The Road to Now is a series of conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, RTN brings exceptional guests to the table to answer pressing questions and explain how our shared and personal past shape the world today. A member of the Osiris Podcast Network.
Nora Guthrie, daughter of American icon Woody Guthrie, joins Ben & Bob to talk about her father’s life and the many ways she’s contributed to sharing his story. Nora discusses the inspiration for Woody’s music, his connection to Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly and other music icons, and why her new Woody Guthrie: Songs and Art • Words and Wisdom, which she co-curated with music historian Robert Santelli, presents her father as she’d like him to be remembered. Nora Guthrie is President of Woody Guthrie Publications and founder of the Woody Guthrie Archive (1994). Woody Guthrie: Songs and Art • Words and Wisdom (co-curated by Nora Guthrie & Robert Santelli) is a beautifully arranged “almanac” that features original handwritten lyrics, drawings, and photographs that document Woody Guthrie’s life through his own words. The book also features insightful contributions by Douglas Brinkley, Roseann Cash, Chuck D, Jeff Daniels, Ani DiFranco and Arlo Guthrie. Click here to buy the book from the Guthrie Center and have your copy signed by Nora. Additional Resources The Woody Guthrie Center & Archives in Tulsa Oklahoma 18-May 22, 2022: “Woody Guthrie: People are the Song,” and exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum (New York, NY) This Episode Kills Fascists: Woody Guthrie’s Life & Legacy w/ Deana McCloud (The Road to Now #94)
56 min 25 sec
The 2020 Presidential election was one of the most tumultuous in American history, and while Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump is settled, Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has had implications that transcend his time in the oval office. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Robert Costa, whose new book Peril draws on his and co-author Bob Woodward’s extensive investigation of the Biden and Trump campaigns and Trump’s handling of executive power during his time in office. Robert explains how he finds and vets sources, his method of “deep background” interviews, and how he maintains journalistic disinterest in the face of intense partisan conflict. He also discusses what he learned about Trump and Biden as candidates and individuals and why he believes that the peril that characterized the Trump-Biden transition remains a source of concern more than a year after the 2020 election. Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post and political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. You can follow him on twitter at @CostaReports. If you enjoyed this conversation, check out our previous conversation with Robert in RTN #130 Sources, Methods & Music w/ Robert Costa. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
58 min 8 sec
There is a lot at stake when congressional districts are redrawn every ten years, and the complexity of redistricting can make it hard for even well-informed citizens to understand the process. In this episode, we get a primer on redistricting’s past and present from the same experts that our state legislators turn to when it’s time to redraw their districts: Wendy Underhill and Ben Williams of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wendy and Ben take us through the history of redistricting, why it became mandatory only in the 1960s, and how new information and technology shape the way we’re represented in our state and federal governments. To find out more about redistricting in your state, check out “Redistricting Systems: A 50 State Overview” from NCSL. Wendy Underhill is Director of NCSL's Elections and Redistricting Program. Ben Williams is a Policy Specialist in Elections and Redistricting at NCSL. You can follow him on twitter at @ElectionBen. A special thanks to Tim Story for helping to arrange this conversation. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher
37 min 46 sec
Is the United States an empire? US citizens have struggled with this question for a long time. Though our historical narrative traces our origins to the war for independence against the British Empire, we often forget that the US has presided over territories since the very beginning. Today about 4 million people in the territories of American Samoa, the Northern Marinara Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are subject to the US government, yet cannot vote for President and have only symbolic representation in congress. At the same time, the US maintains a global network of about 800 military bases in 80 countries. For these reasons and more, Daniel Immerwahr says the United States is definitely an empire. In this episode, Daniel explains how this happened, the ways that US citizens have debated their country’s role in the world, and how a country born of an anti-imperialist revolution became the thing it professed (and still professes) to despise. He also shares some fascinating stories about how the US military helped make The Beatles, why some people claimed John McCain was not eligible to be President, and how citizens of the United States of America began referring to their country as simply “America.” Daniel Immerwahr is Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University, and author of the book How To Hide An Empire: A History of the Greater United States (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019). You can follow him on twitter at @dimmerwahr. How To Hide An Empire is available on audiobook from libro.fm. Click here and use promo code RTN at checkout to get this book and two more for just $15! This episode is a reair of RTN #134, which originally aired on July 1, 2019. The original conversation was edited by Gary Fletcher. This reair was edited by Ben Sawyer.
