PPFA Does CRT, Part I: What IS Critical Race Theory?

I’m an amateur writer, a mediocre historian, a bothersome pundit, a lousy podcaster, and a tenured, periodically effective high school history teacher who works neither in Florida nor Texas. Does anyone else like this exist?

If not, there might not be anyone who’s as barely qualified, considerably eager, and hopefully free to tackle the reputationally dangerous topic of Critical Race Theory.

Buckle up.

Continue reading “PPFA Does CRT, Part I: What IS Critical Race Theory?”

How Our Parties Switched: Part VII (Conclusion)

Against all odds, you’re back. Despite the last six parts of this series, you’re here for the seventh. I’m humbled. As your reward, today I really will tell you How Our Parties Switched.

For those that arrived here as a result of a googling accident, let’s recap my last two posts. Parts I through III focused on the words “liberal” and “conservative,” including how parties congeal around each of these ideologies, a pattern in our country that goes back to the 13 American colonies. Parts IV through VI then walked you through the evolution of our two-party system, from the federalists and antifederalists arguing about the Constitution, to the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans splitting on their interpretations of that Constitution, to the Federalist collapse, to the Democratic-Republican fracture, to the quick rise and fall of the Whigs, and finally to the founding of the Democratic and Republican parties, our two major parties since the 1850s.

I also noted how historians organize this party evolution. We’ve covered a few “party systems,” which so far have reflected the different stages of American partisanship:

  1. The First Party System (1792-1824) reflected the fight between our first two official parties, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, culminating in the former’s collapse and the latter’s hegemony over American politics.
  2. The Second Party System (1828-1852) is organized around the next battle, triggered by Andrew Jackson’s divisive leadership fragmenting the Democratic-Republicans. His followers became the successors of the Democratic-Republicans and called themselves the Democratic Party, which exists to this day. Their anti-Jackson opponents formed the short-lived Whig Party.
  3. Next, the Third Party System (1856-1892) is the first stage during which we have our modern two parties. The Democrats continued, but the Whigs, as a result of their softness on slavery, were replaced by the abolitionist Republicans.

An important element of these evolutions was that the regions of the country, despite the partisan transformations outlined above, retained remarkably consistent ideologies. Although I determined it was in appropriate to call any of our major parties purely “liberal” or “conservative,” I did try to isolate a pattern that we could use:

The last few paragraphs of Part VI arrived at the early twentieth century, when Democrat William Jennings Bryan, in the presidential election of 1908, lost to Republican William Howard Taft. In that election, the Democrats still swept the “Solid South,” while Republican popularity remained up north.

However, despite the parties’ continuity from the late nineteenth to twentieth century, I noted that the “winds of change” had already begun blowing across the American political landscape.

So, dear and dedicated readers, we are finally read for…

Part VII: How Our Parties Switched

Continue reading “How Our Parties Switched: Part VII (Conclusion)”

How Our Parties Switched, Parts IV-VI

Parts I through III of “How Our Parties Switched” was all about context. I unpacked the historical meanings of “liberal” and “conservative.” We took a look at the political tendencies of the British-American colonists up through the American Revolution and Articles of Confederation period, each a victory for liberals who wanted to change traditional systems of government by giving power to individual states, with voters having power over those states.

I left off with the drafting of the Constitution in 1787, which attempted a conservative course-correction by re-centralizing authority into a federal government while limiting the people’s power over that government. However, not all Americans trusted this turn toward the right, so a debate emerged across the 13 states: to ratify or not to ratify?

It is in this debate where we see the emergence of two political factions that become the progenitors of our two major parties. It’s best to first familiarize ourselves with these two factions if we want to understand How Our Parties Switched.

Continue reading “How Our Parties Switched, Parts IV-VI”

How Our Parties Switched, Parts I-III

(It’s a long one today. Perhaps you’re prefer podcast form? Available at Apple and Spotify)

I’d like to describe you the geographic base and general ideology of an American political party, and see if you can guess which one I’m talking about. This party is stronger in the north than in the south. It’s more popular in urban areas than rural ones, and it’s more popular on the coasts than it is in the heart of America. The party stands for a centralized government with national policies. On civil rights and other social issues, this party is seen as the more liberal, or progressive, of the two major parties. This party has also historically advocated for an income tax to help redistribute money to help pay for government initiatives.

Which American political party did I just describe?

You actually don’t have enough information to answer. You must first ask a follow-up question.


Now I’ll describe another party. This party is more popular in the south than it is in the north. It is more popular in rural areas than urban ones, and it’s more popular inland than on the coast. The party advocates for states’ rights and therefore resists nationalized policies, including high income taxes that fund an overly powerful and expensive federal government. It resists the government legislating on who businesses hire, who universities accept, and what the Supreme Court can tell states to do. On cultural and social issues, this party is conservative, favoring traditional value systems over new ones.

