Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Year Another Capitol Siege Almost Took Place On The Hill

The election of 1800 keeps coming back to inform, console and trouble us. John Adams was the incumbent. Thomas Jefferson was the challenger. After one of the most vituperative elections in American history, Jefferson emerged the winner. He had 73 electoral votes, Adams just 65. Thus, Adams became America’s first one-term president. There have been nine, depending a bit on …


Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Bill Of Rights, Federalism And The Struggles Of A United America

David French is a senior editor of The Dispatch, a conservative online political magazine. A graduate of Harvard Law School, an Iraq War veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, French’s most recent book, “Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation,” was reviewed by Governing in October. In the book, French warns how hardening ideological …


CLAY JENKINSON: This Is Not Bush V. Gore

Elections matter. The pathetic political stunt a dozen U.S. senators and more than 100 U.S. representatives are planning for today is a direct attack on democracy. We have a system. Primaries, general election, followed by state certification, followed by the vote of the Electoral College, followed by the tallying of the Electoral College vote by the U.S. Congress, followed by …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Thomas Jefferson, Epidemics And His Vision For American Cities

The yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia changed Thomas Jefferson’s thinking. Always anti-urban in his social outlook, the future president now began to formulate a radical plan for the development of new states and new communities west of the Appalachian mountains. In an age before antibiotics and systematic vaccination, Jefferson sought to design healthier communities on the tabula rasa, …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Presidential Transitions And The Vagaries Of America’s History

The Nov. 3, 2020, election is seven weeks behind us. After more than 50 legal challenges to the fairness and legality of the election have been exhausted, and now that the Electoral College has performed its constitutional duty in certifying the election, it is a matter of real constitutional significance that the current President of the United States continues to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America, Rome And The Slow Erosion of Republics

Dr. Edward Watts is a professor of history at the University of California at San Diego. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale and is the author of five books, most recently, “Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny.” The following interview has been edited for clarity and length. Governing: We’re suddenly in this situation where the wear and tear on …

CLAY JENKINSON: Trump Is A LOSER!

December 14, 2020 — a great day for American democracy. The Electoral College confirmed the election of Joe Biden on Monday. But it is not about Joe Biden or about the Democrats. It is about the capacity of our Constitution to withstand the dishonorable attempt by a dis-elected president to overturn the results of a national election. And so this …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Why Did John Adams Skip Thomas Jefferson’s Inauguration?

The election of 1800 was the first time power was transferred from one political party to another. The first president, George Washington, and the second, John Adams, were both Federalists, so there was not much to transfer in the spring of 1797 when Washington retired to Mount Vernon for the last time. As the first U.S. vice president, Adams considered …

CLAY JENKINSON: John Adams’ Words Ring Hollow

John Adams wrote, “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” Adams was speaking of the White House, where his words are enshrined in a plaque. The current president cannot be called honest by any honest human being, and wise eludes him, too. If “wisdom is calling things by the right name,” President Trump fails the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — When Alexander Hamilton Tried To Steal The Election Of 1800

Some Trump supporters and advisers have suggested that if the certification of the 2020 election can be delayed beyond Dec. 8, Republican-controlled state legislatures could step in to name their own set of presidential electors who would cast their Electoral College votes for Donald Trump, not the individual who appears to have won the election in those swing states. Others …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Electoral College Explained: Its History And The Tensions of Democracy

The Electoral College is back at the center of our national political conversation. The fact that Hillary Clinton received 2.7 million more popular votes in 2016 than Donald Trump and still lost the presidential election, and that it was possible that Donald Trump might win the 2020 election while losing by more than 5 million popular votes, has led to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Presidency: From Rocky Transitions To Electoral Delays

At the time I write this, the day before the 2020 presidential election, we don’t know whether Donald Trump will be a one-term president or whether he will be elected to a second term. Trump has repeatedly declared that he may not accept the election results if he is defeated. If he loses, it is hard to imagine a smooth …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Amy Coney Barrett Is In An Impossible Position; So Are We

In 1958, President Dwight David Eisenhower is reported to have said, “I made two mistakes and both of them are sitting on the Supreme Court.” The story may be apocryphal, but it continues to be widely quoted because it so perfectly expresses presidential exasperation with the behavior of U.S. Supreme Court appointees once they are confirmed by the U.S. Senate. …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Is it Time For Texas And California To Leave the Union?

