Lawrence Goodwyn: The Great Predicament Facing Obama





What happened to the dream of Barack Obama's transformational politics? There's been very little deviation from the disastrous Bush years on the key issues of war, empire and the distribution of wealth in the country.

I turned to Lawrence Goodwyn, historian of social movements whose books and methods of explaining history have had a profound influence on many of the best known authors, activists and social theorists of our time. Goodwyn's account of the Populist movement, Democratic Promise, is quoted extensively by Howard Zinn in People's History of the United States, and also in William Greider's masterpiece on the Federal Reserve, Secrets of the Temple. You can find Goodwyn quoted in the first paragraph of Bill Moyers' recent book, On Democracy, and cited in just the same way in countless other books and essays.

I interviewed Goodwyn from his home in Durham, North Carolina about the pitfalls of recording American history, Obama's presidency in light of previous presidents, and portents of change in our political culture.

Jan Frel: It seems there's quite a bit of disagreement about what kind of president we have on our hands.

Lawrence Goodwyn: Well, Jan, we are in the midst of the shakedown cruise of an historic presidency. If I may risk understatement, it has taken quite a while for Barack Obama and his diverse constituencies to begin to understand one another. I believe both still have some distance to travel. Early on, things were pretty wild, but many people have learned many things and a measure of calm can finally be seen around the edges of the national anxiety that engulfs us all....


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list