53 min 5 sec
In May of 1787, delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia and began debating what would become the US Constitution. They published the document the following September and we’ve been arguing about it ever since. As President & CEO of the The National Constitution Center, Jeffrey Rosen is responsible for fulfilling the center’s mission to “disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.” In this episode, Jeffrey joins Bob & Ben for a discussion about the Constitution, the vital ways that amendments have changed the federal government, and how rulings by past courts may impact upcoming Supreme Court decisions. We also talk about how the NCC has worked to fulfill its congressional mandate, the exciting resources available through the Center, and the important role that non-partisan resources play in a democracy. Jeffrey Rosen is also professor at The George Washington Law School, Contributing Editor at The Atlantic, and author of multiple books on US legal and political history including Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty and Law (Henry Holt & Co., 2019) and William Howard Taft (Times Books, 2018). You can follow him on twitter at @RosenJeffrey. Highlighted Resources from the National Constitution Center-The Interactive Constitution (also available as an app in the apple and android app stores) -We The People with Jeffrey Rosen podcast (available anywhere you get The Road to Now) -Educational Video Series If you’re in Philadelphia, you can visit the National Constitution Center, which is located just steps from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Click here to plan your visit! This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
59 min 4 sec
The Miss America pageant has always had its critics, but the stories of the organization and those who participated in it are far more dynamic than most people recognize. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Amy Argetsinger whose new book There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America explains Miss America’s origins, how the pageant both shaped and was shaped by American society, and why it might be okay that the pageant’s significance in American culture has faded. Bonus: Bob calls Miss USA “the confederacy of beauty pageants.” Listen to find out why that makes sense! Amy Argetsinger is an editor for The Washington Post’s acclaimed Style section, where she has overseen coverage of media, popular culture, politics and society. Her new book There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America was published by Atria/One Signal Publishers in September of 2021. You can follow Amy on twitter at @AmyArgetsinger. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
1 hr 2 min
How did corn syrup get such a bad reputation? While there are certainly differences between this corn-based sweetener and the sugar that comes from beets & cane, the opinions many of us hold about what separates them are rooted in much more than the scant scientific evidence on their differing impact on human health. In this episode, Benjamin Cohen joins us to talk about the history behind the corn syrup controversy, the deep roots that lie beneath our understandings of food and purity, and how understanding this story might help us make better decision moving forward. Dr. Benjamin R. Cohen is Associate Professor of Engineering Studies and Environmental Studies at Lafayette College and co-editor w/ Michael Kideckel & Anna Zeide of the new collection Acquired Tastes: Stories About the Origins of Modern Food (MIT Press, 2021). His previous book, Pure Adulteration: Cheating on Nature in the Age of Manufactured Food (University of Chicago Press, 2019), was the topic of his previous appearance in RTN #161 Food in The Era of Adulteration. Learn more about his work at his personal website or by following him on twitter at @BRCohen95. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
55 min 6 sec
In 1776, the US declared independence. Eleven years later, in 1787, delegates from 12 states (we’re looking at YOU Rhode Island) got together in Philadelphia and wrote the Constitution. In between those triumphant moments, there was the Articles of Confederation, that “firm league of friendship” that most Americans probably know as something they had to memorize for a history test. HOWEVER The Articles of Confederation, while certainly not a highlight of the American experiment, explain a lot about the American Revolution, the ideas that defined the founding generation, and the ways those ideas changed in the first years of independence. In fact, you can’t really understand the US Constitution unless you understand the Articles and why they failed. THEREFORE In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Greg Jackson about this very topic. Greg is Assistant Professor of Integrated Studies at Utah Valley University and host of the podcast History That Doesn’t Suck. We hope you enjoy our conversation on the Articles of Confederation! AMENDED This episode also includes all-new material from Ben’s appearance on Greg’s podcast History That Doesn’t Suck, in which Ben and Greg discuss the Gilded Age! You can find the full conversation in HTDS Episode #99, airing in full on October 11, 2021. (BTW there was no process for amending the Articles, which is just one of the many reasons they didn’t last!) This is an expanded rebroadcast of RTN #128, which originally aired May 6, 2019). Want to support The Road to Now and get extra episodes and other content? Join us on Patreon! This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
1 hr 7 min
The Monsanto Company officially ceased to exist when it was acquired by Bayer in 2018, but its legacy lives on in courtrooms, factory towns and farms across the globe. Today the company’s name is most associated with the herbicide Roundup and genetically modified seeds, but Monsanto also served as a leading producer of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, an essential supplier of caffeine and saccharin to Coca-Cola in Coke’s early years, and the sole US producer of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). In short, Monsanto’s history is one that will continue to shape the world well into the future. In this episode, Bart Elmore joins Bob and Ben to talk about his new book Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Future (W.W. Norton, 2021), and how a small midwestern company founded in 1901 became an agricultural powerhouse by selling solutions to the problems it helped to create. Dr. Bartow Elmore is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University where he specializes in Global Environmental History and the History of Capitalism. He is also the author of the award-winning book Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism (W. W. Norton, 2015). You can follow him on twitter at @BartElmore and find out more about his work at his website, BartElmore.com. You can hear Bart’s first appearance on The Road To Now in episode #140: Citizen Coke: The History of Coca-Cola w/ Bartow Elmore. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. For more on The Road to Now, visit our website, www.TheRoadToNow.com. (It’s great because it was designed by Seven Ages Design!)
