Geskiedenis Podcasts

Amerika: Ons bepalende ure

Amerika: Ons bepalende ure

Hoe Lincoln en Grant se vennootskap die burgeroorlog gewen het

President Abraham Lincoln en generaal Ulysses S. In sy ...lees meer

Hoe FDR se 'Fireside Chats' 'n volk in 'n krisis help kalmeer het

Toe Franklin D. Roosevelt op 4 Maart 1933 ingehuldig is, betree die Verenigde State die vierde jaar van die Groot Depressie, die ergste ekonomiese afswaai in die geskiedenis van die land. Die aandelemark het verbysterend 75 persent gedaal teenoor 1929, en een uit elke vier ...lees meer

11 Onbekende feite oor George Washington

1. Washington het slegs 'n hoërskoolopleiding gehad. Die formele skoolopleiding van die eerste president het geëindig toe hy 11 jaar oud was nadat sy pa dood is. Dié geleentheid het die jong George afgesny van die geleentheid om in die buiteland in Engeland opgevoed te word, 'n voorreg wat sy ouer ...lees meer

7 Min bekende erfenisse van Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, die 26ste president van die Verenigde State, is 'n groot figuur in die Amerikaanse politiek. Hy word president in 1901 na die moord op William McKinley, en die onbeskaamde en onafhanklike Roosevelt het die presidentskap vinnig na sy eie beeld herbou. Meer as 'n ...lees meer

Emansipasie Proklamasie

Op 22 September 1862 het president Abraham Lincoln die voorlopige Emancipation Proclamation uitgereik, wat verklaar het dat vanaf 1 Januarie 1863 alle slawe in die state wat tans in opstand teen die Unie is, "dan, daarna en vir ewig gratis sal wees." ...lees meer

10 maniere waarop die transkontinentale spoorweg Amerika verander het

Daar was 'n tyd toe reis van die ooskus na die weskus beteken het dat ek maande lank in 'n perdewa of stagecoach moes ry, of suidwaarts na Panama sou vaar en dan die landgrond kon oorsteek om aan boord van 'n ander skip te gaan vir 'n reis langs die ander kus. Maar dit het alles verander op 10 Mei, ...lees meer

Het New Deal -programme die groot depressie help beëindig?

Sedert die laat dertigerjare het konvensionele wysheid geglo dat president Franklin D. Roosevelt se "New Deal" gehelp het om die einde van die Groot Depressie te bewerkstellig. Die reeks programme vir maatskaplike en staatsuitgawes het miljoene Amerikaners wel weer aan honderde mense laat werk ...lees meer

Waarom Frederick Douglass saak maak

Frederick Douglass sit in die pantheon van swart geskiedenisfigure: gebore in slawerny, het hy 'n gewaagde ontvlugting na die noorde gemaak, outobiografieë met die beste verkope geskryf en een van die sterkste stemme van die land teen menslike slawerny geword. Hy staan ​​as die invloedrykste burgerlike en ...lees meer

7 dinge wat u moontlik nie van die Hooverdam weet nie

1. Die naam van die dam was 'n bron van omstredenheid. Landmeters het oorspronklik aanbeveel dat die dam by Boulder Canyon gebou word, wat gelei het tot die inisiatief om die Boulder Canyon Dam Project genoem te word. Selfs toe Black Canyon later as 'n beter plek vir die nuwe struktuur beskou is, is dit ...lees meer

8 dinge wat u moontlik nie van Daniel Boone weet nie

1. Sy gesin het na Amerika gekom om godsdiensvervolging te vermy. In 1713 reis die pa van Daniel Boone, 'n wewer en smid, van sy geboortestad Bradninch, Engeland, na die kolonie Pennsylvania, wat deur William Penn in 1681 gestig is as 'n toevlugsoord vir godsdienstige verdraagsaamheid. Soos ...lees meer

6 dinge wat u nie van Tecumseh mag weet nie

1. Tecumseh het drie nabye familielede weens grensgeweld verloor. Tecumseh, gebore in 1768 in die huidige Ohio, het geleef tydens 'n era van byna konstante konflik tussen sy Shawnee-stam en wit grensmanne. Op die ouderdom van 6 het Lord Dunmore's War uitgebreek na 'n reeks gewelddadige voorvalle, ...lees meer

10 dinge wat u nie van Paul Revere mag weet nie

1. Hy was van Franse ekstraksie.Paul Revere se pa, Apollos Rivoire, was 'n Franse Hugenoot wat op 13 -jarige ouderdom na Boston immigreer en sy familienaam verengels voordat hy met 'n plaaslike meisie met die naam Deborah Hitchbourn trou. Gebore omstreeks 1734 en een van 11 of 12 kinders, het Paul nooit geleer nie ...lees meer

10 dinge wat u nie van die Boston Tea Party mag weet nie

1. Die "teepartiers" protesteer nie teen 'n belastingverhoging nie, maar teen 'n korporatiewe belastingvermindering. Die betogers wat die Boston -hawe kafeïeneer, was gekant teen die Tea Act, wat die Britse regering in die lente van 1773 uitgevaardig het. In plaas daarvan om nuwe heffings te hef, die wetgewing ...lees meer

5 feite oor Pearl Harbor en USS Arizona

1. Drie-en-twintig stelle broers sterf aan boord van USS Arizona. Daar was 37 bevestigde pare of trio's van broers wat op 7 Desember 1941 aan USS Arizona toegewys is. Van hierdie 77 mans is 62 dood, en 23 stelle broers is dood. Slegs een volledige stel broers, Kenneth en Russell Warriner, ...lees meer

Die Gettysburg -adres

Op 19 November 1863 lewer president Abraham Lincoln opmerkings, wat later bekend geword het as die Gettysburg -toespraak, tydens die amptelike toewydingseremonie vir die National Cemetery of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, op die plek van een van die bloedigste en beslissendste gevegte van ...lees meer

George Waring

Nadat 'n geelkoors -epidemie in 1878 deur Memphis, Tennessee, gespoel het, het die nuutgeskepte National Board of Health die ingenieur en burgeroorlog -veteraan George A. Waring Jr. gestuur om 'n beter rioolafvoerstelsel vir die stad te ontwerp en te implementeer. Sy sukses daar het Waring's gemaak ...lees meer


Aanbevole leesstof

Die president wen sy oorlog teen Amerikaanse instellings

Mislukking is 'n besmetting

America Is Living James Madison's Nightmare

Uiteindelik het die land 'n gesonde en gesonde Republikeinse Party nodig. Maar vir enige vorm van nasionale vernuwing moet die Republikeine eers in November 'n verpletterende nederlaag ly. 'N Demokratiese administrasie en kongres moet vinnig vet wetgewing aanvaar vir ekonomiese verligting, werkskepping, sosiale beskerming en stemreg. Maar 'n nuwe era kom nie aan soos 'n slinger wat swaai volgens die wette van die fisika nie. Dit sal meer as die triomf van 'n kandidaat, 'n party of selfs 'n ingrypende agenda verg. Die struikelblokke is groter as net politiek, en so ook die geleentheid. Ons ineenstorting is so volledig dat die veld oop is - die filosofiese vrae wat deur wanhoop ontstaan, stel ons in staat om weer te dink watter soort land ons kan wees. Die bekende vertellings word opgebruik, die uitgedroogde woorde steek in ons mond. Om verandering aan te hou, om nasionale skaamte trots te word, het ons 'n radikale agenda met 'n patriotiese gees nodig. Ons moet die een ding wat hierdie uitgestrekte, veelsydige land ooit bymekaar gehou het, laat herleef: demokratiese geloof.

