Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — On Immigration: Keeping Lady Liberty’s Promise

Immigration has always been a fraught subject in America. We all know that except for Indigenous people (Native Americans), at some previous point all of the rest of us made the long journey to America from somewhere else. In the past 400 years, Europeans, Africans and Asians have filled up the continent to the tune of 334 million people. The liberals and …


Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Mr. Speaker, Remember The Crisis Of 1801

Thirty-five states gaveled open new legislative sessions last week. Many are making a point of how quickly they chose a speaker – the vote took all of 30 seconds in Washington state, for example. That is in sharp contrast to the chaotic events in the U.S. House of Representatives a week earlier, which were a sad reminder of how fraught …


CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Too Much Stuff: Americans And Their Storage Units

As the holidays approach, I thought it might be useful to lighten the tone a little as we survey the national political situation in 2022. Two weeks ago, former President Trump’s attorneys came forward with two top security documents that they said they found in a storage facility rented on Trump’s behalf near Mar-a-Lago. Putting aside for the moment the fact that …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Terminating The Constitution In 225 Characters

“No honest person can now deny that [Donald] Trump is an enemy of the Constitution,” Liz Cheney said after the former president appeared to call for terminating the U.S. Constitution in a post on his alternative social media site, Truth Social, on Dec. 3. The Truth Social post heard across the Republican Party as former president Donald Trump appeared to …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Should We Leave The Indictment Of Ex-Presidents Alone?

Donald Trump announced a new run for the presidency Nov. 15. This comes at a time when several investigations seem to be closing in on him. The Justice Department is investigating his appropriation of government documents, some of them highly classified, that belong to the National Archives. For this he may be indicted. The state of Georgia has been investigating Trump’s attempts …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Five Reasons Why Book Banning Is Futile

Book banning is on the rise in America. According to PEN America, from July 2021 to June 2022, there were 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, involving 1,648 titles by 1,261 different authors. PEN America is a free expression advocacy group headquartered in New York. In the period from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, Texas had the most …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — A Modern Journey On The Vestiges Of James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway

Amtrak’s Wink and Nod to the Great Northern I boarded the Amtrak’s Empire Builder train in Minot not long ago, en route to the railroad’s terminus in Seattle. A journey of 1,178 miles, 27 hours, starting at 9 a.m. CDT on a Friday and ending at 10:15 PDT Saturday morning, a day later. That meant we rode in daylight (in late …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Corn Maze: The Enigma Of America’s Multibillion-Dollar Miracle Grain

This is the second of a two-part feature about the intersection of agriculture, business and culture at a place called the Corn Palace in the southeast corner of South Dakota. It is a long way from a roadside attraction dedicated to corn in southeast South Dakota to the mucilage of a $47 billion corn industrial complex that makes maize barely …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The Corn Palace And Popular Culture

Although the Corn Palace began its long run with geometric designs, it soon took a thematic approach. The most frequent themes have celebrated the frontier, the homestead period, intrepid pioneers, the American West, plains flora and fauna, the coming of the railroad, and Native Americans, but there have also been years dedicated to Egyptian (1911), Dutch (1914) and even Turkish …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Lessons From The World’s Last Surviving Corn Palace

This is the first part of a two-part feature about the intersection of agriculture, business and culture at a place called the Corn Palace in the southeast corner of South Dakota. Plenty of people happen upon the World’s Only Corn Palace while traveling through South Dakota, perhaps on their way to Badlands National Park or Mount Rushmore. Or the annual Sturgis megamotorcycle rally. Not so many …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — King Charles III And The Long Shadow Of A Name

Queen Elizabeth’s death Sept. 8 hit me harder than I expected. As an American small “r” republican, I usually find America’s obsession with the British royals perplexing. But Elizabeth was much more than a monarch. She was the embodiment of Britain’s unique place in the world through a tumultuous century. The queen’s death after the longest reign in British history, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Americans’ Diminishing Trust In Their Institutions

The last half century has been a period of great disillusionment. In the 1950s, the American people overwhelmingly trusted their government, their president, news sources, educational systems and basic American institutions from the Justice Department to the Department of Defense. Today, the American people are largely disaffected and cynical about those same institutions. A recent NBC News poll indicated that 74 percent of the American people believe …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The Beauty And Opportunity Of Isolation In Montana

