Welcome to History As It Happens, a podcast about current events in historical perspective.
We all seek a usable past to help us make sense of our bewildering and tumultuous times. And as journalists, we face the obligation of reporting history as it is happening, often referred to as the first draft of history, documented without the luxury of time and space afforded to historians later.
These are the central ideas behind History As It Happens.
The recent past, in America and the world, seems to weigh heavily on the present, but it may also shine a fresh light on our current dilemmas, helping us answer questions or solve problems that have long vexed American society, as well as to better understand our differences.
Our aim is to appeal to people of all political persuasions, people who think seriously about the news and ideas. We hope our listeners may reconsider current and past events in new, even surprising, ways.
Events just in the first weeks of 2021 showed how we continue to live with our past. As rioters carrying Confederate flags stormed the U.S. Capitol attempting to thwart Congress from certifying the election on January 6, I could not help but reflect on the legacy of the Civil War, the challenge to federal authority, and the realization that some wounds never heal. Wars do not end; they migrate to our minds.
We are launching History As It Happens as Joseph R. Biden becomes the forty-sixth president of the United States. He assumes power during what will be remembered as a historic time, attempting to lead a bitterly divided nation rent by hyper-partisanship and alternate online realities.
The immediate problems facing his new administration are enormous: a deadly pandemic that has ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans while tormenting the emotional lives of millions more, and a staggering economy.
Biden also inherits older, broader problems, such as massive budget deficits, income inequality, political polarization, racial strife, demands for political and social reforms, and climate change.
Given the stakes, it is absolutely necessary that we report what is happening today as well as why the recent past, as it illuminates the present, matters. As the late historian Theodore Draper put it, quoted by the brilliant Princeton scholar Sean Wilentz in his 2008 book about recent American history, The Age of Reagan, “I have written for the reader who was no longer interested in the daily or even weekly ration of news; this reader wanted to understand it in some organized form and in some historical perspective.”
Thus, if you follow current events but find the social media-fueled fire hose of information distracting, or even exhausting, History As It Happens is designed to offer its listeners news analysis with perspective.
We welcome you to History As It Happens, a podcast from the Washington Times, hosted by award-winning broadcast journalist Martin Di Caro.