FDL Book Salon Welcomes Heather Cox Richardson, To Make Men Free: A History of The Republican Party
Heather Cox Richardson has a gift for seeing the connections in American history—for synthesizing a picture that makes sense out of a broad range of elements. She integrates larger economic and cultural developments with the experience of men and women at all levels of society, as well as the decisions and conflicts of policymakers and power brokers. She demonstrated her powers as a writer and historian brilliantly in her books West from Appomattox and Wounded Knee, and does so again in her brilliant To Make Men Free.
In a brisk and convincing narrative, she takes us from the founding of the Republican Party through its historical evolution into the GOP we know today. She explains how the party of Lincoln, a party initially filled with crusaders against slavery and who favored an active government that would help the poor and downtrodden became the party of wealthy interests and corporate power, hostile to government intervention in the economy to aid the disadvantaged. To Make Men Free unfolds this history through vivid accounts of key figures and critical moments, but with the scholarly analysis and integrity we would expect of one of a highly regarded academic historian. Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Hanna, Theodore Roosevelt, not to mention Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, struggle over the soul of the party, against a backdrop of broader changes in politics and society. It is a fascinating account that makes historical sense of the politics of the moment.
My first question:
My friend Ethan Watters advises writers to tell readers what they don’t know about what they do know. What do you think will surprise most readers in your account of the history of the Republican Party? What did you find that surprised you?