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tv   Congress Political Parties Polarization  CSPAN  July 12, 2020 11:00pm-12:01am EDT

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[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> to join the conversation, like us on facebook. announcer: the national constitution center in philadelphia hosted a discussion on congress, political parties and polarization from the time of america's founding through the civil war to today. speakers include joanne freeman and political scientist norman orenstein. this event took place online due to the coronaviru pandemic, and the national constitution center provided the video.
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jeffrey: now it is a great honor to introduce our guests. what an amazing panel. america's most distinguished historians and scholars of congress to help us understand our current vexations. edward ayres is president emeritus at the university of richmond. he is the author of many books on the civil war and reconstruction. i will highlight one, a forthcoming book, "southern journey: the migrations of the american south." welcome, it is an honor to have you. edward: my pleasure, thank you. jeffrey: joanne freeman is a professor of american history and american studies at yale university, where she specializes in the politics and political culture of the revolutionary and early national period. she is a cohost with edward ayres of a popular history podcast "backstory." it is great to unite these co-podcasters together. she is the author of many books as well, including "the pathbreaking." as well as "field of blood." joanne, it is such an honor to have you with us. joanne: thanks for having me. jeffrey: norman ornstein studies u.s. congress. his books include "one nation after trump, a guide for the perplexed, desperate, and not yet departed." and there are other titles, the next one, we did at the constitution center. it depressed us even before we begin the program.
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"it is even worse than it looks, how the american constitutional system collided with extremism," and, relevant for tonight, "the broken branch, how congress is failing america and how to get back on track." he is a friend of the center and appears frequently on our programs. it is wonderful to have you back. norman: always a pleasure. jeffrey: let us jump right into the history of the violence that consumed the nation in general and congress in particular in the years leading up to the civil war. joanne, we will begin with you because your book, "field of blood," describes it vividly and this did -- the statistics you talk about are so striking. you write that there were more than 70 violent incidents between congressmen in the house and senate chambers or in a nearby streets or dueling grounds. there were 109 riots nationwide. let me ask it this way, is it true that there was more violence than in congress in
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particular, but also the nation in general than there is now? why was it and give us a sense of how violent congress was. joanne: sure. to answer your question first, this is going to be an obvious thing to say, but congress is a representative institution. it very much does reflect the ether those of the time, and the fact of the matter is in the first part of the 19th century and even the second half of the 19th century were very violent. some of the violence you see in congress is representative of that moment. what i was interested in and what drew my attention was the amount of it and dynamic of it. you were discussing the years leading up to the civil war and it is worth noting that the violence, or at least the extreme violence begins in the 1830's.
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it is not a constant wave, it comes and goes, that it is the 30's, 40's and 50's that see these incidents. what is interesting, and what is totally logical, if you track who is fighting whom, initially you see one party fighting another and then over time, you see north versus south and slavery is at the center of the fighting. what struck me as interesting most of all and what shows violence as a tool in antebellum congress, is southerners knew that to a certain degree they had an advantage because they were willing to duel and were more willing to engage in hand-to-hand combat than some of the northerners. they used that advantage on the floor. they used it as a tool of debate and would deliberately intimidate and threaten northern congressmen, and some of them would silence themselves or sit down or not stand up rather than risk the threat or being humiliated in front of the public by being threatened and having to back down. violence was shocking all by itself, but what is particularly
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interesting is it was a deliberate pool of debate. over time, what happens is by the 1850's, mid-1850's, some northerners decided it would be their tool, too. jeffrey: that is such a powerful turn in the book when you describe how the decision of northerners to challenge southerners to duel and it decreased the violence, and you quote from that remarkably moving letter that you said moved you to tears, when three representatives all pledged to challenge future duelers to fight, it became known that northern senators were ready to fight. i have to say finally that we have this wonderful new exhibit on the civil war and reconstruction. we have thaddeus stevens's cane, and i quote your book on how some people would run for congress during that period on the grounds that my left hook is better and i will beat him up.
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incredibly powerful. norman, it is often said or at least it has been said by norbert mccarthy from princeton, that we are more polarized today than at any time since the civil war. you are such an expert at party systems. can you explain what it was about the political parties right before the civil war that let us to be so polarized then?