Die presidensiële voorverkiesings wat die jaar geopen het, het 'n indruk van bitter onenigheid onder die Demokratiese kandidate gegee. Ure aan debatstyd op televisie is ingespan met die verdienste van Medicare for All versus Medicare for All Who Want It, die verskil tussen die behandeling van ongedokumenteerde immigrante menslik en die dekriminalisering van suidelike grensoorgange, die verwikkeldheid van Biden se posisie oor busdienste in die 1970's.

Vandag lyk hierdie argumente na 'n irrelevante skolastiese oefening. Een opvallende uitwerking van hierdie jaar se krisisse was om breë Demokratiese steun te smee vir die mees ambisieuse binnelandse beleidsagenda sedert die Great Society, met Biden as sy onwaarskynlike draer.

Die koronavirus het aangebreek net toe Biden die Demokratiese benoeming in Maart afgehandel het. Teen die middel van April is 30 000 Amerikaners dood en 22 miljoen werkloos. 'N Groep adviseurs het telefonies met die kandidaat en videokonferensie begin praat oor sy prioriteite om beide katastrofes te bestry. Die raadgewers wend hulle daarna om idees na mense buite die veldtog, in vakbonde, universiteite, dinkskrums en klein ondernemings.

Begin Mei het Neera Tanden, die president van die liberale Center for American Progress, 'n opstel geskryf met die titel '' 'n Nuwe sosiale kontrak vir die 21ste eeu ''. Sy stuur 'n konsep na die Biden -veldtog, wat dit gunstig ontvang het. Haar argument kom direk uit die ervaring van die pandemie: 'Ons reaksie op hierdie virus ... is net so sterk soos ons swakste skakel. Dit bind ons lot saam, meer as enige ekonomiese of natuurramp. ” Tanden het voorgestel dat die ooreenkoms tussen burgers, korporasies en die staat hersien word op 'n manier wat die swakhede wat COVID -19 blootgestel het, aanspreek. 'N' Nuwe sosiale kontrak 'bied meer beskerming aan individue in die vorm van universele voordele - betaalde gesins- en mediese verlof, betaalde siekdae, gesondheidsorg met die opsie om by Medicare aan te sluit. Dit verg meer verantwoordelikheid van korporasies en verplig hulle om hul handves te hersien en die belange van werkers en plaaslike gemeenskappe in ag te neem, net soos dié van aandeelhouers (wat slegs ekonomiese risiko dra totdat 'n finansiële krisis of pandemie 'n redding van belastingbetalers noodsaak). En dit sal enorme staatsuitgawes verg om massa -werkloosheid te beëindig deur miljoene werkgeleenthede in vervaardiging, versorging, onderwys en skoon energie te skep. Tanden stel haar beleidsidees voor as 'n opdatering van die New Deal, die oorspronklike sosiale kontrak wat die rol van die regering aansienlik versterk het om die las van ekonomiese risiko van die individu na die kollektief te verskuif.

Die idees in Tanden se opstel is nie nuut nie. Die meeste van hulle sirkuleer al jare in beleidsdokumente wat deur liberale dinkskrums en in die doodgebore wetsontwerpe van die Demokrate in die kongres uitgereik is. Hulle filosofiese basis strek minstens 'n eeu terug. Politieke transformasies vind nie plaas wanneer 'n verblindend oorspronklike insig oor die lug flits nie. Die New Deal self, vir alle openhartigheid van president Franklin D. Roosevelt vir eksperimentering, het hoofsaaklik saad tot stand gebring wat deur populiste en progressiewe oor die voorafgaande vier dekades geplant is. Die Reagan -rewolusie het konserwatiewe idees wat in die tydperk na die Tweede Wêreldoorlog ontstaan ​​het, verwesenlik. In die lig van institusionele traagheid vereis politiek 'n lang spel - iets wat die moderne Amerikaanse regter beter verstaan ​​het as links. Milton Friedman, 'n intellektuele krag agter Reaganisme, het eens geskryf:

Terwyl Biden se veldtog nog sy binnelandse beleid formuleer, is George Floyd deur 'n polisiebeampte in Minneapolis vermoor en het die land uitgebreek in protesoptogte teen rasse -onreg. 'Die visepresident het dit alles bekyk en gesê:' Hoe ek hierop reageer, sal die presidentskap bepaal ',' het Jake Sullivan, 'n senior adviseur, aan my gesê. '' Ek wil 'n reaksie hê wat pas op die oomblik en waar is vir wie ek in die veldtog en my loopbaan was. '

In die voorverkiesings het Biden hom voorgestel as die kandidaat van die Obama -jare. Maar die historiese klok draai nooit terug nie, en die status quo ante is nou gelyk aan die desperate. In reaksie op die pandemie en die betogings, het Biden se reëls verander.

Gedurende die somer, namate die virus toeneem, het die resessie verdiep en die strate gevul, en Biden het 'n reeks toesprake gehou waarin hy die kern van sy ekonomiese plan uiteengesit het onder die rubriek 'Build Back Better'. Politieke leiers het dekades lank gesoek na 'n programmatiese handelsnaam wat so onvergeetlik is as 'New Deal' of 'Great Society' - maar wie onthou Bill Clinton se 'New Covenant', George W. Bush se 'Ownership Society', of Barack Obama se 'New Foundation' ”? Hulle het gou verdwyn, want hulle het nooit tot lewe gekom in transformatiewe wetgewing nie. Slagspreuke bly vas as hulle gekoppel is aan programme wat die land verander. Daar sal nooit iets soos Bidenisme bestaan ​​nie - omdat Biden self geen ideologie het nie, geen eie politiek nie - maar sy beleid verdien 'n meer gedenkwaardige naam. Deur 'n gedig uit die depressie van Langston Hughes aan te haal en dit by die posbekleër te hou, kan Biden sy agenda 'Make America Again' noem. Die woorde beveel ons nie, soos Trump, terug na 'n glorieryke tyd wat nog nooit was nie. Hulle praat met 'n idee wat voortdurend hernu moet word: 'Amerika was nooit vir my Amerika nie, / en tog sweer ek hierdie eed - / Amerika sal wees!'

Die omvang van Biden se agenda is asemrowend. In die middel is 'n groot werkprogram. 'N Biden -administrasie belê $ 2 biljoen in infrastruktuur en skoon energie. Hy stel voor dat 3 miljoen werksgeleenthede in vroeë onderwys, kindersorg en bejaardesorg geskep word - sektore wat gewoonlik deur presidentskandidate as 'sag' beskou en verwaarloos word - terwyl hulle hul salaris en status verhoog. 'Hierdie ekonomiese krisis het vroue die swaarste getref,' het Sullivan gesê. 'Hierdie versorgingsgeleenthede is hoofsaaklik werk vervul deur vroue - en buite verhouding vroue van kleur en immigrante - maar hulle betaal nie 'n billike loon nie, en die geleenthede om vooruit te gaan is nie daar nie. Dit is 'n groot, ambisieuse, gewaagde voorstel - nie 'n nagedagte nie, maar in die kern. " Nog $ 700 miljard sal aangewend word om die vraag en innovasie in die binnelandse vervaardiging te stimuleer vir 'n reeks noodsaaklike nywerhede, soos mediese voorrade, mikro -elektronika en kunsmatige intelligensie. Sowat $ 30 miljard gaan aan ondernemings in besit van minderhede as deel van 'n groter poging om die gaping in rasse-welvaart te verminder.

Biden stel nywerheidsbeleid voor - massiewe, doelgerigte belegging om produksie vir nasionale doelwitte te herstruktureer - iets wat geen president sedert die veertigerjare openlik aangeneem het nie. Sy agenda sou werkers ook meer mag gee, met betaalde gesins- en mediese verlof, betaalde siekdae, 'n openbare opsie vir gesondheidsorg en 'n makliker manier om vakbonde te organiseer en by hulle aan te sluit. Dit sou die federale minimum loon meer as verdubbel tot $ 15 per uur - 'n bitter geskil tussen Hillary Clinton en Bernie Sanders in 2016, nou onbetwisbaar onder die Demokrate. Vryhandel is moeilik om op die agenda te vind. Vir die hele geskiedenis van Biden as sentris, sou sy ekonomiese program 'n einde maak aan dekades van demokratiese inkrementalisme.

