Past Present Podcast: The Women’s March, Russia, and Obama’s Farewell

Women's March on Washington

In this week’s episode, Niki, Natalia, and Neil debate the women’s march on Washington, US-Russian relations, and Obama’s final speech to the nation.

The Women’s March

The Women’s March on Washington will take place the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration to protest the incoming administration. Natalia observed the march’s historical importance of mobilizing on a physical level in a social media age. Niki cited David Karpf’s argument in The MoveOn Effect of how slacktivism can become activism as the thin ties of social media grow into thick ties of political advocacy. Natalia lamented a recent Washington Post editorial that urged women marchers to not wear pink or sparkly items, and recommended Nan Enstad’s book, Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure, for understanding how the way women dress has often been used against them as political actors.


News that the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump brought a new dimension to U.S.-Russia relations, but we debated whether it represented a return of the Cold War. Natalia mentioned the New York Times op-ed from the former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell last year that endorsed Hillary Clinton in part because of his concern that Trump had become an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” Neil recommended Ekaterina Pravilova’s Public Books essay on how Vladimir Putin has sowed disinformation and confusion throughout Russian society by attacking journalists, scientists, and historians.

Obama’s Farewell

President Barack Obama delivered his farewell address to a packed auditorium in Chicago last week. Neil noted the speech displayed Obama’s characteristic optimism, arguing that was both its strength and weakness. Niki commented on the speech’s weaknesses in a recent piece for U.S. News & World Report. Natalia recommended James Fraser’s A History of Hope for contextualizing Obama’s optimism. Neil compared Obama’s speech to the famous farewell addresses from George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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