I really went gangbusters on my reading this weekend. The problem with focusing solely on twentieth-century history this semester is that the connections to the present are so easy to make; it gets a little distracting. Case in point, I read Paul K. Conkin's The New Deal. About 75% of the book is devoted to the various reasons why FDR's personality and style more or less made the New Deal a wash. It's a pretty scathing critique; to be fair, it was written in the mid-sixties as things were just about to hit the fan. The breadth of the things that FDR was able to do, not because he was informed but because he was persuasive, is disturbing. From Conkin's perspective, FDR achieved power in 1932, "the form was more important than the substance."
Within an hour of reading such a statement, I came across this little gem by Caroline Kennedy, an op-ed piece in the Times called "A President Like My Father." It's a sentimental endorsement of Barack Obama framed in a comparison to the idealism of JFK. Now I'm not a scholar of FDR, JFK or politics in general. But man, I read the Conkin book and it confirmed to me what I've been thinking for months now-- somebody who gives you goosebumps when they're giving a speech is suspect. Goosebumps do not, for me, justify a vote, yet the Democratic candidate's stands are so reasonably similar that this whole race is coming down to personality (not to mention tone, approach and demographics... I'm totes oversimplifying here).
Super Tuesday is a week away and I have yet to decide which route to take. I feel horribly conflicted and feel like, amidst the cacophony of calls for change, I am expected to choose between an experienced, polarizing dynastacist or an inexperienced skilled orator or the magnificent populist who has yet to win a state. And this is my opportunity to make my vote count-- Utah is so decidedly red. Ugh. Like I even have the time to be agonizing over this.