Thursday, 9 January 2014

APG Conference

I have returned from an excellent conference held in Oxford. The American Politics Group has its annual conference early in January each year. Last year we met in Leicester; and in 2012 in Manchester. (Previous posts here, here, and here.)

This year's conference theme was " The 50th Anniversary of Lyndon B Johnson's 'Great Society'". Professor Richard Blackett got the conference to a great start on Sunday with a lecture on "The Long Struggle". It give a fascinating insight to the 19th Century struggles for racial equality.

Many papers dealt with LBJ, but there were also papers on other areas of American politics and political history. I gave a paper on the 1974 Election at which the Democrats made sizeable gains in the wake of the Watergate Affair. While I dealt with the short term context and the details of the results - I also looked at how the policies of LBJ had set in train events which has had an effect on the election 10 years later.

There was a host of excellent papers. The trouble with conference like that, is that there is so much that it is impossible to get to hear all the papers and the following discussion. Hence I was at another session when Ursula Hackett delivered her paper, which won the Neustadt Postgraduate Paper Prize. I have subsequently read the paper - and it provides an excellent analysis of the different meanings which have been attached to LBJ's phrase.

There were for me many highlights. As a law lecturer I enjoyed the panel on law issues - which ranged from a discussion of the approach taken by Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in the recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act in US v Windsor (Helen Knowles); though the thwarted Bork nomination to the Supreme Court (Joe Ryan-Hume, who is doing a Ph.D. at Glasgow University and who will soon be taking up a Library of Congress research fellowship)) and the idea of the "lost constitution" in the philosophy of the Tea Party in the USA and Britain's UKIP (Jamie Fletcher).

Kevin Baron presented a very good paper on Presidential vetoes - which has prompted me to think about the issue for my own research. Patrick Andelic also gave a paper on the Watergate Babies - and I look forward to attending the conference at the Rothermere American Institute which he is organising about Watergate. Tom Packer gave a fascinating presentation about Jesse Helms and his response to the Great Society measures.

...and there was so much more! A great way to start the year!!!!