette’s turn to speak came two days later, in the Senate chamber. The leader of the anti-war faction in the Senate, he would take four hours to make his rebuttal to the President. After reading an anti-war letter from one of his supporters in North Dakota, he began his speech with a warning to the American people about a dangerous trend in the country. As a United States senator, he always had thought that the people deserved his best efforts to speak knowledgeably and honestly about the great issues of the day. Now a new trend could be seen in Washington: “standing back of the President without inquiring whether the President is right or wrong.” He judged it to be an ominous trend for the integrity of American politics.

La Follette thought the President not only wrong but deceptive in his war message. Future propagandists would find in Wilson’s speech an exemplary concoction for their craft. La Follette questioned Wilson’s sincerity in claiming the cause of democracy as the supreme end of America’s war policy. Some palpable facts contradicted the President’s claim. If democracy mattered so much to the United States government, why did we do nothing and say nothing about the plight of Ireland, Egypt, and India whose teeming millions languished in undemocratic servitude to our wartime ally, Great Britain? Nor had our other major allies—France, Italy, and Russia—covered themselves with glory by advancing the cause of democracy in their empires. As making the world safe for democracy could not in truth be presented as the real reason for our entering the war, it would behoove the American people to discover what actually had motivated our leaders to take this dread step.

A war of selfish ambition and cruel greed

To understand the real reasons for America’s involvement in the war, it would be necessary to determine the conflict’s origins in Europe. He guessed that at bottom the Europeans were in the process of wrecking their civilization because of commercial rivalries and imperialistic ambition. He told his fellow senators, “this war, like nearly all others, originated in the selfish ambition and cruel greed of a comparatively few men in each Government who saw the war as an opportunity for profit and power for themselves, and who were wholly indifferent to the awful suffering they knew that the war would bring the masses.” He made the right guess here. Later revelations about secret treaties and historical research in government archives would prove indisputably that the war had broken out in a context of imperialistic striving by all the major combatant nations for territories, markets, and resources.

John Bull

About American motives for intervening in the slaughter-pen of Europe, La Follette could only raise questions and make suppositions. “Are we seizing upon the war to consolidate and extend an imperialistic policy?” he asked. It looked that way to him, especially in view of our alliance with Britain. He did not think of British imperialism, in the manner of so many Americans at that time and in the future, as a charming eccentricity of a brother democracy. He told the senators, “We are uniting with Great Britain, “an empire founded upon the conquests and subjugation of weaker nations.” It stood to reason that by our alliance with the British we would be implicated in their imperialist agenda. The economics of imperialism made it seem to La Follette as if the United States were engaging in a war to make the world safe for Wall Street, not democracy. From the first Wall Street-funded war loan to the Allies in 1915, La Follette had feared that our economic entanglements with the Allies would lead ineluctably to armed intervention. It turned out to be a legitimate fear. In its spectacular revelations of the 1930s, the Nye Committee would disclose the precise details of the financial arrangements—above all, the war loans—which had done much to bring America into the war.

Washington’s variously motivated Anglophile agenda had led to the double standards with which the American media and government had judged the wartime conduct of the two coalitions. The President appeared to be unaware of these differences. For example, he had described with horror Germany’s enormities in its unrestricted submarine warfare campaign, without thinking to mention Britain’s illegal naval blockade, which had resulted in appalling hardship and injury to German civilians. La Follette sought to flesh out the President’s excessively compressed analysis. He noted that American silence about Britain’s flagrant violations of international law had “helped to drive Germany into a corner, her back to the wall, to fight with what weapons she can lay her hands on to prevent the starving of her women and children, her old men and babes.” In the typical fashion of propagandists, the President mendaciously had omitted all the facts and conditions inconvenient for his argument. Half-truths, deceptions, and lies concealed the truth of why we were going to war.

La Follette’s clear vision

Amos Pinchot, a progressive journalist friend to La Follette, sat in the press gallery that night and remembered: “At the end of his speech, tremendously moved and completely convinced of the immediate and ultimate wisdom of his vision, he stood in silence, tears running down his face.” Pinchot thought that he had the look of a despairing man, “like that of a person who had failed to keep his child from doing itself an irreparable harm.” He then sat down, slumped in his seat, and closed his eyes. Another journalist sitting with Pinchot, Gilson Gardner of the Scripps newspapers, leaned over to him and said, “This is the greatest speech we will either of us ever hear. It will not be answered because it is unanswerable.”

Paris Peace

The greatness of La Follette’s 4 April 1917 speech consists partly of its effectiveness in exposing the obfuscations of President Wilson’s fateful war message, but also of its prophetic character. He foresaw that the war would have an imperialist outcome, no matter which side won. The Paris Peace Conference at the end of the war confirmed these forebodings, as the victors created a spoils-based international order that would lead to the outbreak of the Second World War twenty years later and prepare the ground for the manifold crises in the Middle East that afflict us today.

Lunging from illusion to illusion

Moreover, La Follette rightly sensed that intervention in the war would be an irreversible turning point for the United States, the decisive act of unleashing what William Appleman Williams would call the tragedy of American diplomacy. As the world’s only creditor nation in 1919, the United States became the chief funder and the linchpin of the postwar international order. America’s foreign policy would not be able to escape the gravitational pull of economic forces operating on a global scale. Endless wars would be in the country’s future.

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We continue to live the tragedy of American diplomacy today, as our leaders lunge from illusion to illusion with no more idea than President Wilson had about the desolating costs of empire. La Follette thought that it would do no good in the long run to resort to the President’s politically soothing euphemisms to describe our empire. That these euphemisms, either in their original or updated forms, continue in use as the only way leading presidential candidates can talk about American foreign policy is a tribute to Wilson’s genius as a salesman. At the same time, the current political campaign reminds us of La Follette’s greater genius as a true leader.

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Richard Drake is professor of history at the University of Montana. He is the author of The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. ExpansionApostles and Agitators:Italy’s Marxist Revolutionary Tradition; and The Aldo Moro Murder Case, among other works.

Related writings by Richard Drake:

The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion (Studies in American Thought and Culture). University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.

On The Origins Of the Middle East Morass: This Is When Muslims In The Middle East Turned To Extremism