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norman: you go back through history and you see echoes of so many of the divisions that are familiar to people today. if you look at the period leading up to the civil war and the party system, it was very much in flux. you had a whig party that ultimately was transformed into the modern republican party. along the way, we had a know nothing party that was virulently anti-immigration. the iron and focus was on catholics, on some elements of northern europeans and part. we actually had a president elected on the know nothing ticket. ultimately, it became though two parties we know today, or at least that we think we know today, democrats and republicans. and of course, we have that
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overarching issue of race and slavery. and the party stuck with that. for a while, the democratic party had a strong anti-slavery lean. we had others, copperheads, who leaned another way. but of course, it struck down into a republican with abraham lincoln, the president, who became the force in the republican party against slavery. ed will talk about how things changed in the aftermath of the assassination of lincoln and what changed with the reconstruction period. all of those things, which were life-and-death issues to so many, really created a level of polarization in society. it broke down along regional lines, and those regional divisions continue to persist, but not in the same way as the parties changed and the democratic party, which became a more dominant party many decades later, had a merger of southern and northern democrats. but them's the -- but those deep divisions was there, the polarization of society and the parties. mccarthy is right that what we are seeing now is something far more distinct than what we have seen in any other period for over 100 years. jeffrey: that is fascinating. you are teaching that the party system during the civil war mirrored the party system paired
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just as -- system. it reinforced joanne's point that the violence in congress mirrored the violence in society. your book argues powerfully that every state, except those who would advance freedom, found themselves challenged and sometimes defeated. as this history shows, black freedom advanced faster than its champions dreamed possible because the opponents of freedom proved powerful and aggressive. tell us how it was that with each victory of the armies of the south provoked northern support for abolitionists, and as norman invited, if you could take us from the post-civil war period through reconstruction and tell us about how the party system realigned and the country became less polarized even as support for reconstruction was ultimately abandoned.
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edward: as norman was saying, the polarization between the democrats and republicans during the civil war, it is a fundamental fact that people tend to forget. people would say the democrats lost, they only had 47% of the vote. i think we've seen in our own time, the other half of the electorate doesn't go away when they lose. in 1864, 10,000 votes in different districts, you will see if that number sounds familiar, the election went to the democrats in 1864 after the suffering of the civil war. we forget that. had some battles gone differently, abraham lincoln might not have been reelected. northern democrats were as racist as white southerners. they hated everything the republicans were doing. the war ends.
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the white south said ok, we have lost, but meantime, lincoln's election, andrew johnson becomes president, he seems to cut some slack for the white south. they go great, let's push for everything we can get, let's reinstitute as much slavery as possible. before republicans come back into congress. right now, there is a -- president running everything. this sounds familiar, too, right? let's do what we can with this president. when republicans come back in after riots in new orleans and
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memphis and widespread violence against black people across the south, republicans say we cannot have lost 350,000 men for this. we must restore the purpose of the war. because the white south was running roughshod. the white south just keeps pushing and pushing and northern republicans essay ok, it is -- republicans say ok, it is going to take an amendment to the constitution that you have to support. you will have to allow black men to vote and be delegates. you have to rewrite the constitution before you come back because you have shown us you are not sorry at all. you admit you were defeated but you do not admit you were wrong. you have congressional commissions who come out and talk to people across the south, and what they were looking for was rebelism. the spirit that even though lay -- they lost, they are still the rebels. the patterns we have seen are --
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that are still paying out today are there. as a result, you would not have had the 14th amendment if the republicans had not felt that if they did not revise the fundamental law of the land, the democrats of the north would have joined with the white southerners. that's what i mean. and the 15th amendment, to really make sure that you can't take away the vote. reconstruction begins ending almost as soon as it begins. in virginia, it is over by 1870. textbooks put the number and 1870. reconstruction starts in 1871, 1872, and is drenched in violence. the white south brings on the fundamental change in laws recognizing that if you were a native born american, you have fundamental rights. after reconstruction comes to an end, united states settled into a pattern for a long time. very closely contested election
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with the south -- especially around the turn-of-the-century, and north and the west republican. those are the most contested, finely calibrated elections in american history. all during the period of when people say nothing is happening. a few votes could change the outcome. it is a fundamental restructuring. but the commonality, polarization finds a way to happen, whatever the situation. winner take all, to parties, ups -- two parties, us and them, a shifting, but there is a polarizing impulse in american political culture. jeffrey: so interesting. thank you for all of that.
