On this week’s Past Present podcast, Niki, Natalia, and Neil discuss the history of America’s death penalty, political correctness, and Hillary Clinton’s “enthusiasm gap.”
The last U.S. pharmaceutical company has stopped selling drugs used for lethal injections. American attitudes about the death penalty have shifted dramatically over time, Niki noted, including a significant drop in public support after World War II because of European allies banning the practice. Natalia mentioned Mary Dudziak’s book Cold War Civil Rights which showed how the international community looked at the death penalty as another example of America’s racial problems during the Cold War. Natalia also argued that events like the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings led to President Clinton signing the 1996Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which cut back on regulations on executions. Neil cited the rise of DNA science and the funding of “innocence projects” for changing American attitudes about the death penalty.
What’s wrong with political correctness? Both the right and left are taking on America’s P.C. culture. Jonathan Haidt warned in the Atlantic last year about the “Coddling of the American Mind,” and Jonathan Chait recently wrote for New York Magazine about “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say.” Natalia traced the origins of political correctness to the debates within the American communist movement in the 1930s. Neil noted the positive meaning of political correctness in the 1950s and 1960s when politicians used it to speak about their own correct policies. That changed in the 1970s and 1980s, Niki argued, when politics were no longer seen favorably and in the 1990s when the Dartmouth Review and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education (1991) began to push back at P.C. campus culture.
Closeted Clinton Voters
The Harvard student Sam Koppelman recently wrote about the challenge of supporting Hillary Clinton on a liberal campus. Throughout this election, Clinton has suffered from what has been called an “enthusiasm gap.” Natalia argued Clinton struggled from being seen as a status quo candidate, while Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump benefitted from being viewed as critics of the system. But Niki remembered when Clinton was recently “cool,” such as in the popularity of Clinton memes like “Texts from Hillary.” Niki also discussed the Bradley effect, a theory concerning the discrepancy between voter opinion polls and election outcomes, as a possible component of the 2016 race.
What’s Making History
- Natalia discussed the Wall Street Journal’s finding that most Americans do not know about the gig economy.
- Neil shared Annette Gordon-Reed’s essay about reading biographies as a young person. Neil also recommended Fawn Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History.
- Niki talked about the Guardian’s article, “The Day We Discovered Our Parents were Russian Spies.”