Amerikaners is meer liberaal oor ekonomiese aangeleenthede as oor sosiale en kulturele aangeleenthede. Op laasgenoemde het Biden aan die regterkant van die aktiviste van sy party gebly: hervorm en demilitariseer die polisie, maar moenie dit weerhou nie, verwyder die Konfederale standbeelde uit openbare plekke, maar laat presidensiële monumente om breking te reguleer, maar moenie dit verbied nie. ook nie uit nie. Voorlopig het die opposisie teen Trump die party se breuklyne vervaag. Demokrate is verenig agter voorstelle wat verder gaan om ongelykheid te verminder en die sosiale kontrak te hervorm as wat enige administrasie in die moderne geheue selfs probeer het.

Nadat spanne wat bestaan ​​uit adviseurs en bondgenote van Biden en Sanders 'n beleidsplatform van 110 bladsye uitgehaal het, het Sanders gesê: 'Ek dink die kompromie waarmee hulle gekom het, sal Biden die mees progressiewe president sedert FDR maak. Op 'n stadium het Biden die vergelyking aangegryp. 'Ek dink wel dat ons 'n punt bereik het, 'n werklike verbuiging in die Amerikaanse geskiedenis. En ek glo nie dat dit anders is as waarmee Roosevelt ontmoet is nie, ”het hy in Julie gesê. 'Ek dink ons ​​het 'n geleentheid om werklik sistemiese veranderinge aan te bring ... Hier gebeur iets. Dit is regtig. Die Amerikaanse volk sê: 'Whoa, komaan, ons moet iets doen.' 'Dit is nie die roerende taal van 'n visioenêre leier of die leerstellige retoriek van 'n ideoloog nie. Dit is die prosaïese praatjie van 'n loopbaanpoliticus wat skerp genoeg is om te besef dat hy grootheid op hom kan plaas. 'Ek dink hy het tot die besef gekom dat hy 'n baie belangrike president kan wees,' het Sherrod Brown, die Demokratiese senator van Ohio, vir my gesê.

Nadat hy op die New Deal verwys het, het Biden die verwysing laat vaar. Sy veldtog lyk versigtig vir ideologiese raamwerke wat voorstedelike winkels in King of Prussia, Pennsilvanië, kan ontstel. Jake Sullivan bied 'n ander, minder partydige Roosevelt -analogie: die mobilisering vir openbare belegging tydens die Tweede Wêreldoorlog. 'Die maatstaf van die visepresident is eintlik: Hoe bou ons momentum agter verreikende, ambisieuse programme wat eintlik by die oomblik pas', het Sullivan gesê, 'sonder dat hulle 'n bepaalde ideologiese streep inneem?'

Biden het geen spesifieke ideologiese streep nie. Hy was altyd gemaklik in die middel van sy partytjie. Die party trek links, die feite skuif links en Biden trek saam. Barack Obama was 'n visioenêr en het as 'n tegnokraat regeer - 'n verandering wat jonger en meer progressiewe Amerikaners uiteindelik ontnugter het. Biden kan dieselfde reis omgekeerd onderneem.

Ek het Ted Kaufman gevra-wat Biden sedert sy eerste Senaat-wedren aangeraai het, in 1972 kortliks sy senaatsitplek gevul het toe Biden vise-president geword het en nou die oorgangsbeplanning van die veldtog bestuur-of sy baas 'n ideologiese bekering laat in die lewe ondergaan. 'Ek dink glad nie so nie,' het Kaufman gesê. 'Wat hy altyd gedoen het, as u teruggaan na elke standpunt wat hy ingeneem het - waaroor Joe Biden praat, is dinge wat kan gebeur. Hy sal nie opstaan ​​en iets belowe nie en nie glo dat hy dit gaan regkry nie. Ek gee nie om of ons die senaat terugkry nie, of ons 59 senatore, 60 senatore kry - jy kan Medicare for All nie slaag nie. Sy posisies in die primêre was ten minste van die sentrum af. Die groot verskil tussen hom en almal wat hardloop? Hy gaan nie iets belowe wat hy nie kan lewer nie. ”

Biden beskou sy eerste taak as die stabilisering van die land, en nie meer omwenteling nie. 'Die belangrikste ding is om weer normaal te wees,' het Kaufman gesê. 'Dit is die ou toevoeging deur af te trek - iemand laat soggens opstaan ​​wat sê:' Kom ons probeer om die land weer bymekaar te kry. Dit is die beste manier om COVID -19 te hanteer. '' Elke dag in die Biden White House sou 'n stryd wees tussen sy instink om na bekende beleid of personeel te reik en die noodsaaklikheid om nuut te dink en op te tree.

Die konvensionele metafoor vir nuwe presidente is finansieel: Victory gee hulle 'n sekere mate van politieke kapitaal, en hulle moet besluit hoe om dit te bestee. Dit word geleidelik minder - die som is eindig en gewoonlik die grootste aan die begin. Maar daar is 'n ander manier om oor 'n Biden -presidentskap te dink. Sy eerste taak was nie om sy beperkte kapitaal verstandig te beman nie, maar om 'n voertuig wat lank stil was, te neem, aan die gang te sit en vinnig spoed te haal. Hy moet wys dat die regering groot dinge kan doen voordat korporatiewe geld vir hom koöpteer en dat gewone sinisme hom in die steek laat.

As Republikeine die senaat verloor, sal hulle hul verkeerde beginsels herontdek as valke met 'n tekort en die filibuster gebruik om Biden se agenda te belemmer. Dan sou die Demokrate 'n groot deel van die beleid in 'n 'versoenings'-wetsontwerp moet verpak, wat dit moontlik maak om begrotingsverwante wetgewing deur middel van 'n eenvoudige meerderheidstem te aanvaar. Of die senaat -demokrate kan stem om die filibuster te beëindig. Baie van hulle lyk oop om dit dood te maak. 'Ons moet die filibuster uitskakel,' het Brown vir my gesê. 'Ek weet nie of dit eenparig is nie, maar ek het nie met iemand gepraat wat sê' ek wil dit nie doen nie. ' as een wat stemreg of aanspreeklikheid van die polisie aanspreek, en waaghalsige Republikeine om hulself in te pas by die Dixiecrats wat burgerregte gefilustreer het.

Michael Bennet het sy dekade in die senaat deurgebring en kyk hoe 'die grootste beraadslaging liggaam ter wêreld' niks bereik nie. Die meerderheidsleier, Mitch McConnell, "het die Senaat basies vernietig - hy het dit net anders as 'n arbeidsagentskap gemaak," het Bennet gesê. 'As mense om hul eie politieke redes voortgaan om dit vir die meerderheid onmoontlik te maak om sy wil uit te oefen, moet hervorming van filibuster moontlik op die tafel wees.' Selfs Biden, 'n onwrikbare institusionalis, het voorgestel dat filibusterhervorming nodig mag wees.

