Geoffrey Cowan

University Professor, Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership, Director of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, and Dean Emeritus of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California

News (Page 2 of 5)

Cowan featured in Retro Report / POLITICO series on presidential primaries

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Geoffrey Cowan is featured in Retro Report’s new video series “Conventional Wisdom.” In partnership with POLITICO, the eight-part series focuses on sharing the stories of past U.S. political conventions and their impact on our current political landscape.

In this episode, entitled “The Modern Primary,” Cowan is featured alongside other scholars and historians while reviewing the origins and impact of the primary process – and especially Theodore Roosevelt and the election of 1912 – on American politics.

Watch the full episode here.

Cowan talks Republican nomination process on the ‘The Brian Lehrer Show’

Geoffrey Cowan, author of Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary, was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show, Monday, July 18th.

As part of the show’s ’30 Issues in 30 Weeks’ series, Cowan was joined by David Eisenhower, Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania, to discuss the history of the Republican nomination conventions.

Listen here for the full interview.


“Let the People Rule” Reviewed in the LA Times

A review of Cowan’s new book, Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary was published by Thomas Curwen for the Los Angeles Times, Monday, July 18th.

Curwen discussed the connections and impact of the history of the country’s first primary and the current presidential election, stating:

“No musty account of top-coated and mustachioed politicians, “Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary” is a lively, relevant primer in the sausage-making of candidate selection…While “Let the People Rule” might reawaken traumatic memories of the last 11 months, it is a bracing reminder that we’re not above such tactics today.”

Read more.

Cowan interviewed in Zócalo Public Square


If Geoffrey Cowan were to be described as a salad dressing, he’d pick blue cheese, he said. Cowan talked Teddy Roosevelt and other tidbits from his life in his latest interview with Zócalo Public Square.

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Huntington Library hosts Cowan for lecture on Roosevelt

Geoffrey Cowan was interviewed by Avery Director of the Library David S. Zeidberg for an evening lecture at The Huntington. The two discussed Cowan’s new book, Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary and how the 1912 primaries relate to Cowan’s involvement in the 1968 and to the uncharacteristic primaries this presidential season.

“[During this election cycle],” said Cowan, “people are asking in a more profound and serious way, maybe – Donald Trump is asking that question, and Bernie Sanders is asking that question – ‘Are primaries fair? Is the system rigged?’ And, of course, in a way, they are rigged, and they were rigged in 1968 when I played a role in changing the rules of the Democratic Party and they were rigged to some extent in 1912, because that’s the year when Roosevelt actually won most of the primaries but didn’t get the nomination.”

Listen to the full lecture here.

“Let the People Rule” cited in New Yorker article about conventions

Harvard professor Jill Lepore discussed the themes of voter empowerment in Geoffrey Cowan’s book Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary for her New Yorker article “How to Steal an Election.”

Lepore has called Let the People Rule “the best new discussion of the primary system,” and her new article details the history of the party nomination process while referencing 1912:

The election of 1912 was the first in which a significant number of delegates to the nominating Conventions were elected in state primaries, as Geoffrey Cowan writes in ‘Let the People Rule,’ a book that takes its title from Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign slogan. Roosevelt wanted to wrest the Republican nomination from the incumbent President, William Taft, and saw the primaries as his only chance. ‘The great fundamental issue now before the Republican Party and before our people can be stated briefly,’ he said. ‘It is: Are the American people fit to govern themselves, to rule themselves, to control themselves? I believe they are. My opponents do not.’

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Cowan interviewed in Trojan Family Magazine

Geoffrey Cowan was interviewed by USC News’ Marc Ballon for Trojan Family Magazine’s Summer 2016 issue. He discussed how primaries have shaped American presidential elections, including drawbacks to the current system and the difficulty in creating third parties in American politics.

About the unexpected nominations of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, Cowan said:

“Primaries have sometimes proved that candidates can get popular support, even if there are substantial doubts about their viability. By winning West Virginia, a Protestant state, Kennedy proved that a Catholic could win. That forced the hand of party leaders, including Catholic bosses who had doubted that JFK could be elected. In Reagan’s case, many argued that he was too old to serve as president. Then he ran an extremely vigorous primary campaign that made his age less of an issue. There are a lot of analogies between John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Barack Obama in 2008. Even many African-Americans didn’t think Obama could win and didn’t rally to him until he won the caucuses in Iowa, a heavily white state.”

Read more.

Harvard Law School Dean Reviews “Let the People Rule”

On the eve of major primary contests in California, New Jersey and other states, Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow published a review of Let the People Rule in The New Rambler. The review begins by connecting the contests of 1912 to the 2016 primaries:

An internal and nasty fight within the Republican Party; conflict between establishment leaders and populist opinions; unprecedented importance of potential support from African-American voters; raucous and bruising primary fights: The year was 1912, the focus of Geoffrey Cowan’s lively and detailed history of Theodore Roosevelt’s insurgent effort to reclaim the White House. With the benefit of newly identified archival materials, Cowan traces conflicts over the innovative idea of presidential primaries, and details deal-making, corruption, name-calling and betrayals as Roosevelt battled William Howard Taft, his one-time hand-picked successor and old friend. Besides the sheer action afforded by the vivid narrative and larger-than-life personalities, this book offers obvious parallels with current political fights and illuminates their origins.

Most tellingly, it highlights a key chapter in the ongoing debate: how significant should popular voting be in the selection of presidential candidates and presidents themselves?….

Read more.


Cowan interviewed in SF Chronicle for Bay Area Book Festival

Geoffrey Cowan was interviewed by SF Chronicle’s, Jeanne Cooper, on Sunday, May 29th.  He discussed his upcoming interview for his book Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary at the Bay Area Book Festival. The festival is scheduled for June 5th, a mere two days in advance of California’s primary.

In response to a book reviewers comment stating that Donald Trump may want to send Cowan “a thank you note” in assisting his potential win of the Republican nomination due to his role in increasing the number of primaries in 1968, Cowan replied:

“When that note arrives, I will let you know,” joked Cowan, who will be interviewed by author Adam Hochschild (“Spain in Our Hearts”) at 3:15 p.m. Sunday at Dharma College.

Read the full article here.

Cowan interviewed by Tweed Roosevelt for Theodore Roosevelt Association podcast

Cowan was interviewed by the president of the Theodore Roosevelt Association (and TR’s grandson), Tweed Roosevelt, for the inaugural episode of Tweed’s Pods.

In the most recent TR Association newsletter, Tweed described the interview and an upcoming meeting in October for TRA members and those who might like to join:

Our first interview is with Geoffrey Cowan, the author of an exciting new book, Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary. Not only is this a great book but also it could not be more relevant to what is going on politically. Click on the YouTube link below and listen. Geoff will be part of our extraordinary Symposium line-up during our Annual Meeting to be held in Oyster Bay on Saturday, October 29. A very special Annual Dinner will take place that evening at Sagamore Hill to honor the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and will feature keynote speakers Jon Jarvis, Director of the Park Service, and U.S. Congressman Steve Israel of New York’s 2nd District, which includes Oyster Bay.


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© Geoffrey Cowan 2019