The great American novelist John Steinbeck liked North Dakota well enough when he passed through with his poodle, Charley, in October 1960, but then he crossed the border at Beach, N.D., and Wibaux, Mont. At that juncture, he wrote, “I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — City Council Meetings As Theater

At a Portland (Ore.) City Council meeting a decade ago, a local environmental activist concluded his remarks by dumping a load of garbage he’d collected onto the floor of the council chambers. Whatever the impact this stunt had on council members, it immediately moved Aaron Landsman, an out-of-town artist who was in the audience by chance. It suggested to him a …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Is It Time For A New Constitutional Convention?

The 250th birthday of the United States is coming in four years. Already the great cultural institutions of America (National Endowment for the Humanities, Library of Congress, Smithsonian, prestigious universities) are thinking about the appropriate way to celebrate this important anniversary. We can expect fireworks, parades, festivals, orations — and protests, criticism, demands for a full-on national recognition of all …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — A European’s Perspective On Gun Violence In America

This is another in an occasional series we are calling The de Tocqueville Interviews.* This summer, America’s unique, exasperating gun culture has taken center stage. On May 24, the Uvalde school shooting horrified the nation. Within a month, President Biden signed into law (above) the most substantial piece of gun safety legislation passed in the U.S. in decades. Yet on June 23, the U.S. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The History Behind The Separation Of Church And State In America

The overturning of Roe v. Wade and the striking down of a longstanding New York City gun law have received most of the attention at the close of this year’s U.S. Supreme Court, but many court watchers are equally focused on recent decisions about the separation of church and state in America. On June 27, 2022, in the case Kennedy v. Bremerton School …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Where Does The Lewis And Clark Trail Begin?

The late Stephen Ambrose liked to begin his lectures on the Lewis and Clark Expedition by saying that the men (and one woman) of the Corps of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery traveled “from sea to shining sea.” And yet typically, accounts of the journey begin with Lewis and Clark leaving St. Charles, Mo., on May 14, 1804, with three heavily laden boats, a couple of horses, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The Stubborn Catch-22 Of The U.S. Immigration Puzzle

The surge in migrants attempting to illegally cross into the U.S. along its southern border reached an all-time high in May. The 239,416 reported arrests surpassed the previous record, set just two months earlier, by almost 20,000 people. This chaos at the border isn’t going away, says Alex Nowrasteh, director of economic and social policy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Why Does America Have Primaries?

It’s Primary season in America, with all the chaos, expense and bombast that phenomenon has come to represent in our national political life. The major media now give more attention to off-year primary elections in half a dozen battleground states than they gave to the quadrennial general national election a generation ago. As if they were interpreting the tarot or …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Teddy Roosevelt And The Surprising Roots Of The National Governors Association

We take annual conferences of the National Governors Association for granted, but nobody had ever thought of bringing America’s governors together until Theodore Roosevelt galloped onto the national stage in 1901, ascending to the presidency after the assassination of William McKinley in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sept. 14 of that year. It’s not hard to imagine Roosevelt, a strong Hamiltonian nationalist who essentially invented the modern presidency, calling the …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Watergate: A Fresh Look At The Most Influential Political Event Of The Past Half Century

Growing up in the 1980s in a family of journalists, Garrett Graff’s sense of Watergate was shaped by the on-screen exploits of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in “All the President’s Men,” in which they portray Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, respectively. But when the recent impeachment of Donald Trump prompted him to take a fresh look back at the Nixon administration, Graff stumbled …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Do Economic Sanctions Work? A Brief History

In 2014, Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Crimea, a peninsula of southern Ukraine that juts into the Black Sea. The West grumbled and imposed economic sanctions, expelled Russia from the Group of Seven (G7) political and economic forum but chose not to go to war against Russia. Although the sanctions hurt the Russian economy, and no doubt impaired the lives of the 144 …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — ‘Sivilizing’ Mark Twain: One Scholar’s Effort To Make Huck Finn Safe For School Again

“All modern American literature,” Ernest Hemingway once proclaimed, “comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’” Despite such accolades, this masterwork from Twain — the pen name used by Samuel Clemens — has been slowly disappearing from American classrooms, a development primarily driven by the novel’s repeated use — 219 times in all — of that uniquely offensive term that …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Dangerous Trends On The U.S. Supreme Court

