I generally try to stay out of talk of politics (other than nineteenth century politics, of course!) But I want to reflect a little on the 2012 election and its implication for understanding history. First off, I heard a bunch of comparisons of Obama to FDR -- but you may recall that FDR won 60% of the vote in his first re-election, in 1936 (the year that the Literary Digest's poll was so far off). Wow, polls have improved a lot in quality over time.
Given the triumph of quantitative reasoning over impressions of momentum, I wonder if this will cause nineteenth century historians to shift their study even more to analysis of voting rather than analysis of political rhetoric? Will there be a resurgence of interest in what used to be called the "new political history"? Will there be more interest in how political rhetoric relates to political reality (and economic and demographic reality as well.) To bring this closer to home: What is the relationship between the UNC student literary society debate in 1830 over whether it is ”expedient for government to erect monuments to perpetuate the memory of her departed worthies” with the re-election of Andrew Jackson in 1832? Or Henry Laurens Pinkney's address opposing nullification and votes in Congress on South Carolina's efforts at nullification?
Moving back further in time, I've been meaning to comment on Representative Ryan's repeated references on the stump to the principle on which our country was founded: that rights come from nature and God rather than government. I actually would have thought if you were going to pick one principle that it would be that all people are created equal.
And now moving up to more recent history. Perhaps now that the election is over, we can return to serious talk about Obama's ideas of race before he entered politics. I continue to think there's something to be said about the readings in his course on "current issues in racism and law."
Finally, while everyone else is waiting for the tell-all book about what happened to Obama in the first debate, what I really want to know is what motivated Governor Romeny to talk about war memorials in his acceptance speech!
The image is of the National Constitution Center, where Obama delivered his 2008 speech on race, "A More Perfect Union."