Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: History

3 Ways to Think About the American Revolution

This Fourth of July, I noticed that some Americans are taking an interest in challenging the popular narratives surrounding the American Revolution. Over at Jacobin, William Hogeland has a go at the revolution, while Jeff Stein defends it at Vox. I find both views too strong for my taste–as I see it, the revolution has three core faces to it. We tend to only focus on one of these aspects at any given moment, but to truly understand the revolution as a historical event we need all three.

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How Similar are Trump and Caesar?

Many of President Trump’s supporters are aggrieved about a New York production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which features a Caesar that looks rather Trump-like. This has produced some discussion of how far this comparison should really go, and whether having a Trump-like Caesar encourages political violence. Much of the arguments surrounding this are a bit muddled because many folks only have a surface-level understanding of Caesar’s historical role. So let’s unpack it.

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How to Think About the Michael Flynn Scandal

A few people have asked my opinion on the Michael Flynn scandal. As I understand it, anonymous sources from within the intelligence community have leaked to the press that Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Adviser, was in contact with the Russian government prior to Trump’s inauguration and lied about his connections. Further leaks claim that Trump knew about this, and that other members of his team were also in contact with Russia. Flynn has resigned. If there was contact, this contact would be illegal under the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from conducting US foreign policy. Violators of the Logan Act can go to prison for three years. Many Democrats want to use the Logan Act to go after the Trump administration, while the Trump administration prefers to emphasize the illegality of the leaks:

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No One Should Want Trump to Be Like Andrew Jackson

Today I read that President Trump has hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the oval office. One of Trump’s spokespeople heaped praise on Jackson, calling him:

an amazing figure in American history — very unique so many ways

Jackson was indeed unique–uniquely terrible. Many on the left dislike Jackson because of his mistreatment of Native Americans, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Jackson was objectively and provably a disastrous president for all Americans, native or otherwise. I continue to see Trump get compared to Jackson, but none of these comparisons capture just how bad Jackson was for the country. The 1830s were so long ago that few now remember just how absurdly terrible they were. Let me tell you all about it.

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Cuba Under Fidel Castro

When an important leader dies or leaves office, I sometimes like to write retrospective posts on their performance. There are any number of places where you can get a Fidel Castro obituary–what I’m offering is a hard look at the consequences Castro’s policies had for the Cuban people. My intent is neither to polish nor tarnish Castro’s image, but to present his government’s policies and institutions as they were.

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