This is second in a series in a historical look at the U.S. Supreme Court to coincide with nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation process, which continues this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Three dangerous trends appear to be jeopardizing the independence and credibility of the third branch of the federal government. Court decisions are increasingly falling out along what appear to be purely partisan lines. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Myths Of The U.S. Supreme Court

This is the first in an occasional Governing series on the Supreme Court in preparation for nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation process, which enters its next phase on March 21 when she appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee to publicly make her case for why she should win approval to sit on the nation’s highest court. The Supreme Court has been more than usually visible in …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The Dammed Rivers That Shaped America’s West

The evolution of the sprawling cities of the American West is inextricably bound to America’s 20th-century fascination with dam-building. But that decades-long story, rife with dammed and diverted rivers as well as political intrigue, is being reshaped by climate change, drought and overuse into a tale of ecologic and economic misadventure. Despite the problematic history of the big dam projects, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — The Early Republic Was Stress Tested For Times Like Ours

America’s consciousness is indelibly shaped by the competing legacies of three distinct personalities: a fast-talking New Yorker, a quintessential Yankee and a Virginia squire. In his book, “Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding,” historian Darren Staloff explores the social, intellectual and personal dynamics that shaped these men and helped define the nation. Staloff teaches courses …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Unanswered Questions And Challenges Of Jan. 6, 2021, Remain

More than a year after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, there are still uncertainties and perplexities about just what happened and what might have happened. The House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, Attack on the U.S. Capitol intends to issue its report to the nation sometime later in 2022. Thanks to the …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — AG Jason Miyares: A New Sheriff In Virginia

As a 6-year-old, Jason Miyares helped his mother to learn the Pledge of Allegiance for her upcoming naturalization ceremony, an event that deeply affected both of their lives. More than a half-century later, on Jan. 15 of this year, he became the first Hispanic American to hold statewide office in the commonwealth of Virginia when he was sworn in as attorney general. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Greener Acres: A Journey From San Francisco To Iowa

Three years ago, Beth Hoffman left her career as a college professor and journalist in San Francisco for the life of farming. She and her husband, John Hogeland, headed to Iowa with $19,000 of savings and a vague and ambiguous plan to take over as the fifth generation on his family’s 530-acre farm. The simple life, however, turned out to be not …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Can Political Parties Reform Themselves To Guide The Country Forward?

Party politics have always been controversial, but they have evolved into an unattractive piece of American democracy in recent decades. They have helped fuel fires of polarization and choked down legislative efforts at all levels of government. As a result, political parties themselves are under assault. Conservative journalist and historian Jay Cost, however, believes these efforts are misguided. He argues …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Tussling With An Urban Tumbleweed Invasion

In the past three weeks, North Dakota has been invaded by millions of tumbleweeds. I do not exaggerate. I live well within the capital city of Bismarck, in a peaceful and thoroughly manicured subdivision. We’ve had a prolonged drought and unusually high winds this fall, in a land that is semi-arid in a good year, and the wind routinely blows more …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Reflections On A Year Of Reading About Race In America

Since I woke up a little after the killing of George Floyd on May 20, 2020, I have done a good deal of what I regard as required reading about race in America. I started with Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” Then I read Carol Anderson’s “White Rage: The Unspoken …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Can The White American Church Find Its Way from Its Segregationist Past To A Diverse Future?

America’s racial reckoning — seen in protests in the streets and at school board meetings and even shaping this past Tuesday’s election results — comes as the nation continues to shift rapidly. The latest data — from the U.S. Census and the Pew Research Center, respectively — shows 40 percent of Americans now identify with a race other than white …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Future In Context — Muhammad Ali: Reviewing The Life Of An Extraordinary American

A lexicographer once said, “a dictionary is the history of a people from a certain point of view.” Ken and Sarah Burns’ latest documentary film, “Muhammad Ali: Bigger than Boxing, Larger than Life,” is the history of the 1960s and ’70s in America through the life and career of one of the most colorful, entertaining, talented, provocative and compelling individuals. At the …

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, …

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 …