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Oct 24, 2023

“A Fever in the Heartland” vividly explains many things about our past. It makes our present feel like a predictable continuum of the same awfulness. The book’s subtitle, “The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and The Woman Who Stopped Them,” gives context to the story for those who haven’t read it yet. 

Acclaimed author, Timothy Egan, writes the true story of the rise and fall of both the hate group and its Indiana-based leader, D.C. Stephenson. Through Egan’s meticulous research and expert storytelling, the reader will see 1920s Hoosier life and the “fever” that engulfed it with clarity. 

Today’s U.S. House is also sick. The unprecedented challenge of electing a new Speaker to preside over an unruly Republican caucus, is the result of that sickness, not the cause. The cause is that the bulk of the caucus is there for the wrong reasons. They aren’t there to govern, to solve problems or to serve their districts. 

Being there is all they really want. Being there gives each of them an individual platform. Being there creates personal opportunities for fortune and fame. 

The historic and disgraceful performance by this bunch since earning the majority at the beginning of the year, isn’t costing them a thing in their chosen currency. Quite the opposite. It’s creating space for them to promote their grievance of the day, with their target audiences lapping it up, seemingly ignorant of the consequences of the ongoing disorder in our government. 

The Klan’s rise in Indiana following World War I wasn’t merely a cultural spell the state fell under. By the end of 1924, an estimated 85% of government in the state was controlled by the “Kluxers,” including incoming Governor Edward Jackson. It was a rapid ascension to power and politicians feared crossing them. So, few did in public. 

This week in the Capitol, right-wing firebrand, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was the latest Speaker nominee. He was Donald Trump’s pick. 25 members of his party voted against him on the floor the final time. After that last public vote, the caucus took a private vote, where 112 voted no. That’s fear. The same kind of fear politicians felt a century ago. 


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