A special thanks to Kelley Vlahos and Responible Statecraft for publishing my latest. The piece places the Twitter Files revelations and greater concerns about government-big tech collusion within the historical context of the American information state. The article illustrates that the U.S. government has a long history of manipulating media for the purposes of steering public opinion on foreign policy. The piece also argues that media attitudes about the practice have evolved from outrage to apathay to active involvement.
I thought I’d take a detour from writing chapter one to craft a quick blog post on something which has been wracking my brain, how did the American experience in World War I impact “isolationism” on the eve of World War II? Of course, historians of noninterventionism have covered this topic, and I’ve touched on it myself. However, I am curious to see if this relationship was reflected in my dataset. Comparing the voting habits of those members who served during the 65th Congress (1915-1917) and the 77th Congress (1941-1943) revealed some interesting trends.
Looking at Voteview.com’s dataset, 20 Republicans who served in Congress, either in the House or the Senate, on the eve of U.S. entry into WWI and voted on the declaration of war with the German Empire were also in Congress as the U.S. entered WWII. Those 20 Republicans averaged 66% opposition to U.S. policy on the eve of WWII, whereas the 45 Democrats who served during both eras averaged just 25% opposition.
Only four of those 20 posted opposition percentages less than 60%, Allen T. Treadway (MA), Wallace White (ME), Fredrick Hale (ME), James Wadsworth Jr. (NY), and George Norris (NE)
Norris, the New Deal-supporting Republican, turned Independent, was the only member of the 20 who opposed U.S. entry into WWI but became a reliable supporter of U.S. policy entering WWII.
The remaining 16 posted opposition percentages between 61% and 92% to U.S. foreign policy between the 74th and 77th Congresses (before Pearl Harbor). Interestingly, when grouped by their position on entry into WWI, they posted similar opposition to the run-up to WWII. William Borah, “the Great Opposer,” was perhaps the most well know of the 14 and became known for his passionate opposition to the future involvement of the U.S. in foreign wars. And, for those who do not know, only Jeannette Rankin of Montana opposed U.S. entry into WWI and the declaration of war upon Japan after Pearl Harbor.
The Great War and its aftermath solidified Republican opposition toward entry into the Second World War. Whether or not that was “good” or “bad” is irrelevant. “Isolationists” were not merely motivated by myopia, nativism, or antisemitism. Many, like these congresspeople, looked back upon American entry into the Great War and vowed not to do it again.
A special thanks to the Libertarian Institute for publishing my latest, “Brown Scare, Red Scare, Fake Scare, Who’s Scared?”
It is a brief history of the “scare cycle,” the reciprocal political purges between the Left and the Right. It argues that these scares, built upon exaggerated claims of nefarious foreign influence, have narrowed the Overton Window on America’s role in the world, thereby maintaining a belligerent foreign policy.
Thanks to Kelley Vlahos and Responsible Statecraft for publishing my latest article! It juxtaposes the Korean War with the Ukraine Crisis and argues that the latter will continue to undo the foreign policy consensus forged by the former.
I’m working through Chapter 4, “Confronting Vietnam, 1965-1975,” for my dissertation, “Partisans of the Old Republic.” Among the historical inquiries animating this chapter is how the Vietnam War impacted American conservatism. Now, this question has yielded some great scholarship. However, earlier work is primarily concerned with the emerging New Right, not the decline of the more noninterventionist, and largely Midwestern Old Right.
Liggio first cautioned the reader that he felt that the results “will not cause a change in the Johnson Administration’s foreign policy.” However, he later noted that the GOP, especially in the Midwest, that “traditional stronghold of isolationism and anti-imperialism,” picked up a number of seats. Liggio’s analysis was tinged with cautious optimism that perhaps the Republican Party’s noninterventionist wing would reassert itself in light of the horror in Vietnam.
For the noninterventionist movement, tragically, he was wrong. As I’ve talked about elsewhere on this blog, the new generation of Republican politicians was considerably more inclined towards interventionism, regardless of region or ideology. Rather than serving as a rebirth of Rightwing noninterventionism, Vietnam heralded its death…at least politically.
Of the 20 Midwestern Republicans who began their careers in the 90th Congress (as a result of the 1966 midterms), none would crack the 50% mark for foreign policy opposition throughout their congressional careers. As a cohort, these 20 Republicans averaged a mere 31% of opposition throughout their careers, which was actually lower (34%)than that of the other 38 from elsewhere in the U.S. who began their careers in the 90th Congress.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Liggio, the Republican Midwest was already undergrowing a political transformation visa vie its foreign policy worldviews. As a body, new Midwestern Republicans had not averaged a career opposition percentage over 50% since the 87th Congress (1960 general elections, see figure 1). The last Midwestern Republicans to begin their careers in 1960 were Robert T. McLoskey (IL-19) and Pete Abele (OH-10), who served only one term. While popular noninterventionist incumbents would serve throughout the 1960s, none would begin their careers in the decade. This has posed an interesting dichotomy that I am still trying to unpack.
The decline of the House is interesting when juxtaposed with that of the Senate. Republican Midwestern Senators, as a body, shed their noninterventionism faster than colleagues in the House. This is of note because, on the eve of World War II, the Republican Senators from the Midwest were some of the most strident figures in the “isolationist” stable. However, with the exception of two gubernatorial appointments, Midwestern Republicans sent their last noninterventionist to the Senate in Andrew Frank Schoeppel in 1949. Again, some Senate incumbents continued to serve through the 1950s, but new members would not appear through the same period (figure 2).
Liggio was incorrect in his hypothesis. Somehow the tradition of Midwestern noninterventionism died. The data suggest that it was a long, beleaguered, and contextual end. The electoral viability of noninterventionist incumbents, juxtaposed with the inability to create new members, poses a historical quandary, which I am excited to answer.
The folks at freethepeople.org were nice enough to publish my latest op-ed: “Why Can’t We Be Friends? The History of and Prospects for Left and Right Antiwar Collaboration.” It argues that today’s antiwar political environment resembles that of the late Interwar Period. Furthermore, it argues that today’s antiwar movements have a historic opportunity for collaboration as they are unlikely to be driven apart from establishment narratives about America’s role in the world.