Past Present Podcast: Merrick Garland, Misty Copeland, and Contested Convictions

Misty Copeland

On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Merrick Garland, Misty Copeland, and brokered conventions.



Merrick Garland

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Niki noted that Republican leaders and activists have cited historical precedents to defend their opposition to Obama’s nomination, but that this has been an incorrect use of history. Neil noted Garland was a shrewd choice in part because Republicans had previously voiced support for his selection. Natalia and Niki both observed that should Garland be confirmed the Court would continue to be made up only by Catholics and Jews.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater, recently sat down with President Obama for an interview with Time Magazine. African Americans have been remarkably underrepresented in ballet, Natalia argued, because of the assumption that ballet should present a uniform, monochromatic (white) aesthetic, but also because black female bodies have historically been seen as hypersexualized. Natalia mentioned Estelle Friedman’s recent book, Redefining Rape, showed how black women had to prove their bodies were violable since they were viewed as hypersexual and thus incapable of being raped. Neil observed that Copeland’s critics saw her athletic physique as unsuited for ballet, but Copeland’s ads for Under Armour showcased her physicality to sell their athletic wear. Neil noted the question of athletic bodies in the ballet world reminded him of similar debates within figure skating, particularly seen in the example of Debi Thomas, the African-American figure skater in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Niki suggested the expensive costs of ballet precluded many from the sport, something detailed in a New Yorker profile of Copeland that chronicled the financial challenges she had faced in her training to become a ballet dancer.

Contested Conventions

Will the Republican Party face a contested convention in 2016? If it does, it will be the first since the 1952 Democratic Convention, as Jeff Greenfield explained on a recent Slate podcast. Trump has threatened riots will erupt if there’s a brokered convention. Niki pointed to the historical examples of 1912 and 1968 as other times when violence broke out at party conventions, and Neil noted wrestling matches broke out during the 1924 Democratic Convention’s 103 rounds of ballot voting.

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