David French begins his book about the disintegration of America along what is by now a well-worn path: “We increasingly loathe our political opponents.” “A person belongs to their political party not so much because they like their own party but because they hate and fear the other side.” “The number of Americans who live in so-called landslide counties— counties …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — What Happens When A Sitting President Is Stricken?

We all woke up Friday to the news that the president and first lady had tested positive for COVID-19. In a year of wild and enormously disruptive events, things just got crazier. Just what the president’s health crisis will mean for the election, and for a nation fighting its way through several profound challenges, is unclear. It is too early …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Looking Back At Presidential Transitions And Sore Losers

We don’t know how the election of 2020 is going to play out or what the post-election interim will be like, between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021. President Trump has announced several times that he may not accept the results of the election. Whole batteries of lawyers are lining up on both sides to contest or confirm the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Ginsburg, Trump And Midnight Appointments To The Supreme Court

First, the hard facts. An individual is president of the United States from the moment she or he takes the oath of office in the January after the election and remains president until the next person takes that oath, except in cases of assassination or successful impeachment. The sitting president has an unquestionable right to do all the things a …

CLAY JENKINSON: Days Of Reckoning

In the next few days and weeks, we are going to learn who everyone is, who has character and who has only a ruthless drive for power. The idea of a republic is on trial in so many ways in 2020. Now the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg brings it all into perfect focus. In a republic to have power …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — How Did America Lose Its Confidence?

This is the first in an occasional series of essays by Clay Jenkinson, where he uses history and the humanities to help us think through new ways of going forward, as individuals, a community and, ultimately, a country. These are not so much settled opinions as invitations to a widespread conversation, even if a sometimes difficult one. We all know …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America And Race: When Sports Players Refuse To Play

Ever since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 24, and the subsequent national eruption of protest against police brutality, police shootings and systemic racism in the United States, we have all wondered what ultimately would come of this moment in our long, troubled history of race relations. Would this be another round of temporary protest followed …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — A Lesson From Jefferson On How The Nation Can Heal

Is it possible to heal this great nation? At the moment, we are all fixated on Donald Trump — his leadership style, his desire to disrupt, his tweets — but whether he wins or loses in November, the fundamental brokenness of our political system does not cease. In fact, it is likely to worsen. However painful it is to admit, …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Let Us Now Praise The U.S. Postal Service

Since the pandemic shut down much of American life back in March, I have worked mostly at my kitchen table in a suburban house in Bismarck, N.D. I chose the kitchen table because it has seven big bay windows around it. I like to work in the natural light. But I also like to watch for the moment when the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Playing The Religious Card: A Long American History

“Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God.” When President Trump uttered these words this past week, he sparked the usual outrage in the world beyond his base. His accusations against Joe Biden, who is a serious Catholic Christian and who has not indicated distaste for the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America Is More Than Its Broken National Political Rhetoric

My daughter is a graduate student at a British university forced home to North Dakota by the global pandemic. For the past four months, she has been living in my basement trying to keep up with her doctoral work using such digital resources as are available at the British Library and the Bodleian at Oxford. She will be returning to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — James Earle Fraser And The Legacy Of His ‘Vanishing Indian’

The American Museum of Natural History’s recent decision to remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its Central Park entrance gives us all the opportunity to revisit and rethink a wide range of things we have taken for granted in American history and American memory. Although the Roosevelt debate has largely focused on the statue group’s depiction of him as …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Theodore Roosevelt, His Statue And The Problem Of The Past

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City decided recently to take down the statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has been displayed in front of the museum on Central Park West since 1940. It’s actually a statue group of three men. Roosevelt is high on horseback dressed like a cowboy or Rough Rider. Flanking him, on foot, are …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Is Absolutely Everything For Sale?

If you agree that we should not throw up a bridge in the North Dakota Badlands within a few miles of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch Site, please write to Secretary Elaine Chou asap, and please share my letter to your network of friends. Talk about Last Best Places! The question we have to ask is — is absolutely everything for …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Very First Fourth Of July

It wasn’t widely known that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence until a quarter century later when he stood for the presidency of the United States. At the time when the 33-year-old Virginian sat down to write America’s birth certificate at his portable writing desk in a boarding house on Seventh and Market streets in Philadelphia in the third …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Fierce Urgency Of Now

We need an honest debate about race in America. We now also need an honest debate about the uses of violence in the quest for justice. The shocking aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd has precipitated a national conversation about the paramilitarization of our police forces, the sad repetition of urban policemen killing black suspects in what — …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Silence Equals Violence

