Reader Steve sent me a link to a Heather Cox Richardson post along with a comment:
You may know that Heather Cox Richardson is the top Substacker in terms of number of subscribers and amount of earnings. I think her opening paragraphs here are the perfect summary of how the USA got to this point in its history.
If a future historian writes about this time, like Gibbons did about the Roman Empire, he or she could use the Reagan presidency as the start of the decline and fall of the USA.
In fact, I hadn’t heard of Heather Cox Richardson (mea culpa), but found out that she is a Professor of History at Boston College, author of six books on history and politics, and is indeed the most widely read author on Substack. Below is the piece I was directed to, which you can read by clicking on it (but subscribe if you read regularly):
I’ll let you read the first three paragraphs for yourself; they recount how Reaganism led to the concentration of wealth among Americans, and, even though Democrats kept getting elected, Republicans started to delegitimize elections, culiminating in the January 6 insurrection. Perhaps she’s right about Reagan, but perhaps she’s not.
I was more interested in this, though:
Today, Maggie Haberman reported in the New York Times that on January 5, Marc Short, then–vice president Mike Pence’s chief of staff, told Pence’s lead Secret Service agent that Trump was about to turn against Pence publicly and that the vice president could be in danger. Clearly, members of the administration anticipated violence on January 6 and, astonishingly, expected it because of the actions of the U.S. president.
Click to read the NYT story. It’s worrisome, but I don’t see any serious evidence that Pence was ever in physical danger—at least from Trump. As hotheaded as Trump is, I can’t believe he’d think he’d survive in politics after masterminding an attack on his own Vice President:
Back to Richardson’s piece, though. It’s about economics, about which I know little and am not inspired to learn more. It’s also a news summary and I don’t see a lot of original thought. But remember, this is the first piece I’ve ever read by her, so the rest may be better. As for this one, I wasn’t inspired by snippets like this:
On Tuesday, Biden published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal touting his economic successes and explaining how he plans to transition from the red hot economy of the past year to stable, steady growth. He promised to work with anyone “willing to have an open and honest discussion that delivers real solutions for the American people.”
Will any Republicans take him up on it? Something else Biden wrote makes me doubt it: “I ran for president because I was tired of the so-called trickle-down economy. We now have a chance to build on a historic recovery with an economy that works for working families.”
Or this, which I already knew because a. it’s three days old (the column is June 3), and because it was reported in all the major media. Likewise with her last paragraph:
And on Wednesday, as the horrific murders of schoolchildren and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, have been followed by several more mass killings, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson claimed that Democratic efforts to promote gun safety are not about public health. Instead, he said, Democrats want to disarm the people because they’re afraid of a popular uprising against them because “they know they rule illegitimately.”
Well, yes, I’d heard that, too. In truth, this piece looks more like a news summary than a thoughtful analysis of the news. I read another of her columns, which was more of the same, but with perhaps a bit more analysis. Still, I read Substack alongside the regular media (which also has op-eds) to garner long-form analysis and original thought, and I haven’t seen a lot of it in the three pieces I read. Still, perhaps people want a thoughtful yet short-form summary of the important news, which might explain Richardson’s popularity. One of her advantages, too, is that she can explain current events in light of history, as she did in a third column. Still, I find other Substackers more intellectually challenging.
To each their own.