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The Road to Now is a series of interviews and conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings pressing questions and exceptional guests to the table to explain how our shared and personal past has shaped the road that brought us to where we are now.

The Road to Now is a series of interviews and conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings pressing questions and exceptional guests to the table to explain how our shared and personal past has shaped the road that brought us to where we are now.
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The Road to Now is a series of interviews and conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings pressing questions and exceptional guests to the table to explain how our shared and personal past has shaped the road that brought us to where we are now.








#117 American Slavery w/ Edward Baptist

Bob and Ben speak with Cornell University's Edward Baptist about slavery’s origins, its evolution, and how enslaved people’s work laid the foundation for modern capitalism. He also shares stories of the people who suffered under- and those who profited from- the inhumane system of American slavery.


#116 What is the Middle Class? w/ Scott Wasserman

Most Americans identify themselves as middle class. But what does that mean? Bob & Ben talk with The Bell Policy Center’s Scott Wasserman to talk about the challenges facing American workers, the difference between “middle class” and “working class,” and the differences between the economy today and that of the 20th century.


#115 The 1970s w/ Jefferson Cowie

The 1970s was a pivotal decade in American history. In a ten-year span, the United States admitted defeat in Vietnam, saw a President resign in shame, and came face to face with many of the atrocities it had committed abroad. American citizens also faced a score of economic problems, including “stagflation,” an energy crisis, and the realization that many of them would end the decade worse off than they had been when it began. In today’s episode we reflect on what happened in the 1970s, and...


#114 Making the Government Talk: US Covert Operations and Freedom of Information w/ Peter Kornbluh

In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with National Security Archives' Senior Analyst Peter Kornbluh about the National Security Archive and how he and others have used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the records of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other formerly classified US operations abroad. Peter explains the impact that these documents have had on modern politics at home and abroad, the difference between his work and that of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange...


#113 War on the Banana Skin

Bob and Ben sit down to talk about the current events and historical questions that have been on their mind lately. They cover the GI bill delays that student veterans are currently facing, the one war that Teddy Roosevelt didn’t win, the tragedy of the 1970s and why Ronald Reagan is the Godfather of punk rock. They also talk about all the times they’ve seen J. Mascis.


#112 The Ottoman Empire and the Rise of the Modern Middle East w/ Eugene Rogan

At the beginning of the 20th century, most of the territory that we call the Middle East- including Syria, Iraq, Israel and Turkey- were part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman alliance w/ Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I provided Britain and France w/ the opportunity to divide the once-great empire into many states based on European imperial ambitions. In this episode Bob and Ben speak w/ Dr. Eugene Rogan to learn more about why the Ottoman Empire was divided, how that process...


#23.2 Felon Disfranchisement and Citizenship in the US w/ Pippa Holloway (w/ update)

On November 6, 2018, the people of Florida voted to amend their state’s constitution to restore voting rights to an estimated one and a half million citizens who had lost this right due to a prior felony conviction. In recognition of this significant restoration of rights, we’re re-airing our interview w/ [Pippa Holloway][1] on the history of felon disfranchisement and citizenship in America (originally aired Oct. 10, 2016) along with an additional interview w/ Pippa recorded Nov. 10, 2018...


#111 Dvořák in America w/ Matt Negrin

What does it mean to be American? This isn't just a question for us in 2018 -- it was an unanswered question for the country in the late 19th century when it came to musical identity. And of all the people to try to answer it, it may have been the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak who came closest, while living in New York City and a small town in Iowa during the 1890s. Bob Crawford and Matt Negrin sit in the Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall where the New World symphony debuted to discuss...


#110 Gerry Adams and the Global Road to Peace

Gerry Adams has dedicated most of his life to finding an end to the conflict that has engulfed Northern Ireland since his youth. As the President of Sinn Féin, he played a crucial role in facilitating the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which brought about an end to a three decade-long period of violence known as “The Troubles.” In doing so, he built connections with civil rights leaders from around the world, including Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela, and learned some valuable lessons about...


RTN Theology #6 The Road to Hope? The Challenges of Faith in Politics

Discussing the relationship between faith and the public sphere has been a part of America’s story since its beginning. Over the past decade, the presence of Christian faith in public policy and politics has been questioned and challenged in new and unique ways. How are citizens, Christian and non-Christian alike, to respond to issues of faith in politics? Join former Obama staffer Michael Wear and Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities at Duke University Farr Curlin for a...