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what an important point that it was the fear of losing the games -- the gains of the civil war that led to the 14th amendment. we tell the story of the civil war exhibit about the debate, stevens saying we will have the majority forever and bingham saying we might lose it and we need to put it in the constitution. you described how that was a pattern for so many of the reconstruction. that warning that the losers might not go away gracefully is prescient and sobering for today. joanne, we have a bunch of questions from our friends. howard green says, when northerners are willing to fight back and southerners stop challenging, is that like facing up to a bully? we also have a question about whether any members of congress were trying to reach across the aisle during this time, and a question about whether in the prewar era, was slavery and an unspoken catalyst? -- was slavery an unspoken catalyst? you can respond to any of those that strike you as provocative.
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joanne: sure. the first question about the northerners and southerners, i would say the southerners don't stop fighting. they are just thrown off their feet in the sense, because the northerners have been caving in all along and suddenly northerners were fighting back. the word bully asked in the question is right on target. that is the word people used at the time for the people provoking these fights. bully brooks, preston brooks, that was his nickname. that is a word that is applied to people throughout this period. there was a sense that these
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people before the second half of the 1850's, the southerners were picking on people who could be bullied because they did not fight back in the same way. what then happens is these northerners come, and the northern congressman campaigning on the idea that they would fight the slave power. there was a reality to that in congress. that they meant it. some of them came with weapons and literally made it clear. the document you mentioned, but i will admit made me kind of teary, these three northerners explain why they will dual from now on. the part that captured me was at the end, after describing with all of this emotion, they say we are putting this down on paper so that future generations will understand how hard it was to fight slavery on the floor of congress. so they make clear precisely what i'm trying to describe in the book. it is bullying, but what happens
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when you are being bullied? i suppose there is a simple answer, but if you stand up to a bully, sometimes it is useful to do. i also will mention other people were reaching across the aisle. there were. after a certain amount of time, that became very hard to do. you can see the mere hint at a certain point in the 1850's, that someone would reach across the aisle to someone else sometimes met by mockery, or even they will joke, but the joke will be yeah, you do that. one congressman says to another, you do that and you better tell -- and you better your kids to put their sunday best on because they will never see you again. there were some people trying. strikingly to me, in the handful of years before the civil war, people were reaching across the aisle off the floor. they could not do it in the public eye, so they try to do it in a separate space, but i those -- but by that point, those were not issues that could be compromised. jeffrey: a reminder that compromises are only possible sometimes in private. the constitutional convention
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was in secret and you could force the compromises. but when everything is tweeted in real-time or even when the press was watching during the civil war, it is difficult. completely fascinating. norman, everyone wants to talk about the president, and we have to learn our history at the same time. that's why i am not jumping right into modern questions. many of our friends are asking why isn't congress standing up to the president today? bill asks, how can congress tolerate the refusal of president trump's personnel to receive subpoenas to testify before committees? should this behavior immediately have been punished with fines or imprisonment? we also have the question, how can congress regain its oversight of the executive branch?
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and sarah cunningham our first question, why is congress, especially the senate, so willing to bow to the executive? norman, in the process of answering those very valid questions, do give us some historical context. during the civil war, it seemed congress was more ready to stand up to the president, and they passed the civil rights act over the republican president's veto, and indeed impeached him because of its distaste for his policies. compare congress being willing to stand up to the president then and now. norman: i will digress a little bit because i want to bring in more history. one thing i would say to set that context, there is a wonderful book by a historian called "the first congress," and
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it did not consist of towering figures except for a james madison here and there. there were a lot of pretty mediocre people. but they saw that the institution meant something and had respect and they did some remarkable things, including the bill of rights, of course. because they had institutional loyalty. in the sense that if the constitution was going to work, they better get it going. but to step back a little bit, the constitution was set up through those compromises to give an inordinate amount of power to the south. they knew it. it wasn't just the way they set up the so-called 3/5 compromise. the electoral college the nature of the house of representatives gave them a lot of clout, and because of the determination to maintain slavery and the aftermath, reconstruction after their power voter suppression. i would remind you of something most people don't realize, the house started with 65 members. it was capped in 1929 at 435.