Bennet, 'n sentrum-linkse demokraat uit 'n pers staat, dink ''n meer progressiewe agenda as wat enige moderne president nagestreef het, en dit sou ook baie gewild wees onder die Amerikaanse bevolking'. Hy is van mening dat die kongres 'politieke momentum' moet bou deur vroeg belangrike wetgewing aan te neem, met elke deurbraak wat die volgende meer, nie minder, denkbaar maak: betaal betaalde gesins- en mediese verlof, verdubbel die federale minimum loon, keer die Trump -belastingverlagings om die rykes en korporasies terwyl hulle die middelklas belastingverlaging gee, die polisie aanspreeklik maak, die onderwyser se loon verhoog, universele voorskoolse fondse finansier, deur middel van 'n openbare opsie na universele gesondheidsorg gaan. Aan die begin van die vorige kongresgeleentheid het die Huis H.R. 1 voorgestel, 'n wetsontwerp wat die demokrasie sou versterk het deur onder meer kiesersregistrasie op dieselfde dag in te stel en etiese reëls vir kongreslede te verskerp. H.R. 1 is in die senaat oorlede voordat Trump 'n veto kon aflê. Beide Bennet en Tanden het gesê dat hulle hoop dat die volgende kongres dit onmiddellik weer sal neem, wat 'n verbintenis tot politieke hervorming sal aandui. Tanden het aangevoer dat HR 1, met sy stemregbepalings, die republikeine se ondemokratiese magbeheer sal begin losmaak-wat gebaseer is op 'n strategie om dit steeds moeiliker te maak vir burgers, veral armes, swart en Latino-Amerikaners- voordat die party tyd gehad het om te herorganiseer vir 'n teenaanval.

"Alles op die lys - enige demokraat wat vir die Huis van Verteenwoordigers kandidate is, kan dit ondersteun," het Bennet gesê. 'Daarom is dit iets wat waarskynlik uiteindelik geslaag kan word. Gematigde Demokratiese senatore kan dit ondersteun. Dit sou 'n groot verskil in die lewens van werkende Amerikaners en arm Amerikaners maak. Waaroor ek praat, is 'n meer ambisieuse agenda as ooit sedert Lyndon Johnson president was.

Daar was in die 20ste eeu drie hervormingsperiodes in die Verenigde State. Ons historiese oomblik bevat elk elemente. 'N Nuwe hervormingsperiode sal die beste waardes van al drie bymekaar moet bring.

Die progressiewe era aan die begin van die eeu was die minste ideologies van hulle. Sonder 'n duidelike leier, faksie of 'n omskrewe kwessie, het strome van progressivisme deur beide die groot partye geloop, terwyl idees van die populiste en sosialiste en deur elke streek van die land geabsorbeer is in plaaslike, gedesentraliseerde hervormings. Progressivisme was meer 'n impuls as 'n program, 'n morele ontwaking onder meestal Amerikaners uit die middelklas tot die gevoel dat die land uit sy demokratiese vasmeerplase gedryf het. Hulle belangrikste bekommernisse was korporatiewe mag, korrupsie op elke regeringsvlak en die 'skaamte van die stede' (soos Lincoln Steffens gesê het) - stedelike base, krotbuurte en sweetwinkels. Die nuwe lewensomstandighede - industrialisasie, tegnologiese verandering, massa -immigrasie - het hulle laat optree, maar hulle was skaars revolusionêr. Hul belangrikste antwoord op sosiale kwale was om beter burgers te skep.

'Ons is onrustig tot die wortels van ons wese', het Walter Lippmann in 1914 in sy Progressiewe manifes geskryf Drif en bemeestering. 'Daar is geen menslike verhouding nie, hetsy van ouer en kind, man en vrou, werker en werkgewer, wat nie in 'n vreemde situasie beweeg nie.' Lippmann het voorgestel om die destabiliserende nuwe vryheid van die moderne lewe onder doelgerigte beheer van wetenskap te bring-kundiges, bestuurders, vooruitdenkende leiers. Maar in sy briljante opname van die Amerikaanse lewe word daar amper geen melding gemaak van swart Amerikaners nie. Die meeste Progressiewe, selfs moerse joernaliste, was blind vir rasse -onreg, en sommige - Woodrow Wilson is die bekendste - was reguit rassiste en eugenici. Eerder as om voort te bou op die prestasies van die heropbou-daardie vroeëre, noodlottige hervormingstydperk-het progressivisme daarop gemik om 'n demokrasie van blanke Amerikaners weer lewendig te maak.

Die New Deal, aangedryf deur die grootste ekonomiese krisis in die Amerikaanse geskiedenis, het baie progressiewe idees in nasionale realiteite verander, insluitend werkloosheidsversekering, minimum lone en kollektiewe bedingingsregte. Die arbeidersbeweging en die Kommunistiese Party het interras -alliansies tot stand gebring, maar Roosevelt se nasionale programme is uitgevaardig deur 'n kongres wat Jim Crow in plek gelaat het, terwyl die beskerming vir swart en ander Amerikaners sonder vryheid beperk is - huiswerkers, plaaswerkers, tussenpersoneellede. Werkers val tot vandag toe steeds deur hierdie gate in die veiligheidsnet, in ons nuutste weergawe van die depressie.

Die burgerregte-beweging in die vroeë tot middel-1960's het 'n uitbarsting van kreatiwiteit in die administrasie van Lyndon B. Johnson veroorsaak. Johnson was 'n wese van die senaat, 'n institusionele figuur op alle goeie en slegte maniere, en 'n mislukte presidentskandidaat wie se loopbaan in die vagevuur van die vise -presidentskap tot 'n einde gekom het. Toe hy John F. Kennedy-nog 'n president in die tegnokraat-as-visioenêre opvolging-opvolg, word Johnson deur die oostelike liberale as 'n growwe, groot-oor Texan, 'n partytjiehakkie en 'n groot gees verag. Maar hy het Kennedy se stilstaande agenda oor burgerregte en armoede aanvaar en dit besef in die mees kragtige stel wette en aksies vir sosiale geregtigheid in Amerika sedert die dertigerjare. Johnson het twee voordele bo Kennedy: ongeëwenaarde kennis van die kongres en 'n atmosfeer van krisis te midde van mobilisering in die strate. Hy het ook baat by 'n kiesmandaat in 1964. Die analogieë met Biden is nie moeilik om te sien nie.

Net soos die New Deal plaaslike Progressiewe idees genasionaliseer het, het die Great Society probeer om die New Deal vir alle Amerikaners uit te voer. Maar dit het vinnig ontbind te midde van stedelike onluste, groot Republikeinse winste tydens die middeltermynverkiesing van 1966 en die ramp in Viëtnam. Die koalisie vir hervorming-burgerregte-groepe, vakbonde, vredesoptogters, akademiese kenners, liberale politici-het in duie gestort toe die land ontplof het, en die linkerkant het in fragmente verval wat al hoe meer ekstrem geword het.

Net soos die Progressiewe era, word ons tyd gekenmerk deur monopolistiese korporatiewe mag wat groot ongelykheid geskep het en die demokrasie self bedreig. Net soos die dertigerjare, het ons dekade ook begin met massale werkloosheid en lewendige demonstrasies van die kwesbaarheid van Amerikaanse werkers. Soos die 1960's, word ons oomblik geanimeer deur 'n dinamiese jong generasie wat hartstogtelik aangesteek is deur voortdurende rasse -onreg.

Die meeste Amerikaanse hervormingsbewegings bevat 'n mate van puritanisme, 'n ywer vir persoonlike selfregstelling wat so kragtig is dat dit soms die poging kan vervang om konkrete veranderinge aan materiële omstandighede aan te bring. Hierdie bewegings begin met protes van onder af - deur verarmde boere, stakende werkers, swart swart suidelike inwoners - en styg op in die middelklas, wat die oorsaak aanneem van wat die historikus Richard Hofstadter, skryf van die Progressives, ''n taamlik strawwe morele suiwering genoem het . ” 'N Persoonlike skuldgevoel veroorsaak 'n kwasi-godsdienstige ywer wat gerig is op sosiale en politieke kwade en 'n hunkering na verlossing in solidariteit met die neerslagtiges. Progressiewe kruisvaarders het die krotbuurte aangedurf om die onstuimige toestande van die immigrantelewe in die dertigerjare bloot te lê, burgerlike kommuniste en medereisigers het die proletariaat verhef en intellektuele onafhanklikheid opgeoffer aan die ystere wil van die party in die 60's, wit universiteitstudente het by die stryd aangesluit Swart vryheid in die Suide en besluit toe dat hulle ook hul eie bevryding vereis deur kampusse en leergange oor te neem.

