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History As It Happens

Mar 21, 2024

At a campaign rally in Ohio, Donald Trump said some things that, depending on your perspective, were either appalling or patriotic. He defended the Jan. 6 rioters as "hostages," called some migrants crossing the southern border "animals," and warned there would be a "bloodbath" if he isn't elected in November -- although his defenders pointed out he was referring to the U.S. auto industry which, according to Trump, needs tariff protection from Chinese imports. Whatever one thinks of Trump's latest demagoguery, it wasn't illegal. One-hundred-six years ago in Ohio, an antiwar speech delivered by Eugene V. Debs did break the law -- by violating the Espionage Act. Debs was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Yet Debs still ran for president as the Socialist Party candidate in 1920. If Trump were to find himself in a similar situation come November (if any of his pending criminal trials are held by then), he too could campaign from behind bars. But this is where the similarities between Trump and Debs end. In this episode, Michael Kazin, a distinguished historian of political and social movements at Georgetown University, discusses the other reasons Eugene V. Debs is an American worth remembering.