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tv   Book Discussion on These United States  CSPAN  February 19, 2016 4:39am-5:47am EST

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change the political and social landscape. this is just over an hour. >> i am delighted to have three of the most distinguished american historians with us here tonight. we are of course celebrating the publication, these united states 1890 to the present. kevin kruse is professor of history. a historian who writes about what turns out to be the long 20th century. we cannot have helped for
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better. [applause] >> thank you all for coming out tonight. it is an honor to be here. really two of the nation's leading historians. the long 20th century as they describe it. i have a few questions. read a few short passages from the book and then we can open it up to a q&a. now, the natural 1st question is how did that work. you each have your own strengths. people in the audience and at home i know you for your individual work and there are points of common ground. grayson labor and politics,
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but in a lot of ways you have written about different places in different worlds. the urban and suburban north , thomas well-known on policy, glenda has given us great insights on politics. how did you work together, how to this process work? did it? >> we are not speaking to one another. it worked really well. i think one thing that we shared in common, our publisher thought this would be a good match, we both right social grassroots politics into italy stories -- elite stories, national economics. we wanted to look at people and put them back in to a
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larger national story which we think is really important to portray the united states and all of its facets top to bottom. >> i think that is exactly right. we came together to work on this project in part because we saw our strengths and interest is complementary. we both share an interest in fusing together social history and grassroots history with top-down history and are moving in a direction that a lot of american historians are moving in college is beginning to think that the united states on a global stage but in a way that is more than just doing battleships and wars. really thinking about how america's place in the world shape domestic politics and i what was happening at home shaped the way americans
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engaged far from our shores. >> the other thing i would add is that both of us right african-american history. our surveys of textbooks and more synthetic treatments, there is always a little add-on. we both wanted to try, and i hope we have succeeded in making it clear that american history is african-american history. >> i think that is right. one other thing we really try to do in this book, there are not any good, readable, comprehensive history that incorporate all of the amazing insights that have come out of the field of american history in recent years. we have a lot of threads
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that run through this book, how many of our peers, scholars and many others have begun to rethink and reshape the field. this is about the speaks to the history of capitalism in the united states, a book that is very much informed of the history of social movement, i group that really tries to and synthesize and come up with a larger narrative. we spend a lot of time learning about religion and the transformation. >> that is right. we did. it is interesting because we have survived about 15 years thinking about this project and beginning the project and we were talking today, if we had written this book,
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produced it in the year 2,000 it would be a far different book and it yesterday bringing it together at this point. i think for myself that i would have written a more triumphal account of problem solved, inexorable if not always rapid progress, and i think we see it differently than that looking back and having lived through the past 15 years. it has also given us much longer.of view to start in the 1890s and it gives us a much broader scope to evaluate where we are at this moment. >> in the 2015, you have may be a less triumphal view of
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this, but in a lot of ways the book almost seems to come. hope. how is life today like it was in the 1890s? bring us back to where we started. >> in our 1st meeting we were betting around titles. they always next. but the one that i 1st suggested was circling back. so i had some sense that we were going to be looking at a long arc, not a circle. i will just mention one way, one thing that has come up and it seems to have been flow, race in america, the way that people feel about race and ethnicity. a very difficult time. white supremacists just franchising african-american southerners, and i can't
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believe it because they have been hopeful after reconstruction. we had a similar sort of period of help. if not color blindness in the 1990s and into the early to thousands but also is turned around into racial desperation. a lot of people of all sorts of ethnicities. that is one thing that i think you have been able to circle around and see and have something meaningful to say what the perspective of the long century. >> another way that we circle back and are attentive to the ways that inequality, economic inequality waxes and wanes in american history. the last chapter of the book we called the new gilded age explicitly referring back to the beginning of the book
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when we deal with the moment of the concentration of corporate power, profound economic and security for many of the folks who are working in this new economy. and we carry that story forward by talking about people's individual lives, how folks were affected by these transformations in american society. more recently we were able to draw from the amazing historical and economic work by the french economist whose book is an unlikely to million copy bestseller. and we were able to rely on him and other historians of capitalism and economists who have needed very clear that the period from the great depression through the 1970s was a very distinctive moment in american history. in the period after the 1970s is looking a lot
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more like the period from the 1890s to the late 1920s and perhaps even we would have imagined writing this book 15 years ago. and so we have really profoundly circle back. >> race in the economic inequality angle, dominating the headlines today, immigration. tell us about this perennial problem. politicians seem to be approaching this as if there is no history here. >> we deal with immigration at critical moments across the entire span of the book. the beginning of the book goes up to one of the most intense periods of consternation over immigration to the united states leading up to 1921 in the 1924 immigration that cut off immigration from
