My “bar mitzvah” theory of American history

I was quite relieved to read this NY Times story that Steve Bannon reads solid American history, summarized here. Their historical theory is that American history moves in predictable 80-year cycles of crisis and renewal, from the revolution to the Civil War to World War II to the present Trumpian moment. Totally. (And it just happens to be popular in Leninist and Alt-Right circles).

So this is my chance to share my bar mitzvah theory of American history, a turning point every 12 or 13 years (it can become a “bat mitzvah” theory after the 19th Amendment in 1920, but I’m not sure America is ready for that even today). Trust me, it ends with a progressive president, single payer  health care, and world peace by 2021.

1756-63: the Seven Years War/”French and Indian” War that leads to the Revolution.

1774-75: The Intolerable Acts and Lexington and Concord start the Revolution (1776 is so overrated).

1787: The Constitutional Convention

1800: The Jeffersonian revolution and the first-ish peaceful democratic transition in power in human history

1812-14: The War of 1812

1824: Andrew Jackson wins a plurality of the Electoral College, but Henry Clay helps JQ Adams “steal” the presidency. The beginning of the “Jacksonian revolution”?

1837: The Panic of 1837 destroys the economy, and transforms state banks and state constitutions. See my book.

1846-1850: Mexican American War to the Compromise of 1850, a turning point in slavery politics.

1861: The Civil War

1873: The Colfax massacre and the real end of Reconstruction

1886: Haymarket! May Day! Or for Admin nerds: 1887, Congress creates the ICC. See my article.

1898: The Spanish-American War on the rise of American imperialism 

1912: The election of Woodrow Wilson, ushering in a wave of progressive legislation.

I could keep going, but why not just write a crazy book about it, and see if a crazy presidential advisor will buy it?

Author: Jed Shugerman

Legal historian at Fordham Law School, teaching Torts, Administrative Law, and Constitutional History. JD/PhD in History, Yale. Red Sox and Celtics fan, youth soccer coach. Author of "The People's Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America" (2012) on the rise of judicial elections in America. I filed an amicus brief in the Emoluments litigation against Trump along with a great team of historians. I'm working on "The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians," a history of prosecutors and political ambition (a cause of mass incarceration), and "The Imaginary Unitary Executive," on the myths and history of presidential power in America.

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