1 hr 7 min
Most Americans know Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”, but the song, much like the man who wrote it, is far more complex than many of us realize. Guthrie, who was born in Oklahoma in 1912, moved west during the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s and witnessed the tragedy of the Great Depression first-hand. A self-proclaimed “common-ist,” Woody dedicated his life to documenting the experiences of his generation and using his platform to advocate for the common worker. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director Deana McCloud to learn more about Woody Guthrie, his music, and his legacy. This episode was recorded at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK. If you’re ever in the area, we highly recommend you take the time to visit. A video of Bob's visit is available on our episode page and on The Road to Now's YouTube channel. You can visit the Guthrie Center's website at woodyguthriecenter.org and follow on them at twitter at @WoodyGuthrieCtr. You can follow Deana McCloud on twitter at @DKMcCloud. This episode is a rebroadcast of The Road to Now #94, which originally aired on May 1, 2018.
47 min 46 sec
Bob & Ben catch up to talk about the state of political and social unrest in the US and where they see current events within recent history. They cover the recent turn to vigilantism in the US by both anti-mask protestors and the state of Texas, as well as their concern over a tyrannical minority shaping American institutions to maintain power. They also speculate about where all this might lead us….. If you’re enjoying the Road to Now and want to support our work, join us on Patreon at Patreon.com/TheRoadToNow. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is hosted by Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers/Press On Fund) & Dr. Ben Sawyer (MTSU History).
50 min 24 sec
Most Americans drink coffee. Our love for coffee ties us to people and countries around the world, and to those who lived long before us. In this episode of The Road to Now, we speak with Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee & How It Changed the World and Beyond Fair Trade to find out coffee’s origins, its effects on global trade, and how a small cherry that originated on the other side of the planet became part of our daily life. This is a rebroadcast of RTN #81, which originally aired on December 11, 2017. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
41 min 16 sec
In this episode, Bob speaks with freelance journalist, Julian Rubenstein, author of The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021). The book tells the story of anti-gang activist, Terrance Roberts, who shot a young gang member before a peace rally he organized. In telling the story of Terrance Roberts, Rubenstein also tells the history of black organizers from the civil rights era, the black power movement through to today’s black lives matter movement. Rubenstein is a real journalist; he’s devoted many years of his life telling the story of Terrance and Denver’s North East Park Hill Neighborhood and he was the battle scars to prove it. In an age when so many people have trouble telling the difference between opinion journalism and objective journalism, the depth and scope of Julian’s tenacious reporting deserves recognition. You can follow Julian Rubinstein on twitter at @Julian_Rubinste. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
55 min 8 sec
Neil Hanson is one of the most interesting people we know. He’s written books on World War I, the Spanish Armada, and the fire that destroyed London in 1666. He once teamed up with history’s greatest treasure hunter to tell the story of retrieving over $100 million in gold from a sunken Soviet ship in the arctic. He’s been the owner of the highest Inn in all of Great Britain. And, in 1999 he published a book called The Custom of the Sea, which tells the story of a shipwrecked crew that was put on trial in London after resorting to cannibalism. Their ship, which fell victim to forty-foot waves off the coast of Africa in 1884, was named the Mignonette, and Hanson’s book was so good that in 2004 it inspired an album by an up-and-coming group of musicians called The Avett Brothers. This is a rebroadcast of an episode that originally aired on April 24, 2017. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
34 min 27 sec
According to the US Department of Education, 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.7 billion in total student loan debt. While the weight of student loans has increased substantially in the 21st century, the history of student debt and the institutions that facilitate it is a much longer story than you probably expect. Ellie Shermer joins us to talk about her new book Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in Debt (Harvard, 2021), why student debt may be bad for all of us, and what we might do to alleviate student debt and fix higher education moving forward. Dr. Elizabeth Tandy Shermer is Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. Her previous books include Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). You can follow her on twitter at @ETShermer. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 16 min
When two people look at the same set of facts and reach an entirely different conclusion, it’s often because of a difference in the way they understand their place in the world. In this episode (recorded when Bob began his graduate course in methodology in January 2019), Ben and Bob discuss the power of historical narratives, how they can change over time, and the ways that people in power seek to use history as a source of legitimacy. If you enjoyed this episode, check out the others in our historical methodology series: #119 Karl Marx & History #121 Gender & History w/ Lisa Fine #143 Research! This episode originally aired on The Road to Now’s Patreon Feed on January 18, 2019. If you’d like to support our work and get access to exclusive content, please visit TheRoadToNow.com/Patreon. Thank you! This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
29 min 43 sec
The rejection of scientific expertise has been one of the most consequential social trends of the 21st century and, for those of us who remain committed to the scientific method, it may also be the most frustrating. After years of being bombarded with evidence (and often having their intelligence insulted), science deniers seem even more committed to alternative explanations of the world and the leaders who promise to undermine science-based policy. How did we get here and how can we make things better? In this episode, we get answers to those questions from Dr. Lee McIntyre, who shares what he learned from studying the ways that science deniers see the world, how we can use those insights to fight that worldview, and why a little bit of good faith goes a long way in communicating with others. Dr. Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. His book How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason (MIT Press, 2021) hits shelves on August 17, 2021. (You remember that study that said confronting people with evidence that disproved their position only made them more convinced of their beliefs? It didn’t hold up in subsequent experiments. There’s more on that in this episode.) This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
54 min 2 sec
Bob and Ben speak with Jon Waterlow about his book It’s Only a Joke Comrade! Humor, Trust and Everyday Life Under Stalin and the role humor plays in helping humans make sense of the world in even the darkest times. Jon also shares his take on humor’s role in politics under Stalin and today, the process he went through to uncover these jokes, and how the artistic technique of crosshatching helps us understand what it was like to live under the Stalinist system. He also discusses his decision to forego publishing his book with an academic publisher and why he decided to leave a bright future in the academy to purse fulfillment elsewhere. Dr. Jonathan Waterlow received his Doctorate in History from the University of Oxford and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Anthony’s College (Oxford) and the University of Toronto. He is also the cohost of the Voices in the Dark podcast, which is available anywhere you get The Road to Now. This episode is a rebroadcast of The Road to Now #107 and was edited by Gary Fletcher.
1 hr 4 min
Millions of people from across the globe visit Los Angeles every year, but only a lucky few have gotten a tour of the city from tour guides/stand up comics, Rivers Langley, Anna Valenzuela & Carter Glascock. In this episode, Ben speaks with Rivers, Carter and Anna about their favorite stories from Los Angeles’ history, what it’s like to work as a tour guide, and what makes a good (and bad) day at work. For images and links to other material discussed in this episode, visit our website episode page: RTNpod.me/202. Carter Glascock is stand up comic and co-host of The Goods From The Woods Podcast. His first album, The Crystal Pistol is available on Spotify and Apple Music. You can follow him on twitter at @carter_glascock. Rivers Langley is a LA-based stand-up comedian and host of The Goods From The Woods Podcast. You can also find him announcing the matches at Wrestling Pro Wrestling. You can follow him on twitter at @RiversLangley. Anna Valenzuela is a comic, writer and host of the podcast 12 Questions. whose appearances include Comedy Central’s Roast Battle. You can follow her on twitter at @annavisfun. This episode was mixed by Rivers Langley and edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 6 min
Three generations ago, large American corporations offered their employees the stability of life-long employment and the promise of a pension-funded retirement. In the 21st Century, that model has given way to the "gig economy" in which people work multiple jobs. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Cornell University’s Louis Hyman about the forces that led us from then to now, what it means for our daily lives, and how we might structure the economy of the 21st century in a way that offers the freedom of the gig economy without the insecurity that so many face under our current institutions. Dr. Louis Hyman is a historian of work and business at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, where he also directs the Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. His book Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary was published by Viking in 2018. This is a broadcast of an episode that originally aired on The Road to Now on August 20, 2018. This re-broadcast was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
50 min 27 sec
Game shows have been featured in network lineups from the very beginning of television and, like all forms of entertainment, they tell us a lot about the culture in which they exist. Fortunately for us, The Strong Museum of Play recently announced the establishment of The National Archives of Game Show History to preserve this history and make it available to the public. In this episode Ben speaks with archive co-founder and veteran game show producer/executive Bob Boden (The Price is Right, $25,000 Pyramid, Funny You Should Ask!) and Strong Museum Vice President of Acquisitions, Chris Bensch, to learn more about their work to preserve this history and how an archive focused on game shows can be valuable for those looking to understand the past. For more about The Strong Museum of Play, visit their website: MuseumOfPlay.org. Check out Bob Boden’s current show, Funny You Should Ask! at FunnyYouShouldAsk.tv. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
56 min 7 sec
This is an expanded version of episode 72, which originally aired in September 2017. In this episode of The Road to Now, we sit down for coffee and conversation with Bob’s bandmates in The Avett Brothers for a discussion about art, technology, and challenges of creativity. We cover the historic relationship between genius and madness, the ways one’s self is reflected in what we create, and the how they’ve adapted to the changes that have come their way since they began playing music. The Avett Brothers was the nexus that brought Bob and Ben together in creating The Road to Now, so we’re really excited to bring it all together and share this conversation with our listeners. This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
50 min 16 sec
Since establishing Sean’s Russia Blog in 2005, Sean Guillory has been one of the most prominent public-facing scholars in Russian and Soviet History. In this episode, Sean gives his insight on the gap between academic research and public perceptions, offers his take on why Cold War-era tropes continue to dominate US-Russia relations, and explains why some Americans left the US in search of a better life in the Soviet Union. Ben & Sean also discuss the ways that studying Americans in the USSR provides valuable insight into the history of the United States in the 20th Century. Dr. Sean Guillory is Digital Scholarship Curator in the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Since 2015, he has hosted and produced the SRB Podcast, whose mission is to provide a space for experts to share their research with a wider public audience. You can follow Sean on twitter at @SeansRussiaBlog. This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 2 min
The Republican Party of today may look a lot different than it did just a decades ago, but it rests on many of the same organizations and ideologies that formed the modern conservative movement in the 1970s. In this episode, Rick Perlstein joins us for a conversation about his newest book Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980 and how Ronald Reagan, Orrin Hatch and other prominent Republicans were able to harness the social and political forces of the 1970s to form the modern GOP. Rick Perlstein is the award-winning author of multiple New York Times bestsellers, including Reaganland (Simon & Schuster, 2020), Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (Scribner, 2009) and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (Bold Type Books, 2009), as well as a board member at InTheseTimes.com. You can follow him on twitter at @RickPerlstein. In this conversation we also discussed Rick’s recent article “This Is Us: Why the Trump Era Ended in Violence,” The New Republic, January 20, 2021. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 3 min
Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Americans at the end of the Civil War, has gone from a local holiday in Texas to a national day of celebration for many Americans. In this episode we speak with legal scholar and Pulitzer Prize winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed about her new book On Juneteenth and the ways that the holiday, her personal story and the history of the US can help us better understand the world today. Annette Gordon-Reed is Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard University, where she is also the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a professor of history in the university’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences. You can follow her on twitter at @Agordonreed. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
59 min 31 sec
The Harlem Globetrotters are one of those great parts of American culture that almost everyone knows and loves. For most of us today, the Globetrotters are outstanding entertainers. But did you know that in the mid-20th century the Globetrotters were probably the single best basketball team on the planet? Did you know that they did travel the globe as agents of the US Department of State during the Cold War, but that they are not, in fact, from Harlem? If you want to know how all of this happened (and how the Globetrotters saved the NBA), you’re going to love this interview with historian Ben Green on the History of the Harlem Globetrotters.
36 min 5 sec
Since the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, policy makers have had to make hard choices to ensure that American citizens can access the cheap and plentiful energy to which we have become accustomed. Although the US has returned to a position of energy independence in recent years, a variety of problems, from climate change to cyberterrorism, mean the hard choices are far from over. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Dr. Jay Hakes about his new book Energy Crises: Nixon, Ford, Carter and Hard Choices in the 1970s (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021) and what the decisions of the past can teach us as we deal with the crises of today. Dr. Jay Hakes is a Presidential & energy historian with a long history of working on energy issues, including as Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration during the Clinton administration and as Director for Research and Policy for President Obama’s BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission. He also served for thirteen years as the Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. For more about his life and work, visit his website: www.JayHakes.com This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
58 min 47 sec