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large parts of the world. we look at the changes in immigration policy and the post 2nd world war two years, halting but growing interest, topic that has a lot of relevance and then of course the really critical moment, 1965. fifty years ago last month when lyndon johnson signed into law will became the most sweeping immigration reform and doing some but not all of the negative dimensions of the legislation. >> i want to add to that that the pattern becomes clear that when the united states these labor we bring in immigrants. the program which brought mexican-americans into work, particularly during world war ii. and when america is in a
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period of economic inequality, they begin. it is always connected to race and ethnicity. the strongest propulsion behind these 19211924 asked was the eugenics movement which talked about who is fit and who is not to be an american. and so the racial and ethnic parameters of our immigration policy are really a constant over the century. >> one of the really interesting things about this book that makes it stand out from other types is the way in which it is not just so much material to cram in, topline political history of the biggest events in the span, you have
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attempted something other much more difficult here. blend in social history. you have a kind of grassroots bottom-up story that illuminates the larger structure. patty pick the individuals to bring the story to life? >> the orientation tour, you cannot understand policymaking in national politics. folks at the grassroots are pushing for change, sometimes against stiff resistance, but there also changing the terms of the state in the national level and vice versa federal policy is holding up opportunities to grassroots activists on the ground. it is a flawed way to view
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history to focus just on the top level of politics. i think we also lose a lot we just told the story of individual households and families and don't pay close enough attention to the way the national level politics and macroeconomic changes are having an impact on lives. the feedback is a circle really of impact and influence. >> the most difficult writing task with this book to tell just for example the story of world war ii. coming in to follow teenagers in the 1930s. and ultimately they are at pearl harbor during the japanese attack and then i follow them through the war.
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we had to choose people who actually could carry the story forward at the same time that we were looking at high level politics and policies from congressional legislation to presidential action. so it was really fun to find people who have never been written about before and will leave their lives in the history. i have already heard a friend of one of the people i wrote about, she was a nurse, and her fiancé was the 1st person killed in the air in world war ii. so that made it more meaningful to write through the presidential politics stuff, getting the stories of people in the depression
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they were the 1st person who was killed in the expeditionary bonus and in linking that the policies and the new deal enabled us to see elite politicians reacting to people on the ground as well. they don't live in a vacuum. they know what people are thinking and are constantly concerned about public opinion. we have tried to show both public and the political class in the business elite. >> in making those connections sometimes proves to be eliminating for both the individual unknown person or people as well as for the larger political institutions are economic institutions. one of the people we write about is a woman named betty dukes, also not a household name. she is an african-american in california, please call pittsburgh california and it
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is a declining industrial town. the big new employer comes in and she gets hired by walmart, a devout christian woman and likes the fact that they are kind of professed orientation toward the world is one of family and service and community, but she finds out that there is a big gap between the rhetoric and reality. she gets passed by again and again for promotion. somewhat less experienced the promoted. she eventually gets involved in a lawsuit. but we are able to use betty dukes life as a way to talk about sam walton and the origins and the ways in which the rise of big-box retailing and all of the production the goes into it and know the distribution
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systems that emerge transform the economy in ways that affect betty dukes but affect everyone. >> one more question. again, as you work is gone on, you had more of an eye toward global affairs. how do you see the nation in the making in the making of the international, how is that figure? you have so much to tell within the boundaries, a global story. how did that come? >> one of the most striking things writing the book was how conflicted americans have always been about the
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right kind of foreign-policy that our country should take to protect our domestic tranquility and our democracy at home. the arguments we are having today fall along the same lines as they did in the spanish-american war, world war i, huge isolationist movement before world war ii. so it is a matter of understanding that there is a conflict in many people's minds that between how we are going to execute world leadership and how we are going to contribute to the common good that we must give airing to enter debates. we can call each other traders. we must sitdown and reason together because our grandparents and parents faced the same problems and somehow work them out. usually using the last war
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for the next or which is not the right thing to do. >> definitely not. one of the moments that i got interested in in thethe section of the writing on the end of the 2nd world war and the coming of the cold war was a critical moment in the mid- 1940s when you have two different impasse -- impulses running through american domestic and international policy having to do with security and america's emergence as a superpower on one side and then on the other side the idea that the united states should be involved in tanks of the optimism of the new deal, the economic development ideas to other parts of the world. both of those had unintended consequences. so many of our decisions to import or export all forms of governance and her social
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reforms overseas. the new deal, a series of social democratic impulses in latin america calls for the economic redevelopment. at the same time as a result of the rightward turn in domestic policy in the mid and late 1940s. it is a moment rich with irony. >> all right. read a short passage. treat us to that. >> at shows a package on woodrow wilson. he is a fellow tar heel. i did not choose the passage in which we portray woodrow wilson's white supremacy which was rampant.