What party did I describe this time?

Again, to answer the question, you first must know the answer to that follow-up question. When in American history did this party exist?

The party I first described sounds a lot like the modern Democratic Party. However, it also sounds like the Republican Party from the mid-nineteenth century into the early part of the twentieth. That second party I described sounds a lot like the modern GOP, but it also could describe the earlier Democratic Party.

So what’s the deal? Have you ever wondered why and how did the parties switch?

You came to the right place.

Continue reading “How Our Parties Switched, Parts I-III”

New PPFA Podcast Episode: An April Fools Challenge!

Happy Friday, Happy April, and Happy April Fools’ Day!

I just dropped the latest episode of the Presidential Politics for America’s podcast. In it, I dust off an old gimmick and convert it into a podcast episode. I summarize five absurd historical events… but only four of them are true. Your challenge is to pick the one that isn’t.

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Peter the Great, Hitler the Mad, & Putin the Terrible

The most common explanation of Vladimir Putin‘s motivations is that he’s aiming to revive the Soviet Union. True enough, he peeled off some of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2008 and then pieces of Ukraine in 2014 (Crimea) and 2021 (ongoing). He can lay claim to essentially bringing the governments of Belarus and Kazakhstan back into Russia’s sphere of influence. He also is cozy with China, a country which, like the USSR, is a one-party communist nation with labor camps in the heart of Asia.

But I think those are fairly superficial similarities. Putin’s prototypes, it appears to me, are Russian Tsar Peter the Great and German Führer Adolf Hitler.

I know a little about those historical figures. After all, I gave each an entry in my book ranking the 30 most influential figures of Western history. (Peter clocked in at #26, Hitler at #17.)

Between my research on those men and following the events of the last couple months, I can say with some confidence that Putin isn’t nearly as effective as either of those predecessors. And although the ongoing sadness in Ukraine is relentlessly devastating, I don’t think anyone outside of the Ukrainian tragedy has reason to fear that the conflict spills over the nation’s borders. (That is, not unless the West does something ill-advised, like a No Fly Zone.)

To support the above claims, let’s learn from the past and apply it to the present. Here’s my take on these three autocratic leaders, including how they compare and, more importantly, how they contrast.

Part 1: Peter the Great

Continue reading “Peter the Great, Hitler the Mad, & Putin the Terrible”

Abortion, Part II: Abortion and the Law (the “right to privacy” & Roe v. Wade)

Remember, today’s post will be reissued as an episode on PPFA’s new podcast feed, available on Anchor, Spotify, and Apple. Go become a subscriber so you know when the episode drops!

Now that we’ve considered some of the political and philosophical opinions on abortion, let’s examine the legal ones. Today’s post has three phases:

  1. A brief history of abortion law in America, from the colonial era through the 1960s
  2. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which identified a right to privacy under the Constitution
  3. Roe v. Wade (1973), which used a right to privacy as a premise for decriminalizing abortions

Due to the subject matter, I’m going to avoid any jokey writing.

Okay, I’ll have one joke. See if you can find it. (Starting now.)

Continue reading “Abortion, Part II: Abortion and the Law (the “right to privacy” & Roe v. Wade)”

Presidents’ Day Post: The Legacy of George Washington

Hello, PPFA readers. It’s another Presidents’ Day. On past Presidents’ Days, I’ve shared with you my presidential rankings and some presidents’ last words. Today, however, I thought I’d write about the president that inspired the holiday in the first place. Tomorrow, February 22, will mark 290 years since George Washington was born.

Fortunately for my considerably rare free time, I’ve given his importance a great deal of thought already. He was #14 in my book, “Who Made the West: A Ranking of the 30 Most Influential Figures in Western History.” So, I thought for today, I’d share with you what I had to say about his importance. I’ll skip over his biography and just share with you the analysis at the end of the chapter. If you want to read about the life of Washington and the other people who made the list, please buy the book!

Enjoy! And happy Presidents’ Day.

Aside from German-born Albert Einstein, no American will be ranked higher on this list. That’s because no American is as crucial to the nation’s existence.

One of the rare unflattering legacies of George Washington was that he was the intellectual inferior of the other great founding fathers. Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton were authors, inventors, scientists, philosophers, musicians, architects, and fierce intellectuals. When reading early American history, one gets the impression that these were the nerds of the revolution and Washington the jock.

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PPFA Top Five: Valentine’s Day Anniversaries

What are the two most romantic days of the year? One, obviously, is Valentine’s Day. The other, for a pair of lovebirds anyway, is their anniversary.

That got me to thinking… what if we combined the year’s two most romantic days to take a look at some of the great Valentine’s Day anniversaries we could be celebrating today? It was such an awful idea I couldn’t resist.

So without further ado, here are history’s five greatest Valentine’s Day anniversaries…

#5. February 14, 1778: The American flag is recognized at sea for the first time

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