#109 Presidential Impeachment w/ Jeffrey Engel

Bob and Ben speak withSouthern Methodist University's Dr. Jeffrey Engel about the history of Presidential impeachment and how understanding the past can inform the debates surrounding the impeachment of current and future Presidents. Jeff’s new book Impeachment: An American History, which he co-authored w/ Peter Baker, Jon Meacham, and Timothy Naftali is out from Modern Library on October 16, 2018.


#108 From Scunthorpe to Brooklyn w/ The Ruen Brothers

Henry & Rupert Stansall (aka The Ruen Brothers) began their musical careers playing in the Working Men’s clubs of Scunthorpe in Northern England at a time in life when most of us were only beginning to discover music. In the almost two decades since, their road has led them to London, Los Angeles, and finally to Brooklyn, NY, where they currently reside. In between, the duo now known as The Ruen Brothers has covered thousands of miles, playing for tens of thousands of people. Along the way,...


#107 Laughing at Stalin: The Politics of Humor w/ Jon Waterlow

Bob and Ben speak with Jon Waterlow about his new book It’s Only a Joke Comrade! Humor, Trust and Everyday Life Under Stalin and the role humor plays in helping humans make sense of the world in even the darkest times. Jon also shares his take on humor’s role in politics under Stalin and today, the process he went through to uncover these jokes, and how the artistic technique of crosshatching helps us understand what it was like to live under the Stalinist system. He also discusses his...


#106 Why You Should Vote w/ Andy Bernstein

National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, September 25th, and Bob and Ben are doing their part to get the word out. In this episode we speak with HeadCount Executive Director Andy Bernstein to talk about the work HeadCount has been doing to get people registered to vote, the importance of staying on top of local and national politics, and why your vote counts. Since 2004, HeadCount has registered more than half a million voters by working with bands (including The Avett Brothers) to use...


RTN Theology #5 Jeremy Begbie on Theology Of And Through the Arts

This week Bob and Pastor Chris Breslin of Oak Church in Durham, NC sit down with Duke University, Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Professor of Theology Jeremy Begbie for a discussion about how we can see God’s presence in our own creative expression. Begbie uses music to try and explain hard to grasp theological concepts like the trinity, as described in his 2018 Eerdmans release, Redeeming Transcendence in the Arts.


#105 Charlie Cook on the 2018 Midterm Elections

This week we take a deep dive into the upcoming Midterm Elections with Editor and Publisher of The Cook Political Report, and NBC News political analyst, Charlie Cook. Since 1984 Charlie has been the preeminent election forecaster for politicians, pundits, and political junkies alike. This week Charlie joins Bob for a one on one interview and helps to bring a historical perspective to the current state of both major political parties.


#104 Bill Plante & Olivier Knox on Journalism and Politics (live at Glover Park Group)

Veteran journalists Bill Plante & Olivier Knox join Bob & Ben for a conversation about the press and how journalism has changed in recent years. Bill Plante covered politics for CBS News from 1964 until 2016, and had a front row seat to some of the most significant events in the last half century, including the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Olivier Knox is the President of the White House Correspondents Association and the Chief Washington Correspondent for SiriusXM, and has...


#103 How the American Dream Became Temporary w/ Louis Hyman

“Make American Great Again” is not a precise slogan, but it did capture the sense of anxiety many Americans feel about work in the 21st century. The “gig economy,” in which more and more American workers rely on multiple jobs, is certainly different from the job market just three generations ago, when employers offered the stability of life-long employment and the promise of a pension-funded retirement. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Cornell University’s Louis Hyman about the...


#102 Stand Up Comedy and Los Angeles w/ Pat Reilly

Ben talks with Sociologist Pat Reilly, whose research examines the organization and economics of stand up comedy in Los Angeles. Pat explains what makes stand up a unique form of entertainment, the ways stand up has changed since it began, and how comics deal with issues such as joke theft. Ben and Pat also talk about their own experiences as stand up comics, and the challenges of joining, being part of, and leaving a comedy scene.


#101 Nativism in American Politics w/ David Bennett

Bob & Ben speak with Syracuse University’s Dr. David Bennett to learn more about the history of nativism in the United States. Dr. Bennett discusses his book The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History (Penguin, 1995, 2nd ed.), and how that book might look if a new edition were published today.