Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
I was playing tourist at Occupy Wall Street, marveling at drum circles and general assemblies. It was a new kind of protest, wonderfully inspiring and tragically flawed. Yet, while the form was new, the ideas and rhetoric were very old. The condemnation of wealth inequality, mistrust of corporations, and celebration of average Americans echoed the language of long-dead progressive leaders.
I realized that too few protestors knew the history of the slogans they shouted. Some of the older ones paid tribute to mid-century progressives like FDR and JFK. But the pioneers of the progressive movement--Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, and especially "Fighting Bob" La Follette, have been relegated to dull high school textbooks or at best, lionized in biographies that glorify their leadership and charisma while soft-pedaling their ideas.
So I decided to write about the origin of the progressive movement in a way that brought these fascinating leaders and their struggle for political change to life. I hope the book will inspire a new generation of reformers and revolutionaries by reminding them of their rich history. At the very least, I hope readers will understand how this battle started and why we're still fighting.