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it did not change in size after the 1910 census because the southerners saw that if they kept responding to the population by adding members, it would dilute their power and give more power to african-americans who were emerging. so they figured out how to keep the size at 435 and use their power of redistricting and apportionment, use their ability to maintain control to basically keep blacks from having any role, significant role in the south, and keep the laws of such that there would not be significant civil rights, which we did not get until the 1960's. there is a lot of history we have to keep in mind, and we also have to keep in mind that it was those southern democrats from the 1930's all the way
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through, really, a long period of time, 40 consecutive years of power in the house of representatives for democrats, where they built a compromise coalition against northern democrats that maintained voter suppression and their role in the south while giving democrats power. in the aftermath of that, as the south changed and regions began to change, it was the republicans who moved in, took over from southern democrats, and began to court voters in a way that also was focused around race and suppressing the power of race. i want to get all of that on the table. what i would say about the questions that were asked directly is we have gone from polarization to tribalism. that began, i would say, much more with newt gingrich and his arrival in congress in 1978, and a change in our politics and in particular, a change in the
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republican party that i would say bluntly is more like a cult now than a traditional political party. what the framers built in from the beginning, a recognition that you could end up with the president who would not behave in a fashion that puts the entire country first. who might look out for his own economic interest or his family's economic interest, or subordinate the interest of the country to foreign powers, sometimes for economic gain. they built in safeguards. the electoral college was one, but prime among them was the first branch, which because it was elected independently and not holding to a president because of a belief that the members would have what
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political scientists have called institutional patriotism, would provide checks and balances. if you have a party that subordinates its own institutional interests because of a corrupt president or a cult, you lose that fundamental check. if another one of those checks, the independent judiciary, is cast to the side with a desire to fill it with people who also will have loyalties that don't match what we believe should be an independent judiciary, you lose many of those checks and balances. we have lost a large number of them now. the role of the senate to use the power of confirmation of judges and executive officials, of congress to use the power of the purse to put some boundaries around a presidency or bad behaviors by members of the executive branch. when those begin to shred, you
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lose control of the system and i believe that's what we have had the last several years and i don't believe the framers would view it in a positive light. jeffrey: very interesting. some powerful statements. following up on what you said, eileen says, defined the difference between polarization and tribalism? i heard norm saying it was the difference between a clash of ideas, which we saw during the civil war, and a clash of partisanship, which we see today. today, people are unwilling to buck their party in a way they weren't during the civil war, when congress took its institutional role more seriously even when it meant disagreeing with a president of the same party. norman: just very quickly, if you viewed the other party as worthy people who are trying to solve problems but just have misguided ideas, you can agree on what the problems are and then work through compromises and the political process, where you can at least achieve some accomplishments along the way.
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if you begin to believe that the other party is a group of people -- evil people trying to destroy your way of life, preventing them from gaining power, keeping them down, becomes the central goal. you will swallow hard and accept a number of things that otherwise would be unacceptable to you. that's where we are now and i believe that is the fundamental difference. jeffrey: that is amazing. i have to ask whether you take norm's comment that less of a willingness to recognize people from the other party as people of good faith less than at the civil war, which is an amazing statement. and i want to tell our friends watching about the powerful website that you helped to establish electing house of representatives, where you seek to recapture the role of congress as an equal branch of governing side-by-side with the presidency.
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really granular data about how landslide presidential wins failed to produce policy victories and you need congressional and presidential majorities to coincide to get sweeping legislative reforms. edward: yeah, the fact is that as historians looking over long periods of time, we are good at seeing how things could have turned out, but it's always could have. if you pull the camera back, you see the broad patterns. the democrats maintained control of the house from 1954 through 1994. think about all of the things that were happening in america in those years, and yet the stability of partisanship. that is something to think about. we don't want to glorify that because in many ways, that control was based on the sovereign south and its own kind of tribalism. when you have just white men
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disagreeing with other white men, they can feel a solidarity. part of what we are seeing now is the political system that encompasses more americans. which is the way things should be. if you think about stability in the house of representatives for decade after decade after decade, we want to point out that that was kind of a deal in which the white south would get what it wanted, being left alone with segregation for as long as possible, and at the same time, it would work with fdr. so you would have elaborate deals in which different constituencies were served. i agree with what norman is saying, that the norms have
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fallen apart in recent times. but the fact is, we don't want to forget that all american politics has been built on tribal identity. it was racial for most of american history and made visible by disenfranchisement and suppression of voting. so we are seeing that. the math that you referred to allows us to see how every congressional district in the u.s. voted from 1840 through the present and you can see which ones flipped. i come from a strange one, the only congressional district in the south that has voted republican since the civil war. people look at this later, not now, you will see, in the corner of tennessee there is one red area, with -- i went to andrew johnson elementary school there. [laughs] in my lifetime, to go from being republican in 1950's in the
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south, and what being republican today means are entirely different. that's another thing that is confusing that this map helps to understand. you will see people today attacking democrats who want to support getting rid of confederate monuments because all of those guys were democrats back in the day. and they are being a hypocrite. but being a democrat in the 1850's and what being a democrat today means were entirely different things. i think being able to see the broad shifts and a great stability. after the great transition of the south from democrat to republican, the system with newt gingrich coming in, there is equilibriumes- feeding through the political system that has many origins in the social system.
