Past Present Podcast: Veeps, Beach-Going, and the Olympic Doping Scandal


On this week’s episode, Natalia, Neil, and Niki debate the changing role of the vice presidency, the history of beach-going, and the Russian doping scandal overshadowing the Rio Olympics.

Role of the Vice Presidency

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have picked Tim Kaine and Mike Pence as their respective running mates, but does the Vice Presidency even matter? Niki recently argued in the Atlantic that the twentieth century saw the rise of the “executive vice presidency” beginning with Richard Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew. Neil recalled Jimmy Carter in 1976 became the first to seriously vet potential VPs after the mishaps of Agnew’s vice presidency and Thomas Eagleton withdrew from George McGovern’s ticket when it was revealed he had previously been hospitalized for depression. Natalia pointed to Walter Mondale’s selection of Geraldine Ferraro as an important turning point in making the VP about an identity-based choice rather than a geographically-based on.

History of Beach-Going

It’s the summer and everyone is headed to the beach. But for most of history, people stayed away from the seashore. Neil explained European elites began going to the beach in the eighteenth century during the industrial revolution in order to get “fresh air” and an invigorating plunge in the waters. Natalia recommended Andrew Kahrl’s history of African-American beaches, The Land Was Ours, for understanding the history of racial segregation at the beach, and Jeff Wiltse’s book, Contested Waters, that examines the politics of the swimming pool. Natalia also pointed to Stephen Carter’s novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, for a depiction of how elite African-Americans found escape in the resort community on Martha’s Vineyard, Oaks Bluff. Neil noted gay and lesbian Americans had also escaped to their own beach communities like Provincetown and Fire Island.

Olympic Doping Scandal

The International Olympic Committee failed to issue a blanket ban on Russia’s participation in the Rio Games despite evidence of widespread doping among its athletes. While countries have been banned or boycotted the games before, Natalia argued this possible ban was different because it was about rules of the game rather than political reasons that had kept countries away before. Natalia also commented that athletes since the first Olympics have used some form of performance enhancing substances.

What’s Making History

  • Niki talked about the history of optimism and politics.

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