Reading the Past, Explaining the Present

By Lindberg, Tod | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 8, 1997 | Go to article overview

Reading the Past, Explaining the Present


Lindberg, Tod, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Time for another installment in our series, "The Conservative View of Bill Clinton and of the America that Somehow Elected Him Twice." This subject has taken up a fair bit of ink in this space on Wednesdays, I admit. But the fact is that current and future politics is inexorably shaped by the story lines that emerge from politics past - in particular, accounts for the reasons behind success or failure.

Take the Nixon-Kennedy election. Why did things come out as they did in 1960? Was it the case of a charismatic young politician, the first in the age of televised mass politics, simply overwhelming an old-school pol who had no intuitive feel for the new media? Or was it the optimistic vision of American possibility that JFK put forth? Or did Nixon in fact win the election -only to have it stolen from him by Richard Daley's political machine in Chicago?

Now, to be sure, a nuanced view of cause and effect including these and perhaps other explanations is surely possible. But the fact is that there are usually consequences that flow from giving relatively more weight to one of the above than to the other two.

If you think it was primarily a matter of Nixon's five-o'clock shadow and JFK's Ur-Kennedyness, you may be inclined to think that in politics, style is substance, and the way you use the media is more important than the message you put out. And you are likely to think about the next campaign accordingly.

You will think about the next campaign very differently if the lesson of 1960 is that JFK's optimism is what sells. No glitzy ad campaign, in your view, will be able to revive the fortunes of a candidate whose message is out of sync with American sensibilities.

And if you think JFK stole it, you will on one hand vow to redouble your vigilance against such activity, while on the other hand you constantly seek to remind people of just how corrupt your opponents are and to what lengths they will go. And you will seethe at the injustice.

One might call the first explanation nuts-and-bolts political, the second ideological, the third cynical (or worse than cynical; it's precisely the sensibility that gives rise to the charge of political paranoia). One might even note that if you mix them all together you get, for instance, the Dole campaign. The larger point is that there's a very close relationship between one's reading of the past and one's sense of what to do next. Sometimes one approaches the past disinterestedly, in search of lessons of value; sometimes, however, one approaches the past as something to be mined for material to support one's view of where to go from here. In either case, it's instructive to watch the explanations emerge, since they will surely influence actions down the road.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reading the Past, Explaining the Present
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.