Michael Brenes is a historian and Senior Archivist for American Diplomacy at Yale. When I first met him years ago, we were both working on degrees in American history at the CUNY Graduate Center, and discovered similar interests: twentieth century U.S. politics, the Cold War, the military-industrial complex, Vietnam—and, perhaps most importantly, a desire to understand how these historical phenomenon connect with our current crisis. In this conversation, Michael tells me how he landed at CUNY, his work exploring the political economy of the American military, and what his upcoming biography of Hubert Humphrey will tell us about a critical moment in the history of left/liberal politics.
Yasmin Nair is a writer and activist based in Chicago, known as much for her dynamic political and cultural writing as for her contentious social media adventures. In this conversation we spend a good amount of time talking about her amazing piece in Evergreen Review, a manifesto for an apocalyptic moment that combines analysis of neoliberalism with ideas about gentrification, queer culture, dystopian science fiction, and so much more.
Justin Rogers-Cooper and I have often talked about combining our scholarly interests into an academic mega-project, exploring the connections between 1877 and 1977, an era that witnessed spectacular clashes between labor and capital and the development of a “citizen-soldier” politics that threatened the state’s hegemonic grip on the imperial narrative. In this episode, we brainstorm some ideas about the project and try to nail down why this 100-year period is so critical to understanding our present historical moment.
Douglas Williams is a fierce political writer and grassroots organizer whose work can be found at TheSouthLawn.org. In this conversation, he tells me about the influence of his father’s union work on his political development, and how the letdown of the Obama years led him, like many others, to the radical left.
Peter Sabatino, the Nostalgia Trap’s producer and sound wizard, joins me to unpack the recent revelations about Louis CK’s abusive behavior. Our conversation attempts to put this stuff in context, discussing both Louis’ disturbing comedic output and the wider problem of predatory men protected by their social, political, and cultural power.
Nelson Lichtenstein is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also serves as the director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. He joins me to talk about his time at Berkeley during the radical uprisings of the 1960s, his development as a labor historian, and the state of American politics.
Christian Appy’s work on the history of the Vietnam War has had an enormous influence on the direction of my own research and writing on the war. In this conversation, Appy joins me to talk about the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, which aired on PBS in October. We analyze the Burns aesthetic and discuss how the film avoids confronting the war’s most troubling questions.