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jeffrey: fascinating. we will talk about some of those causes. donna asks, where's the website? we just posted it. please explore the link -- not now, friends, no surfing during class, but afterward. it is illuminating to dig into a particular election and learn about it. joanne, one thing you raised in the civil war era and is now relevant today to polarization is technology, and some attribute our current polarization to a world that was , as was argued in the recent book, a world that people are more likely to play to the base on twitter than to serve institutional interests of the white house, presidency or even the media. talk about the role of technology in polarization throughout history, especially beginning in the civil war period, and what we can learn about it. joanne: sure.
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the moment i find myself thinking about often these days is the telegraph, the rise of the telegraph as a form of technology. before the telegraph, there was a certain amount of wiggle room in congress. that if you said something you are sorry you said or did something you were sorry you did, you could rush over to the newspaper office, or go to the reporter and change what you said a little bit. there was wiggle room. it was easier to keep things away from the public eye, a more limited number of reporters in washington. the telegraph fundamentally changed everything. it takes away the wiggle room. 45 minutes and everybody knows about something. all of a sudden there are all of these reporters in washington from all over the washington who can travel the far distance stay , there and telegraph back home what they are seeing. congress loses control of the spin. if you think about congress,
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ideally speaking, is supposed to be an ongoing conversation between the public and the ir representatives in one way or another. the public says what they want, representatives respond in a someway, if it is an election, it gets adjusted. technology changes that conversation. there are moments i think, and right now we are in the social media pseudo-equivalent of the technology age, where no one quite understands the absolute give-and-take of that form of technology and everyone is trying to master it and manipulate it and take advantage of it, and every now and again, something happens, and you can tell that no one expected that to happen. if the telegraph removed the wiggle room, imagine now if someone says something goofy at a private dinner and someone has their phone and tapes it and or puts it on facebook, the entire world hears
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it. that is a generation that lose control of the conversation to a certain degree. now they are doing that at hyperspeed. so we are at this moment where the conversation has changed fundamentally at a time when it is highly polarized and everyone is othering everyone else. right? -- i american and i represent am america, and you are evil others who cannot be dealt with. that is a dangerous time to be in this time of hyperspeed. it is made worse by the fact that we have the first president who is a tweeting president. if you think back just a few years ago, people were trying to figure out what that meant, how do you take a tweet, is it formal, is it not formal? it is kinda mind-boggling and i think we take it for granted the degree to which technology can fundamentally scramble the workings of democracy. i think that's some of what we are feeling our way through right now.
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jeffrey: the way in which technology can scramble the work of democracy, that's a good way to describe it. we are feeling our way through it in a dramatic way. norm, how did we obviate some of the polarizations the last time around? fromw similar pressures technology and a similar fraying party system, but nevertheless, we evolved to the relative stability of the postwar period. and what kind the lessons of that reconstruction of the deliberative madisonian model tell us about how to get out of the current situation? norman: it will not be easy to get out of it. , will say, listening to joanne which she is just wonderful, there is a little book called "the victorian internet," which is a wonderful description of how the telegraph changed the
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world, and many people thought it was just wonderful that we would he able to communicate face-to-face and wars would end and lots would change for the better. what we see now, of course, is things can change for the better that they can also change very much for the worse. and you can enhance tribalism and division through that medium. but i would say, you know, when , as itparties which were were, broader tents which is , what we had really from the 1930's on, and to some degree well, in the republican party, we used to call them -- when i first got to washington in 1969 -- we called southern democrats "bull weevils," for the insect in the south. we had a moderate republicans from the northeast, the new england region. a lot of them anchoring the west coast, which was that region,
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republican region back then -- washington, oregon and california, we called them "gypsy moths," for the bugs that infect hardwood trees. we had this grand sorting and our parties polarized ideologically, and created a real dilemma. we had leaders in an era that did not have the populist surges , much of it until at least the late 1980's, early 1990's, where new media, and c-span, for example, could exacerbate some of those divisions. but we had leaders who understood larger obligations. one of the things i would say is we begin to talk about, or as we have been talking about race as this dividing issue, we would not have had those dramatic civil rights bills, 1957, 1964, 1965, without republicans being decisive factors.