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the segregated the federal government, and his policies were disastrous to black people in america. instead, i chose to read this moment when he is going toward his inauguration. 1913. woodrow wilson's trying the day before his inauguration on march 31913. generally taciturn wilson can barely contain the excitement that have built up. such high emotions felt unfamiliar to him, generally describing himself as reserved, shy, fastidious. if people do not want to him he told himself that was the way you wanted it. i have a narrow, on catholic
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taste and friends. i reject the offer in almost every case and then am dismayed to look about and see how few persons in the world stand near me and know who i am. his education, the ivy league college, law school, the phd made him secretly and sometimes not so secretly consider himself smarter than those around him. now he could use that superior intellect to instruct the american people after years of the emotionally volatile theodore roosevelt, the spectacle professor imagine that is calculated rationality would be a welcome relief to the nation. people and the president would move forward together in a measured way. tomorrow in his inaugural speech he would declare that government may be put at the service of humanity, but we
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shall deal with our economic system as it may be modified , not as if we had a clean sheet of paper to write up on. passion had no place in 1600 pennsylvania avenue. as the steam engine gave his last sigh of relief also steeled himself, rose from his seat, ducked his head under the department department door, fixed a smile on his face and stepped out to greet no one. where are all the people? a few blocks away from union station 28 -year-old alice paul looked out on the people, half a million of them out of the sidewalks. 5,000 more clogged the street. that morning those women broke every rule in march, smiling at the man who through curses at them, pushback when the man tried to shove them and stole woodrow wilson's limelight. women's right to vote.
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back at union station the policeman answered the aids question on where everyone was. they are all watching the suffrage parade. [laughter] >> my passages about an ordinary american that became a well-known american it is about the civil rights activist john lewis. lewis is so interesting because in many respects he is one of the central themes of our book which is the ways in which grassroots activists can have an impact on national level politics. there is a stale debate that we hear every couple of years, who is responsible for the gains of the civil rights movement? was a john f kennedy and lyndon johnson and their brilliant leadership in moral courage? the grassroots social movement?
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in the story makes it clear that it was both. lewis new he had to rely on the grassroots and to try to get the year of leadership in washington. here is a section from our book that deals with general use. john lewis spent his 21st birthday in a nashville jail. he did not exactly plan it that way. that day lewis was scheduled to give his senior sermon. i came to send not peace but a sword. it was an apt passage for an earnest young man who plays nonviolence but his actions as a protester provoked. the previous evening lewis and 25 other civil rights activists have been arrested
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for blockading the entrance to nashville's glittering theater where hundreds lined up to watch the epic from the ten commandments. it did not take years of education to see white theatergoers cheering and admiring moses. nashville's theaters if they let him black patrons at all force them to sit in the crows nest. made black patrons enter via the outdoor fire stairs past garbage cans and up rickety steps. the son of sharecroppers, john lewis was a precocious student, america's most prestigious.
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studies. on february 271960 just a year before he was arrested he t his 1st night in jail, hauled away from a lunch counter and charged with disorderly conduct simply asking for being served a meal. the fledgling movement inspired by the lunch counter sentence earlier that month. after weeks of careful planning and training by seasoned movement strategists that wants to nearly monthlong peaceful assault on nationals dimestore lunch counters. the 1967 surprise tactics
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the civil rights advocates have been deployed at the segregated chicago diners during world war ii. i goi go on to talk about john lewis is complicated relationship with his family hishis parents did not want him to be engaged in protest, and then we go on to talk about the ways john lewis working through ended up in one of the most dramatic moments at the march on washington for jobs and freedom in the summer of 1963. at the last minute rewriting parts of his speech because the fellow march organizers believed it would be to inflammatory and perhaps alienate president kennedy who is still moving cautiously and gradually on the question of civil rights. his modest background to the corridors of power. we might need to see them as part of a dialogue, struggle
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and ultimately both agents and the transformation. >> fantastic.ç we will move to questions now. please raise your hand and we will bring the microphone to you. wait so everyone in the room can here your question. >> i will come to you. >> i just want to say i think a particular interpretation is important. the more i think about it the ideas keep coming into my mind. the 1890s, for example -- and this is something, not just the role of labor unions. i don't want to talk too much, but if you go back, the separation of labor.