It’s the 5th anniversary of The Road to Now so Bob and Ben invited a brilliant lineup of past guests to answer one question: “What has been the most unexpected turn you’ve seen in the last 5 years and how has it changed the way you understand the past?” The lineup: Senator John Hickenlooper Heather Cox Richardson Jefferson Cowie Stacy Wood Joe Kwon Matt Negrin Doug Heye And, as you may expect, we covered more than just that question. Thank you to all of you who have listened to our show and kept us going for 5 years! This episode was edited by our Associate Producer, Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 31 min
Proponents of voting restrictions such as those recently enacted in Georgia have argued that these laws will restore voters’ faith in democracy. History, however, offers a long list of reasons to be skeptical. In this episode, Bob and Ben are joined by Ben’s MTSU history colleague Dr. Louis Woods for a conversation on the history of voting laws and the ways that ostensibly neutral changes have been used to exclude people of color, as well as the ways that new laws will likely impact access to voting in Georgia. Dr. Louis Woods is an Associate Professor of African-American History and the Presidential Fellow for Social Justice and Equality at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). His previous contributions to The Road to Now include “#118 The GI Bill and the Legacy of Racial Discrimination” and “I Can’t Breathe: Surviving the Dual Pandemic of Racism & Covid 19,” which he produced independently for our podcast. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
54 min 13 sec
In the years after World War II, Americans moved to the suburbs in search of the peace and safety that many came to equate with the “American Dream.” By the end of the 1970s, however, suburbanites had come sense that their privileged was under siege from satanic cults, drug dealers and kidnappers. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk w/ Kyle Riismandel whose new book Neighborhood of Fear examines how Americans responded to the real and perceived threats of suburban life and in doing so, shaped American society and politics in the late-20th Century and beyond. Dr. Kyle Riismandel is Senior University Lecturer and Interim Director of the Law, Technology, and Culture Program in the Federated Department of History at the New Jersey Institute of Technology/Rutgers-Newark. His new book Neighborhood of Fear: The Suburban Crisis in American Culture, 1975-2001 was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2020. You can follow him on twitter at @AccusedWizard. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 1 min
The $1.9 billion stimulus plan that President Biden signed into law on March 11th has implications for everyone in the United States, but understanding it isn’t easy. In this episode we speak with Erlinda Doherty, who is Director of the Budgets and Revenue Committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) to find out more about how this plan is playing out at the state level and what it can tell us about American politics today. The National Conference of State Legislatures is a non-partisal organization that represents the legislatures in the states, territories and commonwealths of the US. It’s mission is to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of legislatures and to foster interstate cooperation and facilitate the exchange of information among legislatures. For more on NCSL visit NCSL.org. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
43 min 33 sec
Market bubbles can make and break fortunes, and which side of things you end up on has everything to do with what you’re holding when the bubble busts. But what separates a bubble from sensible investing? It’s always hard to tell in the moment, but history has some valuable lessons. In this episode, Ben talks with Dr. William Quinn, whose new book Boom and Bust lays out a brilliant formula for understanding the causes of financial bubbles and examines some of the biggest examples in history. The conversation covers the Great Depression, why some bubbles have limited effect and others bring down economies, and why both Ben and William have some concerns about Bitcoin. William Quinn is a Lecturer in Finance at Queen's University Belfast Management School. His new book Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which he coauthored with John D. Turner, was a Financial Times Book of the Year in 2020. You can follow William Quinn on twitter at @wquinn05 This episode was edited by Gary FLetcher The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network
The Nazi regime that came to power in Germany in 1933 unleashed the most brutal and comprehensive war that humanity has ever seen. The horrors of the Nazis and the destruction they left behind is something most of us learned about in history class, but for Gerd Schroth it is the story of his childhood. Born in Germany in 1938, Gerd came of age on the scorched earth left behind by the German war machine. Gerd’s father had joined the Nazi party because he thought Hitler could restore Germany’s greatness, but he bequeathed to his children a world in ruins. Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, Gerd is still writing the story of his life. He is now an American citizen, and his children were born in the United States. Gerd has moved on from the tragedy of his youth, but he has never forgotten it. He has thought a lot about how his parents’ generation and why they embraced the horrifying ideology of Nazism. He has found value in past traditions while abhorring the actions of his ancestors. And in doing this, he has built a much stronger legacy for future generations. In this episode of The Road to Now, we revisit our 2017 episode in which Gerd shares his personal story of life as a child of Nazi Germany, refugee, immigrant, and now, American Citizen.