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it was bill mccullough from ohio in the house, others in the senate, who helped to make sure you could overcome the southern democratic opposition to those things. but as we began to see these changes that polarize us further, the opportunity was there, exacerbated by technological change. tribal media emerging, talk radio as well as cable news, with leaders who found they could gain power and advancement by adding to this tribalism. and the business models have worked that have had us careen out of control. without major changes in media, and that is going to be very hard to bring about, without iis sense of a jolt -- what believe has happened now is we have a republican party that i think is going to have to go through at least three elections in a row with losses not just in 2020 but 2022 again, to get
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begin to give traction back to what our conservative people but problem-solving and not willing to use divisive things like race and immigration in the way they have been used in the past, to begin to right the ship and move us in a different direction. to comes not going easily, and it is not going to come quickly, i am afraid. we have to brace ourselves for what will be an extended period of real challenges trying to solve the major problems that we have -- economic, racial and otherwise. jeffrey: thank you for that sobering thought. norman: have a nice night. [laughter] jeffrey: come up with another book title, and we will -- absolutely. [laughs] i'm sure it will be. we are at the solutions part of the discussion. several of our friends in the audience are asking, how big of
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a crisis is this and do you see a path to fix the problems of congress, the electoral college gerrymandered districts, voter , suppression? norm just suggested you need a total re-conception in the way that the parties relate to the media to get them to be able to deliberating again. so, your thoughts on solutions. ask, becauseave to it is such a great shout out to your teaching abilities, williams says ed was my teacher so you have to ask my question. has congress given up its authority and created an imperial presidency that they have been complaining about? edward: thank you. i feel that it is important to think about what is happening right now outside of the political system that is going to have profound effects on the political system. we have been referring to,
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myself, to southerners, as if they were white. black southerners have moved politics in its most progressive ways all the time from reconstruction. there is no 14th amendment that african-american people are not making it clear that they are willing to risk their lives to vote. the testimony from the south on these telegraphs is that these people held in slavery for almost 200 years cannot wait to get into schools, to learn to read and write, to exercise. they are incredible speakers. reconstruction is not just republicans in the north. it is black people in the south who put their lives on the line to show what they would do with american freedom. then you take the people with the least power in american society, poor african-american southerners. after 100 years of disenfranchisement and segregation, they are the ones who need the great moral revolution of the united states
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during the civil rights movement, and the voting rights act, and civil rights act that follow. that would not happen if they are not in the streets. today, black lives matter is also showing look, you are all tied up and worrying about each other's tweets, meantime, we are dying. things are going to have to change. i think a more optimistic throughline is the people who have been most victimized by the american political system have also been the people best most eloquent in articulating american ideals and fighting for them. it is hard to know -- who would have thought? thinking about all of this history, who would have thought two or three years ago that most americans would have supported weeks-long protests against the police? and it is the way that it was done. it is the voice that people are using. the only lesson i've been able to discover in 40 years of studying history, is that nobody
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has any idea what would happen. it is one surprise after another. so, here, we have gone through terrible period of dismay. we may be seeing the sprouts of a new era coming up. before the nice words from my friend, that is what i am going to say, is that we don't want to forget that, along with every effort to disempower people, they have taken it upon themselves to find power in whatever way they can, and right now it is to remove the symbols of the order that had held them down for so long. there is reason to believe that they are regenerative powers of american democracy at work even now. because, do you remember what the question was from one of my favorite students? jeffrey: it was a great answer. he was asking, why doesn't congress stand up for itself? i think you have given good reasons why. edward: i think when people know that voters have their backs,
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they will. so what you are seeing is that people are developing more courage when they know they are speaking for a majority of people who want justice. i think you will see a new progressive era that will be coming very soon and is being , established by young people. -- and it will be sustained for , ofng time by young people whom the last two decades have been the most formative experience of their lives. i think looking at cycles, there is reason to believe that some of the things we have been worried about may have a chance to heal themselves. we will see. jeffrey: thank you for all of that. i have so many questions and i know you want to respond -- we can't predict history, but we can, as you have argued powerfully, all of you have,
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learn from that and contextualize it. i have to ask you, things seem less violent today than they were during the time of the civil war, to put it mildly. the protests have been by and large peaceful, we are not seeing people beating each other up in congress. why is it that things are less ,iolent now than they were then if that is true? and i will put on the table this big theme that susan coleman , wish you introduce, the drive to transparency, televising committee hearings and even political conventions seems to get in the way of dealmaking. is there such a thing as too much transparency? if that's true, might the first amendment prohibit any regulation of media technologies that would allow the kind of moderation and compromise that madison expected? joanne: ok. i will start with the -- jeffrey: there is a lot there. joanne: there is a lot there. i might have to ask you to remind me. the beginning one, it is less violent now and why is it less violent now?