In die afgelope paar jaar het ons 'n gepaste uitbarsting van 'n nuwe morele ontwaking gesien: Occupy Wall Street in 2011, 'n utopiese flikkering van die Black Lives Matter-protesoptredes van die laat Obama-presidentskap, die Sanders-veldtogte, 'n politieke uitlaatklep vir die anti-kapitalistiese griewe van jongmense. Trump se verkiesing versnel en versterk hierdie ontwaking: die Women's March na sy inhuldiging van die opkoms van anti-Trump-"verset" -groepe, grootliks saamgestel uit middelklas, middeljarige vroue wat nuut in die aktivisme die #MeToo-beweging was, 'n verskynsel wat fokus op private interaksies meer as demonstrasies in die openbare beleid namens immigrante op lughawens en langs die suidelike grens, die terugkeer van rasse -geregtigheid as 'n oorheersende saak wat landwye protesoptredes veroorsaak.

Die nuwe progressiwisme is in die strate, in klaskamers, op sosiale media - oral, behalwe die plekke met die vermoë om probleme op te los. Dit het 'n skerp, duidelike lyn getrek van historiese misdade tot hedendaagse ongelykhede. Dit het die manier waarop Amerikaners dink, praat en optree dramaties verander, maar nie die omstandighede waarin hulle leef nie. Dit het geen sentrale tema of agenda nie, geen charismatiese leier om dit rigting en samehang te gee nie. Dit weerspieël die breekende wantroue wat ons kultuur definieer: Iets is diep verkeerd, ons samelewing is onregverdig, ons instellings is korrup. Die protesoptredes is die doodsnikke van 'n dalende kapitalistiese ryk, of die geboortepyne van die eerste werklik multietniese demokrasie ter wêreld, of iets anders. 'Al die ander tydperke, u het 'n groot probleem', het die historikus Michael Kazin, wat baie boeke oor die Amerikaanse linkses geskryf het, vir my gesê. 'Ek is nie seker wat dit nou is nie. Ek wil dink dit is 'n kombinasie van anti-monopolie en om werkende mense te help om 'n beter lewe te hê. " Die internet, sê Kazin, maak duidelikheid en eenheid moeiliker. 'Ek is outyds genoeg om te dink dat dit saak maak.'

'N Dekade van sosiale mobiliseringe sonder tasbare prestasies. Elke nuwe fase bou meer druk op vir radikale verandering. As Trump in November aan 'n laat lewe van tjank op sosiale media en regsgevaar oorgedra word, sal die druk nie verdwyn nie. Onder 'n Biden -administrasie sal die strate waarskynlik voortdurend ronddwaal, miskien meer onstuimig as ooit, aangesien verhoogde hoop tot groter eise en teleurstellings lei. Die meeste jonger Amerikaners het behalwe protes geen lewensvatbare politiek gesien nie. Kazin, 'n veteraan van die 60's, wat die New Left -doem self gesien het met sy eie illusies, het gesê: 'Ek vrees dat die linkses te veel sal verwag of te vinnig verdoemend sal wees met 'n Biden -administrasie. Dit kan altyd gebeur. ” Terwyl die party progressief beweeg, sal Biden dit moeiliker hê om die druk van sy linkerkant te ignoreer as wat Obama gedoen het. Maar anders as Sanders of Hillary Clinton, is hy nie 'n polariserende figuur nie, en die vaagheid van sy standpunte kan politieke dwarswinde om hom laat waai sonder om die gebou van hervorming te laat val.

Die filosoof Richard Rorty, in sy boek Die bereiking van ons land, onderskei tussen twee soorte Amerikaanse linkses: reformisties en kultureel. Die eerste streef geregtigheid na deur bestaande demokratiese instellings, die tweede soek dit in 'n bewussynsrevolusie. Die reformistiese linkse wil die polisie meer aanspreeklik maak, die kulturele links wil Amerika met sy rassistiese wese konfronteer. Toe Rorty in die negentigerjare sy boek geskryf het, was die kulturele links beperk tot universiteitsdepartemente. Vandag weerspieël sy idees die heersende wêreldbeskouing van goedopgevoede, middelklasprogressiewe, veral diegene onder 40. Sy woordeskat—wit broosheid, interseksionaliteit, dekoloniseer, BIPOC—Verstoor die oningewydes en verset die skeptici. Die kulturele linkerkant oorheers die media, die kunste en filantropie, sowel as die akademie, dit beïnvloed klaskamers en korporatiewe raadsale van die laerskool en begin in die nasionale politiek raak. Sy radikale kritiek op Amerikaanse instellings het floreer gedurende 'n era waarin hervorming tot stilstand gekom het en die huidige regerende party 'n opvallende wit identiteitspolitiek omhels. At the same time, the distinction between Rorty’s two lefts has eroded—a figure like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez combines aspects of both.

Under Democratic governance, the left would have to move from critique to coalition-building. It would be pulled between its own impulses toward institutional reform and cultural transformation. President Biden would immediately face an overwhelming crisis in employment and health if the left pushes him hard on divisive cultural issues such as decriminalizing illegal border crossings, eliminating standardized testing, and defunding the police, it will weaken his hand for a political and economic transformation on the scale of the New Deal. The identity politics that more and more defines the left has a built-in political flaw. It divides into groups rather than uniting across groups it offers a cogent attack on the injustices and lies of the past and present, rather than an inspiring vision of an America that will be.

Maurice Mitchell, of the Working Families Party, has roots in union organizing and Black Lives Matter. His party endorsed Elizabeth Warren in the primaries. He imagines a broad, multiracial coalition of progressives, either inside or outside the Democratic Party. “It is our job to make the Democrats uncomfortable and frustrate the hell out of them every single day,” he said. “But right now we are fragmented. We need to challenge sectarianism and cynicism as two of our greatest enemies. We need to have the same ambition as Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, niche voices in the right-wing wilderness that made it all the way to the White House. Lastly, we need a multiracial solidarity that can challenge the solidarity of whiteness: large majorities of people of color, mainstream liberals, and 15 percent of working-class whites. Then we could break the power of the Republican Party.” Mitchell added: “I don’t believe that Joe Biden is a comrade. What I believe is that he’s adaptable and he can evolve based on where the political times are. Any government in 2021 will have to figure out how tens of millions of Americans quickly get work. Putting ideology aside, that is a call for government playing a very active role in people’s lives that is a call for government doing big, structural things.”

After decades of futility, the left has a new habit of overestimating its own strength (as evinced by the shock at Sanders’s defeat in the spring) and an old habit of driving away potential supporters by presenting popular ideas in alienating terms. “On the left there’s long been a cult of focusing on the most marginal rhetoric and demands instead of building a working-class program that’s broadly popular,” Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of the socialist magazine Jakobyn, told me. His strategy differs from Mitchell’s in putting the emphasis much more heavily on class. “Politics at some point has to be about telling people they’re welcome. White males are a third of the electorate. We can’t let anti-racism just be a vague and indescribable thing. It has to be connected to material redress.” He means policies, such as universal health care and child care and the Green New Deal, that would benefit all working people, but especially the most disadvantaged. The new woke capitalism leaves him skeptical. “We’re not going to accept at face value corporate statements in favor of diversity and anti-racism, because they’ll use this emphasis as a cudgel against workers of all races if we let them. Being part of a working-class movement means defending the labor rights of racists and bigots. But we have to find a way to engage with them and increase the level of class consciousness.”