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the movement now is atrophying in large part. .. >>
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>> end into the 20s and with the decline of the '70s and come drop with maury disparity among americans. >> i it agree with what led this said ndp speaking to that larger question of land it is easy to see the connections before that a gilded cage but important to remember that some of those moments of american history also gave the seedbed to work for change. and with that struggle with
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a mixed the of optimism and the end pessimism. i am disposition of the optimistic that you cannot study modern american history without falling into pessimism. with there is you remiss strife and disenfranchisement with the norm and not the exception there are movements rising to transform politics. the victory is hard-fought but they do change the term of public policy. and eventually many of those efforts come to fruition. >> so why we see a strong middle-class group in the united states it is a
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depressing and hopeful moment but it has so much to teach us about the state of economic controls the end how to make our people prosperous. and get a strong government. it is trimmed back in the late '30's so has stabilized for world war ii because in the last moment because as england has fallen whole century would have changed
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but rising wages of full employment -- employment and then with certain government supports after words that we would very the middle-class and the first place the members are astonishing leading to the depressing the idea that kind of government intervention in is necessary with that more time realization is through prosperity. it is our own fault we did not continue the programs to guarantee that prosperity and over the last two decades. >>.
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>> that secured those from the new deal have come under siege again and again that have survived with the most significant being social security and in this book how beginning in the fifties there was the movement to cut away a program that many believed the embodiment sapping there will to work and with their real force in the '70s and have '80s and with arguments to privatize social security.
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intended lifted elderly americans out of poverty. the vast majority of old poverty lifted above the poverty line. and while there are those who want to roll back it has been called the third rail of american politics touched it to a unit you are electrocuted like the third rail of the subway. [laughter] even the most gold bullion the most secure to come under siege in to be protected. >>.
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>> thank you for your comments. and what will become one of the more important topics with the recent times is a the issue of mass incarceration. insists that have to of the most historians here, wednesday night and seeing recently with the mass incarceration with the labyrinth of the silent black majority with that
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mass of the incarceration with the question of social control so as to what extent do you think about mass incarceration with the drug war? two sides of the same point? and have you understand? how do we think about that? >> i will do a quick jim-crow take. there is always ben structure to control black people's behavior in working on links between slavery it was the strongest but you
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don't have to go back that far because literally we had received in the south with jim crow that the you were walking down the street you could be arrested for vagrancy. that interested me throw my life in the south and west is supplemented by surveillance techniques son in rural areas where you just had to be paved to be incarcerated in your life. it is until it becomes more urbanized. [applause] dab vibrant middle class is as we shift large numbers
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off to prison. when is a pennsylvania model line is the texas model. >> from the more recent period to talk about that state as part of their right to women but what is very clear looking at the history of the drug war in the united states it is a bipartisan in project from both sides of the ideal. we cannot simply:the republican project lyndon johnson was increasing federal funding to militarize the police and in the upper -- did in the '70s when of the most liberal
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states led by a liberal republican across both parties in the state of new york. and with incarceration they have spent at the forefront with both democrats and republicans one thing we did not talk about is popular history or journalistic history of modern america has the war between either right end of the left. one of the surprises that we emphasize is many of those
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moments that we considered highly partisan were bipartisan. lake team regulation of the financial sector and was bolstered during the clinton administration. so there are all sorts of other examples that show to talk about america and that is to miss a lot of commonality. >> one of the most terns is the privatization of president and to make money off of incarceration. of complete abandonment of
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politicians bias simple justice. id corraled the century that shameless deep in means spiritedness is unsurpassed in american history. to put people into jail. >> with proportion for representation. in one way to look at this
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end with the birthplace and to revise that understanding fuchsias seymour differences of commonalities with the history of of the united states. >> looking at the united states is a problematic framework for looking at our past. me are part of a circulation of people and ideas that cross oceans across continents and countries. with the reformers of the progressive era working dialog with their counterparts those involved
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with the paula c. to collaborate to shaped by their encounters of economic development in colombia of zero or in indiana in the '50s or '60s. and then to be sealed off is to miss a lot. but of course, all nations have different trajectories and i wouldn't go so far to say we will forget about national borders and that commonality. but it has to do with political culture and religion in the history of slavery in the united states.
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war russia or germany or vietnam. >> i do think ameritech is exceptional but not for the reasons that people usually say. is the place where ideas can grow to become the people they could not have been and that is what we have to remember and to be extremely unwelcoming so we are exceptional only in the way
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in every country in place has its history. this should not mean to settle some of the above the rest of the world. >> the ink of internally the self and the west with regional variations of the united states coming from franklin roosevelt is that senior something you constantly push against? >> we're not from the same place. item from north carolina. >> i am from michigan.