54 min 43 sec
Ken Burns joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about American history and the themes he sees playing out in the US today. Ken shares his process for selecting subjects for his films and explains how his new 3-part film Hemingway (co-directed w/ Lynn Novick) highlights Ernest Hemingway’s individual genius while also revealing the universal aspects of life that we all share. We also discuss how our time and place influence the way we view the past, the importance of acknowledging both the light and dark in American history, and why Ken argues that much of life’s meaning comes from the struggle. Ken Burns’ new film Hemingway, which he co-directed with Lynn Novick, premieres April 5-7 on PBS. For more on the series visit https://kenburns.com/hemingway/ UNUM is a new site by Ken Burns and PBS that allows users “a new way to explore American history through select scenes from across our over 40 films..” with the goal of “providing historical context for the conversations we are having today.” You can visit UNUM at: https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/unum This episode was edited by our Associate Producer Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 7 min
Bob and Ben talk with Dr. Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University whose research examines American militias. Amy shares what she’s learned in the hundreds of hours she’s spent interviewing American militia members, how it can help us moving forward, and how different “nostalgic groups” have mobilized to defend their vision of America. She also helps us understand how Ruby Ridge, Waco and other moments in the 1990s relate to the more recent rise of domestic terrorism, and how listening can be an effective strategy in the struggle against extremism. Dr. Amy Cooter is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Vanderbilt University, where her teaching and research interests include race & ethnicity, masculinity, nationalism and crime & deviance. You can read her dissertation and learn more about her work on her website, AmyCooter.com, and follow her on twitter at @AmyCooter. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
46 min 39 sec
Bob and Ben respond to feedback about their episode on the 1776 project, evaluate the “worst President ever” claim, and discuss the utopian vision of “unbiased history.” Ben tries to focus on asking Bob questions and doesn’t exactly pull it off. Ben learns about Marjorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories for the first time from Bob and they contemplate how to deal with the proliferation of conspiracy theories. Ben spends the whole episode being happy that Bob’s back. This episode was edited in an unspecified location by RTN Associate Producer Gary Fletcher. Follow him across the country at @GaryOffTheGrid on twitter and Instagram. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
37 min 55 sec
One of Joe Biden’s first acts as President of the United States was to sign an executive order that disbanded his predecessor’s advisory committee to promote “patriotic education.” This came just two days after the so-called 1776 Commission had published its report, leading many critics to see the report as old news. In reality though, the 1776 report is indicative of social and political forces that transcend Trump’s time in office. In this episode Bob and Ben talk with historian John Fea about the content of the report, how it relates to the New York Times 1619 Project, and the many problems that come from setting out to write a “patriotic history.” John Fea is a Professor of History at Messiah University and author of the blog/host of the podcast, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. You can follow him on twitter at @JohnFea1. Hear Bob Crawford's first conversation w/ John Fea in RTN Theology #2: Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 18 min
Bob Crawford is back, so he and Ben decided to take an episode to talk about recent political developments and where they (might) fit into our historical narrative.
1 hr 12 min
Megan Rosenbloom joins Ben and guest cohost Tanya Marsh for a discussion about Megan's new book Dark Archives: A Librarian's Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020). Megan built a team of experts to test the validity of books claimed to be covered in human skin, and traveled the world to find out more about the people and processes that led to both real and debunked works of anthropodermic bibliopegy. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 27 min
Journalist Bill Scher joins Ben for a conversation about political pragmatism and the accomplishments that come from compromise and playing the long game when it comes to institutional change. Bill also talks about how his life as a journalist led him to create his new podcast, When America Worked, which focuses on the people whose achievements were accomplished through pragmatism. Episode 1 “He Saved the World: Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.” is out now and available anywhere you get The Road to Now and at www.Scherable.com. You can follow Bill Scher on twitter at @BillScher. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 10 min
Ben and Bob caught up with Christmas expert James Cooper to find out the origins of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and all the other parts of Christmas that most of us take for granted. James explains how Santa Claus and Christmas traditions evolved around the world, and how a man who lived almost 2,000 years ago became one of the most recognizable characters in American culture. You can find out more about the history of Santa Claus and Christmas at James Cooper's website- https://www.whychristmas.com/ This is a rebroadcast of RTN #82, which originally aired in December of 2017.
40 min 37 sec
Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky joins us to talk about the origins of the President’s cabinet and how the decisions George Washington made have outlasted his time in office by more than 200 years. We also discuss the changing role of the executive and why delaying the transition between incoming and outgoing Presidential administrations can have serious consequences for national security. Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky is scholar in residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies, Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. Her new book The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, was published by Belknap Press in 2020. You can follow her on Twitter at @lmchervinsky. Our new website will be launching on the same day as this episode, so check out www.TheRoadToNow.com and then check out Seven Ages Design to find out what they can create for you and your work! The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.
1 hr 24 min
The Lumbee are the largest Indian tribe east of the Mississippi, and while few are familiar with their story, Lumbee history is remarkable both in itself and as a way to more richly understand the United States in general. In this episode we speak with Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, whose life as a member of the Lumbee Tribe and a scholar who specializes in Native American history have made her a leading voice for the Lumbee community. Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery is Professor of History and Director for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of multiple works on Native American history, the most recent of which is The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle (UNC Press, 2018). Her New York Times op-ed mentioned in this episode is “We Are the Original Southerners,” New York Times, May 22, 2018). You can follow her on twitter at @MalindaLowery. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 19 min
Note: Episodes 2-4 of this series, featuring Sarah Mimms, Brian Karem & Josh Shapiro are currently available on our website at RTNpod.me/makingthecall. In the first of his four part series on media coverage and election night 2020, Matt Negrin calls his former colleague Isaac Dovere, who covers Biden for The Atlantic, to talk about why Trump won’t concede, and what the Biden campaign is nervous about. Making the Call is a RTN special series hosted by The Daily Show Senior Digital Producer Matt Negrin.
