Episode 21: Kathryn Cramer Brownell on the History of Hollywood in American Politics

Subscribe to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

The 2016 Presidential Election is in full swing, and The Road to Now has been working hard to place this election cycle within its historical context. We were therefore thrilled when Dr. Kathryn Cramer Brownell agreed to speak with us about her research on the history of Hollywood’s influence on American politics!

                             Dr. Kathryn Cramer Brownell

                             Dr. Kathryn Cramer Brownell

Kathryn, an Assistant Professor of History at Purdue University, takes us back to the 1960s, when American politicians and media advisors came to see the adoption of Hollywood’s style of engaging the public as key to running a successful campaign. She traces the ways that the media changed the power structures within political parties, allowing individuals to bypass the party establishment by appealing directly to the public. We also discuss the winners and losers in this process, and the ways that this lens allows us to better understand Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the 2016 election. Along the way, Kathryn blows the doors off some of the major assumptions we have about the past and present of Presidential elections. You know that story about the 1960 televised debate being a key reason for Nixon’s loss? Kathryn discovered that it was created by Nixon and his advisors six years after the debate was over. (This blew our minds!).

Recorded September 20, 2016 w/ Ben Sawyer in Nashville and Dr. Brownell in West Lafayette, IN.

Links:
-Kathryn Cramer Brownell's website
-Kathryn Cramer Brownell, Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life (UNC Press, 2014)
-Kathryn Cramer Brownell, "Actors May Make Good Presidents, Reality Stars are Something Else," Reuters, April 26, 2016
-Kathryn Cramer Brownell on twitter