White House History Conference Spell Warnings From The Past

August 10, 2022

In this historical flux period right now with American democracy on the line, past situations do make impressions on our current predicament as this country faces a scary, frantic seemingly push-surge to politics of right-wing tomfoolery and violence. If the midterms fail, we’re possibly following history down the freedom drain.
We might be on the brink of another 1860 or maybe a 1940 — periods of possible notions in a swing in Constitutional government.

The past always comes back to bite the ass — US presidents with the exception of the T-Rump have been prepared:

Joe Biden the latest to have history explained — from The Washington Post this evening:

President Biden paused last week, during one of the busiest stretches of his presidency, for a nearly two-hour private history lesson from a group of academics who raised alarms about the dire condition of democracy at home and abroad.

The conversation during a ferocious lightning storm on Aug. 4 unfolded as a sort of Socratic dialogue between the commander in chief and a select group of scholars, who painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history for democratic governance, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.

Comparisons were made to the years before the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln warned that a “house divided against itself cannot stand” and the lead-up to the 1940 election, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt battled rising domestic sympathy for European fascism and resistance to the United States joining World War II.

The historians Biden has invited to the White House generally take a longer view, placing his presidency in the context of America’s path since its founding. Biden — who is 78 and has seen nine presidents up close, starting with Richard M. Nixon — has signaled that he has thought about what makes some presidencies more successful than others.

The group that gathered in the White House Map Room last week was part of a regular effort by presidential historians to brief presidents, a practice that dates at least as far back as the Reagan administration. Obama convened such groups multiple times, though the sessions fell out of favor under Trump.

Following a similar meeting with Biden last spring, the Aug. 4 gathering was distinguished by its relatively small size and the focus of the participants on the rise of totalitarianism around the world and the threat to democracy at home. They included Biden’s occasional speechwriter Jon Meacham, journalist Anne Applebaum, Princeton professor Sean Wilentz, University of Virginia historian Allida Black and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. White House senior adviser Anita Dunn and head speechwriter Vinay Reddy also sat at the table.

Most of the experts in attendance have been outspoken in recent months about the threat they see to the American democratic project, after the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, the continued denial by some Republicans of the 2020 election results and the efforts of election deniers to seek state office.

History does repeat itself with a little push from criminal-minded assholes.

Despite it all, once again here we are…

(Illustration out front: ‘Tower of Babel,’ 1928 woodcut by MC Escher, and found here.)

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