42 min 42 sec
Journalist David Menconi has documented the people and sounds of North Carolina’s music scene for almost three decades. In this episode, Ben and guest co-host Dolph Ramseur speak with David about his new book Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, and how the music of “The Old North State” is both reflected in, and a reflection of, its people. David Menconi spent 28 years writing for the Raleigh News & Observer and was Piedmont Laureate in 2019. His other works include Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown" (University of Texas Press, 2012); "Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel. (co-written with Ray Benson, University of Texas Press, 2015). You can follow him on twitter at @NCDavidMenconi. Guest co-host Dolph Ramseur is the founder of Ramseur Records and a member of the North Carolina Hall of Fame. If you’re enjoying The Road to Now, please consider joining us on Patreon, giving us a 5 star rating/review on Apple podcasts and sharing this episode with a friend who might also enjoy it. Thank you! This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is a member of the Osiris Podcast Network.
51 min 16 sec
This episode is a reair of RTN #48 (with an updated intro). George Washington is one of the most revered figures in American history. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led his troops to one of the most unlikely and world-shaking victories in modern history, and his selection as President of both the Constitutional Convention and the new government designed that summer in Philadelphia, demonstrate the unmatched faith that the founders had in General Washington. Today, however, we tend to remember Washington more for the positions he held than for the personal qualities that made him a peerless member of the founding generation, but the wisdom left to us by our first President in his farewell address is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. In this episode of The Road to Now we explain why in our discussion with Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon about his book Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.
34 min 33 sec
2020 has been “eventful” so Bob & Ben decided to take an episode to sit back and cover what’s been happening lately and answer questions from our Patrons. We discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the state of politics in the US and major developments in the 2020 election. Ben also gives a rundown of the recent White House Conference on American History (read his twitter thread here) and what appears to be the agenda behind Trump’s announcement of the 1776 commission to “Promote Patriotic Education. In other words, there’s a lot here. Thank you for listening. This episode was recorded live via zoom webinar. If you’d like to be in the zoom room for our upcoming live conversations, join us on Patreon: Patreon.com/TheRoadtoNow This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
45 min 14 sec
The confrontations between demonstrators and police that have taken place in the last few months have resulted in a national debate about law enforcement. The expanded use of Federal officers in American cities and the use of unmarked vehicles to detain citizens are concerning recent developments, but some scholars have pointed out that these tactics bear striking similarities to the strategies pursued by the US abroad. In this episode, Ben & guest co-host Alex Galarza speak w/ Johns Hopkins’ Stuart Schrader about the ways that US counterinsurgency abroad came to transform American policing from the 20th century to today. Dr. Stuart Schrader is Lecturer/Assistant Research Scientist in Sociology and the Associate Director of the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (University of California Press, 2019) and has contributed to several major media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Nation & American Quarterly. You can follow him on twitter at @stschrader1. This week’s guest co-host Alex Galarza is Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Delaware. He is a specialist on Latin American history with a focus on the history of sport. Alex also appeared in RTN #99 The History & Politics of the World Cup w/ Alex Galarza & Matt Negrin. You can follow Alex on twitter at @galarzaalex. This episode was edited by Aaron Weber. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 45 min
Ravi Patel has been a lot of things– an investment banker, an actor, the co-founder of an organization that benefits undernourished children– but in recent years, he’s set out to find the answers to life’s big questions and to share what he finds with others. In this episode, Ravi joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about family, friends and what he discovered from traveling the world for his new series Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness, which premieres August 24th on HBO MAX. Ravi Patel has appeared as an actor in several hit television shows, including Scrubs, Master of None and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and received multiple awards for his documentary, Meet The Patels, which he co-directed with his sister, Geeta. In 2013, he co-founded This Saves Lives w/ fellow actors Kirsten Bell, Ryan Devlin & Todd Grinnell to help alleviate child malnutrition around the world. And did we mention that his new show Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness premieres August 24th on HBO MAX (seriously, it’s fantastic- we hope you’ll watch it!). Love audiobooks? Want to support your local bookstore and The Road to Now while you listen? Then check out our sponsor, Libro.fm. Click here to check out a playlist of books by our recent guests and use promo code RTN to get 2 books for just $15! This episode was edited by Aaron Weber. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.
1 hr 36 min
In 2006, Roger McNamee played a crucial role in convincing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg not to sell his company to Yahoo!. A couple of years later, he helped bring Sheryl Sandberg in as Facebook’s COO. Yet despite this personal connection, and his role as an early investor in the company, Roger now believes that Facebook has become a threat to democracy. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk with Roger about his book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, the role Facebook has played in spreading disinformation, and the steps he believes we should take to regain control over the tech giants of the modern world. Roger McNamee is Managing Director of Elevation Partners, which he co-founded in 2004 with U2’s Bono. Roger is also a member of the band Moonalice, which plays live stream every day at 4:20pm.
1 hr 11 min