I am writing these words on a quiet Sunday morning in Bismarck, North Dakota, because my conscience tells me that neither I nor any other white American can justify silence in the face of the police murder of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis on May 25. Every American, and especially every white American, has to speak up now …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Jefferson’s Symposium

The Beatles asked, do you believe in love at first sight, and answered, “Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time.” Do you believe in the idea of the soul mate, that there is someone out there somewhere who represents a perfect fit for your own cluster of values, principles, habits, perspectives, and desires? That idea goes all the …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Running The Vaccine Gauntlet

I had a wonderful tour last week of the state Capitol of Virginia at Richmond. It was conducted by my old friend, Mark Greenough, the chief of interpretation, and someone who occasionally portrays John Marshall, the chief justice of the Supreme Court. As we entered the Capitol, we walked the gauntlet of about 100 women, many of them with children, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Radicalized

I’ve been writing recently about the ways in which I am being radicalized by the collapse of American civilization. I no longer think we need only to undertake a few thoughtful reforms to save the country. The colossal farce of the Trump impeachment, wherein the most important material witness to the central allegation of the articles of impeachment was not …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — You Say You Want A Revolution

Thomas Jefferson has somehow gotten under my skin. As I’ve grown older in my tights and wig, in some respects I’ve become a radical and even, at times, a paper revolutionary. When I began investigating Mr. Jefferson 30 years ago, tentatively beginning to portray him, I was mostly interested in his agrarian vision for this country. The sentence that then …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Who’s the Snowflake Now?

The silly controversy over Shane Balkowitsch’s proposal to mount a 7-foot-high portrait of the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on the outside wall of a downtown building in Bismarck comes just as we learn that Antarctica has experienced the two hottest days on historical record and just when an iceberg the size of Malta has broken free from the Pine …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — A Tale of Two Presidents, 100 Years Apart

This is the Thomas Jefferson Hour. Why are we talking about Theodore Roosevelt today? Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. He took office 100 years after Thomas Jefferson became the third president. They are condemned to spend eternity on Mount Rushmore together. Right next to each other, in fact. There is no way that Jefferson could …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Death Of The American Republic

My friends, When the Senate of the United States voted on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, not to call John Bolton or any other witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, death rattled in the throat of the American republic. It’s over now. We will, of course, continue to be a great and powerful nation, a rich nation, with …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — A Day To Remember

Four things happened on the last day of January 2020. 1. We crossed the Rubicon: The United States was envisioned as a republic. In a republic, the protection the people have against tyranny is our system of checks and balances. The judiciary checks the legislative branch when it passes unconstitutional laws. The executive has the power to veto congressional legislation, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Jefferson, Beccaria And Incarceration

Thomas Jefferson wanted us to be the most enlightened nation on Earth, then and forever, the most enlightened nation in human history. That meant we had to be the best-educated, best-informed, most peaceful and most harmonious nation on Earth. We had to become the very template for rational, productive, thoughtful and harmonious living. This is the real American Dream. We …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Samuel Johnson’s ‘A Dictionary Of The English Language’

During the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s recent impeachment hearings, I was surprised to hear several constitutional law scholars cite Samuel Johnson’s “A Dictionary of the English Language” for definitions of treason, misdemeanors, bribery, etc, a reference to Dr. Johnson’s 1755 dictionary of the English language. It is not altogether uncommon to hear the name Dr. Johnson — usually in …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Trump’s Impeachment

What do you do when Republicans refuse to take seriously what they would find absolutely appalling and outrageous, criminal and treasonous, disgusting and Constitution-threatening if it were done by a liberal Democrat? We all know that if the situation were reversed and Barack Obama had reached out to Pakistan to demand that it pretend to investigate Jeb Bush or Donald …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Fly Me To The Moon, Please

As probably you know, the People’s Republic of China has a serious and robust moon landing program. Late this year or early next, China is preparing to land a probe on the moon that will dig up some rock samples and then return safely to Earth. China has made it clear that it intends to send men and women to …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Illimitable Search For Truth

A few years ago, in an interview with the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns about Theodore Roosevelt, I said on camera that Roosevelt liked to kill wild animals, that he was, as I perhaps inauspiciously put it, a killer. When you leave a Ken Burns interview you have no idea what you said will wind up in the film, if anything. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Clay Jenkinson wrote this Tuesday. I don’t deserve to pretend to be Thomas Jefferson. Not only don’t I speak and write French and Italian, but I have virtually none of Jefferson’s famous organizational skills. My home library has more than 20,000 volumes now, and though I have a relatively logical library classification system, I have a hard time finding books …