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is thatthat in a sense the united states in 2020 is not the united states in 1855 when during an election, you routinely had people killed at polling places. you know, there is an incident in washington in which a cannon was shot off at immigrants at a polling place. there was a level of routine violence that was very different. in part, we are in a different moment. and we are seeing, i think, more violence and more threatening behavior than typically we might expect to see. i think that's part of what people are responding to. i think some of it is being encouraged, and that's why it is there. but in one way or another, i think yes, we are less violent, , but we are seeing a lot of extreme language and extreme behavior that goes beyond where i think we would be comfortable with under normal circumstances.
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as far as transparency goes, but that is the eternal problem. transparency seemingly on the surface is good. we can all see what is happening. but then just as you suggested, and as my book discusses, when things happen in front of the public eye, that complicates them enormously. the needo you balance to work behind the scenes to maneuver things, and then bring it forward to present it in a way so that the public is responsible? i don't have a simple answer for that. i just think that one of the fundamental questions of balance in politics generally, but particularly in congress, which is so bound up with public opinion. you asked a second question i think, which i have now forgotten. do you remember it? if not, i am going to go back to what i wanted to say before, because i wanted to pull together what norman had said.
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jeffrey: pull away, and i think this is the last round, so closing thoughts for our friends as well. joanne: ok. norm was talking about that we are at this moment where many bad things have happened and might happen, and to find our way out of them will take a lot of time and work. ed was talking about the possible blooming of new kinds of progressive change. and i suppose the way i think about this is, during moments of extreme intense change and unstable behavior, as ed said, we have no idea what will happen. we don't know how this will go down. we don't know if we are circling the drain. we don't know if it is all going to be ok. and i don't think we can assume either one. what that means is, as unstable as things feel now, there is room for change.
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so what matters now is what we do with this moment. how we respond to what is going on now, how we realize the fact that what is happening now, things are changing, we don't know what is going to happen, but there is room for growth in addition to collapse. i suppose the way i join them together is just to encourage people to realize that it is laterally important that -- it is vitally important that people think about this moment and its importance. let their thoughts be known. some of what we are seeing is a great sign of that. but it is important for people to realize that they can help ring change, and that things are not absolutely over with. jeffrey: that is a wonderfully important note. all is change. it is metamorphosis and people can influence it, as you settle -- as you said it so powerfully.
