Rachel Maddow discusses ‘Drift’ at MHC

by Town Reminder

Rachel Maddow discusses ‘Drift’ at MHC
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Rachel Maddow wants a large, nation-wide discussion about what consequences come with continuous American wartime coupled with increasing presidential power. And on Saturday, she kick-started that conversation with a visit to Mount Holyoke College, where she read excerpts from her new book, ‘Drift,” and took questions from an eager and awestruck audience.
Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” is no stranger to the area. The part-time Western Mass. resident got her start in broadcasting at WRNX in Holyoke and at WRSI in Northampton. In 2004, she began working as a host at Air America Radio. Then, in 2008, Maddow became a political analyst for MSNBC.
A Rhodes Scholar, Maddow earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University and received her doctorate in political science from Oxford University.
Upon appearing on stage in Chapin Auditorium last Saturday, Mount Holyoke students promptly sang “Happy Birthday” to Maddow, who turned 39 on April 1.
Her first-ever book, “Drift: The Unmooring of the American Military,” spans political party lines and delves into the politics – and cost – of going to war and staying there. Emphasized by Maddow that it’s not about Democrats or Republicans, or about the good or bad guys, she probes the prospect of perpetual war, something which she says Americans have most recently found themselves involved in for quite some time. She argues that in the past, peacetime was a default and war was an aberration. But now, “that’s been flipped,” she said. Blame is not placed on one particular president, but each has continued to dig the figurative hole that much deeper, beginning in the era of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam War.
Maddow maintains recent presidents and their administrations have privatized wars in which Americans have fought, creating a disconnect between citizens and military members with their secrecy and self-benefiting policy changes to get them around “the annoying constraints of war.” Such actions, said Maddow, have numbed the American population to the idea of going to war so frequently – and for so long. “We barely noticed when the Iraq war ended,” she told audience members. Being in a constant state of war and governed by those so quick to jump into them is the new norm – and it shouldn’t be, said Maddow. “I’d love to have a big, national fight about this.”
Solutions exist to Maddow for restoring America to its roots from which we’ve drifted. “To me, it’s fixable,” she said. The power to decide to engage in war must be returned to Congress, where it was originally placed to keep presidential power in check. It’s unsettling, said Maddow, “when a president can decide alone on what we’re waging war.”
Maddow took a slew of questions from audience members young and old, student and retiree alike, offering substantial answers to their hefty, intelligent questions. When confronted about certain sections in the book or on reasons why she left out particular parts, Maddow answered straightforwardly and with much explanation.
“I’m just impressed by how smart she is,” said Granby resident Peggy Anderson, adding her accomplishments at such a young age “makes one feel hopeful.”
Amy Maclin, of Nashville, Tenn. visiting a friend in Williamsburg, agreed with Anderson’s sentiments. “I thought it was inspiring,” she said. “You don’t often get to sit in a forum like this and have a debate.”
The speaking event was a collaboration among the Odyssey Bookshop, the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center and the Gender Studies Department at Mount Holyoke College. Maddow’s “Drift” can be purchased locally at The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley.