In his newest book, The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism, Snyder, 44, gives readers a study of the history of liberalism by transporting them back to the early 20th century, to Washington, D.C., and into a Dupont Circle row house. It is a place where judges, lawyers, artists, writers and politicians would gather to dissect the issues of the day. Some of those who moved through the real-life House of Truth were Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter and Water Lippmann. A law professor at the University of Wisconsin, Snyder is a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun (as well as a former intern for the Tampa Bay Times). His other books include Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball and A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports, the story of an all-star centerfielder whose suit against the Supreme Court paved the way for free agency in professional baseball.
What's on your nightstand?
I always marvel at people reading six books at once. I'm pretty monogamous with my reading. I'm currently reading Justice at War by Peter Irons. It's the history of the Japanese internment cases.
And why are you reading this book?
There's a couple remarkable things about the book. There's a lot of obvious historical parallels of what's going on today, focusing on a group of people because of their religion and national origin. That's one thing that drew me to the book. I learned from the book that the (American Civil Liberties Union) decided not to challenge the constitutionality of Roosevelt's executive order, and I felt that the ACLU, based on what this book says, really failed its mission and then the Supreme Court had its own internal failures. There was a lot of blame to go around. ... One of my big takeaways is that the ACLU was conflicted. I just assumed it would have made a full-throated defense for these people and it did not.
Instead, what did they do?
They defended some people but not others. They refrained from making constitutional arguments. They did not want to challenge the administration and seem unpatriotic .That was shocking.
Is there another book you wanted to mention?
It is a galley (out in May). It is The Long Reach of the Sixties: LBJ, Nixon, and the Making of the Contemporary Supreme Court by Laura Kalman. We have several nominations coming up that will change the court for decades and that's why the book is important.
What type of reader would pick this book up?
Laura is one of the best political and legal historians writing today. She writes in an engaging political style. I think if people are worried about the direction of the Supreme Court they would want to pick it up. I think it would have an impact beyond the academic community. Both sides of the Judiciary Committee will want to read it, and they will have different takeaways from it. This isn't a liberal book or a conservative book. It is for anyone who cares about the court.
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.