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>> in a faintly both have written local histories gingrich did a particular region that made our collaboration important for what it was like in the south and i live in in in space clinton now to look to the west to give equal coverage many textbooks talk about doing clint so there was experience in this book but that is important the and cultural values and political tactics come from
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the history of the south. >> into talk about institutions were moving in someone from north carolina can end up bin new haven or philadelphia. with the advent of the modern highway system in air travel to come together in ways with the conventional wisdom. we don't write about this but actions are changing a lot as a result from place to place. we had to shrink nearly draft down but looking
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through the windows of the car in the '70s on interstate 90 from boston to the west coast looking at the terrain industrial, a suburban, rural, trying to convey the sense for all the differences montana doesn't look a thing like suburban chicago. but those familiar aspects and there are national issues. is to convey what is similar in the differences in how those frameworks assist in those places. >> it seems to put things in
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a different perspective it is unjust we were regional historians than my husband from the australia who is jewish and irish and homes grandfather grew up within 20 miles of each other in ireland at his grandfather's cottage so we were also american midcentury at the apex of the melting pot people were beginning to discover in see each other differently with more connections among us. >> i have a few brief questions about a
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emphasizing bipartisan in consensus is that a consensus history? nyfe if matters? and then that question has a conversation producing where we are now. are there and -- other threats that are not producing so that is just antiquarian and bizarre from our perspective. >> a lot to chew over.
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>> now i am passing it back to you. [laughter] but there are all sorts of things that i different when you get down to the past. little thing this like until the advent of mass air conditioning living entirely different lives air-conditioning was invented at the beginning of the 20th century but not weld's produce until the fifties. this is hard to imagine in the different way people live when we talk about folks listening to roosevelt of the radio then you hear the sounds coming through
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the window because the radio is on. people sitting on their porches hardly anybody uses it had too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. that is one little fame and that doesn't change intel about 55 percent of the way to the 20th century. and with that advantage of air-conditioning. end of the phoenix of 50 years 60 years ago was a totally different place and it is today.
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>> but maya generation is where is my jet pack? but reasonable people making remiss mistakes for the future. it is very hard that is why it is more fun to be a historian then to look forward because what people thought of as african-americans in the south did not think david b. disenfranchise. and we do try to pay attention to the environment throughout the book. it is difficult to do that
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because the environment in the state -- and this time period comes in and out of public consciousness. in that they feel transitory and tell about 40 years ago when people begin to understand the extent of the crisis. >> we do right about the rise of the automobile and a growing dependence on and oil. baby not like the kuwait passed but as a result of the '70s but in the '40's he and '50s it gets dark --
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darkened pittsburgh with the steel mills people have to put their car headlights on. and just tried to capture the differences of the past with those policy interventions with that kind of hogarth river caught on fire three times in cleveland and the condition of that and lake erie i have personal recollections as a child said the there how many years of my life that i lost. that grow we unconsciousness lead to a up pretty dramatic chicha of public policy. and a lot of attempts to
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roll back. >> i don't need partisanship environmental regulation of the '70s through the democratically controlled congress and those activist we talk briefly of the first earth day you think the pc and guitars agent they were there. ralph nader was there but also was rockefeller republicans. and mainstream democrats. and we tried to capture the way it has changed. >> i am wondering if he is
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popular culture in your narrative if his is things also were movies silver television shows with that crisis maybe it was popular it is easy to read too much of that. >> we are pretty allergic to that simplistic explanation of but it is full of examples and of moments when our consciousness was shaped by major evens in the '50s.
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about her pregnancy elude her impending parenthood with 70 percent of television watchers. that means something when we talk about family and security and households in the '50s. overall i don't think either of us believe ted using pop culture that it will speak deeply to those issues. >> and we tried to highlight dash to stop examine with those of consumerism as a threat.
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>> where you feel the end comes maybe you can take this one last question. >> there is the pretty excited to read because i know the end. [laughter] >> going full were contingency or suspense? >> i don't know what my co-author thinks i think the most important element with good historical writing is contingency that they could have taken a turn. so i am all about contingency.
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>> had contingency plays out in the constraints of the institution in the economy and politics. and even with suspenseful moments and to try a to work to make change. that sometimes the avalanche would come down and then it affected them. so they still try to fight change. >> even though the readers know the ending and to
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engage them making that part up until the end pretty interesting and to say if we have done the right we are managing in this book to capture the dynamism the help san frustrations and failures of twentieth century america. we want people to argue with us. lecter provoked lively discussions then we have done that right. >> it is history you cannot get away without righty that
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kind of history. [applause]
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