Biden’s agenda is a working-class program without a working-class coalition. Non-college-educated whites remain Trump’s base. Many progressives regard them with horror and contempt, as a sea of irredeemable racists. Despite how desperate life has become this year for working-class Americans of every background, it’s hard to imagine a transracial coalition. That would require a perception of common interests, a level of trust, and a shared belief in the American idea that don’t now exist. But it’s also hard to imagine an era of enduring reform without something like such a coalition. It will come about only if Americans start to see their government working on their behalf, making their lives less burdensome, giving them a voice, freeing them to master their own fate.

We don’t lack for political agendas, policy ideas, or protest movements. What we lack is the ability to come together as free and equal citizens of a democracy. We lack a sense of national identity and civic faith that could energize renewal.

This fall, the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam is publishing a book called The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. Using statistical data, Putnam graphs the years since 1890 as four lines that travel steeply upward for seven decades and then plunge just as steeply downward. The lines represent economic equality, political cooperation, social cohesion, and a culture of solidarity. They all begin at the bottom, in the squalid swamp of the Gilded Age, and then they rise together through the Progressive era, the New Deal, and the civil-rights movement, to an apex of egalitarianism, compromise, cohesion, and altruism around 1965—the year of the Selma march, the Voting Rights Act, and the enactment of Medicare—before descending for another half century to the present, to our second Gilded Age of Twitter wars and refrigerated trucks filled with the COVID dead.

Putnam calls this highly schematic arc “I-we-I.” He wants to get to “we” again, and for inspiration he looks back to the start of the previous upswing, around 1900. The Progressive era, Putnam writes, was “the result of countless citizens engaging in their own spheres of influence and coming together to create a vast ferment of criticism and change—a genuine shift from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ ” Putnam’s historical analysis is illuminating, but the book is short on details for how a new upswing might begin.

We can never again be as innocent as the Progressives about America’s past, or its future. In 1914 Walter Lippmann called for “mastery” of the new forces and freedoms unleashed by the modern world. We’re beset with something else—a sense of disintegration and decline. Radical legislative reforms are a necessary condition of a national upswing. What are the democratic dreams of a nonunion Amazon warehouse associate putting in mandatory overtime with a fever and leaving her remote-schooled kids in the care of her elderly mother? “You can’t expect civic virtue from a disfranchised class,” Lippmann wrote.

Today the disenfranchised include some supporters of Trump. If the president loses reelection, they would be embittered by defeat and unlikely to be argued out of their views. A hard core might turn from the diverting carnival of MAGA to armed violence.

The experience of a competent, active government bringing opportunity and justice to Americans left behind by globalization would inject an antivenom into the country’s bloodstream. The body would continue to convulse, but the level of toxicity would be reduced enough to allow for an interval of healing. No one would abandon their most cherished, most irrational beliefs, but the national temperature would go down a bit. We would have a chance to repair the social contract rather than tear it into ever smaller pieces.

But an ambitious legislative agenda isn’t enough, because the problem extends far beyond Washington, deep into the republic. Americans have lost faith in institutions, in one another, in democracy itself. Everything conspires against our role as citizens—big money, indifferent officials, byzantine election rules, mutual hatred, mutual ignorance, the Constitution itself. There is no remedy except the exercise of muscles that have atrophied. Not just by voting, but by imagining what kind of country we can live in together. We have to act like citizens again.

Last year, a commission created by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences spent months talking to a variety of groups around the country. Disaffection with the state of American democracy was nearly universal, but so was a longing for connection to a unifying American identity. In June the commission released a report called “Our Common Purpose,” which put forth 31 proposals, some quite bold. They include political reforms that would make institutions more representative: enlarge the House of Representatives adopt ranked-choice voting end gerrymandering by having independent groups of citizens draw district lines amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United appoint Supreme Court justices to 18-year terms, with one new nomination in each term of Congress.

Other recommendations are designed to change the political culture: make voting easier but also mandatory, connect voters with their representatives, train community leaders around the country, rebuild social media as a more constructive public space, shape an active citizenry through civic education and universal national service. The aim is not to realize any partisan cause, but to set Americans into motion as civic actors, not passive subjects. “Democracy works only if enough people believe democracy works,” Eric Liu, a co-chair of the commission that produced the report, told me.

Ideas like these, some new, others lying around for decades, come to the fore in hinge years. They are signs of a plastic hour.

I began writing this essay in a mood of despair. The mood had grown so familiar, really almost comfortable, that it made me sick of myself and my country. But because I can’t give up on either—suicide is too final, and expatriation is no longer possible—I tried to think about the future and the past. And this is what I’ve come to believe: We have one more chance—in Lincoln’s words, a “last best hope”—to bring our democracy back from the dead. It will be like a complex medical rescue that requires just the right interventions, in just the right sequence, at just the right speed: amputation, transfusion, multiple-organ transplant, stabilization, rehabilitation. Each step will be very hard, and we can’t afford to get any wrong or wait another hour. Yet I’ve written myself into a state of mind that I recognize as hope. We’ve made America before. Self-government still gives us the chance. Everything is in our hands.

This article appears in the October 2020 print edition with the headline “Make America Again.”


A New Beginning

A close look at how adversity shaped America from the very beginning. Learn how our forebears survived the "starving time" of the first colonies battled their mother country for independence headed out to the frontier and west into the unknown and sparked a resistance to slavery that brings the United States to the brink of civil war.

New Birth of Freedom

In the mid-1800s, America faces its darkest hour yet. Abraham Lincoln is elected President of a United States on the brink of Civil War the nation that emerges now creates great wealth -- but not for everyone Teddy Roosevelt steps forward, bringing fierce leadership on behalf of the working man -- his aim: to hold the nation together.


America: Our Defining Hours: A New Beginning (S1EP1 History Sun 5 Jul 2020)

A New Beginning: Surviving the "starving time" of the first colonies battling their mother country for independence heading out to the frontier and west into the unknown sparking a resistance to slavery that brings the United States to the brink of civil war.

Airdate: Sun 5 Jul 2020 at 9.00pm on History

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America: Our Defining Hours

Americans have faced adversity before, overcoming it is baked into the nation’s DNA.
Across this six-hour event series, America: Our Greatest Hours draws upon 300 years of US history, from the Mayflower to 9-11, to explore our nation’s biggest triumphs over adversity. It was produced remotely at speed in order to turn inspirational stories into epic self-help guides for troubled modern times.

During Covid-19 lockdown halo provided Remote Editing Services and Full Picture and Sound Finishing Post Production.
This landmark series combines docudrama with premium documentary elements: archive film, photos, paintings, newspaper headlines and aerial footage of key locations.

Johanna Woolford Gibbon Co-Executive Producer said “Post-production on a fast-turnaround series is a tough enough proposition, but to achieve it through the Covid-19 lockdown, without compromising on any aspect of quality seemed to be asking for a miracle. We immediately knew where we had to come for this miracle – Halo. Supremely helpful and accommodating of our brutal and evolving schedule, the entire Halo team went the extra mile to give us the premium look and feel we’d hoped for. Quite simply, they aced it!

Colourists: Ross Baker / Paul Koren

Ross said “Because of the restrictions of social distancing, it was vital we set the look of the series at an early stage so that I had a clear vision of the brief. That way on grade days I knew the style and could focus on achieving the high end finish we have come to expect from Nutopia.


A New Beginning

A close look at how adversity shaped America from the very beginning. Learn how our forebears survived the "starving time" of the first colonies battled their mother country for independence headed out to the frontier and west into the unknown and sparked a resistance to slavery that brings the United States to the brink of civil war.

New Birth of Freedom

In the mid-1800s, America faces its darkest hour yet. Abraham Lincoln is elected President of a United States on the brink of Civil War the nation that emerges now creates great wealth -- but not for everyone Teddy Roosevelt steps forward, bringing fierce leadership on behalf of the working man -- his aim: to hold the nation together.