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norm, your closing thoughts, i will not presume to shape them. what would you like our friends to leave with from this discussion? norman: a couple of things. one is that we can do some things structurally, difficult as they may be. i was part of an american academy of arts and sciences commission on the common good, and we had a whole list of things that we could do. that includes enlarging the house of representatives, altering the electoral college, bringing us, if we could, a form akin to the australian system of mandatory attendance at the polls, and other things that could improve the process, elections and improve institutions. but i also debut with another challenge that we have, and i agree with ed that we have so many positive things happening now, including a wider awakening among many white americans that
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have been ignored for so long. that minneapolis and others have set out. that black lives matter is a meaningful phrase, not something to push to the side or ignore. and i think the immigration struggles have taken us back to understanding what it means to have a larger and better society. but the institutions that were built by the framers are going to be more distorted as time passes. and it has nothing to do with donald trump. by 2040, 70% of americans will live in 15 of 50 states. 50% of americans in 8 states. that means the electoral college is going to have more instances, if we keep it, where the winner of the popular vote loses the presidency. it means 30% of the americans who do not reflect the diversity and economic then i almost them -- thecountry will elect
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diversity and economic then i dynamism of the country will elect 70 of 100 senators. we know that natural residential patterns as well as the way in which we do districts, and the supreme court basically brushed aside doing anything about partisan gerrymandering, and it will destroy the house further. what voters want will not be reflected. the courts will take us further and further away from popular will, whatever it is, with those elections. we are going to have some work to do to prevent a real crisis of legitimacy in the system that goes beyond some of these issues we have talked about, and even transcends some of these deeper divisions along racial and ethnic and regional lines. jeffrey: thank you very much for sobering us in such a powerful way. ed, the last word is for you. edward: that you are a of the american civil war and emancipation remind us that things far worse than we can imagine can happen and things far better than we can imagine can happen.
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the most powerful institution of slavery in the modern world coming to an end was a something people could not plan for. the other thing i would say, i read a wonderful report, and the final part of that, after all of these impressive structural changes, is the specific culture -- the civic culture of the country. it is what you are doing right now. it matters what we are thinking and saying and talking to each other, and we have to keep that alive, too. whatever the election cycle brings us, we have to keep our civic culture of democracy alive. that's what i think. jeffrey: thank you for that, it is such an important reminder. it does matter what we say and talk and do, and friends, the fact that all of the are taking an hour in the middle of your busy evening, asking such great questions, and you're hanging on our every word, as i can see in the check box, is a reminder that when we come together to with reason, we can indeed
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appeal to the better angels of our nature and grow together in wisdom. that's what the constitution center will continue to do, bring you brilliant minds like the ones you just heard. i am so grateful to all of them for having spread so much historical and constitutional light. joanne, norm, ed, thank you so much for a wonderful discussion. on behalf of the constitutional center. friends, thank you for joining. and see you on june 30 for the battle for the constitution and the future of policing. thanks to all. have a good night. >> thank you so much. jeffrey: thank you. bye. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] ♪ >> ditch week, american history tv's real america brings you archival films that provide context for america's public affair issues. ♪ >> we are going to make that
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change. i have to get that to done right away. >> besides educational programs, muppets pop up in a variety of forums. in books, records, toys and games. , --hy don't i give you mine >> in the workshop it permanent staff of 8 bring muppet characters to life. ♪ [chatter] nieman >> new muppets are always being created in older homeones built. he oversees the construction of each muppet, testing for ease of manipulation and adding a distinctive touch here and there. >> you know when you sit here looking at him, you sit there with your teeth out?
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[laughter] guess what happens is his teeth are sticking out. [laughter] >> hansen continually experiments with internal mechanisms and remote devices to further animate the characters. for hansen, muppet-making means combining free thinking and creative discipline. >> of the puppet takes shape, it changes and evolves into something different. than also the puppeteer himself looks in at that point and they add a whole new dimension which just comes from his personality, the kind of personality he lent the character. >> the gradual process of
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creating the distinctive voices and personality traits of muppet characters begins from a script. >> the sound of an approaching motorcar. >> two beer cans land down at kermit's feet. >> unfortunately, he will be seeing more of them. that was the rubber band gang. of --re all part [indiscernible] >> sometimes it appears the muppet character is taking over muppeteer.- the >> totally catatonic. [granting] >> very lifelike. >> yeah. wow! [laughter] >> we have a concert tonight. >> what? sure we do. sure we do. [laughter] >> look at that. it fell off.
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borat, this has turned out to be better than i thought! ♪ something like that? >> not bad. [laughter] >> haven't i seen you on tv? [applause] >> wait a minute. you look familiar. [laughter] >> perhaps you have seen me on educational to this television. >> jim henson has elevated these figures into joyous caricatures of human nature. >> up next on "the presidency" we hear from andrew: about two successive days in jfk's presidency, june 10 and june 11 of 1963, that defined his response to the nuclear arms race, and civil rights. he is the author of "two days in june," john f. kennedy and the days that made the presidency. host: andrew, tell us about your


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