Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Further Reflections On America’s Path Forward

The reader feedback of the essay I wrote last week has been voluminous and gratifying. The reason for this, I think, is that we are all a little shell-shocked by the chaotic state of the world. So much anger and aggression, so many apocalyptic pronouncements and books. Most people look at the past 20 years, and particularly the past six, and ask, …


Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Seven States In Jeopardy As Prolonged Drought Threatens Power Generation

Colorado River’s Glen Canyon Dam is at risk of reaching dead pool — that is, the water level at which a dam’s turbines are no longer able to generate power. A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation puts the risk at 3 percent next year, escalating to 34 percent in 2023, and up to 66 percent in 2025. As Lake …


CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Looking For Leverage: Moving America Forward

In a week’s time, I will be attending a retreat in the Badlands to talk about the future. The organizer, a close friend of mine, invited me to participate, along with several dozen others, perhaps because I have a new book on North Dakota and the Great Plains, “The Language of Cottonwoods.” He called to talk logistics Saturday. As the …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The High-Stakes Dilemma Of America’s Everyday Infrastructure

President Trump promised a big infrastructure bill many times, but nothing came of his repeated declarations that he was about to launch “infrastructure week.” Now the Biden administration, in cooperation with the Democrats of Congress, is hoping to make its $3.5 trillion infrastructure investment its most important legislative accomplishment before the 2022 and 2024 elections. Two giant pieces of legislation have been working their …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Is “All Men Are Created Equal” A Declaration, Promise Or Question?

Thomas Jefferson, speaking for the Second Continental Congress, wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” He either meant this to be a universal proposition (self-evident) and therefore was a contemptible hypocrite since he owned as many as 600 slaves in the course of his life, or he meant the statement to serve as what …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America’s Declaration Of Independence On Its 245th Anniversary*

With the 245th Independence Day and the first national Juneteenth commemoration now behind us, here is the question: If we could only keep one document from American history, and one only, which would it need to be? Opinions will vary. Some might say the Emancipation Proclamation, others the Bill of Rights, still others the U.S. Constitution itself. Or perhaps Lincoln’s magnificent Second Inaugural Address, delivered …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Voting In America: The Urgency Of Legitimacy

“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. They’ve all spoken.” That from then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Jan. 6, 2021, in remarks intended to push back against those who were attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.” Here we are, six months …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America’s Constitution: Its Surprising Evolution From 1788 To The 21st Century

In an earlier article, Editor-at-Large Clay Jenkinson described America’s three constitutions: The capital-c Constitution drafted in 1787; and the small-c constitution of norms and traditions not specified in the written Constitution and the ways the American people actually constitute themselves. In this third in a series, Jenkinson suggests that even — or especially — in our norm-busting times, a president’s bully …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Breaking Ice: What Happens When A Branch Of The Armed Forces Opens To Women

Long before Admiral Sandy Stosz retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2018, she knew that she wanted to write a book on leadership. With nearly 40 years of experience to draw on, from her early days as an ensign on polar icebreakers to her final assignment as the first female to serve as deputy commandant for Mission Support, Stosz had gained …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America’s Constitution In 2021: What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?

In an earlier article, Editor-at-Large Clay Jenkinson described America’s Three Constitutions: The Capital C Constitution drafted in 1787, the small c constitution of norms and traditions not specified in the written Constitution and the ways the American people actually constitute themselves. In this second in a series, Jenkinson looks at the Constitution circa 2021. “Some men look at constitutions with …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Revolutionary Lives Of Malcolm X And MLK In The Time of George Floyd

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X rose from markedly different backgrounds to assume leading roles in the civil rights movement, and though each died violently while playing his respective part, neither man fully exited the stage. Both remain to this day celebrated figures in the fight for racial and economic justice. Their much-publicized differences, most notably violence versus nonviolence, have …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Grab A Dictionary, Save The Republic

Distressed at the dearth of civic understanding in the United States, Ed Hagenstein worked for over two decades to create “The Language of Liberty: A Citizen’s Vocabulary.” Its purpose is simple: The constitution demands consensus and our form of government requires discourse, which depends in turn on a precise and nuanced vocabulary of its own. Hagenstein has set out to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — How America’s Three Constitutions Define The Nation

The past few years have raised constitutional questions at an unusually fast clip. After years, even decades, of slumber, the emoluments clause (Article 1, Section 9) suddenly flared up, as well as the pardon clause (Article 2, Section 2), and, of course, the impeachment clause (Article 1, Section 3), among others. From the narrow perspective of civics (not politics), the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Supreme Court Packing: A Bad Way To Get Even (Or Ahead)

Recent talk among some Democrats about expanding the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices has caused enormous consternation among Republicans but also among many mainstream Democrats and conservative political commentators. The impulse to increase the number of justices is a partisan Democrat response to the refusal by Mitch McConnell and Republican senators to confirm (or even vet) President Obama’s Supreme …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — North Dakota’s Gold Rush: A Memoir About The Fracking Boom

Michael Patrick F. Smith would not seem to fit the profile of an oil field worker. He’s an actor, a musician and a playwright who sublet his Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment to head out west to Williston, N.D., during the height of the Bakken Oil Boom in 2013. As he admits, “It’s a weird resume for a man applying to work …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — From Wounded Knee To Pipeline Access, The Lakota’s Enduring Power

Most histories of the “Indian Wars” in the American West end with the Wounded Knee Massacre on Dec. 29, 1890, when U.S. troops of the Seventh Cavalry killed between 200 and 300 Lakota (Sioux) people, the majority of them women and children, most of whom had been disarmed, at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, just one year into its …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Nicholas Christakis And Understanding Our Year With COVID-19

Nicholas Christakis’ “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live“ is an outstanding book. I agree with the eminent historian of ideas Niall Ferguson, who called it “magisterial” in his review in the Times Literary Supplement. I could not recommend it more highly. It’s not only the most readable of the books published on …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Living Through The Pandemic: A Review One Year Later

A year into the modern pandemic era, it seems reasonable to ask, what have we learned? And what should we have learned? I found answers to those questions in a wide-ranging interview with Nicholas Christakis, the author of “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live.” Christakis is the Sterling Professor of Social and …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Guy Fawkes And The Plot To Blow Up The U.S. Capitol

We live in head-shaking times. In a congressional hearing Feb. 25, acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman reported that heightened security around the Capitol will continue at least through President Biden’s upcoming State of the Union appearance, the date for which has not been set in part to prevent domestic terrorists from being able to prepare a coordinated attack …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Donald Trump Has Earned Membership In The President’s Club, The World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity; What Does It Mean?

For only the third time in history, there are a record six living presidents in the United States, including the current White House occupant Joseph R. Biden Jr., along with Barack Obama, who he served as vice president. The list also includes George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and now Donald J. Trump. All went into the White House …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Gutenberg To Zuckerberg: A Tale Of Two Revolutions

To put it in a nutshell. No Gutenberg, no Luther. No Luther, no Reformation. At one point, Luther (1483-1546) was publishing a book (more like a pamphlet) every three or four weeks. The advent of moveable type and the printing press (ca. 1440) made it possible for an obscure monk’s critique of late medieval Catholicism to travel all over Europe. The …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Double Edge Of Our Digital Revolution

The holidays just past made me reflect on the digital revolution. It’s hard for us to see it whole because we find ourselves in the heart of that revolution, but I believe those historians are right who say this one will be more disruptive, significant and impactful than even the Gutenberg Revolution of 1436-1455. Our COVID Odyssey It started on …

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 …

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: 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: 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: 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 — 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 — 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: 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 …