'America: Our Defining Hours': How the Erie Canal changed the course for modern American civilization

Erie Canal painting (Getty Images)

When it comes to the foundations of the United States of America, it would seem many fortuitous moments came together to help make the country what it is today. Now, History Channel's latest three-part miniseries, 'America: Our Defining Hours', draws upon 300+ years of US history — from the Mayflower, the American Civil War to September 11 — to tell a relevant, emotional tale of how the US seized moments of crisis to create a better tomorrow.

As explored in 'America: Our Defining Hours', one of the key events in the history of the country was the establishment of the Erie Canal, which at one point was called "Clinton's Folly", named after DeWitt Clinton who served as the Governor of New York from 1817 to 1822. It was DeWitt who helped make the canal a reality. Before the Erie Canal, the country had two great water transportation systems: the Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio River System and the Great Lakes System.

It was a man named Jess Hawley who initially wrote a plan to connect the Hudson River to Lake Erie while he was in debtors' prison during 1807-08. His plans were influential enough to come to the attention of Clinton, who was then the mayor of New York City. In 1808, the New York State Legislature appropriated funds for a survey of possible routes for such a canal.

Initially, the project was decried by many. Thomas Jefferson himself disparaged the project as sheer madness. Many thought the project was impracticable and opponents mocked it as "Clinton's Folly" and "DeWitt's Ditch". It was only in 1817, after years of opposition, that Clinton was able to get the legislature to appropriate $7M dollars for construction.

The town of Lockport on the Erie Canal, New York (Getty Images)

The canal was finished in 1825, with Clinton opening it by traveling in the packet boat Seneca Chief along the canal into Buffalo. After riding from the mouth of Lake Erie to New York City, he emptied two casks of water from Lake Erie into New York Harbor, celebrating the first connection of waters from East to West. The canal was an immense success, carrying huge amounts of passenger and freight traffic. The cost of freight between Buffalo and Albany fell from $100 to $10 per ton, and the state was able to quickly recoup the funds it spent on the project through tolls along the canal. The completion of the canal brought about a significant shift in public opinion on Clinton, who was now hailed for completing the canal.

The Erie Canal had a massive role to play in the early years of the country and impacted much of how the country is today. For instance, the canal opened at a time when the divide between the North and the South was growing over slavery. Before the opening of the Erie Canal, New Orleans had been the only port city with an all-water route to the interior of the US. With the Erie Canal, that trend changed as new settlers from New England, New York and Europe brought their abolitionist views with them to the newly established Midwest states, while helping reduce the dependence of the industrial North on the agriculturally dominant South.

The Erie Canal in present-day (Getty Images)

Moreover, you can thank the canal for New York City's greatness today. The Erie Canal gave New York City access to a large area of the Midwest, helping establish it as a premier port in the country. New York City then became the country's commercial capital and the primary port of entry for European immigrants. The city's population quadrupled between 1820 and 1850 and the financing of the canal’s construction also allowed New York to surpass Philadelphia as the country's pre-eminent banking center.

However, the canal transformed the lives of Native Americans in the state of New York. Its construction occurred during a period of intense “Indian removal” policies, and the canal itself ran through territory traditionally occupied by the Haudenosaunee (better known as the Iroquois Confederacy), forcing many of them to move. When Clinton was New York’s mayor, he claimed that “before the passing away of the present generation, not a single Iroquois will be seen in this state".

Unlike the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, another influential 19th-century waterway, the Erie Canal, is still used for commercial shipping but it is no longer profitable. However, people can still visit the canal and go through the routes that are marked as a transformative landmark in American history.

'America: Our Defining Hours' will air on History Channel on July 5 at 9/8c.

If you have an entertainment scoop or a story for us, please reach out to us on (323) 421-7515


How History’s “America: Our Defining Hours” came to life during lockdown

Challenging times call for innovative approaches, and the non-fiction content production industry has applied that maxim repeatedly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the July 4 holiday weekend, A+E’s History premiered the first episode of its three-part limited docuseries, America: Our Defining Hours — a series that was created, commissioned and produced by UK-headquartered Nutopia entirely during lockdown. Here, series producer Johanna Woolford Gibbon provides details of the process and the challenges involved in producing during a pandemic.

COMMISSIONING: “A TOOLKIT FOR TROUBLED TIMES”

“Over the Easter weekend, when everyone in the UK was just going into lockdown, Mary Donahue at History approached [Nutopia's] Jane Root and Ben Goold, asking ‘What can you do fast?’ They had an idea for giving the audience ‘a toolkit for troubled times.’ And Ben and Jane realized that many of the stories they’d told in the Emmy-winning America: The Story of Us laid out inspirational lessons of leadership through adversity which were never more relevant than today. So Ben sat down over that Easter weekend and wrote a treatment based upon those stories, which reflected America being born from adversity of facing existential challenges and emerging stronger. And those became our themes for the three feature-length episodes in the miniseries.”

REPURPOSING RECREATIONS

While the themes explored in the new series were inspired by those explored on Nutopia’s America: The Story of Us (also for History), more direct inspiration came in the form of dramatic recreations pulled from that series and other Nutopia productions, as both turnaround time and restrictions on shooting curtailed any thought of shooting new recreations.

“We used the premium drama footage from America: The Story of Us as our backbone, our ‘go-to’ resource for action, excitement and that immensely powerful cinematic feel,” says Woolford Gibbon. “But we also leaned into other premium sources: Nutopia shows, like Mankind en Promised Land, as well as some other material. Using these premium high production value sources was crucial to attaining visual depth, giving us the bedrock for the new interviews which are really the core of the show.”

CAPTURING THE CONTRIBUTORS

“[History's] Eli [Lehrer] and Mary [Donahue] really wanted a glossy premium timeless look to our interviews, so immediately anything that said ‘We filmed this in lockdown’ – like iPhones or Skype/Zoom type solutions – were ruled out of our R&D process,” explains Woolford Gibbon. “We settled upon using drop-kits provided by U.S. company Hayden 5: pre-assembled trolleys containing professional camera, lens, sound kit, lighting and a laptop – all set up and deep cleansed prior to filming.”

With experts contributing interviews to the series from across the U.S., the team located technicians in assorted “safe hubs” who could get the kits to contributors “in a way which adhered to all national and local COVID-19 laws, regulations and recommendations.”

In delivering the kits to experts who would then be tasked with self-shooting their interviews, nothing was left to chance, according to Woolford Gibbon.

“The technician would assemble the kit on the driveway, deep-cleanse it while wearing PPE, wheel the trolley to the front door, ring the doorbell and retreat to their vehicle,” she says. “The contributor would then collect the trolley to wheel it over the threshold and into the pre-arranged position for interview. It meant even the simplest set up could be thrown off course by a set of steps up to the front door… all of a sudden we have an extra layer of logistics to think about.”

The experts then used Zoom conferencing with the director of photography, director and sound technician to conduct interviews remotely, while also troubleshooting bandwidth, lighting, set-dressing and anything else that would emerge during the self-shooting process.

“The only thing [the contributors] had to do was put on their microphone and pan or tilt the camera to get the perfect set-up,” says Woolford Gibbon. “When finished, our contributors would simply wheel their drop-kit trolley over their threshold, and our waiting technician would collect it for another deep clean and to wrangle the data for upload to our edits.”

But while the process was thorough, capturing the contributions from the experts still posed additional challenges.

“Very quickly it became apparent that we weren’t going to find a ‘one size fits all solution’ when we were filming across 10 states from Florida to Minnesota,” the producer recalls. “The drop kits were great but each had to be tailored to both the location and interviewee some interviewees had underlying health conditions we needed to consider with respect to the deep cleansing protocols each state – in fact each county – had slightly different COVID-19 regulations and the situation was changing hour by hour. So we needed to be supremely flexible. Because of our tight schedule, we sometimes needed to record interviews with different kits, on different coasts at the same time – so our teams, though based on London time, were working with troubleshooting on U.S. East and West Coast times. Those were some long days, redefining how powerful a substance adrenalin really is!

“We were about 70% of the way through our filming when we learned of George Floyd’s killing and the subsequent curfews and civil unrest, and we had two interviews yet to film in key protest areas Minneapolis and Manhattan – but with patience and a lot of flexibility, we managed to develop a protocol that allowed us to film,” she adds.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
“In order to deliver to such a fast-turnaround schedule, across the series we had 10 offline editors working with six edit producers – so from the start we knew we’d face two challenges: communication and technology,” she explains. “So we worked very closely with everyone at Nutopia and History to make sure everyone had the media they needed when they needed it.

“We reviewed cuts and sequences over Zoom, to get us working as close to ‘being in the room’ as we possibly could, given everyone was in a different location – not just within London, but across the entire UK, and in the U.S. The potential communication bump had a more human solution: we were lucky enough to tap into a team of people who had worked at Nutopia before, and had worked with each other on different projects in the past – so they already had the kind of friendly ‘shorthand’ that makes collaboration easy. Every single one of our edit producers had been a showrunner of their own series, so we had an incredibly high level and talented group to work with.

“Keeping the dialogue open constantly (multiple Zooms at the same time, phone calls late into the night) was the key to making sure we all developed the same coherent series style,” she adds.

Final post was done in London at Halo, with efforts undertaken to ensure that as much of the grade and sound design could be signed off remotely, “only coming in person to a review suite for one final social distance-compliant PPE’d session.”

SHAPING THE “NEW NORMAL
“Undoubtedly, we’ve learned lessons in producing this series in extremis which can be applied going forward,” Woolford Gibbon offers. “We feel as though we’ve been shaping ‘the new normal’ as it’s emerged. There’s probably much less reliance on a central office as the hub of a production – creative people gain much by being able to work remotely, to be more freely in charge of their time, perhaps to have a better work-life balance as a result. [But] far from wondering if people would work less, we’re having to make sure they’re not working too hard and too long.

“Editing can certainly be achieved remotely, yet that ‘extra 10%’ in terms of the magic that happens when editor and producer spark ideas face-to-face is something we’ll need to factor into specific parts of the edit schedule – it’d be a shame to miss that joy.

“The key to producing content in the future will be flexibility, and if this series has taught us anything, it’s that there’s nothing talented film-makers love more than an impossible challenge.”

America: Our Defining Hours continues on History with new episodes on July 12 and July 19.


'America: Our Defining Hours’: Donner Party, the Midwest pioneers who resorted to cannibalism to survive

Donner Party survivor Patty Reed (Getty Images)

Through the early years of the United States of America, many events transpired that helped make what the country is today. History Channel's latest miniseries, 'America: Our Defining Hours' draws upon 300+ years of US history, from the Mayflower, the American Civil War to September 11, to tell a relevant, emotional tale of how the US, as a nation, seized moments of crisis to create a better tomorrow. One of those events was the infamous Donner Party migration, when nine covered wagons left Springfield, Illinois, on the 2,500-mile journey to California in April 1846, in what would become one of the greatest tragedies in the history of westward migration.

Delayed by a series of mishaps, they spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating the bodies of those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness.

The organizer of the group was James Reed, an Irish native and a businessman who hoped to prosper in California. Reed also hoped that his wife, Margaret, who suffered from terrible headaches, might improve in the coastal climate. George Donner, a 60-year-old farmer was chosen as the wagon's train captain and the expedition took his name. According to Reed's daughter, Abraham Lincoln who would go on to become the president was a friend of Reed and briefly considered going on the expedition. Lincoln declined due to opposition from his wife.

Before leaving, Reed had read the book The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California, by Landsford W Hastings, who advertised a new shortcut across the Great Basin. This new route enticed travelers by advertising that it would save the pioneers 350-400 miles on easy terrain. At Fort Bridger, the Donner Party decided to separate from the main body and travel on this new route. Unfortunately, the route, which had not been tested by Hastings himself, led to the doom of the party.

A map of the route followed by the Donner Party (Wikimedia Commons)

It was as the party reached the summit of the Sierra Mountains near what was then known as Truckee Lake -- having since been renamed as Donner Lake -- they found the pass clogged with newly fallen snow up to six feet deep as the Sierra snows had started a month earlier than usual. They retreated to the lake 12 miles below where the hapless pioneers were trapped, unable to move forward or back. Shortly before, the Donner family had suffered a broken axle on one of their wagons and fallen behind. Also trapped by the snow, they set up camp at Alder Creek six miles from the main group.

Each camp erected make-shift cabins and hoarded their limited supply of food. The snow continued to fall, reaching a depth of as much as 20 feet. Hunting and foraging were impossible and soon they slaughtered the oxen that had brought them from the East. By then, there was a lot of discord among the group, which had other families join them until then. When this meat was consumed, they relied on the animals' tough hides. But it was not enough as starvation began to take its toll. With no other remedy at hand, the survivors resorted to cannibalism.

In mid-December, a group of 15 since dubbed the "Forlorn Hope" donned makeshift snowshoes and trudged through blizzard conditions in an attempt to break through the pass and into California. Seven (five women and two men) survived to alert the community at Sutter's Fort of the Donner Party's plight. Included in the group were two Miwok Indians, Luis and Salvador, who had been sent by early California pioneer John Sutter to help the trapped emigrants. The Miwoks brought badly needed supplies and helped provide important winter survival advice. This party was the first forced to resort to cannibalism of the dead when all their supplies were gone. Eventually, when even the (dead) human sources of food dwindled, it was decided to kill the Miwoks. Though they ran away, both men were shot when they were found lying in the snow close to death after going without food for nine days.

A view of the Donner Lake from Amtrak's California Zephyr (Getty Images)

Nearly four months after they were first trapped, a series of four rescue parties were launched with the first arriving at the Donner camp in late February. Between them, the rescuers were able to lead 48 of the original 87 members of the party to safety in California. Five had perished before reaching the Sierras, 35 died at the camps or attempting to cross the mountains, and one died just after reaching the valley at the foot of the western slope. Many of the survivors lost toes to frostbite and suffered chronic physical and psychological disorders. Only the Reed and Breen families remained intact. The children of George Donner and his brother, Jacob, were orphaned.

James Reed went on to make a fortune in California's Gold Rush. Hastings, whose untested route had led to the party's mishaps, wanted to wrest California from Mexico and establish the independent Republic of California, with himself holding high office. However, when the US annexed California during the Mexican–American War, Hastings' dream collapsed. Instead, when Hastings sided with the South during the Civil War, he planned to separate California from the Union and unite it with the Confederacy. President Jefferson Davis promoted Hastings to the rank of Major in the Confederate States Army, and asked him to assemble a military unit in Arizona, with the aim of defending California. However, as the Civil War ended one year later in 1865, the so-called Hastings Plot did not come to fruition.

'America: Our Defining Hours' will air on History Channel on July 5 at 9/8c.

If you have an entertainment scoop or a story for us, please reach out to us on (323) 421-7515


America: Our Defining Hours: New Birth of Freedom (S1EP2 History Sun 12 Jul 2020)

New Birth of Freedom: America is forged in the fires of adversity. These stories chart the challenges that helped shape a nation. In the mid-1800s, America faces its darkest hour yet. Abraham Lincoln is elected President of a United States on the brink of Civil War the nation that emerges now creates great wealth–but not for everyone Teddy Roosevelt steps forward, bringing fierce leadership on behalf of the working man–his aim: to hold the nation together.

Airdate: Sun 12 Jul 2020 at 9.00pm on History

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